There is an expiration date on my uterus, a "sell by" number on my sexuality and not much I can do to prolong it. A women's relationship to fertility has a complexity unique to the female experience because of the finite nature of it all. The biological reminder that overpowers us every month is an inconvenience many dread, but when the excessive usage of absorbent cotton materials is no longer needed, an existential crisis emerges. Women spend their lives trying to harness their fertility until the inevitable end where we then have to learn to redefine our understanding of self. We go from woman who can give life if she wants to woman who has to live with whatever decisions she made because there is no turning back now.
As a young girl it is your worst nightmare to get pregnant, unless you are hoping to get on MTV's Teen Mom. An unwanted pregnancy is extremely stressful, and any woman that has experienced a "pregnancy scare" knows the relief and joy of sitting on the toilet looking down at stained underwear. Because expectations of "child bearing years" have become more expansive thanks to IVF and advances in social pressures, many women spend their prime sperm implanting years impeding their fertility to focus on other things.
The current debates surrounding birth control lacks an appreciation for the fact that women are making all the sacrifices. Women either have to take a pill every day that may or may not cause a vast array of side effects including loose bowels and heart failure (not sure which one is worse), insert an IUD in her cervix (a process my friend said was so painful she passed out), or slather slime on a diaphragm you have to not only insert with grace, but somehow fish out later without spilling the contents. And if one of these aforementioned delights somehow fails, you can always get the morning after pill that will make you feel as good as a zombie that just had root canal after drinking 14 shots of cheap vodka while riding a roller coaster.
Family planning and birth control are mostly left for women to deal with, although men are just as intimately involved. But you don't hear women complaining about this injustice, because so many are grateful to have control over their own fertility. They will deal with the physical risks in order not to have to rely on a man to squeeze his you-know-what into a mini raincoat, or to have actually undergone that promised vasectomy. Women feel empowered to be able to protect themselves, even if they shoulder the burden of the consequences.
But after all this time subduing our fertility, a new fear of "being late" starts to creep in. As women get older and the limit of their fertility becomes a lower ceiling, many start to stress if there are no breeding prospects in sight. This is not the kind of pressure that men feel, and it imbues them with a confidence that women, no matter how beautiful and successful, often struggle with. Of course, there are women who know from an early age they don't have the desire to procreate, but for any woman that has doubts, the potential of what could have been is haunting. So where men can feel the freedom of time on their side, many women start to feel the desperation of the impending tick-tock of the clock.
The very idea that men should be dispensing their moral judgment of how women deal with their fertility is something absurd in light of what women have to grapple with. You are considered sexual objects from the moment you start your rather messy menstrual initiation, spend your fertile years in a constant battle with blood, cramps, anxiety if you should have a child, birth control methods, nine months of pregnancy, hours of labor, a human head sprouting from your body and a constant fear of white pants. Then it is suddenly all over and you become almost invisible as a sexual creature and have to reimagine your value not only to yourself but also to the world of men, who objectified you in the first place. So maybe rather than having men feel the compulsion to tell women what to do with our bodies, how about men spend that energy listening to the very real struggles each woman has to endure regardless of what path she chooses.
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