It started, as many of our panicked conversations do, with: "OK, I know you're driving the car so you can't freak out at at what I'm about to say."
Such a warning could mean anything. Illness? An end to the relationship? Money problems? Those are all things I worry about pretty regularly. They're things a lot of people worry about pretty regularly.
"I'm not sure how long it's been since I had my last period."
I waited for more. I waited about 11 more ellipses, then added:
"I don't think it's a big deal because I think I've had one more recently than the 45 days ago that my app says it's been, but maybe I should take a test just to be sure."
Phew. Problem solved. Not the catastrophe I had anticipated.
My partner didn't know how long it had been since her last period because she wasn't sure she had tracked her last period properly. On a mobile app she has on her phone. I didn't know how long it had been because I'm a guy who doesn't have to use an app to worry about how long it's been since I last had a period. I play Words With Friends or look for the most recent Pittsburgh Penguins trade rumors. She worries every month about when her body will announce that once again, the uterus is vacant. She worries about when cramps come that might keep her from running for a few days. She worries every month that she might have to go through another pregnancy.
I worry when I'm told it might be something we should worry about together.
In this instance, I did remember a conversation we had held only a few weeks before this conversation when she told me she was about to have her period. I reminded her of this and we spent a few minutes reassuring one another that 'twas but a scare. No, we determined, we would not be adding a third child to our family at this time.
We long ago decided that two children was enough. Still, my reaction to the potentially late period news was that "I wouldn't be devastated."
Would things be difficult financially? Yes.
Would I sleep less? Certainly.
Would it ruin our plans for traveling with our older kids a few years down the road? It would.
Would I miss a few weeks at work? Yes. I might even take some parental leave if it was financially viable. But maybe not.
But, "I wouldn't be devastated."
But for my partner "this would be devastating."
And strangely, her opinion would be the one considered selfish. Because kids are beautiful. Kids are miracles. Parents make sacrifices for their kids. Moms have a deep bond with their children that is like no other. The act of growing a child in your body is one to be cherished. We're lucky to be able to stay home with our kids. You positively grow when you're pregnant. You get to watch them grow up right before your eyes. And more and more.
But brought to an individual level, something done far too infrequently, being pregnant isn't always a joyous occasion. And from the perspective of a man without a period app on my phone or a plan to put the life I've built for myself on hold for 15 months, it's hard to see.
To this woman though:
"It would halt the career path I'm on."
"I don't think my body could go through the nine months of pregnancy again."
"The struggles to breastfeed were so overwhelming."
"I'd have to start all over again when it was time to go back to work."
"It's draining being alone with a small child all day without other adults around."
My partner is amazing like many women out there who are parenting, co-parenting or not parenting at all. Her being amazing isn't defined by the word "mom." It's about the choices she makes every day and the work she does to make the world a better place. I don't always see these choices, I take them for granted.
We only want two kids and my contribution to this wish so far has been to wear a condom. Because even if that fails, my career won't stop, my body won't change, my body chemistry won't push me closer to depression. I won't fear the return of the PUPPP's that made life so uncomfortable during one of my pregnancies.
In our relationship, there are fewer options on my end worth investigating. No IUDs, no hysterectomies, no prayers that a condom doesn't break.
There's an undeniable and unfair expectation that women will carry the majority of the load when it comes to planning and preventing pregnancies. Then there's levels of shame heaped on them by legislators and lobbyists for the choices they'd like to have available to them when those plans don't work.
There need to be more birth control options for men. Beyond the vasectomy and beyond the condom. Because these options aren't suitable for everyone the same way many women can't simply use the pill or the patch without significant impacts on their bodies.
And "women already have enough options," isn't a good enough reason for there not to be more options for men.
While the option isn't the same for everyone, and while vasectomies aren't pain-free or side effects-free procedures for many, I'm in a position to be able to support my partner through one.
This week, I booked an appointment to see if a vasectomy is right for us. Because my partner shouldn't need a period app to ease her mind.