3/25/14

My birth control story





The internet is exploding in Christian blog/Facebook/Twitter world right now. Between Hobby Lobby, World Vision, Cedarville...oh and don’t forget Gwenyth Paltrow (Pepper Potts in Iron Man) and Chris Martin of Coldplay are splitsville. What is the world coming too? It’s exhausting to keep up with it all and my heart and head hurt from seeing all the brokenness. I am trying to be “slow to speak and quick to listen” as scripture so wisely advises in James 1:19.

A few months or so ago Rachel Held Evans wrote a poignant post (as she usually does) about birth control. As I read what she wrote about Privilege and the Pill, I started to think about my own journey as a woman in youth ministry who needed birth control. Let me share my personal birth control story with you:

When I first got out of college I worked at a SBC church as a full time youth director. They did not provide health insurance for me or for anyone else on staff, but they did give the Senior pastor (a male) and the associate pastor (a male) on staff ample $ to get their own health insurance plans. As a young married female Christian youth director...guess where I had to go?  I had to go to Planned Parenthood or beg a doctor friend to write me a birth control prescription, of which I could not afford to get filled anyways.

After I worked at this particular church for a year, my male supervisor told me how happy he was that my husband and I didn't have kids (so I could focus solely on my job). The Senior Pastor wanted me to come up with a gameplan to hit big numerical benchmarks that year and not get distracted by having babies. A lot to accomplish with no health insurance. So needless to say, I started to cry when he said that because yes... I was sitting there in his office 5 weeks pregnant. That was awkward. Try back peddling out of that dear Sr. Pastor with a crying pregnant lady sitting in your office.

A lack of health insurance with no access to birth control didn’t help me thrive in my career or hit huge benchmarks before having kids. So instead of focusing on my youth ministry career and making my numbers focused Sr. Pastor happy (the Prayer of Jabez was big at that time). I thought about cutting back at work to focus on this baby about to enter the world. No one was there to coach me on how to manage both, especially in a really male dominated, work-aholic, “numbers” focused environment.

My husband and I were one of those get married too young because you want to have sex kind of Christian college couples. Not that I regret it. We married a week after college graduation. We were so young. I became a mom at the age of 23. I am pretty sure if we had easy access to birth control, we would have waited longer to start a family so I could focus more on my career. I came from a long line of hispanic women who had children before the age of 19. In my family I am a first-generation college graduate. I was also the first in my mother’s immediate family to be born in the United States. To be an American citizen, out of my teens, married with a college degree (even a useless BA in Biblical Studies) was already a huge accomplishment. Kind of a big deal.

When Hobby Lobby gets all crazy about birth control...I cringe at the message they are sending to their female employees. I realize the issue is way more complicated than simply providing affordable access to birth control or to certain kinds of contraception. I still can't help but to think about the unmarried women who can’t afford contraception or may not want to have children just yet. To those who have to end a career or give up a job or switch places of employment (like I did) because of health care.  I would like to think business men and women fight harder to care for their employees. I think of the women who will terminate a pregnancy because of it. What about married women, like myself, who end up begging doctor friends or visiting planned parenthood for birth control, because our employers don’t provide us with the health care coverage or the IUD we need?

I love what Rachel Held Evans wrote in her blog post:

“Let’s avoid making generalizations about the millions of women and families who say they would benefit from affordable, accessible contraception.”   

It's complicated I know. I think about other first generation college grads, who want to enjoy married life and get established in a career before having kids. Maybe like myself, they need access to birth control so they can accomplish what their immigrant mothers and grandmothers could not. With access to affordable contraception, new dreams can come to fruition. New stories can be written. My mom had me when she was 18. My grandmother had my mom when she was 18. I wanted to do things differently.

Shortly after giving birth to my son in 2001, I left the SBC church I was working at to accept a position at a Presbyterian church. A church with an egalitarian view of women in ministry. A church with fair pay, benefits, retirement, health insurance, and access to affordable contraception. I worked there for 8 years and I loved it. I had my 2nd child on my terms. When we were ready after 3 years with an IUD implant.  My job was no longer going to dictate our reproductive schedule. 

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