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living in gratitude©

I was traveling last summer on a bus with journalists from all over the U.S. — mostly writers and photographers, mostly men.

We had been discussing age, and I brightly offered the opinion that maturity was even better than I imagined.  I admitted that when I was young, I thought it was over-rated.

A radio journalist who asked a lot of questions asked me to name the single-best thing about aging as a woman.  He seemed surprised any woman would want to age (I’m surprised some men still don’t get it).

I wanted to enlighten him. With humor, of course. (This is a sign of maturity in itself. The younger me would have had offered, without humor, some choice words on gender differences, -isms of all kinds, advertising/Hollywood/consumerism …).

The single-best thing about aging as a woman?

“Worry-free sex,” I said. I was being a tad provocative, because he was being so … well, so man-sure about his views on aging.

Since he looked so astonished — and all conversation stopped on the bus — I added sweetly, “You don’t have to worry about birth control anymore.”

I was serious.  Ask any girl or woman, from any culture, in any country, and most will say the possibility of getting pregnant is a preoccupation in their fertile years.  News to Congress: This is  primal, biological.  Morality is a separate issue.

In many countries, bearing children is literally a question of life and death.  Having a baby in some neighborhoods on this planet — especially a baby girl — can mean certain death for the baby, and often the mother-to-be. The latter is biological; the former is moral.  I am not talking about abortion here, either.

If they’re honest and self-aware, some girls will acknowledge possible pregnancy was a concern way before they were very sexually active (I imagine this is the part where some men will go, “huh?” and some women will nod and laugh).

I am thinking about all this because of the current public nattering about birth control — mostly by men squabbling over power. Celibate men too.

I, personally, have always been in favor of birth control since I discovered what it was.

Except for the obvious sharing of responsibility, I haven’t understood, since girlhood, why men needed to be involved in this decision

As a girl, in a small, rural neighborhood, I saw the difference between healthy, wanted babies in loving homes — regardless of income — and unhealthy, unwanted babies in often chaotic homes. Frankly, I was horrified, as a very young girl, by the one family in our neighborhood that chose not to use birth control. We played with all their children, and it always seemed to me they lived in great, unnecessary want in a farm-income neighborhood.

As a teen doing volunteer work, I began to see the difference birth control made in expanding a woman’s life choices.

I chose not to have children at a very young age. Advised by several male doctors that I could not be sterilized without my husband’s permisson before I was 30, I had an operation as soon as I passed 29. (This was Canada in the early ’80s, not the Middle Ages.)

When offered all the different options in the late ’70s, I said this: “Just make it as permanent as possible.”

I have never regretted my decision; never imposed it on others; never shared it with strangers. I have always been grateful to have had the freedom to make the choice.

However, I have had many, many people tell me — without my seeking their opinion — that I was wrong.

Like I said, no regrets. It was an easy decision, and made after much research and consultation, with women and men, professional and familial. I have always had strong faith, and I do not believe my decision has hurt others. I certainly don’t believe it involved anyone else, except my first husband, who never wanted children either.

It certainly did not involve anyone outside my home, except for our family doctor, a man who loved babies so much, his office was covered, floor to ceiling, on every possible surface, with photos of the babies he delivered over decades in rural Toronto.

That doctor delivered me, at less than five pounds, a wizened, hairless, “preemie.” I was unlovely, but my eyes were so big, my parents called them ‘headlights.’

Five babies — all premature — later, I have always been glad my mother was one of the first in her generation to have access to safe, dependable, painless, birth control. It was almost 1960, and the pill was still difficult to get legally in North America.

Now that I’m older, I am grateful to share my experiences, to show that birth control is a personal choice, made intelligently and with deep passion.  For me, it has made all the difference, and I’ve always wanted other women to have the freedom to make the choice that was so easy for me, living in a privileged culture in a “liberated” time.