I remember being in the fifth grade. It was a great year for me. It was the last year I was really popular.
One day, we got separated from the boys and put in a room. The light was turned out. A tape was popped into the VCR. The teachers disappeared to the back of the room. The tape started.
The tape told us our bodies were going to go through A Lot of Changes. Among these changes would be body hair, liking boys (I was way ahead on that one), and, of course, Your Period.
There were some images of a teenage girl running through a meadow, some close-ups of hairy armpits, and that was it. The state of Texas considered us duly informed about Our Changing Bodies. We were allowed to go to recess.
Around the same time, my mom sat my brother and me down in the living room, put a tape in the VCR, and left the room. I don’t remember anything about the tape except a guy who I thought was Fonzie playing some kind of musical instrument while singing a song called “Penis is the Proper Word.” I am not making that up. (If you want to view it, here it is, but please be warned: it is the most hilarious thing you will ever see.)
That was the last time my mom mentioned sex to us. If you call that mentioning sex.
Now, I’m not saying that too much information about sex is a good idea. I was a virgin until after high school, but my good friend had a mom who told her everything about sex, and she had a baby at 17.
Truth is, information about our reproductive health is different from being taught sexual positions in grade school.
At age 11, I had very vague ideas about what a period was. I knew it meant I would bleed once a month, and that’s about it. My grandma was at our house when it happened. As I was hustled off to the bathroom, I remember Mamaw saying, “She’ll feel better now.”
This mystified me. I would feel better? Really? For the record, I’m still waiting to feel better.
In high school health class, we got the usual drill – “the uterine lining is shed blah blah blah” – and then one day we were ushered into the auditorium where a dynamic Mexican man gave us a talk intended to (a) convince us he was our “homeboy” and (b) make us scared to death of sex. This consisted of giant projected images of diseased genitals accompanied by harrowing explanations given in a hip, “with-it” fashion.
I didn’t learn anything else about my menstrual cycle until I started having lady plumbing issues in my 20s. Even then, I learned little bits and pieces, but the whole process never really came together for me. No one ever mentioned the follicular phase, the luteal phase, ovulation, or how hormones were involved. Even when I was prescribed progesterone cream, they didn’t tell me which days of my cycle to use it. I used it incorrectly for months before I discovered and fixed the problem myself.
A couple months ago, when my husband and I started trying to conceive, I began learning about timing ovulation, but I still was confronted more with a hodgepodge of information than with a coherent explanation of the entire cycle.
I am a member of a group called New Wave Feminists. We are reclaiming “feminism” from the people who have corrupted it. We like to talk about what we are for, not so much what we are against. So instead of being against abortion, we are for the sanctity of life. Instead of railing against pre-marital sex, we give a big thumbs-up to hot marital sex.
We are not down with artificial birth control, but we are so down with the natural functions of our lady plumbing.
But why do we care so much about it? And what does it have to do with abortion?
Moreover, if we haven’t learned how our bodies work from teachers, parents, or doctors, how can we learn it?
ladies aren’t taught that much about our lady plumbing. So many times I went to the doctor – many different doctors – with issues and questions: wanting to know if certain things were normal, why this was happening, why I was having pain or other problems – and the answer was always the same: “Here are some birth control pills.” They are sold to us as a panacea for all our reproductive health issues.
Even last year, when I was seeing a pro-life gynecologist who did not prescribe artificial birth control, I still remained mostly in the dark about what was going on in my body. He was over-booked and absent-minded, and I never got him to explain everything. I had vague ideas about what was wrong, but I didn’t understand the whole process. Worse, I didn’t understand how to determine what was wrong – or right – with my own personal reproductive health.
When we put our health into the hands of people who care less about it than we do – such as irresponsible doctors who dole out the Pill like candy and abortionists who make money off our lack of understanding – we do ourselves a great disservice.
Recently I picked up a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This book was originally published in the ’80s, so it’s a little bit Our Bodies, Ourselves. It’s touchy-feely and a tad Goddess-circley, and get ready to look at pictures of a stranger’s cervix. The author is pretty enchanted with the women’s lib movement of the ’60s, and she has no moral issues with artificial birth control or in-vitro fertilization. But as radical-feministy as she is about lots of things – including extramarital sex – she advises women not to use the Pill.
All moral and abortion-related issues aside, the author recognizes that artificial birth control separates a woman from her natural cycles and keeps her from being familiar with the way her own body works by using hormones to establish a “false” pregnancy. It’s unnatural, and it’s not healthy.
Despite all its drawbacks, this book has given me invaluable knowledge, understanding, and peace of mind.
Although Ms. Weschler and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the moral issues, I have learned so much from reading her book. She teaches the reader how to chart and track her cycles and fertility using what she calls FAM – the Fertility Achievement Method. It is basically the same thing as NFP, or Natural Family Planning, only NFP practitioners abstain from sex during the fertile days of the woman’s cycle, rather than using a barrier method.
There are probably some great books on NFP that I haven’t read yet, but my experience with Ms. Weschler’s book has been profound. I’m wondering why I wasn’t taught these things in school. Why are women being taught how to use condoms, but not how to recognize what’s going on in their own bodies? Why are women given pills that interfere with their cycles before they even learn what their cycle is?
There are only about six days a month during which a woman can get pregnant. In only a few minutes a day, you can track your fertility signs and know what those days are. That way, you can avoid sex if you don’t wish to conceive, or you can have sex if you do. If you get pregnant, you’ll know by looking at your body temperature chart.
It takes about an hour to learn how to do this, and a few minutes a day to do it. If every woman charted her fertility, the demand for artificial birth control, condoms, abortions, or even home pregnancy tests would go out the window.
Also – and this is great for people like me who have potential fertility issues – the data you collect can be shown to your clinician to help her determine what issues you may be having, and how to treat them.
Instead of sending our daughters to the family doctor for birth control pills and IUDs when they’re teenagers, why don’t we teach them about their cycles so it’s not all a big, scary mystery? How many fewer abortions would there be if young women going off to college took NFP classes to learn what their bodies are doing, and why?
CLICK LIKE IF YOU’RE PRO-LIFE!
Instead of encouraging them to be sexually active by having them put condoms on bananas, we should be encouraging young people to learn about their own bodies. What if women got married and became sexually active already knowing how their cycles worked and how to determine their fertile times?
I’m sorry to sound like a dirty hippie, but learning to track my own fertility has been tremendously empowering for me, and I think it can be for any woman, whether she’s sexually active or just wants to understand her gynecological health, and whether she wants to conceive or not.
Ladies, taking charge of our fertility is pro-woman and pro-life. The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s about time we started wresting back control of our bodies from irresponsible doctors, greedy pharmaceutical companies, Pill-pushing fauxminists, and the abortion industry.