Another Baby Boom
What is it with all these unplanned pregnancies, already?
Tune in to Jerry Springer or Maury. So many women trying to figure out whom the father of their child is. So many men denying they had anything to do with it. Cut to the cute, innocent baby who is the unwitting cause of all this sad commotion. Fortunately, DNA testing is a giant leap forward – not only in quickly uncovering the truth of the matter, but in saving some other poor innocent souls from death row for good measure.
When I was in college, I had a number of, well, brief encounters. But I always had the foresight to dutifully wear my diaphragm. I never wanted children, never wanted marriage — despite two long-term relationships. The first one lasted 20 years. The second one has seen seven years and counting. Maybe if I’d married these men I would have jinxed it. In any case, I was always a maverick and hated every cheesy wedding reception I ever attended. So bourgeois, so predictable, and so likely to lead to divorce, along with children who are traumatized by bitter custody battles.
My boyfriend BG has an even more colorful past, including two marriages, various relationships, and countless dalliances. Back in the day, STDs were not as much of an issue as they are now, so BG sometimes neglected to wear his “party hat” – his nickname for condoms. Generally, it was because the woman in question supposedly was on the pill or claimed she was infertile. Nevertheless, as a result, BG’s parents probably have at least one grandchild out there somewhere they’ll never know about.
In the case in question, the woman claimed she was on the pill, but I guess she forgot a dose or ten. Granted, BG made every attempt to do the honorable thing. He offered to marry the woman he had apparently impregnated who already had one child from a previous relationship. But she had no desire for marriage and indeed intended to abort the baby. However, being the wild party girl she was, after gathering funds from friends to get an abortion in another state, she instead checked herself into a hotel room for several days and got good and drunk. (Very healthy for the baby to be, I might add.) Eventually, she gave the child up for adoption. Hopefully, s/he got a good home, but I shudder to think what all that pre-natal alcohol might have done to the poor child’s system.
Happily Ever After?
Aside from the nice normal folk who do it the “proper” way — marriage, children, divorce, second marriage, children, divorce, etc. etc. ad nauseum, thus putting their kids through the stress and pain of a fractured family — there are also the myriad women I see schlepping strollers up and down the subway steps with no hubby to help them. Many of them are poor and have to struggle to raise their children all alone, or perhaps with the help of grandma. Many of them, who apparently thought that having a child would result in a blissful life of perfect, cute, perpetually smiling and cooing little angels, have quickly experienced a rude awakening. But puzzlingly enough, that doesn’t seem to give them pause as they produce one illegitimate child after the other after the other. However, many may simply not have had ready access to free birth control and other family planning services – which is another post altogether.
The stress of it all must be unbelievable. Way too many times I’ve witnessed an angry and frustrated mother shrilly bellowing at her cowed child, “Shut your motherf#cking mouth! I’m gonna beat the sh#t out of you!” At the other extreme is the “enlightened” parent who cows before their child’s tantrums by performing constant contract negotiations in the toy store. “OK, sweetheart, if you stop screeching I’ll get you that astronomically priced gadget that I can’t afford. And then, we can go for a nice ice cream cone. How does that sound, precious?”
Then there are the heartbreaking news stories of parents and stepparents who physically or sexually abuse their kids, sometimes to the point of murder. Some of you may remember the Lisa Steinberg case from many years ago in New York City, but this was far from an isolated incident. Recently, there was a horrifying and well-publicized local case in which a child was beaten to death by her stepfather. Charges of negligence were leveled at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and a number of resignations and investigations have ensued. But no matter how efficient such an agency might become, there are still so many cases of abuse and neglect, it’s unlikely that all the children in danger could ever be adequately protected — and placing children in foster homes does not always spell “happily ever after.”
Always Wear Your “Party Hat”
I know there are many unplanned children who are loved and cared for. Perhaps if BG’s parents were not staunch Catholics, he or some of his wonderful siblings might not be here today. But times were different back then, I think. People were more likely to see marriage as “till death do us part.” Instant gratification was not the be all and end all of life. Children were seen as a solemn responsibility, planned or unplanned. Still and all, child abuse undoubtedly took place then as well — albeit more surreptitiously for the most part.
Given all this, I still fervently believe that if you want to have sex, but are not ready for children — and as long as it does not compromise your religious beliefs — take a moment to put on your “party hat” or have your partner do so. Children are the biggest responsibility an individual can take on, and it’s not for the faint of heart or the unprepared. Kids, in my opinion, deserve to be loved and cherished and given the best life possible. A moment of unbridled pleasure without protection is simply not worth the risk.