Tag Archives: birth control

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and just love it! Your answers and the community here are both awesome. So thanks. My question is really tough and I’m afraid your answer is going to be “there is no actual compromise possible here.” But I’m going to try.

My husband and I were both raised as extremely religious Catholics. When we were dating (courting??) we both agreed that we wanted to have lots of kids, like a dozen, and homeschool them all. Over eight years of marriage, we’ve both changed a lot. We’re both a lot more liberal and our kids are going to public school. After the third kid, we both agreed that we no longer wanted to have any more kids. But, being Catholic, there are only two allowed solutions: NFP (natural family planning, also known as Vatican Roulette), and total abstinence. We did that for a miserable year and a half and then, predictably, got pregnant with our fourth.

I cannot describe how horrible this has all been to me. Four kids is A LOT OF KIDS, especially given that the oldest is only seven. I loathe being pregnant with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. All of them have been high needs. I haven’t slept well since 2009. My husband is exhausted too; he cried like a baby when he found out we were having the fourth and I believe he is still depressed about it four months after she was born.

And I no longer see any point to this punishingly difficult lifestyle since I am no longer Catholic. Between kid 3 and kid 4, I did a lot of studying and am now entirely agnostic. My husband was really upset by my deconversion and mostly prefers not to talk about it at all. He’s become a lot more skeptical about his faith, but he does think it’s true and it worries him to think I might be going to hell. Meanwhile I now think that birth control is definitely the greatest thing since indoor plumbing.

Our birth control method now, given that NFP so obviously does not work, is abstinence. Every couple of weeks my husband can’t stand it anymore so we have non-PIV sex. Only there is zero communication about this. I think his perspective is that, if he’s got to “sin,” at least he’s not going to make it worse by premeditating it. The problem is that it’s obvious both of us want to take it further and I know from experience how hard it is to think clearly when you’re horny. I am terrified that sooner or later we’re going to get pregnant again. I cannot, CANNOT go through pregnancy again; I get the shakes just thinking about it. Meanwhile our sex life is completely screwed up from the NFP and then the whatever-this-is we’re doing now, so that neither of us is really enjoying it that much and we both kinda feel like roommates. It sucks and the thought of doing this till menopause is awful.

I want to go on birth control. He doesn’t even want to discuss it. He told me some time ago that if I did go on birth control, he’d continue to feel obligated to never have sex again because contracepted sex is a sin. I don’t want to do something unilaterally if it truly would upset him, but on the other hand I feel like his religion will make it impossible for him ever to agree to it, even if he WERE okay with it, because that would implicate him in the “sin.” So I can’t find out how he really feels about it. And then there’s the money issue … we don’t have insurance and all the really effective birth control methods are pretty expensive. With his cooperation we could easily save up the money for it in a couple of months, but since I’m a full-time carer for the kids, I don’t have much in the way of my own separate money. And it’s not like a couple thousand dollars are sitting around in the bank right now for me to just take and use … even if I would feel okay unilaterally spending that amount of money, given that normally all major purchases have to be okayed by both of us. And I have almost no one in my life who isn’t fanatically Catholic, certainly no one I could call on to drive me home from getting my tubes tied.

What, dear Captain, would you do? Can you help me come up with a script for “seriously, we need to actually TALK about what we’re doing and your Catholic guilt and denial are not helping”? I have been quietly waiting for the past two years or so for him to come around, but he hasn’t, and I feel our disastrous fourth pregnancy is my fault for agreeing to rely on the broken fire escape that is NFP instead of going behind his back and somehow getting an IUD. Yet I still hesitate to make such a big decision unilaterally; I’m equally scared to tell him (and face his hurt feelings) or not tell him (and have a big whopping secret looming over my head). And of course there are the practical issues.

Thanks for reading my lengthy novel,

Offred (Just Kidding) (Mostly)

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Harry Potter holding a wand


This article (yes, it’s old) in the Washington City Paper about men who don’t understand how birth control works made me laugh.  And then feel sad.  How can people not understand how birth control works?

Ok, listen.  I’ll try to keep it really simple.

Barrier methods like condoms, the cervical cap, and the diaphragm physically block semen from ever reaching the egg.  Most times these methods are combined with a spermicide which murders the little swimmers before they can reach their goal.

Hormonal methods like The Pill, the NuvaRing, the Patch, or Depo-Provera interfere creatively with a woman’s cycle.  In some cases the hormones interfere with ovulation.  In others, the hormones will turn the womb into a barren, rocky place in which your seed may find no purchase.

The copper IUD is the closest to magic. It’s a T-shaped piece of plastic wrapped with copper that’s placed directly in the womb.  No one knows exactly why it works, though the theory suggests that the “rocky soil, seed can find no purchase” explanation is the true one.  The Mirena IUD also goes inside the uterus, where it releases a low dose of hormones.

The Morning After Pill is a higher dose of the hormones in the regular birth control pill.  Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can rush to the scene of the crime and attempt to prevent ovulation and may prevent implantation.

More details here.

All these methods have some risks and side effects.  Some pills can run $50/month, even with insurance. The Morning After Pill runs between $40-$60 depending on where you get it. The IUD is very cost effective over time, but the initial install can run $1000 between the device and the insertion procedure.

Finally, I’ve run into a lot of guys who vote Republican but who like to have sex with women.  Guys, we can argue all day long about economics, taxes, and foreign policy, but here’s a fact:  The Republican Party in the U.S. officially works to limit family planning rights for women.  They cater to a section of the population who thinks hormonal birth control = abortion.  They work to limit abortion access and rights.  They tried to defund Planned Parenthood.  They love funding abstinence-only education which is designed to prevent teenagers from knowing how their own bodies work. Basically, the platform of the Republican Party in the United States is this:  “Every time a penis goes inside a vagina, a baby could be made, and that potential baby is the most important thing ever.”   Democrats are not perfect, and not perfect on this issue, but they don’t have “Punish those evil sluts” baked right into their national platform.

There’s a temptation to think that birth control is some icky women’s issue that men don’t have to worry about.  Gentlemen, ask yourself some questions, like:  Do you want to make a baby right now?  Do you want to make a baby every time you have sex?  Do you think everyone should make a baby every time they have sex?  Do you think your girlfriend waves a wand and says, Harry Potter-style, “Contracepcio!” to prevent unwanted pregnancy?   If you’re going to have sex with a woman, it would be good to know what kind of birth control she’s using and how it works.  If you’re in an ongoing relationship, it might be nice for you to offer to shoulder some of the financial burden. Please get educated before you fuck.  Or vote.