Friday, September 9, 2011

Baby Roulette? Maybe It's Baby Poker.

Are you playing baby roulette? That's the question posed in this recent Glamour article by Michelle Stacey. Stacey combines some shocking statistics (50% of American pregnancies are unplanned, most among women under 29, the number of women who've had sex without protection rose 35% between 1995 and 2008) and some interviews to come to the conclusion that many young women are purposely playing fast and loose with their birth control to deal with an ambivalence toward pregnancy.

Wait. What?

Stacey suggests that women are facing career pressures and stifling the conscious urge to have children. She gives us Alison, a 21-year-old college student who uses condoms "sometimes" as an example:

“But there’s also a little part of me—maybe a big part—that secretly wants to get pregnant. That would make the decision for me, and I’d deal with it. Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom sounds easier than having to compete out there in a tough job market.” But it’s hard to admit those dreams to her crowd of ambitious college classmates. Veronica agrees: “There’s a sense that it’s not cool to get married and have kids right out of college. But if you just ‘get pregnant,’ you don’t face society’s judgment. If anything, it becomes kind of heroic: ‘Wow, what a sacrifice. She made the choice to raise her baby!"
The article ends with a somewhat didactic tone, urging women to think of the women's movement and the choices it's given them:

In short, do you want to be a mom right now? If the answer is no, then you can’t play baby roulette. “The women’s movement was all about giving us choices,” says Marjorie Sable, Ph.D., a professor of social work at the University of Missouri, who studies pregnancy intention. “The choice to become a mother—or the decision not to—is equally legitimate.” The point is to make a choice, not let chance make the choice for you.
I see the statistics and I follow the logic, but something about this article rings--I don't know--off, somehow. Are women really feeling so much pressure to be in successful careers that they have to pretend they don't want babies and then trick themselves into having them by "forgetting" to take the Pill? It just seems like a lot of mental hoops to jump through. And it seems suspicious that young women capable of undergoing that much mental work (tricking themselves into a conscious action based on the unconscious desires stifled by their conscious decision to fit into societal norms by overthrowing other societal norms--aren't you tired just thinking about it?) would also be capable of recognizing that "accidentally" getting pregnant doesn't make the reality of the way pregnancy and a baby fits into their lives any easier.

I think that there is another complication that could explain at least some of this "Baby Roulette" game. The pressures to conceive a child are pretty great. You need only look at the fertility support groups on any pregnany message boards to know that there are thousands and thousands of women struggling with concerns about whether they can, in fact, get pregnant. If you openly admit (even if it's only to yourself) that you are "trying" to get pregnant, you also open yourself up to a whole host of vulnerabilities.

Or perhaps Stacey hits the nail on the head when she attributes this phenomenon to tensions with perceived feminist ideals. Maybe these young women don't think they're supposed to want to have a baby yet, so this ambivalent stance feels like a middle road.

Perhaps it's not so much "Baby Roulette" as "Baby Poker." I want to think that these women are not truly opening themselves up to pure chance and luck with no concern over their own agency in their lives. Maybe, instead, they've put on a poker face and are allowing a little bit of chance to play in with their own carefully crafted strategies.

Or maybe they all just feel luckier than I do, because the idea of just leaving pregnancy completely up to chance terrifies me.

What do you think?

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