When I became sexual a few years ago, the monthly prayers began. Every 28 days, I became a nervous wreck, checking for my period several times a day, looking at the calendar, policing my hunger for the odd cravings that I thought would be a tip-off. I was perpetually convinced that I was with fetus. Since my cycle's average is 35-40 days and is lengthened by exactly these kinds of worry, this meant two weeks of nerves and trich unless I pissed on a six-dollar stick.
The fear crept out of frenzied conversations full or reassurances from friends and into my my academic work. In my senior year of college, literally everything I wrote was about pregnancy - and it was all in the horror genre.
And it was never founded. I am very, very, very careful about avoiding pregnancy. In my three plus year relationship with my partner, we've never gone without some form of birth control (be it prophylactic, hormonal, or otherwise) and we usually use two forms. I am not casual about these things.
At one point, I was primarily scared of getting an abortion. That seemed, to me, the ultimate sacrifice. It's still scary, but more for the "invasive surgery" aspect and less the moral handwringing. I've made my peace with doing away with a being whose creation I took steps to prevent, who would leech off of me for nine months. It wouldn't make me feel awesome morally, but many things I do do not make me feel awesome morally.
But now, after experiencing the terror of OCD triggered directly and repeatedly by the hormones of birth control, I'm more scared of losing my sanity through impregnation. Even if I procure a hasty abortion, I will still be pregnant for a few weeks, I will still be subject to the hormones that that brings along.
Pregnancy is often framed as independent of the woman whose body is being incubated. In law, in the gynecologist's office, in birth and after birth, in politics, in popular culture, the contribution and serious sacrifice demanded by creating a person within our body is minimized and dismissed. In reproductive health legislation, in discussions of famous pregnancies, in religious functions, the burden of pregnancy upon women pales in comparison to the angelicized babies they create.
When I began looking at non-hormonal methods of birth control (crazy things like diaphragms) the male gynecologist I saw said that no young woman had ever asked for one, and dismissed the idea out of hand because I wasn't in a serious enough relationship (though I'd been in a monogamous relationship for almost two years at some point). He patted my head and sent me away with a form of birth control that made me lose control of my emotions, heightened my anxiety, and killed my sex drive.
Being in control of my body, in and out of the realm of fertility, is a major part of my feminism. I've been a feminist for over a decade, but becoming sexual, becoming physically vulnerable to the whims of a state that does not inherently respect women and their agency in their bodies, gave my views a personal stake and an urgency. It's one of the reasons that I've actually become more of a feminist since I began dating my partner, who is decidedly not a feminist.
Perhaps one day, I will be ready to make the sacrifice of my body and possibly a good chunk of my sanity to have a child. But until then, I'll be dependent on condoms, diaphragms, pregnancy tests, and the safety of abortion (and the privilege that nearly assures me of a safe termination).
But until then, I will be scared of and obsessed by the possibility of pregnancy.
Illustrations are from my senior honors thesis, a feminist dystopian graphic novel. College was awesome.