Love is letting go of fear.
From the very first moment I ever heard the word pregnant it was something I was taught to avoid at all costs. Even without knowing what the word actually meant it was clear to all of us boys that it was something to be feared. When sexuality was explained to us as young boys it concerned everything leading up to pregnancy and that is where things ended in the warning; if you aren’t careful, you’ll get her pregnant and that will ruin your life.
It was the admonition of every clergy member, coach, health instructor or father who gave the infamous birds and the bees lecture. Pregnancy was the end of everything for the adolescent male and the reason why we were always to wear the latex shield of safety known as the condom.
When I was a young boy growing up, abstinence was a term that applied only to alcohol and alcoholics. When you heard the word it was delivered by a stern faced woman dressed in what appeared to be a military uniform delivering what was known as the “temperance lecture”. It wasn’t until I was well into manhood that the S.T.D. to end all S.T.D.’s, changed that.
In my teenage years it was a given that young boys were going to have sex and the term applied to it was, sowing ones wild oats. I can remember when safe sex was asking the girl what time her parents came home from work. As long as we were armed with the almighty condom our fathers swelled with both pride and a certain amount of relief that we were involved with girls.
Sex was okay, after all, it was the age of free love and everyone including the Catholic church admitted that teens were active and that the only thing we had to be worried about was, “getting pregnant”.
We lived in the days of the three pillars of sexual activity; one, sex was a good thing, two, disease was a risk but was at least curable with the right series of treatments and number three, pregnancy was the most fearsome thing imaginable and if it happened, it ruined your life. Yes, there once was a time where disease was less fearful than getting pregnant.
The scariest thing to happen during my teenage years to reinforce the fear of pregnancy was the strange disappearance of friends. One day you’d show up at school and Billy wouldn’t be there. When all of the students met in the lunchroom that afternoon the boys learned from the girls that Susie wasn’t there anymore either. They were simply gone and when you stopped by their parent’s houses to ask about them you were always informed that they were away visiting relatives.
It would be generally be many months before you saw Billy and Susie again and it always came as a surprise that Billy was wearing the uniform of a United States Marine and Susie was now his wife and the mother of his firstborn child.
That was how parents handled pregnancy in those days. A seventeen year old boy would be pulled out of school and enlisted in the Marine Corps. The sixteen year old girl would be removed from school and send to stay with relatives until the baby was born in order to protect everyone from the embarrassment of an illegitimate child.
This was in the days of the Vietnam war. Often times you no sooner started to deal with the shock of what had happened to Billy and Susie, what with the marriage you never heard about and the baby and all when the final horror occurred. Billy would be shipped off to
And far too many times to count after that, the next time you saw Billy he was laid out in a coffin wearing his dress uniform. The message was loud and clear to many of my teenage buddies and I, pregnancy ruined everything and more than that it could be fatal.
From the time we were adolescent boys up to the time we entered the sanctuary of college and were safe from the military draft we were raised to be terrified of getting a girl pregnant. Many of us never grew out of that fear we became men and we have suffered greatly because it.
Most of the men I’ve known in my life were never prepared for the wonder of pregnancy. Never were we ever told that pregnancy was a wonderful event. We were never taught to embrace the process and cherish it for the real miracle it is.
How many of us stood in abject terror before our parents and broke the news to them that our girlfriends were pregnant? And what were we told by them in these moments of our greatest fear? We were told that it was time to step up to the plate and be a man. We were told we had to do the right thing.
And because we’d always been taught to fear pregnancy and were never actually educated about it we didn’t have a clue what the right thing to do was. Unfortunately because so many of us were serving in the military we never even witnessed the birth of our children. We never met them until they were already walking and talking and didn’t even have a clue who we were.
Some of the men I knew in those days died before they even knew they had a child.
I’ve lived with a fear of pregnancy for fifty-one years now. It was the most dreaded thing imaginable to me. Thankfully I have a wife who was patient and waited for me to feel secure in our marriage before she gently broached the subject of maybe having a child.
We talked about it and made the decision to stop using the pill and see if pregnancy would be a part of our marriage. Four months later I woke up to find the white stick with a blue cross on it sitting on the bathroom sink. I was not prepared for the sense of joy I experienced.
Like so many men of my generation I was not prepared for the reality of pregnancy. The wonder of the experience has completely caught me by surprise. What I was taught by society, school, church and my parents was wrong. What they did to my seventeen year old brother and his sixteen year old girlfriend was wrong. They ruined those two kid’s lives, not pregnancy.
I avoided marriage for a long time because of the fear that lived in my heart. I avoided the possibility of children in my life because of the scars left behind from what I’d witnessed during the Vietnam war era and what it appeared that pregnancy had done to so many of my buddies.
My friends didn’t come home in a box because of pregnancy. They came home in coffins because of the shame their parents couldn’t deal with. They pulled their daughters out of school. They enlisted their sons in the military during a time of war. Never once did they stop to think of how they were ruining not only the lives of their children but also the lives of their grandchildren.
Don’t make the same mistakes our parents made. Don’t destroy your children’s lives by pulling them out of school and enlisting them in the military during a nasty war. Pregnancy doesn’t destroy lives, shame does. Give your son a chance to be a good father; don’t send him off to die.
Marriage has been the beginning of so many good things for me. I wish I hadn’t been made to feel so afraid of it for so many years. My wife is a patient and loving woman. Thanks to her loving kindness I am learning the greatest lessons of my life. I just wished I’d learned a little bit more before she found me.