my Planned Parenthood story is a study in negative space. i’ve never actually been to a Planned Parenthood clinic, but that’s not for lack of needing one in my life.
i grew up in and still live in a VERY pro-life, red, republican, anti-choice, christian supremacist kind of state. i love texas, but it is not kind to women in a lot of ways. i went through the “True Love Waits” program at my church in 10th grade (15 or 16 years old) and pledged in front of a few hundred people and god that i would not have sex until i was married. i could write a whole blog on how damaging this program and others like it are to young people, girls especially, but it’s been written by others before me who are better versed in that kind of thing. needless to say, i was committed to “purity” and was very judgmental of those who didn’t adhere to my standard.
as with a lot of people, college happened. my perspectives began to change as far as how i viewed other people’s choices, but i was still very determined to stay “pure” until i married the man god had chosen for me. i no longer viewed others as hell-bound if they had sex, but it certainly wasn’t in my plans. in my sophomore year of college, my life fell apart. my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before fall semester began, and i spent that entire school year trying anything and everything to avoid my life and responsibilities. i drank myself into oblivion as often as possible and got more and more reckless with my safety and health. as she got sicker, so did i. i was losing my compass and i really didn’t see anything or anyone coming along to save me, the way i’d been taught god would. by the end of the year, i was completely lost, and my mother’s death, 1 week after finals, sent me into a downward spiral that would take several years to fully escape. that summer, deep in a depression i hadn’t yet named as such, i visited friends in lubbock, got falling down drunk, and had sex with a man whose name i couldn’t remember in the morning. it was unprotected and stupid. this moment that i’d been waiting for my entire adolescent life was one of the most horrible nights/days i can recall. i hated myself. i knew all the possible consequences and was absolutely terrified. i had absolutely no idea where to go and i COULD NOT talk to anyone about what happened. in fact, that shame was so deeply ingrained in me that this is the first time i’ve told this story to anyone i wasn’t intimately involved with.
all of this happened on a Friday/Saturday, i believe, because i was stuck trying to find a clinic over a weekend. my knowledge of Planned Parenthood, if i had any at the time, was as an abortion clinic, which i knew i didn’t need, at least not yet. but in my haze of fear and self-loathing, i couldn’t have remembered the name if i even knew it. i don’t recall if i got online or got a phone book (google didn’t quite exist yet), but i found a clinic that would give me a pregnancy test and a morning after pill. they didn’t hassel me or ask anything but the basic questions, which, looking back on it, was a grace i didn’t know not to expect. i was cutting it close by getting in on Monday, but i was within the 72 hours. i wasn’t pregnant. i took the pill and cried to myself for a solid day, and then kept up the self-loathing for several more years.
i didn’t have sex with anyone again for 2 more years, so i didn’t see a reason to go to the doctor, especially since i was uninsured since my mother’s death. (abstinence only education FTW! if you’re not having sex, you have no reason to fear anything! whee!) i had no idea that there was a place i could have gone and gotten free or low cost pap smears and checkups. when i did get into my first real relationship, just after college, it had its issues, but i was with a man who genuinely cared about my health and wanted me to see a doctor for checkups. problem was, my craptastic insurance from waiting tables was, well, craptastic. i was so excited to finally have insurance, that i called and made an appt with an Ob/Gyn a friend recommended. they ran my insurance and told me i wasn’t covered for well-woman, only catastrophic needs. so, i spent that whole relationship scared of broken condoms and drunk, irresponsible nights, never knowing if i was truly “safe”. i still was embarassed to talk with any of my friends about these issues, so no one ever got a chance to tell me i had other options. after that relationship was over, i would swing rather wildly for the next few years between being wild and crazy, and totally scared of sex because i knew i wasn’t in control of the consequences or my needs at the time.
i didn’t start getting regular checkups and get on birth control until i was almost 25. at that point, i had been “sexually active”, at least off and on, for 5 years. i’d never seen a doctor, gotten a pap smear, or had an STD test, and i’d only bought my own condoms once or twice. it is truly a miracle that i never had an unwanted pregnancy, have never had an abnormal pap, and never tested positive for an STD. i’m now married to an amazing woman and am pregnant with our first child now. i have good insurance and a doctor i trust. i can afford to pay full price for my medical care, which is a privilege i try not to take lightly. i do not want my children to grow up in ignorance and fear the way i did. i want them to know that Planned Parenthood exists for them, regardless of their sexuality or gender – that it will support their needs and choices, whatever they are, that it will not shame them for those choices, or make them feel like they should or should not do anything, based on any factors other than their own health and needs. i want my children to feel safe and confident in their own bodies and sexuality, however they express it, and i trust the people at Planned Parenthood to help them with that. i trust Planned Parenthood because they trust me.
please see the rest of the My Planned Parenthood blogs at the Carnival Host – What Tami Said