[This post is sponsored by Bedsider. But the opinions? All mine, baby!]
Real talk, my parents’ guidance about birth control began and ended with this one simple statement: “Don’t bring no babies up into this house.” There were no explanations about the difference between the pill and IUDs, no clandestine appointments with ob-gyns who could talk to me about the importance of protecting myself from pregnancy and diseases during sex, no care packages of condoms slipped into my trunk when I left for college. Mom and Dad’s directive was simple, to the point and extremely clear: do not have sex because if you have sex you will have a baby and if there is a baby, there will be hell to pay because Jimy and Bettye are done raising kids and have absolutely no intention whatsoever of spending their time and hard-earned money caring for an unplanned grandchild.
Thing is, when I found myself in that dorm room with that boy about to have sex for the first time in my life, my parents’ threats were useless to me—sorely lacking in the real deal info I desperately needed right then, at that very moment, to protect myself from the very thing they most feared. Where did one go to get protection? How much did it cost? Who was responsible for buying it? Which one was right for me and my partner? Was the pill safe? A condom 100 percent effective? How did you put a condom on a guy anyway? And what were the words I was supposed to use to get him to actually, like, use it? All of those were questions I should have had the answers to well before I laid down with a man for the first time.
But I didn’t.
When it comes to birth control and deciding how they’ll protect themselves and plan their parenthood, I don’t want my daughters to ever—ever—feel so clueless, so unsure, so alone in such a monumental decision that, if mishandled, could mean, quite literally, life or death for them, just as they are beginning the journey toward the rest of their lives. They need information. As a mother, it’s my duty to give it to them.
Of course, when I was a teenager, info about birth control was hard to come by: if you could find your way to an ob-gyn or a clinic, someone might have had mercy and explained some things—maybe even floated some contraception your way. These days, deets on birth control options are more readily available thanks to Google. But the truth of the matter is that all-too-many American women are still short on birth control information and putting themselves into some precarious situations because of it.
Consider this: in the United States, seven in 10 pregnancies among unmarried women ages 18-29 are described by women themselves as unplanned—one of the highest levels in the entire developed world. That rate increases to 73 percent among African American women. And while a majority of young women say it’s important to them to avoid getting pregnant right now, nearly 20% say it’s likely they’ll have sex in the next three months without using any birth control.
Now, we all know the consequences of unplanned pregnancy are significant, expensive, and affect not only the young adults themselves but also their children. Those consequences include: fewer opportunities to complete their education or achieve other life goals; more health risks; diminished likelihood of forming committed, mature relationships; lower likelihood of stable families, and; a higher likelihood of poverty. This is not, by any means, the fate of every person who’s ever become a parent before they intended. But enough havoc has been reeked to justify ringing the alarms.
This is why I’m geeked about the new “Awkward” campaign by Bedsider.org, an online birth control support network for women, hostd by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The goal is to reduce high rates of unplanned pregnancies among young women (18-24) in the U.S. by encouraging them to find the best method of birth control and use it more carefully and consistently.
I promise you, the first time I saw that crazy “Awkward Grandma” commercial on TV, I fell all the way out watching the granddaughter’s face as her little old gray-haired grandmother wistfully recounted her heyday as “the buttered biscuit,” a hot in the booty sex pot who had good sex—lots of it—when she was young and getting it on in the backseat of cars. The commercial definitely got my attention, and before the next commercial could get on good, I was thumbing through Bedsider.org to see what all this “awkward” talk was all about.
Turns out Bedsider.org isn’t awkward at all. Indeed, it’s a comprehensive online and mobile program designed to make birth control easier. Bedsider has everything women need to find the best method of birth control, stay on it, and use it successfully, including easy ways to explore and compare various methods, videos of real women describing their personal experiences with each method, and birth control and appointment reminders sent by text or email.
In other words, this is just the kind of information I wished I had access to when I was that young college student, excited, confused and clueless about how to protect myself, even as I was about to do what humans have been doing since the beginning of time.
I’d like to think that my daughters will come to me when they have questions about such things. After all, I’ve kept open our communications about sex, answering every question they’ve ever asked and offering up info even when they didn’t ask. Of course, they’re getting to that age where their faces look very much like that of the girl in the Awkward Grandma commercial, and, though I’d like to think otherwise, I’m probably starting to sound a lot like the frank Grandma. But it’s good to know Bedsider.org is there with the information for them, their friends, and other young women desperate for straight-talk—sans the awkward!—on birth control.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.