There are plenty of medical and personal reasons for a couple to be trying to avoid (TTA) pregnancy. The Catholic Church states that couples are called to “responsible parenthood,” so many of these issues need to be carefully considered when deciding when to try to achieve or avoid pregnancy. In The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning, Simcha Fisher talks about many valid reasons for avoiding pregnancy, all highly relative to a couple’s circumstances. It would be completely moral and within the teachings of the Church to avoid pregnancy for matters of mental health, financial stability, physical space available at home, employment opportunities, etc. if the couple feels in good conscience that it would affect their efforts for responsible parenthood. *In cases of trying to avoid pregnancy for moral reasons, it, of course, still requires moral means of avoiding like Natural Family Planning (periodic abstinence). But my husband and I were not feeling any of these circumstances were very relevant to us.
That is why I was so surprised when I was told to not get pregnant.
No, it was not a doctor that told me this. It was well-intentioned people that I came across at my new job. It is important to note that, although I was starting a new job, I felt that we were stable with our finances and employment. I went to a “benefits fair” to learn about my new medical, life, short-term disability (and every other type of possible) insurance. This is where I was told by representatives to not get pregnant.
What did these insurance representatives tell me about pregnancy?
That’s right; it is considered a short-term disability. Apparently being pregnant is equivalent to being disabled. (I understand the principle of it, that a pregnant/post-partum woman may have a hard time completing her work.) I have just never heard it said, “Wow, that woman looks like she is about 8 months disabled!” So for most women, they will not get paid during their maternity leave unless they are paying for short-term disability insurance. As a new employee, I am not eligible for medical or short-term disability insurance until I have worked for a few months.
This is why I was told to not get pregnant.
A number of people representing insurance companies noted that I am a young woman of child-bearing age and felt compelled to tell me to not get pregnant. In context, I know that they were sharing their opinion that getting pregnant in the next few months would mean that I would not be covered by my new medical insurance and that a pregnancy would be considered a “pre-existing condition” to short-term disability, meaning I would not get paid maternity leave if I got pregnant before I became eligible for insurance. See my previous post about how our society views fertility as a disease. To me, these opinions came across as a bit crass.
So, what’s the takeaway?
I actually feel very confident that I am not the first woman to be taken off guard by somebody sharing their unsolicited opinion about when to get pregnant, when to avoid pregnancy, and when someone has too many/too few children. These people projected onto me their own views about my family. Little did these people know that I had been pregnant just weeks before (until I had a miscarriage). If I had still been pregnant, how would I have felt? Intimidated? Unsupported? Scared to come forward with my exciting news? So, my piece of advice is nothing novel or unique. Don’t give women unsolicited opinions about their family planning. I wish these insurance representatives would have just outlined my coverage instead of drawing conclusions on my behalf. I took their comments in stride, but it has made me cautious in how I formulate my words and advice to other women. Give women the facts they need to know (when that is appropriate for your role in their healthcare, family, etc), but do not tell them how to plan their family.