I remember staring at it. Shaking it. Waiting for it to clear. So sure that it would.
I remember throwing it in the trash, only to go back to it over and over again. Confirming.
I remember the fog that wouldn’t lift. The whistle of an approaching locomotive as it raced through my head. The steady vibrations coming closer, picking up speed right along with the beat of my heart and the pace of my breath.
I remember one more test.
and then another.
Until it sank in. Caught up. Wrapped around. Consumed every last thought during both waking and sleeping states of mind.
I was a sixteen-year-old junior in high school. A cheerleader. If I’d made it to my senior year I would probably have been voted “Least Likely to Get Knocked Up”. Assuming, of course, the yearbook teacher would have condoned such a superlative.
What they didn’t know about me was that I was head over heels in love (to the extent a sixteen-year-old is capable, anyway). And that everysingleone of my friends had serious boyfriends with whom they were engaging in serious acts. And that finally–finally!–I’d joined the ranks of them. No longer was I left sitting silent in the corner while the rest of them whispered the juicy details of their wheres and whens and ohmygod no you guys did not do it while your parents were sleeping in the next room!
At long last, I had my own stories. But unlike my friends, I did not have my own egg-shaped pack of tiny pills spaced evenly around a 28 day dial.
I did, however, have access to a ginormous box of, ahem, barrier method contraceptives. And they were correctly used. Almost 100% of the time.
The rest is history.
When I worked as a mentor for pregnant and parenting teens the question was always the same: what can we do to keep girls from getting pregnant?
At the time, I was shortsighted. I gave long speeches urging high schoolers not to do what I did because they’d miss out on things like prom and sober grad night and general freedom. I thoughtfully engaged in Q&A’s around a table, admitting that the one thing that had made me feel like everybody else, eventually would set me further apart than I’d ever been. And though my perspective is changed a bit, if presented with that question all these years later my answer would remain the same: don’t do what I did because you’ll really miss out. On far more than prom.
Since they were was the teensiest girls, I’ve worked very hard to create open lines of communication with my daughters. Always striving for straight-forward, age-appropriate answers to totally squirm-worthy questions. Words like menstruation and sex and sperm have flowed freely in the hopes that they’d never become taboo. In the hopes that my girls will never be afraid to use them with me.
It’s the finest, tightest line I’ve ever walked–compelling them to come to me if and when they need to, while still instilling in them the knowledge that I do not condone sexual activity. A fine line, indeed.
I don’t know yet if my girls will get safely through their teen years unscathed by pregnancy. I most certainly hope so. Here are the things I do to that end:
1. Above all, communicate. I ask personal questions and pose hypothetical scenarios and just generally check in on what’s up.
2. I state–in no uncertain terms–that my God-given responsibility is to see them safely through to adulthood. And I’m willing to take whatever means necessary to do just that.
3. I randomly confiscate cell phones to peruse text messages. My girls know that the next random spot check could be just around the corner.
4. We go to church as a family and my girls go to small group in the middle of the week. I hope that those activities, together with the values we keep at home, will instill in them a deeply rooted self worth and the knowledge that they are indeed precious in His sight.
5. I am open and honest when it comes to my mistakes. My admitted regrets serve as building blocks to a life less broken.
6. I give them something to work for. We sacrifice in order to set aside money for college so that my girls know that all they have to do is stay focused on their goals and opportunity is theirs for the taking.
7. I frequently ask about their goals. What they want to do. Where they want their lives to go. How they intend to get there.
8. When my oldest started high school, I wrote up a “Behavioral Contract”, detailing my expectations with regard to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. The power of choice lies with her, but this way, she can’t ever use the excuse, “well, I didn’t know.”
9. We come together each night at dinner and talk. About our respective days. About Disney. About whatever comes up. Just another way to stay connected.
10. I pray for them regularly, that they might make wise decisions to include respecting their bodies, their hearts, and their purity.
I hope that–all together–it’ll be enough.