Eastbourne beach on Flickr.
I only want a wanted child, and I don’t want a child. … But an IUD is so effective. What if an accidental child was my only chance for a child at all?
[The Cost of It, Rachel Rayner]
Everything about this. We don’t talk about fertility (or its absence) enough, or not with the candour it deserves. Instead, we blush because good girls don’t have sex, and they certainly don’t talk about it in public. We pity or question the childless without listening to them. Even the activists amongst us stigmatise abortion and those who choose it. ‘It’s a last resort’ implies that you’ve somehow failed if you make the choice. And yet we dodge post-partum depression and turn our back on those for whom motherhood isn’t a joy. No wonder women are ashamed, reluctant to speak. Heterosexual women bear the financial and physical burden of contraception but how many of us actually asked our partners to contribute? I never have. Upon reflection, I don’t know why. They have all been lovely men who probably would have happily pitched in.
The ‘child agnostic’ are dismissed as naive. ‘You’ll change your mind,’ they tell us. I’ve always taken that as ‘You’ll be normal one day,’ as though I’m broken now, as if there’s something fundamentally wrong with loving my career and the thrill of new relationships and the freedom to hop on a plane tomorrow if I so desire. My mother always told me, ‘I was the same, but it’s different when you have your own.’
And that’s where our generations diverge. I was born on her 28th birthday. I celebrated my own while crossing the equator on a sailboat, leaving my fifth country of residence for the sixth in seven years. For her, perhaps, a not-entirely-planned pregnancy became a blessing. The pill was new and radical, she came from a Catholic family, no one talked about these things, she’d been married for a few years - the odds were clearly against choosing or stumbling into spinsterhood.
But I lost my virginity in the 21st century. A broken condom scare at 16 turned me into a self-educated sexual health advocate (and abstinent teenager). I counselled friends through abortions, escorted at a clinic, distributed condoms, and taught others about contraceptive options while a university student in a long term, monogamous but not sexually active relationship. I started hormonal contraception only because I didn’t want the inconvenience of menstruating while travelling in the developing world. I still enjoy answering the ‘When was your last period?’ question with ‘sometime in mid-2006.’
Enabling men and women to choose and control their own sexuality and reproduction is now literally my job as well as a recreational passion. In this life, there is little room for the accidental child of my own. In choosing a life of spontaneity and adventure and geographical solutions to the dilemmas of commitment and adulthood, rigid control of my fertility is the one constant. I won’t have my own unless I plan them, and, as Rachel said, ‘how do you get those circumstances right?’ I don’t think more than a few years ahead at any given moment, and so I don’t quite know how I feel about removing the element of chance from just a single facet of my life.
I, too, have an IUD that I love. A date once observed how people (including both of us) tend to became militantly evangelical after reading Infinite Jest, unable to refrain from encouraging others to do the same because it is THAT GOOD. I’m the same with my Mirena. While chatting around a feminist knitting/crafting circle [yes, these exist and are delightful], we christened it the ‘Cadillac of birth control.’ High efficacy, little room for user error, few side effects - perfection. I was lucky. Insertion hurt no worse than a smear and I have had no side effects since. I lived in Scotland, so all contraceptives were funded under the National Health Service, no questions asked. It’s unfortunate that Kiwi women don’t get the same freedom.
The doctor did, however, note that my year as an international student reaping NHS benefits was a convenient time to get an IUD that would cost me at least several hundred dollars back home, but it was clear she meant the observation as a commendation for my initiative. Maybe it was because I could quote perks and drawbacks of each method before she could hand me the brochures during our consultation, but, despite being only 25, I never got the challenges or lectures that so many other young women report when seeking longer term options.
Perhaps this explains my evangelism. Maybe I just lack decorum in all things. Either way, we should be talking about this. About our experiences and choices, our relief and regret. How our partners fit in to it all. Our mothers wanted better lives and more choices for us than they had. I want the same for any future daughter of my own, even if it turns out she’s actually someone else’s kid and I’m just her crazy cat lady aunt.
Wellington Wind Turbine on Flickr.
jessie street on Flickr.
i heart malt on Flickr.
Some of my favourite street art in Wellington. Nothing like painted columns and molding to class up the joint.
marion street on Flickr.
solace in the wind. on Flickr.
Oriental Bay Beach. on Flickr.
Between meeting the lovely Laura of Hungry & Frozen (who has a cookbook now! It was released at the same time as Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam, which means their names are still on the same board at the bookstore, a fact of which I will be forever envious) and my St Andrews party planning comrade-in-arms constantly torturing me with his culinary exploits, I’ve decided to blog about food sometimes since I’m certainly not writing about development or conflict or sexual health or anything else that I purportedly (want to) do for a living.
One of my favourite things about living in the commonwealth is the caramel slice. They are beautiful and magical and the fact that we’re not making them in America is a tragedy. [But we have Mexican food, so it all evens out in the end.] Salted caramel makes life better, as does the added combination of chocolate and whisky.
I have made these salted caramel brownies quite a few times in the last year, tweaking something every time because I first made them on a rock in the middle of the ocean and creativity was a necessity, and then I just wanted to see what happened. [for the record, browned butter is one of our top five greatest achievements as a species, definitely up there with the polio vaccine.] I think it’s time to stop and share the love.
Salted Caramel Brownies
3/4 c flour
1 1/2 c white and brown sugar (50/50 is ideal, but whatever you have will work)
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
scant 1/2 tsp baking powder
100g butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1/3 c applesauce
Shot of whisky (blended is fine. No need to waste the good single malt)
100 g butter
1/2 c packed brown sugar
3 tbsp evaporated milk
Tip of spoon dipped in vanilla paste (1/2 tsp extract)
1 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp evaporated milk
1 oz dark chocolate
coarse/flake sea salt
Wee dram of Glendronach 12yo, aged in Oloroso and Pedro Jimenez casks [or really anything aged in sherry or Sauternes casks because of how splendidly that sweetness will complement the brownie batter]
1. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking powder in large bowl.
3. Blend melted butter, eggs, and vanilla and add to dry mixture along with applesauce and whisky. Mix well. If you find the mixture too dry, add a couple of spoonfuls of the evaporated milk. It will be very thick.
4. Spread batter into greased 9x9” pan. Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick in the centre comes out mostly clean. Remove pan and cool on a wire rack.
5. For the caramel, brown the butter over medium-low heat until it froths, turns golden brown, and smells vaguely nutty. Add brown sugar and evaporated milk, stir well, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth. Pour evenly over the cooled brownies, let stand until set (20-30 minutes).
6. Melt chocolate and evaporated milk, stir until smooth. Drizzle artfully over the caramel and sprinkle with sea salt. When completely cool, cut into squares.
[NB: You should have finished your whisky by now.]
I recommend using the remaining evaporated milk to make hot cocoa or macaroni and cheese because wasting food makes you a terrible person. Also, there’s a hurricane in Wellington and my kitchen was swaying even before I started in on the whisky, so hot drinks/comfort food are entirely appropriate.
Optional musical accompaniment: Kathleen, because that smile will melt the hardest of hearts.
Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses,
you make him call before
he visits, you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong
they can smell it in the street.
This is stunning. It’s not that I relate to the sentiment, now or really ever - I’m usually afraid to stay, not leave - but something about it left me speechless. Except that I have an apartment just my size. And I don’t wish away my cracked past. And well, I suppose if pressed: ‘You take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic,’ but who hasn’t?