The Polyamory on Purpose Guide to Polyamory and Pregnancy is officially available today. This post is kicking off a week long blog tour, getting to word out to as many people as possible. Please check out the blogs hosting me on the tour, they are all worth following.
For my part, I want to share an except from the book with you. The one section that, if I could share it with every poly person in the world, I would. Whether you have children or not, whether you have any interest in having children or not, please read this and take it to heart.
Planning ahead means sitting down together before a late period or broken condom and discussing what you will do if birth control fails. Planning ahead can be crazy complicated, or very simple, depending on how much detail you want to get into. And if you haven’t done it yet, I highly suggest you start right now.
Why You Should Plan Ahead
It’s a basic rule of life: sometimes precautions fail. You can take every precaution, do everything right, and something still goes wrong. Which means that there is always a chance that someone in your polycule will have an unexpected pregnancy.
An unexpected pregnancy is the same as any other surprise: easier to deal with if you’ve planned for it. Just like hikers make plans for what to do if they get lost, like parents make back-up plans for if they get sick, why and people draw up powers of attorney and living wills. All these ways of planning ahead provide some protection and security in case things go wrong. And I don’t mean false “it makes me feel better security,” but actual protection.
Discussing the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy protects your relationship. An unexpected pregnancy is wrenching. Even if you wanted children eventually, even if you wanted children with this partner, an unexpected pregnancy can destroy your relationship(s).
The only thing worse than dealing with the impact an unexpected pregnancy has (including feelings of fear, betrayal, hurt, anger, and confusion); is trying to deal with all of that when you had no plan. A plan gives you a cushion. It gives a bit of breathing room. Even if your plan ends up being utterly unworkable. Even if your only plan was “We all know it might happen; if it does we’ll deal with it.” Having a plan lets you say “Okay, we all knew this was possible, we all talked about it. We can deal with this.”
Actually, there are a few things worse than not being prepared for an unexpected pregnancy. One is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy when you had believed you were protected. When you and your partner(s) promised that you would not allow a pregnancy to happen, and then find out that despite your efforts and intentions, nature finds a way to get around you. Worse is when someone screwed up — forgot to take the pill for a week, skipped a condom “just this once,” etc. If this happens, you add betrayal, guilt and blame into an already difficult situation.
The best protection against something going wrong is to acknowledge that it can go wrong, and be prepared. Planning ahead, discussing what you can do if birth control fails, may make the difference between being thrown briefly off balance and falling apart.
Having the “What if?” Discussion
There are a lot ways you can phrase the ‘what if’ question. “What if I get pregnant?” “What if you get pregnant?” “What if she gets pregnant?” “What if one of us gets pregnant?” “What if he gets you pregnant?” They’re all the same question, phrased differently depending on relationship set up, gender, and personal bias.
“What do we do if there is a pregnancy we didn’t plan for or want?”
This question frequently comes up when couples are discussing whether to open their relationship. It’s often accompanied by statements such as, “I couldn’t deal with it if you got another woman pregnant/another man got you pregnant.” When this happens, it’s not an actual “What if” discussion. It’s usually an “I don’t want to open our relationship” discussion.
Sometimes, this can evolve into an actual “What if” discussion. More often it turns into one partner promising, “I’ll make sure no unplanned pregnancy happens.” Since birth control actually does work the vast majority of the time, these promises usually are kept. If birth control fails, well, that’s when you wish you’d had an actual “What if” discussion.
A “What if” discussion is when you ask “What do we do if this happens” and then try find a real answer.
The most important part of a “What if” discussion is admitting that the “What if” can happen.
If you try to have a “What if” discussion about unexpected pregnancy and one or more people refuse to consider the possibility (“Well, you’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t happen;” “I promise I won’t let it happen;” “As long as we all use birth control we’ll be fine;” and so on) then you have not had a “What if” discussion, and someone is more interested in denial than communicating about a real (though unlikely) possibility.
How to have a “What if” discussion
Maybe I’ve convinced you how important a “What if” discussion is, or maybe you figured it out long before I came along. Either way, you decide it’s time to sit down with your partner(s) and pop the question. But… what now? How do you have this discussion? And with who?
This will vary depending on your relationship structure. But before I go into details, let’s look at the uber simple version of this discussion.
You: “What do we do if there is a pregnancy we didn’t plan for or want?”
Partner(s): “I don’t know, but if it happens we’ll cope.”
This is all that needs to happen. If these two things have been said, then you have had your “What if” discussion. Anything else is extra.
If you are interested in reading more, you can find Polyamory and Pregnancy on Amazon in ebook and paperback.
(Originally published March 2013)