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Is it OK to get pregnant "accidentally on purpose"?

Published July 13, 2004 7:41PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I've been in a great relationship going on five years now -- my boyfriend is 33 and I am 27. We are very different people and we have really worked at making this relationship work. He is a blue-collar mechanic who was making $12 an hour when I met him; he never finished high school and lived for many years in a van, on friends' couches, in rundown apartments. I went to college, traveled in Europe and Asia and ended up with a well-paying job about a year after we met that has grown quickly into a well-paying career that I love.

From the moment we met, I knew he was someone special -- so charismatic, unusually intelligent and well versed in politics, one of those people that captivates a room. He hated his job (and the pay) and constantly talked about opening a shop of his own. About two years ago, I convinced him to strike out on his own; it was rough at first, but he is really getting established now. He recently had to start turning business away and he is looking into a partnership with friends who are opening a larger business nearby. Things are really going great for him, but it is a ton of work and he still has a way to go getting organized.

We own a house together, multiple credit cards, bank accounts -- we're not married, but we have talked about it and I know we will be together forever. We'll probably run off to Vegas one random day -- I'm not too concerned about it. I don't think he ever really believed that this would be his life, that he would get to mow his own lawn and work at a business with his name on it and be with a woman not addicted to something or sleeping around on him. I never thought it would be so easy to be happy with someone so different from me; he is exciting and precious to me.

About three months ago, we had a "condom incident" and I told him I would go get the morning-after pill the next day. I forgot to do it and basically lost the window. I told him I got busy and it slipped my mind, but I realized in my heart that I wanted to get pregnant. When he found out that I didn't get the pill he was livid, he said he would want me to get an abortion if I was pregnant, that he wasn't ready for kids, that things are finally going right for him and he doesn't want to mess it up. I told him if I did get pregnant, I would not get an abortion, so he needed to understand that if he wanted to stay with me. I said we were in a good spot financially and having a baby wouldn't be a hardship in that respect. He calmed down and said he understood the risks, he just wanted to take all precautions and wanted me to get the pill if something like that happened again.

Well, I'm not pregnant and everything is fine with us, except that now this desire to be pregnant is alive in me. I'm not talking about tomorrow, but definitely in the next year or two. He says maybe in 10 years, but then he talks about things like day care and mentions names that he would like for a boy and I see how great he is with my little cousins. I think he is ready and I think we would be great parents.

I am giving you all of this detail because I'm leading up to a potentially ugly question: Is it ever OK to "accidentally on purpose" get pregnant? To just forget to take the pill and see what happens? He agrees that he wants kids; he just won't commit to any kind of time frame and I think he would actually be thrilled if it really happened. What about when you know someone really well, and you know that a lot of times they need some extra push to get them to commit to the unknown?

Not Yet Kind of Pregnant

Dear Not Yet,

Don't do it. It's not OK to "accidentally on purpose" get pregnant. It's wrong. And it's not just wrong because it deceives the other person. It's wrong because it invites a measure of self-deception as well. You want this thing so badly that you are almost willing to lie to yourself to attain it. You don't need to do that.

From the many letters I receive on this issue, it's apparent that men are rarely "ready" to have kids. They are rarely ready to get married. In fact, they are rarely ready to get up in the morning. But that doesn't mean they have to be tricked into doing it. They usually do it on their own once they see the spot they're in: refuse to get up, lose the job. Refuse to marry, lose the girlfriend. Refuse to have kids, lose the wife. Life intrudes upon glorious oblivion, and men grudgingly accept it. They don't need to be treated as dupes, or imbeciles, or sperm banks. They just need to be pushed sometimes. That doesn't mean trickery. It means you put your cards on the table.

Fortunately, it sounds like you and he understand each other quite well. So just tell him it's time to have a kid. Tell him with love. Tell him with a sense of adventure and excitement. I don't think he'll flatly refuse. He'll be afraid. He'll be concerned. It will take some getting used to. But I think he'll understand that it's time for you and that means it's time for him. Tell him everything's going to work out fine. Tell him he's going to be happier than he can imagine when he sees that kid. Tell him the business will be OK. Tell him you'll make it work.

Tell him that you're leveling with him out of love and respect. But tell him. If he says a flat-out no, then you do have a problem. But at least it's an honorable problem with an honorable solution.

You may find yourself resisting the prospect of leveling with him. Indeed, I guess it goes without saying it's one of the more difficult and serious conversations you're likely to have. But the object of it is joy and fulfillment. It's not like there's no upside. So if you find yourself balking, you may need to think more deeply about why you, an apparently straightforward person, are in this one area drawn to duplicity. Perhaps you feel that motherhood is not really your right, that you need permission, that someone might snatch this privilege away from you if you openly admit that it's what you want. Perhaps you have moral ambivalence about bringing children into the world, or that it's something selfish that you don't deserve, as well as an imposition on this man who has already made many compromises in his struggle to better himself and move into your social class. You may feel guilty about influence you exert over him. You may have any or all of these feelings. That doesn't invalidate your desire to be a mother.

Have faith that it's the right choice. Have faith that your instincts have been good so far and they'll continue to be good.

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