Hi, I'm Rej. I'm married, and I have a beautiful eight-month-old son named Lucas.
I've always wanted to be a mother, and now that I have my son, I can tell you that motherhood is wonderful, intense, scary, and amazing.
And because of all that, I want you to know about your sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Let me explain.
Feminist For Life
I was raised by strong women who taught me to believe that I could do anything and be anything I wanted to be.
As I grew older though, I realized there was more to feminism than "I'm a woman and I can do anything!" Because of the different people I met, the relationships I had, my work, and my own experiences, my feminism led me to a bigger picture. Thanks to discussions that sprang up around the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill in 2009, I learned so many things.
I learned that women's issues weren't just about how we had been oppressed throughout history—across different cultures—by men and even by fellow women! I realized that I cared about more than just women's rights. I found that I cared a lot about gender equality. I cared a lot about safe and consensual sex. I cared about body positivity. I cared about women who had unplanned pregnancies, or families that had more children than they could afford. I cared about healthy romantic and sexual relationships, and the health of mothers and their babies. I cared about sexuality education.
With the skills and resources I had, I campaigned for all things related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
And then I got pregnant, and I realized even more just how important all these things were.
My husband and I had been married for six years, and trying to get pregnant for five. I was 34 when the pregnancy test was finally positive, and we were ecstatic. We had waited so long, and tried so hard, and we were finally going to be parents!
But as we celebrated my pregnancy and looked forward to parenthood, I thought about the different ways other people ended up pregnant.
As I endured my swollen feet and cried through my mood swings, I thought about what it would have been like if I'd gotten pregnant at 19, the age I became sexually active. At 19, I didn't have any of my own money; I would have had to rely on my parents to pay for prenatal vitamins, doctor's visits, tests, clothes, etc. At 19, I didn't have the emotional maturity to deal with the hormone shifts and the mood swings and the fact that OMG my entire life was going to change. At 19, I was still in college, and I probably would have had to stop for a while, to give birth and take care of my baby.
At 19, I just wasn't ready to be a mother.
These days, the news is filled with stories of girls aged 15 or even younger getting pregnant. According to the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study in the Philippines, "In 2013, 11.0 percent of the 15-19 year olds were already mothers, while another 2.6 percent were pregnant with their first child when they were interviewed."
Can you imagine being a mom at age 15? Can you imagine having two kids already by then?
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
When I was pregnant, one of the first tests my OB ordered was for syphilis. "It's a standard test for all pregnant women," she explained.
Just think: You're pregnant and you have syphilis. The consequences for you and your baby are pretty scary.
I tested negative, but it made me think about risky sexual behaviors. Not wearing a condom, having multiple partners, casual sex—all of these could lead to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and that's something to worry about whether or not you're pregnant!
When you think of STDs, you might think of painful sores, pus, bleeding, or worse. You might even fear HIV or AIDS. And STDs can definitely lead to more complicated diseases, and complications in pregnancy.
But some STDs aren't so dramatic. In fact, there are STDs that have no symptoms at all! Human papilloma virus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes are just some STDs that don't have obvious symptoms.
Fortunately, you can get tested at pretty much any clinic, and most STDs can be treated with antibiotics. But prevention is still better than cure!
I'm all for a satisfying sex life, but if you're having sex, make sure it's safe sex! Be honest with your partner (or partners) about your sexual history, use condoms, and get tested!
Safe And Consensual Sex
Our son was conceived in love, in a stable relationship, and after years of trying. When I was finally pregnant, I knew my husband would be there to take care of me and my son. I knew my husband would be my partner in raising our son to be a decent human being.
But many Filipino women don't have that. Many women get pregnant due to rape or incest. Many women have more children than they want or can afford because they can't refuse when their partners want sex. Many women get pregnant because their partners don't want to wear condoms, or don't want them to use pills, or any other birth control.
These women get pregnant with children they didn't plan for or want. Pregnancy under these conditions is risky—physically, emotionally, and economically.
Women should be able to protect themselves not only from pregnancies like these, but also from relationships and situations that can lead to these pregnancies.
Women should know that they can say no, that they can and should get out of toxic relationships, and that there are doctors, clinics and organizations that can help them if they become pregnant in these conditions.
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mother.
Because we wanted to have a child, my husband and I knew that we had to take care of ourselves. We did our best to eat healthy food and to exercise, and to cut down on stressful activities. We went through all sorts of tests, hormone treatments, and specialists to figure out how we could get pregnant.
Now that we have Lucas, we're happy and we don't want any other children. "We're one and done," my husband tells people.
If you know your rights, you can take steps to make sure you can live according to those preferences. You should visit your gynecologist, or your barangay health center, or the clinic covered by your HMO, to make sure you can take care of your sexual and reproductive health.
Whatever your life situation, whether you're single, married, polyamorous—whatever your gender identity may be—remember that you have rights, and you should take care of your sexual health!
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