When I became pregnant with my son, Auden, I assumed he would be a typical “boys’ boy” who’d play with fire trucks and army men. But today, my five-year-old bravely walked into kindergarten clutching his favorite toy—a broken NuvaRing—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If my child wants to carry a broken woman’s contraceptive device everywhere he goes, that’s his choice, and I support him.
Auden has always been curious, especially about refuse. As a baby, he’d cry and cry until we held him near the stinky kitchen trash. As soon as he could walk, there was no keeping him out of the compost heap in the backyard. And then, one day eight months ago, everything came to a head. We were taking one of our usual Sunday walks when we noticed a new treasure on Auden’s wrist. He had found a broken NuvaRing in the gravel on the side of the path. Horrified, we tried to take it away from him, but he screamed and cried. Pleading with him that it was dirty did nothing. Offering my diaphragm to play with instead couldn’t sway him. It seemed that, at least for the time being, “Ringy”, as he called it, was staying put.
I consulted with my pediatrician and she told me that unless Auden puts the NuvaRing in his mouth, the whole thing is harmless self-expression. She also said that some women who use NuvaRing face increased risk of heart attack, stroke, gallbladder disease, liver damage, and blood clots, in addition to vaginal burning, decreased sex drive, migraines, cramping, breakthrough bleeding, and weight gain. I didn’t want my young son dealing with any of that, at least not until college. Fortunately for us, Auden was on board with our “no mouth” rule, and spent hours on end playing with Ringy: flying it like a plane, driving it like a truck, rolling it down the stairs…they were the best of friends. My husband and I made love for the first time in years. Finally, our little boy was happy.
I was not concerned about Auden’s new toy until he started kindergarten last September. Even though he would have his preschool friends, neighborhood friends, friends from swim lessons, and his prenatal Chinese immersion program friends, he would also be mixing with three new children in the class. These children did not know Ringy. I was worried about what they (and the other parents) would say if they saw a boy carrying a broken NuvaRing. I was scared that the other boys would make fun of him, and I feared the judgment of the other mothers. I wanted to shield my son from the harsh reality of the world, if only for a few more months, or at least until he lost interest in discarded contraceptive devices. Any mother can understand that.
But, when I saw Auden come downstairs the morning of his first day, smiling, with his lunchbox, backpack, and dusty old birth control, my heart told me what to do. I decided I would take a step back and let Auden be a child. After all, these early years belong to him, not to me. I have a whole lifetime ahead of me, full of dictating which extracurricular activities he will do and which women he can trust. For now, I will keep it simple.
Parents worry so much about their children’s health, but a fully sanitized life won’t help a child develop a sense of imagination. If my son wants to carry around refuse from a stranger’s vaginal cavity, that is his choice—and I stand by him.