Rethinking Happily Ever After

After putting a good dent in my laundry pile, after making up the futon and folding quilts, after swiffering the linoleum, baby wipes on a cold, well-used kitchen floor, after sweeping out the foyer, splinterings of kindling and old oak leaves and dust billowing out the front of our house, I showered and washed and conditioned my hair, put on a good pair of sweats, and with my favorite green towel still wrapped around my head I grabbed a brown paper sack from a shelf in the bathroom. I peered inside to see its contents: twelve purple packets, a one year supply of low-hormone birth control pills. It was something I’d been meaning to do for weeks: take them.

“Maybe I don’t really want to have a baby,” I’d told my boyfriend over dinner. He perked up. “Not yet. I mean if all goes well in a year I could be going on a book tour!
“Yeah—” He told me.
I cut him off. “I wouldn’t want to be all pregnant, you know, trying to pitch my book.”
“No, no you wouldn’t.” He said.
I could tell I had his full support.

Just for a year. I could go off the pills at any time. It shouldn’t take much longer than a year. One more year of doing all the important things that I need to do. One more year, maybe two. I could go on a book tour: all sexy and sharp not pregnant and irrelevant. Irrelevant? Yes, irrelevant. My story is about my youth — about sex and intoxicants and freedom. A baby belly just wouldn’t do. That’s for another time. It would be too much. Too much talking, standing, public speaking for god’s sake, what if I puked on stage? Too much for a baby, too. And this way Steve could buy his house. And we could move. And I could help with the heavy lifting. One year. One year, maybe two, before I can run the risk of getting pregnant again. There are two of us to consider here. This would give Steve time to come around to the idea, if he did at all. Also: world population, I think about that sometimes — it’s a big deal.

I sit at my desk and raise the screen of the laptop, place my fingers on the keys. I reach up and gently tug the green damp towel from my head and let it fall to the floor, it was giving me a headache. I type: Aubra.

Aubra. Ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel. A low-hormone birth control with high effectiveness and low reviews. It made me want to hurt my husband and hurt myself, one review read. Almost ruined my lifeDo NOT TAKE this pill!

Is it all in their heads? What came first: the crazy woman or the pill? Should I risk it? I wonder if what they do is put all the bad reviews at the top. Or that only ladies who had bad experiences go online to write reviews. I wonder if it’s a good idea that someone who already has occasional depression, mood swings, and bad skin takes this medication. I push the Aubra to the side, until it’s almost falling off the desk. Something tells me don’t risk it. I guess it’s all the reviews. I currently take no medications what-so-ever. What if the side effects were so bad I couldn’t write or think clearly? What if I plain fell apart?

I could ruin my whole life with this one little pill.

I could ruin my whole life with this one little baby.


I actually intended to write this essay. That doesn’t happen often. I didn’t just stumble into this one, there was something I wanted to say. Now Im four hand-written pages in and I still haven’t said it.

OK. I am not who you think I am. There are many sides to my story. I am not just baby-hungry, baby-blues, I am not just your typical 1980’s child thirty years plus waiting for a man to give me a home, a baby, a professional photo (cute as they are) of the two of us and a baby bump in front of an oak tree in fall. I am not certain that is where my Happily Ever After exists. I am hopeful, but I am not certain. I am a woman, and I make choices. This is not a game of chance. You don’t need to tell me, “Someday you’ll make an excellent mother” or “When the time is right, it will happen.” I’ve failed you and I’ve failed me if that is how you respond to my writing. I do however appreciate the sentiment. But I do not agree with that second statement at all. The conversation now is about choices, not chance.

Illustration by Jen Scholten
Illustration by Jen Scholten

I am a modern woman body.

As a writer, I am learning the power of my words. They stick to me like sap and label me every which way, for better or for worse. You know me better, but you know me worse too. Things move and shift you see. These are feelings we’re dealing with. Not facts.

I said I wanted to make up for lost bodies, I don’t, that’s just morbid. A plain bad idea.

I wrote that I had two abortions by the time I was twenty two, that was a lie, on the last one I was twenty five. That changes things. I felt too old to do such a thing. Yet I dialed all the numbers and drove all the miles myself. By now I’ve told all of you but I haven’t told my father. Too ashamed, I guess.

What compels me to share this?

What a foolish thing for me to do.

What a courageous thing for me to do.


It’s not just that one way. It’s this other way too: there’s a man involved. There’s always a man involved. There are two minds involved. There are two hearts involved. There are two _______’s involved (fill in the blank.) There are two sides to every story.

No, there are more.

I am not just 1980’s child thirty plus years. I am not just baby-blues. Somedays I am not baby-blues at all. Somedays I am all rock and roll all no strings attached. Somedays I write a wish list for my life and the thought of a baby is way out in left field. Albeit there. Somedays my brain superiors my heart and my womb. Many days it is that way actually. I have friends with babies to hold. I have a man and I have his feelings and his future to consider too. We have an over populated world (which some people, many people, simply are not willing to face.) We have OPPORTUNITIES now. We have intellectual FREEDOM and we have CHOICE. For the longest time, we did not. This is HUGE. Slowly they are sinking in: the alternatives. Independent life. Independent self. As in: no dependents. The bigger part of me (what weighs more: my heart, breasts, and womb? or my brain?) feels geared toward motherhood, it’s true, and I strongly believe that the right of a person to experience natural reproduction superiors the need for us to keep our world population down, at this point (but if not now, when?), and maybe forever but an awful whole lot of me is breaking at the seams, expanding, a whole lot of me is collapsing, like a sink hole opening up and shining light on ideas about adulting that are inside of me that I hadn’t even really considered yet. Slowly, yet deliberately, they are revealing themselves. Questions like: what would really make me Happily Ever After? What if it was different, vastly different, then what I thought it was before. What if it were the opposite?

Not fact, just what if.

Terah Van Dusen

By Terah Van Dusen

Terah Van Dusen is a poet, essayist, and Postmaster for the United States Postal Service. She lives in Elmira, Oregon (outside of Eugene) and is inspired by hard truths, rock concerts, seafood, sex, intimacy, letter writing, and reading memoirs.

Have anything to say?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.