Margaret Sanger, "Sexual Adjustment and Parenthood," Jun 1944.
Published Article. Source: Coronet Magazine June 1944 p. 144 , Margaret Sanger Microfilm S72:0394 .
This article was published in a supplement to the June issue on The Bridal Path.
Today's bride approaches marriage fortified with a thousand and one suggestions on conducting her wedding and running her home, but the chances are no one will tell her that most important thing of all--how to plan her family.
The period of shyness and smirking over this vital concern has passed. We are able to face the fact that the rice thrown after the newlyweds isn’t just an empty custom, but a symbol of fertility--a hope that the marriage will be blessed with issues. And it is now possible for the bride who wants to become acquainted with her husband and to grow accustomed to married life with all the complexities mixed with raptures, to plan her babies so they will be a joy rather than a health and economic hazard.
Almost all of you want babies. It’s a natural urge and fulfillment. And almost all of you, judging from the various polls, want the right to have your children when you want them and can best care for them.
I have discussed the problem with several young girls, all interested in marriage, most of them prospective brides of the near future, to learn their reaction to so intimate a subject. One girl admitted, “All our bull sessions in college end up with sex. Although the kids think they know a lot, they really don’t and would give anything for some definite advice and information.”
Another said she believed all girls would like to know how to plan their families, but most of them “just don’t know where to go to find out.”
There are excellent books available which can tell better than this short article the physiological and emotional factors involved in marriage. Among them is that perennial best-seller by Drs. Hannah and Abraham Stone, Marriage Manual. There is The Happy Family by Dr. John Levy and Ruth Munroe, Dr. Oliver M. Butterfield’s useful pamphlet, Marriage and Sexual Harmony and The Doctor Talks to the Bride by Dr. Lena Levine.
One thing all the wise men and women stress is that marriage should never be used for therapeutic purposes. Don’t try to “cure” yourself or your fiance of some deep-seated psychic ailment by marriage. In the same manner, a husband and wife should not try to cement an otherwise unhappy marriage by having children. Children don’t automatically “bring a couple together.” Too often, in a troubled atmosphere, the advent of children has the opposite effect.
So be sure of yourself emotionally as well as physically before entering this serious state, particularly during these troubled war days. The fascination of the uniform, the urgencies of approaching separation and the desire to be patriotic can blind one to the realities of marriage.
Know yourself and know the biology of what takes place when you are united with the man you love. Knowledge dispels the fears and shadows that too often sow the first seeds of disaster in marriage. Schools throughout the country are realizing the importance of teaching boys and girls about the functioning of their bodies. Almost every college and many high schools now include courses in sociology or marriage counselling to help young people make a success of this most important job of their lives.
Army brides are finding aid through USO and YWCA services. Certain progressive ministers have inaugurated Family Groups, encouraging young people to gather for discussion of mutual problems.
Frequently, troubled young people will ask marriage counsellors questions they wouldn’t dream of asking those close to them, and will find relief in frank, impersonal advice. Two of the questions most frequently asked are: “Shall we go ahead and have a baby now or wait until after the war?” and “How can we learn to plan our family?”
My answer to the first is, be a bride for a year, if possible, before having a baby. This will give you time to cement love and marriage, to make adjustments and prepare the atmosphere for the coming child. Of course this is difficult advice for the war bride, who must kiss the groom farewell after a few happy days. If she desires a child and feels herself physically, emotionally, and economically able to undertake the added burden in the face of her husband’s uncertain return, let her go ahead. Many women are bearing infants happily and safely.
Should you decide to go ahead and have a baby, go to your doctor for a thorough examination to be sure you are in the best possible physical condition, and continue under doctor’s supervision until at least six weeks after the baby’s birth.
To the question, “Where shall I go to find out about child-spacing?” I can offer the reassurance that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York City lists more than 786 child-spacing services throughout the country, as well as sterility services where those who find themselves unable to have children may be given aid. The Federation also has available the names of more than three thousand doctors qualified to give child-spacing information and the numerous methods of birth control. These must be prescribed individually by a physician trained in this branch of preventive medicine.
There are five reasons for controlling parenthood which I feel cannot be stressed too often. First, no couple should have a child or anticipate one when either has a transmittable disease. Second, when a woman has a temporary disease which pregnancy affects, such as tuberculosis or kidney trouble, she should postpone her baby until this condition is either cured or safely arrested. Third, where the parents, although healthy, already have a child who is diseased or mentally deficient, there should be grave hesitation about bringing into the world another who might be so cursed.
Fourth, where the spacing is incorrect, and children born too close together, the mortality statistics for both mother and child are great. You should enjoy your baby for at least a year before thinking of having another child. It’s far better for your baby and for you, too.
Fifth, if either you or your husband is extremely young, you should wait to mature both physically and mentally before having a child. This is fair not only to yourself but to your child, who deserves an adult parent in this complex world.
Annually, many thousands of women die or are maimed from abortion and 90 per cent of them are married women. Birth control information could have saved many of these lives. The number of abortions occurring each year range from 750 thousand to a million, and Dr. Morris Fishbein, editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association, estimates that there has been a 20 to 40 per cent increase since Pearl Harbor.
It isn’t fair to deny to the vast majority of women in this country the child-spacing knowledge they desire, and which is their democratic right. It isn’t fair to force them, often, to the sad alternative of abortion.
This is why I feel that you brides must know of these serious facts so that you can face marriage equipped with understanding and knowledge; that it is more important to tell you about planning your families then merely to give you details for making a wedding dress, or the best method for waxing your floors.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project