Reflections on the 4-point plan
By Sofia Shomento, daughter of Dr. Stacy Shomento, OB-GYN, REI.
When my younger brother came home from his 6th grade puberty talk he declared, “they got most of it right…”
For my siblings and me, the lousy ‘stork explanation’ of where babies come from didn’t cut it, not even close. My mom was an OB-GYN and is now a practicing reproductive endocrinologist. This meant that sex, puberty, and healthy relationships were all reliable dinner conversation while growing up. At the ripe age of 10, when my mom explained to me what eggs and sperm were, I let her know that I was going to need more information. She came prepared with diagrams, books, and a discussion about sex that has continued every day since I posed the ‘how are babies made’ question. It is no secret that our society tiptoes around these discussions, oftentimes creating pervasive gender roles that are inextricably tied to sex. As a result, many women are made to feel ashamed for having healthy sexual lives. Most parents ignore the ‘sex chat’ and simply hope their kids aren’t having sex. However, avoiding the discussion does not mean it’s not happening. If I’ve learned anything in the 19 years under my mother’s tutelage, it’s that hope is not a method. My mom’s nontraditional approach to sex-ed has fundamentally changed my perspective about my body and sexuality in an incredibly positive way. She has empowered me to make smart decisions with an unshakable confidence. I have carried this knowledge with me to college, where I act as an amateur gynecologist in educating my friends and teammates.
In high school, I was well aware that approximately 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. My mom combatted this daunting statistic with a 4-point plan. After 28 years of school, there are a few things my mom considers ‘no-brainers’: vaccines, contraception, and condoms.
Step 1: HPV vaccine, because why wouldn’t you prevent cancer?
Step 2 stems from the realization that the K-12 ‘just say no plan’ is incomplete and unrealistic. Instead, my mom advocates people ‘just say no’ until they are committed and prepared: mentally, physically, and for some spiritually.
Step 3: always use a condom. They can be found between the tampons and the toilet paper in the kids’ bathroom. Refills can be ordered on one-click amazon– no questions asked. There are a lot of things you can ‘catch’ besides pregnancy. Many last a lifetime, potentially cause infertility, and definitely contribute to social heartache. If you’re still undecided about condoms, my mom has a 104 slide PowerPoint on STIs, including but not limited to: ‘herpes so bad you can’t pee’ and ‘warts on penises the size of grapefruits’. And yes… I’ve seen it, and so have my friends. When syphilis rates are rising in Gallatin County, we’re the first to know. College is back in session, oh! so is chlamydia. This is all casual dinner conversation.
Step 4: install long-acting, reversible contraception that doesn’t require user input. My sister and I had IUDs installed promptly in high school. My mom thinks teenagers can make dumb decisions, but they shouldn’t have completely unmanageable consequences. Ultimately, women should not be dependent on men for contraception, because, quite frankly, pregnancy does not affect men in the same way it does women. Unfortunately, it is also important to acknowledge that not all sexual encounters are consensual. As a female college student, this horrifying reality is all too apparent. As a very last resort, it is important to protect yourself.
Our family dinner conversation will only morph in the future, as we negotiate family planning, actual pregnancy, egg freezing, PrEP (HIV prevention), and yes, my mom’s new favorite topic: menopause (comin’ in hot!).
As a parent, what are you talking about at dinner? Take tips from my mom. But, if you are uncomfortable talking about sex with your children, send them to people who will at the Bridgercare Teen Clinic (Mondays 3-5:30 pm). If an informed adult isn’t talking to your child about sex, their friends probably are, and it’s likely less than accurate (unless they’re friends with a Shomento). Sex is a really big deal and it carries enormous consequences. As my mom used to shout from the minivan as she peeled away from the school parking lot: “make good choices and use appropriate contraception.”
Sofia Shomento grew up in Bozeman and is a sophomore at Dartmouth College, where she studies pre-health and anthropology. She is a member of the varsity women’s Nordic ski team and also loves to spend time outdoors with her friends and family. Sofia is currently a Bridgercare Summer 2019 intern!