Q. James and I (mid 30s) have been together for six years. We are both ambitious, high-achieving professionals who love our work. James has always said he didn't want kids, so I've been taking the pill. But last month, I had severe gastro and must have thrown up my pills, because now I am pregnant.
As soon as I saw the positive test, I was filled with joy, excitement and love. I couldn't possibly consider having a termination. How do I tell James? I don't want him to think I've deliberately trapped him, and I'd be devastated if he left me. Please help.
A. No matter how much we attempt to control the way our lives unfold, we're all subject to the whims of chance and contingency.
It's only in the past 80 years that effective contraceptives have been readily available. The authorities opposed attempts to open birth control clinics in the United States before 1920, and it wasn't until after World War I that Marie Stopes was able to open her clinic in Britain.
The ability to decide you will have sex, but not have children is, therefore, a new privilege. For thousands of years, every sexually active couple, regardless of wealth or social status, knew pregnancy was a possibility, no matter how careful they might be. In her diaries, even Queen Victoria bemoaned the fact that every time she and Prince Albert had sex she conceived. Families of more than 10 children were common and, in many cases, the only way to stop having babies was for the couple to stop having sex.
Today, contraceptives are up to 99 per cent effective, but couples need to be aware pregnancy can still occur, as you've discovered. The bottom line is that it would be unreasonable for anyone who is having penetrative sex to get angry if the woman conceives. Any man who's completely certain he doesn't want to be a dad has the choice to have a vasectomy.
Talk to James straight away. Tell him what's happened and how you feel about it, without apologising or making excuses - you haven't done anything wrong, and you're both equally responsible for this pregnancy.
It's impossible to predict James' reaction, so be prepared for a range of responses. Sometimes, men who say they don't want children find they feel very differently when a baby is on the way. Or he might be very negative to begin with, but grow to accept, or even embrace, the situation as the pregnancy progresses, or when he meets his child. Many men who were reluctant to become fathers have told me that, in the end, it was the best thing that ever happened to them. Not all ''accidents'' are bad.
When a person experiences fear it can be expressed as anger - I know men who have lived to regret their words or actions at times like these. Some irrevocably damaged the relationship; some struggle to have a connection with their child. A lifetime of pain can result from a moment's bad behaviour.
If James freaks out and you're both in turmoil, consider seeing a relationship counsellor. A professional will be able to guide you as you negotiate this situation, and hopefully assist you in avoiding too much damage.
In the end, James might remain adamant that he doesn't want this child, in spite of your feelings, in which case the relationship could end. This might seem like the worst-case scenario, but time will tell.
While it might not be ideal, becoming a single mother is a reality for many women, even when their pregnancy was planned. Some relationships fail. Sometimes the father is absent due to death, chronic illness, imprisonment, military service, or shift work. If you can contemplate and accept the reality of this possibility, you'll feel more confident and less fearful and defensive when you talk to James.
Maureen Matthews is a sex educator, speaker, and founder of online female sensuality business Bliss4Women.