When we realized the condom broke it was like seeing a whole new life I wasn’t ready for suddenly flash before my eyes. There I was covered in diaper cream, wet wipes, and baby poop, my head cocked to one side explaining into the phone, “Sorry, dude—I can’t go. It’s my turn to watch the little one.” Then, I’m on the front porch, holding a toddler’s hand as I wave to my friends, cars packed and music blaring, as they depart for all the adventures of college. Finally, I see myself crouched next to a tiny bed, being screeched at to read the bedtime story one more time (for the bazillionth time) even as the last seconds of the final round of March Madness tick away in another room.
Looking back, the extreme sense of panic was a little bit silly but not entirely unwarranted. I knew I was not ready for fatherhood.
Luckily, when we calmed down we remembered that the condom was only our first line of defense. Just as I was about to give up dreams of Division Champion track trophies in exchange for finger-painted World’s Best Dad mugs we realized that in emergency cases like this, there was, in fact, emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception—also known as EC or the morning after pill or Plan B—is a pill that can be purchased over the counter at a drugstore without a prescription by anyone 17 or older (or with a prescription by those under 17). It’s taken by a girl and is effective in preventing a pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex.
EC isn’t something you should use as your primary method of birth control, so don’t plan to just stockpile it and abandon all your condoms. But emergency contraception is recognition that life isn’t always fair. Even if you made all the responsible decisions—you and your partner talked to one another beforehand to decide whether or not you were ready to have sex, you thought about the best way to help prevent pregnancy and STIs in your situation, and you followed through by using your chosen method of contraception correctly and consistently—sometimes things go wrong.
One other really important thing to note? Even though the girl takes EC, guys are absolutely allowed to buy it. Guys don’t often get to play a part in birth control beyond buying condoms. Girls have to go to a doctor and get a prescription for things like the pill, the patch, the ring, or the shot, or to have an IUD or implant inserted. But if you two have selected barrier methods (the male or female condom) to be your first choice of birth control, in unfortunate situations like condom failure, EC is your chance to prove yourself a worthy partner—the guy who is willing to continue helping to make sure no one has a baby they’re not ready for.
Hopefully the morning after pill is not something you’ll have to use in the future. But it’s there if you need it…and you want to put off being covered in diaper cream, wet wipes, and baby poop for sometime later in life.
Want more info about EC and all the other kinds of birth control out there? Check out our Birth Control Explorer.