I have agonized about posting this piece for over a week. It is far more personal than anything I have ever written about publicly and it makes me uncomfortable to imagine strangers reading this and judging my choices and words. I also have to confront some uncomfortable issues about money that I thought were in my past. But most importantly, my heart breaks when I think about my children reading this and thinking that I could have ever made any choice that would nullify their existence. I couldn’t, but I have begun to better understand what that decision feels like. So, my struggles are deeply personal and I am conflicted about whether or not I should even share them with a small part of the world.
I have never had an abortion. I have never had a conversation about it with someone who has. My support for it has always been intellectual and I never thought it would be something that would reach into my personal life. I knew that making it illegal would put women’s lives in jeopardy as they sought unsafe and unregulated procedures. I knew that women needed to have a safe option for medical purposes or in instances of sexual abuse and rape. In my heart I had a difficult time understanding it under other circumstances and wondered why those women couldn’t use adoption instead of abortion.
For the past ten years I have been in a committed, loving relationship. I don’t think we ever really discussed what would happen if I got pregnant unexpectedly, but I knew that he was it and we would have children eventually. When we did finally make the decision and found out we would be parents, we were both elated. I was temporarily unemployed, which was terrifying, but I felt optimistic. As the pregnancy progressed, I began to understand why adoption would be a difficult choice for a woman to make. In my seventh month I was in tremendous pain. Some days I could barely walk. This was long before all of the trauma of actually giving birth. If I were a woman who was in a situation where I could not keep a baby, would I be willing to give up my body for nearly a year knowing that I would not be able to raise the child? I knew I didn’t want to ever have to answer that question.
Getting by with one child has been tough, but we manage. Then we found out we were having a second baby. To say we were shocked is an extreme understatement. I continuously took pregnancy tests, a feeling of disbelief and panic every time that plus sign appeared. I want to be clear – I was never unhappy about it. I love my husband and our sweet little monster and I knew I would love another. But was I ready? Not in any sense of the word. I had just started a new job. I did not know what the policies were for maternity leave and when I looked them up (last revised 2004), it felt like I was falling.
The policy stated that an employee could use their sick, personal and vacation time for maternity leave. As a new employee who has yet to accrue any real time, that leaves me with 3.5 weeks as long as I don’t use any time between now and then. My husband and I reassured ourselves that the policy was updated in 2004, surely they must have updated it since then. We were wrong.
That was two weeks ago. Since then I have heard more about birth and abortion in the news than ever before. I know that I will not have an abortion, but I still don’t know how we are going to make it work. I also don’t know what gives anyone the right to demand control over my body when it seems more and more like it is the only thing I do have control over. I am making the choice to have the baby because it is my choice. It was not my choice to be born into a country where the same people who scream to make abortion illegal are the same people who refuse to grant all women paid maternity leave.
I am not looking for sympathy or guidance or suggestions. I am asking you to examine what we are doing to pregnant women in this country. We insist that they are evil murderers and shame them for considering or having abortions, but we don’t give them the very basic support that they require to raise healthy babies. What gives anyone the right to tell me that I can’t make that choice when I am uncertain that my husband and I will be able to provide for our baby?
I want to celebrate my baby as the blessing that I know it is. I want to watch my baby and learn it’s personality. I want to complain over my lack of sleep. I want to hold my newborn and soak up it’s presence without knowing or caring what day it is.
I don’t want to resent my baby. I don’t want to cry every day thinking about the birth of my second little monster. I don’t want to think about the financial burden it will be. I don’t want to feel nervous or distracted.
I felt my baby kick for the first time today and all I can think about is how angry and disappointed I am. Shouldn’t I be allowed to rejoice today, to constantly touch my abdomen awaiting the next kick with a smile?
Is that too much to ask for, America?