I Never Knew How Pro-Choice I Was…Until I Got Pregnant
Author’s note: I have been struggling with how to express my feelings about the election, and more specifically, what I fear will be a complete attack on womanhood, including, but certainly not limited to, reproductive choice. The following piece isn’t new; I wrote it when my son was two (my son is now 11 and my daughter is 7) but never published it. I found it this evening as I was going through some old files, only to learn that it is just as appropriate today as it was during the Presidential Election of 2007.
I never knew how pro-choice I was until I got pregnant. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a shock. You might be assuming that I conceived by accident because I was irresponsible. That might explain my statement, but the assumption would be wrong. I got pregnant because I spent months trying to conceive. I wanted to get pregnant. I dropped the condoms deliberately, not accidentally.
About three years ago, while my husband and I were out having dinner with pregnant friends of ours (and unbeknownst to us that inside of me cells were furiously dividing), our conversation turned to the issue of choice. As a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to choose (my high school notebook had a “Support Vaginal Pride” sticker affixed to it), I was dismayed (okay, not dismayed, horrified) that my friend, Brian, said that his views had changed since he and Sara were 6 months pregnant. He was still “sort of” pro-choice (his words, not mine), but now, it was conditional. He didn’t believe that women should be allowed to terminate their pregnancies after the first trimester.
Having no personal point of reference, I didn’t know how to respond. I was surprised, but couldn’t possibly pretend to understand where he was coming from. I suppose that after listening to him, I assumed that when my husband and I finally got pregnant, I too, might change my mind. I doubted it, but hey, you never know.
One week after our dinner, I found out that I was indeed pregnant. We were delighted, although overwhelmed by the reality of how our life would change. All of a sudden, the millions of fears that we had prior to making the leap came reeling back. Were we making the right decision? Were we ready to become parents? Could we give up all of the freedom that we had enjoyed for the last nine years? Our life was great, were we prepared (you know, really prepared) to do a complete 180?
I know that these very legitimate (and super common) questions don’t really explain why my pro-choice stance became even stronger. Perhaps this will put it into perspective: Every day for nineteen and a half weeks I spent my mornings over the toilet bowl, praying that my nausea would miraculously disappear. For months I tried to imagine if I could actually be a parent. I frantically considered whether or not my husband and I were ready for this kind of responsibility. Whether I even wanted this responsibility. Yes, we were planning this, but even I wasn’t ready for the hormonal rollercoaster, the anxiety, and the overwhelming feelings of misery and doubt.
My wonderful obstetricians were aware of my stress. At my first prenatal appointment, I laid on the table (stirrups and all) green and sickly. With a straight face, my doctor said,“Logan, technically this developing baby is a parasite. It takes what it needs and leaves you with whatever is left.” Apparently, my pregnancy was leaving me with nothing. I felt like a host body. I started to dream that the pregnancy I was carrying was going to rip through me — like that gory scene in Alien — and leave my carcass by the side of the road.
I wasn’t happy, and that is putting it kindly. If there were such a thing as present-partum depression, I would have been diagnosed with it. I had never felt so low, so incompetent. My due date seemed a million years away.
In an attempt to have a “personal is political” pregnancy, I referred to my growing belly as “my fetus”. “My fetus responds when I listen to Van Morrison. My fetus will only allow me to eat grilled cheese and fries.” During my amniocentesis, as my sonographer announced that my fetus had a penis, I thought that I was one step closer to acknowledging my son. But it wasn’t until I reached viability at 26 weeks that I even considered changing nouns. Could I start calling him “a baby?” Depending upon whom I was speaking to, I vacillated between the terms. I figured that it was my prerogative as a pregnant woman to decide how I would conduct the rest of my forty weeks.
Unfortunately, this might not be the case for American women. We often forget that a woman’s right to choose isn’t about whether an abortion is a procedure that we should aspire to have. It is about whether or not a woman has the right to make medical decisions for her body. And yes, an abortion is a medical decision. In addition, being pregnant is an emotional and physical challenge — one that should not be entered into lightly. And we shouldn’t punish women who aren’t ready to enter into this lifelong decision. While pregnancy was right for me, it definitely isn’t right for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong. Having our son, Maverick, is the best thing we ever did. He is the embodiment of our dreams and hopes tied up into a perfect 28-pound package. (He’s two now.) I never would have believed how much I could love someone I have known for so little a time — how I would throw myself in front of bus if that would protect him. But truth be told, I couldn’t have done this at a different stage of my life. Being a parent is the toughest job there is…and I asked for it. I couldn’t possibly imagine doing this if it wasn’t what I had wanted or what I had planned for. My priorities may have changed, but my philosophies have not. I want Maverick to know what freedom is all about — and true freedom doesn’t stop after a certain number of weeks.