If I Were Still Pregnant

I got pregnant in May. It happened during a breakup from a man I loved but who lacked the emotional resources to support me, much less himself, and the financial resources even to move from his mother’s home. We would not have made good co-parents.

I imagine what my life would be like if I weren’t allowed to terminate the pregnancy. I’d be seven months pregnant right now. My belly would be protruding, and none of my clothes would fit. Even if I were planning to give up the baby for adoption, people would assume I was happily expecting. They’d touch me without permission. They’d ask me about maternity leave. They’d monitor my eating and drinking. I’d have to give up caffeine and alcohol just to appease the policing public. My body and choices would be theirs to critique.

If I gave up the baby, I’d endure countless questions. I’m a woman of means in my thirties. Why wouldn’t I want my baby? I’d have to explain, over and over, I’m not a mother. I want to sit in dark bars telling dick jokes to strangers, not stay home to nurture a human. How can I teach a child morals when I can barely establish my own? I don’t want to spend my income on school supplies and food and clothing for a growing kid. I don’t want to be stuck in California to give the child access to its father. I don’t want to navigate the schedules, preferences, and emotions of a man with whom I couldn’t even agree on dinner or a movie. I don’t want to give up my freedom.

I’d tell people this and see their faces turn — confused or pitying or disgusted or bemused — or I’d lie. I’m a surrogate, I’d say, and maybe they wouldn’t ask more.

I’d be struggling to afford the $5,000 deductible for doctors’ visits to get through the pregnancy. I don’t know where that money would come from as I haven’t been a dutiful saver these past few years. I make a decent salary, though, so none of this would be subsidized — not that the government is particularly generous about subsidizing women’s reproductive health, but at least ACA provides resources for those who actually need it. I shudder to think if there were no ACA and I were a low-income woman trying to afford prenatal care in this outrageous world of privatization and greed.

If I were seven months pregnant, I’d likely be depressed and hiding away in my apartment. My relationships would be suffering because I’d be obsessed with my body even more than I already am — quite a lot, even on the tamest of days. I very much live inside my skin and its sensations, and pregnancy would paralyze me. Even the short five weeks I experienced, coupled with its termination, sent my life to a near halt. Certain friends will recall how I spoke of little else in June. A full-term pregnancy would have meant most of 2016 were lost.

Also, my body would never be the same. When all was said and done, it would have gone through significant trauma. My organs would have rearranged themselves to house the fetus I couldn’t love. My nethers would have split open to let the child into the world. Intangible parts of me would have been lost in the rift.

Months later, while my body was still healing, I’d recall the baby’s cries in the delivery room and wonder if it had been given a good home. I’d question whether I made the right decision, and I’d cry, too, alone in my pristine apartment. I’ve wept more for less, and my sensitive heart would carry that child to the grave.

Maybe that’s the fate I deserve. Maybe $600, hours in waiting rooms, and a day spent bleeding and vomiting weren’t punishment enough. Maybe my shame needed more publicity, the eyes of the world, and permanence to reach my bones. Maybe my penance is incomplete.

What sentence is sufficient for a woman who dares to have sex?