Part Two of Two
#WomanCentered is an independent project by conceptual artist and community organizer, Natasha Marin. Inspired by Women at the Center, a project created with support from the United Nations Foundation Universal Access Project. This series of interviews seeks to tell the inspiring, interconnected stories of women’s reproductive health, rights, and empowerment.
My mom once told me that she and my dad’s first child, my older sister, was born after they had been married for 6 years. This certainly wasn’t a conscious decision on their part. My mom just couldn’t seem to get pregnant, that’s all, and nobody knew why.
Several well-meaning relatives would say things to her like, “Now, the Bible says, ‘be fruitful and multiply!’” This wasn’t the first or last time that I heard someone in my presence quote a Bible verse out of context. They would also throw out meaningless platitudes, like, “The Bible says that children are a blessing!” (I personally think that orgasms are a blessing, but that’s just me.)
I’m the second oldest of 8 children, all of whom were born at home. I really wish I could get excited about the idea of home birth. But if you were black, poor and living in the Deep South in the 1950s and 1960s, you wouldn’t go to a hospital to have a baby, but you also certainly wouldn’t make a conscious decision to give birth at home. You would just do it. As they say on the GEICO Insurance commercials, “It’s what you do.”
When I was a fundamentalist Christian for the first two decades of my life, I assumed I’d have children just because that’s what all women around me did. (Then again, I also assumed I’d marry a preacher, or just get married, period.) I gradually began to realize that I didn’t want children. My dysfunctional, chaotic and violent family certainly had a hand in that.
And it was rare for me to meet or hear about other women who didn’t want children. Women like that would be considered pariahs, and everyone would be like, “What’s wrong with you?”
When I was in high school, I would constantly check out a particular book from the library. It was called, “How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What to do with Him When You Get Him,” by the late Ellen Peck. The book did absolutely no good, but I mention the author because I remember that she was also a childfree advocate who founded the National Organization of Non-Parents (NON). I also remember being very intrigued by the idea of a woman choosing not to have children. It certainly wasn’t a popular opinion (“Oh, you’ll change your mind!” or “You’re so selfish!”), but it was one that I thought took an awful lot of courage. My 14-year-old self couldn’t really appreciate this at the time, but now, looking back, I can see what a revolutionary act it was for a woman to admit that she didn’t want children.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self some vital information or critical education about your body, your overall wellness, or your reproductive health, what would your advice be?
A few years ago, someone posted a question to a Facebook women’s group I belong to. The question was:
“If you could write a note to yourself as a young woman, what would you say?”
My answer is something that I wish someone could’ve said to me when I was in my teens, or even 4–5 years ago! Anyway, here’s my answer.
Always remember this: 1) You’re lovable and you matter. 2) You make the world a better place. 3) Anyone who gets to be in a relationship with you is pretty damn lucky.
Gloria Jackson-Nefertiti is an artist’s model, breast cancer survivor, poet, and ukulele player in Seattle, WA. She is also a bisexual activist and polyamory educator who is available for panels, workshops and public speaking opportunities.