Tuesday, January 22, 2008
To choose, or not to choose...
I decided to do this today,"Blog for Choice", because I believe that a woman has the right to choose whether or not to have a baby. It's an unfortunate fact that many women are faced with the decision--at some point in their lives--whether or not to have a baby.
You can argue the fact that young women should abstain from premarital sex, but the fact is it's just not going to happen. You can argue the fact that life begins at conception, or that that abortion is murder. You can argue the fact if you're old enough to make the decision to have sex, and you get pregnant, you should be responsible for your actions, and accept the pregnancy and have the baby.
All this may be true, depending on the circumstances. It also depends on what you believe. The bottom line is, it's a really individual decision.
I will say that I am unashamedly undeniably unabashedly and unequivocally 100% pro-choice. When faced with that the decision, however, I decided to choose life. Well, the second time.
The first time, I was 16. It was the first time I had ever had sex, and my period was 20 days late. Talk about scared shitless. I knew that a baby wasn't an option... not even remotely. My own family was barely surviving; we had only recently gotten acclimated to life in America, had only recently begun to assimilate. All my life I had heard "when you grow up and get married and have kids", and I couldn't bear the thought of my father's disappointment that I wasn't grown up or married. Was afraid to tell my mother. Matter of fact, I told no-one. I carried that worry and fear around with me for almost 3 weeks... I prayed every day "dear God please don't let me be pregnant."
It turned out I wasn't pregnant, and a more joyful bitch you've never seen. But I kept my promise to God after that, that I would always be careful and not play Russian Roulette. And that I wouldn't have sex again until I really was in love with someone. It turned out that I fell in love at 17, and one day fooling around we went "all the way." The next day, the boy and I went down to Planned Parenthood and he sat in the waiting room while I went and got fitted for a diaphragm. We broke up when I was 20, and during that entire relationship we never once had a "scare".
The second time I was faced with the decision, I was 33. I was involved in an extremely tumultuous relationship. I should have walked away from that relationship immediately. But to me, sex was a commitment. Even at my hoe-iest ( a brief period of time after I had gotten married and divorced when I was 23), when I was angry at men and used anyone I could, I had narrowed down my escapades to a particular few. (Yeah, Ma, "few". But I'm not elaborating any more than that.) And I was pretty much faithful to those few... sort of rotated them through my life. But that didn't last very long, because it's not something I do naturally. Being a hoe-bag requires way too much thought on my part.
Anyway... the tumultuous relationship. We started talking on Veterans Day. We went out the next weekend, in a group. We went out on a date, just the two of us, the following weekend, and he ended up staying over. The weekend after that, we got into a screaming fight where he accused me of stringing him along and that he never wanted to see me again, and stormed out right before we were supposed to go out. I was hurt, and bewildered, and cried my eyes out and went out with my friend BeautifulHair instead. The following week he called me up and apologized profusely, said how vulnerable he was, that I was beautiful and he didn't deserve me, he was sorry.
Yeah, I admit I went for it... and it was like that for the next fucking year and a half. I figured out pretty quickly he had way bigger issues than I could handle, and started therapy to figure out why I kept giving him chances, but also I hoped maybe he'd think it was a good idea and want to go too. (That didn't work at all.) But I finally couldn't take it anymore, and broke up with him around my birthday. I got my first tattoo in March. In April I went out with an old boyfriend and told him how I was going to say single. In late May, he came calling. He had lost weight, was acting really sane, and anyway I loved him (when he wasn't psycho he was really nice) and I went back, on condition we go to couples therapy. I got pregnant on Father's Day of that year, right before we started therapy.
I was always extremely careful about where I was in my menstrual cycle because I wasn't on permanent birth control. I had told him repeatedly he was responsible for buying condoms, and that he better use them because if I ever got pregnant, I was having a baby. I had a job, an apartment, a family, good friends. I knew that if I had to, I could take care of a baby on my own. And yes, I'm pro-choice, but in my mind your reasons to terminate a pregnancy better be pretty good.
When he wasn't around, I would forget about sex as well as my period, so when he came back I wasn't paying attention. When I realized that I had cut it AWFULLY close I was concerned... but not overly so because I had never, ever been pregnant. I almost thought it couldn't happen to me. I had an annual doctor's appointment anyhow, and right at the last minute, mainly out of curiosity, I asked for a pregnancy test. I hadn't even skipped a period yet.
Within minutes, the nurse came in holding a small white wand. "Congratulations!" she said excitedly. "You're pregnant!" I felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. The doctor looked at me and asked "Is this a good thing?" "I don't know yet" I said. "I have to think about it." Because I hadn't skipped a period, they gave me a blood test to confirm, and told me to call in two weeks, particularly if my period didn't come.
I didn't tell TF right away. I knew he was going to flip his lid, and I didn't want to tell him until I was sure that I was pregnant, and I needed to decide how I felt about it.
Well... my period didn't come. I sat TF down and told him. He looked like someone punched him in the stomach. "Maybe you're just late" he said hopefully. "No" I said, "I took a test." For years he would be pissed off that I didn't tell him when I took the test. We talked about what to do. I told him that I was 33, and that I really wanted to keep the baby. He was not happy AT ALL. He refused to continue therapy, because he said it was pointless... we would HAVE to get along.
I told my family I was pregnant... Poppy in particular was overjoyed. Somehow, they all had this idea that I was some career-minded Buppy chick who would never have children. I knew always, that I wanted kids... but the man thing has always been a problem for me, so I had sort of stopped thinking about babies.
TF was NOT happy, however, and proceeded to be about the nastiest he has ever been. He didn't understand why I didn't "just terminate." He said he'd be there for the baby only because he was obligated. I told him I didn't need his obligation, that I would never ask him for a dime if he walked away. But finally, I broke down. I sat in my therapists office one day, sobbing uncontrollably. "I can't do this. He doesn't want the baby, and I can't take it, and I'm going to terminate." As I said it, I meant it, but I was heartbroken. But I couldn't see dealing with TF for the rest of my life. The therapist suggested I start coming in twice a week, that she would help me deal... but after listening to me and my troubles for the previous six months, I got the feeling she was relieved for me. In my head, I started constructing what would happen... I would terminate, I would tell my family I lost the baby, I would break up with TF, and life would go on. I knew that if I didn't have the baby there would be absolutely no reason to deal with him, and I also knew that I would never forgive him.
It was almost the end of summer, and it was Friday. The therapist's office was near Union Square and the Farmer's Market was open. As I walked into the market to get on the subway to go back to work, the little voice inside said "no". And by the time I reached the subway, I knew I was going to have this baby. It wasn't because I thought abortion was wrong. Adoption wasn't even a thought... if I went through all that to have a baby, I was having a baby for me. But I wanted THIS baby. And once I made the final decision, I never wavered, even though TF gave me hell. It changed, once the Sun came. I often wonder now how TF feels about the fact that he was so adamant that I terminate.
How different my life would have been, if I had chosen another way. There would be no five-year court battle. I would never care whether TF was coming in from California, or not. I would never have to deal with him, wouldn't be tied to him for the rest of my life. But regrets? No. My kid is the single greatest thing I've ever done. He changed me in ways I couldn't even begin to tell you... and the change started right way.
But I CHOSE HIM. And because I chose him, I could endure the hell that followed. And I was able to fight to get out of that hell, because I chose to have the Sun. I wasn't forced into a situation I couldn't handle.
That's a long story. It may seem like it's a pro-life story, but it's not because I could choose my path.
It's not the government's place to tell me what to do, when I was faced with the decision of whether to have a baby or not. It's certainly not a man's place to tell me what to do with my body. Yes, I respected TF's input... I knew he wasn't happy and I knew he had the right not to be, but if I was willing to accept sole responsibility, he had to accept it.
Yes, I believe that abortion is a HUGE decision, and one that should not be taken lightly. But of the women I have ever met who have chosen to terminate, none of them have made that decision lightly.
I get extremely annoyed by people who camp outside of abortion clinics waving placards. I get REALLY annoyed by men who proclaim that abortion is murder. There's one guy who stands out on 42nd street near Fifth Avenue, with some of the most awful signs and pictures of aborted fetuses I've ever seen.
But where are those people when the baby is born? When things get hard? When a woman, who wasn't fit or stable enough to begin with has a baby because she thinks it's murder not to, and then proceeds to beat the living tar out of her kid? Where are those people when you're trying to navigate welfare, or food stamps?
How can anyone tell a woman that she MUST carry a deeply disabled child to term? You may agree or not agree with her decision. But how can you tell her that she MUST? Or what about if she's raped and becomes pregnant as a result? How could you even make her wonder about having a baby? And I'm always amazed that most often men are the most vehement and violent "pro-life" advocates. Bitch, if it was you forcing a football through a keyhole in your body, and then MUST take care of that even though you hurt, or are sleepless, or alone or afraid, I bet you'd think about it three or four or five times. I bet you wouldn't be quite so vehement if YOU were forced to stick by that woman, the mother of your child. Suppose you were forced to marry her? And I love those guys who bitch about paying child support. You BETTER not tell me you think abortion is wrong.
Yes, I take issue with people who have multiple abortions... in my mind if you make that kind of "mistake" once, you really ought to know not to do it again. Yes, I take issue with people who have late-term abortions for no real reason except maybe they decide they don't like the father enough or don't want a baby bad enough to deal with him. But it is not my place to judge... it's not my place to reason why. I can only say that if it were me, I might make different decisions... but I can't be sure until it IS me. If a woman decides to terminate, it's between herself and her God, her conscience and the father of her kid. It's not between her and me, or you, and it's certainly not any of the government's business.
Especially since the government is doing a really lousy job of supporting women and families who DO decide to have babies. This country has no nationwide policy on paid maternity leave. Many women are forced back to work in 6 or 8 weeks after giving birth because they can't afford not to. There is no nationwide policy to help women who are nursing and want to pump milk for their babies while they are at work. Many women (myself included) are forced to pump milk in bathroom stalls.
Women who must rely on Food Stamps or Welfare are made to feel worthless, forced back to work so that they are not "welfare-dependent". But suppose she WANTS to stay home and raise her child??? Where is the government then? Where are the pro-lifer's then? All of a sudden, people start bitching about their tax dollars being used on welfare recipients.
So you can't have it both ways. You can't talk about abortion being murder if we as a society aren't fully prepared to support those women who DO have babies.
I chose my Sun. I'll never regret it. If I had to do it over, I probably would have chosen the same thing... but I appreciate the fact that it was a choice, and not something that I was forced to do because somebody told me I couldn't terminate.