At the baby shower for my first child, my husband was talking to my great-aunt. At one point, he pulled our latest 3-D ultrasound picture out of his pocket to show her. It was a very clear, uncharacteristically not creepy picture (Let’s be honest for a second: Those ultrasound pics turn out crazy creepy nine times out of ten) where our son was making a pout that he still makes to this day. My great-aunt (who is truly a really nice lady and I like her) cooed as expected, but then said, “And can you believe after seeing this that there are people who would get an abortion?”
At which point, my feminist husband’s shoulders sagged and he made a polite but quick exit. Of course, being the kind of gossipy person he is, he immediately came over, pulled me aside, and related the story; I rolled my eyes. It wasn’t the first time someone had felt emboldened to assume that I held an anti-choice stance just because I was pregnant. The fact of the matter is, as long as I have had an opinion on the topic, I have been pro-choice, and becoming pregnant and then becoming a mother made me even more so.
I get how this might seem counter-intuitive to people at first glance: "Wait, but if you chose to have babies, doesn’t that mean you love babies, and hate it when people want to kill babies?" Well, I do love babies, and I do hate it when people kill babies! But since I don’t think abortion is “baby murder” and since a big part of the reason why I think I’m able to love my babies so much is because I chose to have them, me being a mom doesn’t stand in contradiction to my belief that women should have the full power to choose to have an abortion if that’s the right choice for them, and that those abortions shouldn’t require jumping a million hoops (or state lines) to procure.
And believe it or not, the experience of having two kids made me more firm in my pro-choice views than ever. Here’s why:
Even A Wanted Pregnancy Can Feel Like An Invasion
The earliest emotions that came to light after becoming pregnant were the strongest I would feel for the duration of the 9 months. I immediately felt an animalistic need to protect this little thing inside of me — and the sense that this little thing inside of me was completely taking over my body. I loved feeling him move; his kicks and headbutts and rolling. I’ll never forget the first time I felt him move as the N train pulled out of Queensboro Plaza on my way home from work. He felt like the way a fish flopping looks. But despite my love of this feeling and the fact that this pregnancy was wanted, the sense of my body starting to belong to someone other than me was actually unsettling, sometimes deeply.
When I thought about the idea of women and girls being forced to be pregnant against their will, especially those who had been forced into pregnancy through rape, I felt my heart break and then rebuild itself through righteous fury. No woman or girl should have to go through pregnancy against her will. It’s weird and difficult enough when you choose to do it. It seems literally torturous to imagine enduring it if you didn’t.
I Would Do Anything To Keep My Child From Suffering
One of the most harrowing moments of my entire life came when I was about 8-weeks pregnant. I was leaving a birthday dinner for my father. Over the course of the evening, the street where our car was parked was coated in a treacherous sheet of frozen ice. I was paralyzed with fear. I could barely bring myself to take a single step forward, terrified I would slip and fall and harm my baby. The sense of wanting to protect him was a power and a responsibility I had never known before. That sinking, horrible feeling would come later in my pregnancy, too, when I was told my husband and I were both carriers for a deadly genetic disease. Fortunately, we did not pass down these horrible genes to either of our children, but I had to face — twice — the possibility that they would live a life of pain and suffering and struggle and contemplate a choice I never thought I would face: “If living a life of suffering is their fate, should I, as their mother, change it?” I don’t know if I ever would have chosen to terminate my pregnancies, even in the face of this illness, but I became even more sympathetic to the mothers who have to face this decision. The idea of taking this choice away from them is unconscionable.
The Idea Of Sacrificing My Life To Carry A Pregnancy To Term Is Even More Unacceptable To Me As A Mother
In the past year alone, reproductive rights have come under attack, chipping away at a woman’s autonomy over her own body, either directly or obliquely by targeting abortion and reproductive health provider such as Planned Parenthood. This is always done couched in paternalistic, condescending, and self-righteous language about defending children. As a mother, a huge way I define my sense of self is as their caretaker and protector of my own children. So the idea that, if certain lawmakers had their way, I could be legally ordered to sacrifice my life to carry and deliver a child, leaving all of my children motherless, enrages me.
The lengths to which women are being reduced to nothing more than childbearing vessels has become downright Orwellian, with several cases of brain dead mothers being kept alive to preserve the life of her fetus, against her family’s wishes. Even women who openly wanted children, or even chose to become pregnant with them, might not have chosen to give them a life of growing up without a mother. Or maybe they would! But again, that’s a woman’s choice to make.
I Want My Children Have The Right To Complete Autonomy Over Their Bodies
When my children don’t want to greet someone with a hug or a kiss, my husband and I never, ever make them. If a pushy or zealous adult tries to grab our kids to steal a hug or a kiss, we step in and tell them to stop, explaining that we allow and encourage them to make their own decisions about who touches them and when. We feel this not only lays the groundwork for future discussions about consent, but asserts unequivocally that everyone is in charge of what happens to their own body — who is allowed to touch it, who isn’t, and how and when. The conviction with which I feel that for them has amplified how important I think it is for everyone. The idea of taking away the power of women deciding what will and won't happen to their bodies triggers all my maternal instincts to step in and firmly declare, "No, that's their body and they decide."
Every Baby Born Deserves To Be Wanted
My husband and I always knew we wanted children. When ours were born, we greeted them shortly after birth by saying, “We’ve been waiting for you for such a long time.” The name we chose for our daughter we picked because we felt that it conveyed a sense that even before she was born, she filled our lives with joy and that she was someone to be celebrated. From the moment I knew they were inside of me, they were my babies and I loved them. I want every child who comes into this world to know that that is how someone felt about them from the very beginning. I want them to grow in love, and to be born into love, and to be surrounded by love as they grow. A woman’s right to choose is essential in this vision.
Let me repeat, but with clarifying emphasis: From the moment I knew they were inside of me, I considered the nascent, tiny beings inside of me to be my babies, whom I would protect and love forever. That is not always the case. An embryo or a fetus isn’t always a baby. What makes a fetus a baby is whether the woman carrying it decides to be its mother, or decides to at least be its temporary caretaker until it can be parented by someone else (who is probably already out there, loving it, hoping for it). But even in that case, the woman owns her own body, and is under no obligation to undergo the “invasion” of pregnancy for anyone else if she doesn’t want to. Every woman should be able to choose whether or not that is a role she is prepared for, physically, spiritually, mentally, financially, and otherwise. These are crucially important rights, and choosing to be a mother made me even more committed to defending them.
Images: blanketboat/Instagram; Giphy(5)