CraftLass Blog, April 8, 2012
I am many things. I am a woman, a loving girlfriend and daughter, a friend, an adopted child, a singer, a writer, an activist, a geek, just another person trying to get through this thing we call life. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I stumble so badly I think I’ll never get up again, but I always manage somehow. Sometimes I get quiet but I can’t stay quiet on a few topics any longer.
I’m a 35 year-old woman celebrating my 15th anniversary with the man I love more than I ever thought I was capable of caring for anyone. We’ve survived longer as a couple than most of the marriages we’ve watched around us. Heck, we’ve outlasted a lot of the marriages of many people who are constantly crowing about the “sanctity of marriage.” I have taken a personal vow to spend the rest of my life with him and it’s carried me through the rough times we’ve had, as any couple does. I just don’t see a need to do that in a legal way, despite the many benefits I would enjoy if I accepted the title of “wife.” I have a lot of issues with the social engineering aspect of current marriage laws and don’t want to avail myself of a right many people I love don’t have yet.
However, this piece is not about marriage, I’ve written about that before and probably will again. This is about something so much more important and urgent.
One of my policies since the moment I started dating is to be upfront about not having children. It’s a deal-breaker that has destroyed a few relationships that otherwise might have been fantastic. The worst scenarios involved men insisting I would change my mind when I got older. How could I ever love someone who is counting on me becoming someone I will never be? One of the reasons my relationship works is we agree on the big question of parenthood.
My first conscious memory of knowing I did not ever want children happened when I was 4 years old. A neighbor girl had invited me over to play and, despite my protests, insisted we must play “house.” We reached a compromise: I would play the dad, and not a dad anything like mine. See, my father was very involved in my life in every way and I didn’t want to be like that with the dolls we used as our “babies” in the game. I hated dolls at that point. I didn’t want to touch them let alone deal with changing their diapers or feeding them. How do girls find that fun? I still don’t understand the appeal. So, I played a sort of Mr. Cleaver type of dad and my neighbor was my June. My only concession to helping around the “house” was sweeping but mainly I made her bring me drinks and snacks while I sat in an easy chair and read 3-2-1 Contact magazine. All I could think was, “No way am I ever going to put up with any of this in real life.” The next day, my playtime went back to being filled with sports and board games, and I was happy.
Around the age of 6 I read about population growth for the first time and it scared me silly to think of the results of our eventual overpopulation if people were to keep breeding at current rates. Visions of wars over resources like water danced through my young head. I was determined I would never contribute to that, even if I did grow up to want a child for selfish reasons.
In high school I went to summer camp and one of my roommates was wearing a beautifully-made hanger pendant on a necklace, which I thought was a little odd for a choice in jewelry, so I asked her about it. She explained that it was in support of abortion rights and that she and her mother were activists in Texas. It represented the women who were forced to get back-alley abortions in the days between the ban in 1880 and Roe v. Wade, many of whom got very ill or even died due to them. As a girl raised pretty liberally in New Jersey I was surprised to hear how bad the anti-choice sentiment was in her hometown, even though I had heard some stories of clinic bombings and protests. It was a big wake-up call and she answered my questions matter-of-factly. When I got home I started reading real-life horror stories about the effects of botched illegal abortions on both mother and the children who sometimes survived them. Stories of teenagers being secreted away and basically held in captivity until their newborn was torn from their arms and given away regardless of what they wanted. Stories of abusive husbands tricking their wives into pregnancy in order to better control them. It became quickly apparent that abortion and birth control were most important tools in keeping people safe and healthy.
The next year at school I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I think should be required reading for all people, since it details just how fragile everything in civilization can be and how easily we can be enslaved. It is also the scariest book I have ever encountered. I cried my way through the whole thing again and again. In one year I went from somewhat-sheltered teen who thought the USA was a pretty swell place to someone who understood that we need to stand up for our rights before they get eroded, because there are people who will try to destroy them.
I feel prophetic now. I also fear that creating a scenario like Atwood described would no longer take a violent act like bombing Congress. It just takes citizens being lazy about voting.
Those people do have power and they are writing all sorts of laws that could invade my body, literally and figuratively. Luckily, I don’t live in Virginia or Texas or the growing number of states creating these policies right now, but it’s easy to see how this is spreading like a vicious plague and could eventually affect everyone in the country. Even if it never did come to my area I do not want one woman in this country to have any less rights than any other.
“Every child a wanted child,” is an easy slogan used by the anti-choice people but it’s also easy to turn around. Wouldn’t the world be so much better if the only children who were born were the wanted ones? Children all over the country are born to parents who can not or refuse to care for their children or actively hurt them mentally and physically and very few of them are helped by the system. Even those who are taken out of bad homes usually wind up in foster care or group homes until completely abandoned the moment they turn 18. Placing a child who is not an infant is famously difficult even as people whine and moan about the immense hurdles of finding a child to adopt.
I was lucky. I was unwanted yet wanted, one of the golden children with blue eyes and strawberry-blonde hair that are so desirable in the world of adoption. Yet… yet… I still bear the scars of being unwanted. They have clung to me every day of my life despite being placed with one of the best families a child could dream of. There is nothing my parents could have done to change that and I know it has hurt them to see the pain I’ve had to struggle with and the anger I have felt towards this stranger who carried me for 9 months. What adopted kid hasn’t screamed, “You’re not my real parents!!” during an argument, even if 99% of the time she feels they are and loves them just as much or perhaps even more than a biological kid, just because she can’t scream at the person who let her down the very day she was born?
I would far rather die than bring an unwanted child into this world. There are no circumstances where any child conceived in my body would be wanted by the person who matters most to that child, me.
Sure, I could just not have sex, but that would destroy one of the better relationships that exists on this planet, and ruin any chance I might have at happiness (not that a relationship is necessary for that, but I’m already in it and it’s a big part of who I am now. Also, I know this is shocking, but – I LIKE SEX. So do a lot of women. I hear some men like it, too).
I spent a lot of my 20s trying to find a doctor who would sterilize me, to no avail. People treat not wanting children like a mental health issue that has no treatment available. I’m back on the warpath to make that happen now that I’m 35 and people can stop saying, “When you turn 30, you’ll want kids and regret it.” It feels even more urgent in the face of the rising tide of anti-choice sentiment. What a terrible double-standard, many of my male friends have had vasectomies without being questioned hard at any adult age. Why would a man know better than a woman what he wants from his life? Can someone please explain this to me? Why should any man have a say in any aspect of my health and choices unless I invite him to? For that matter, why should any other woman? It’s my body and I have to live in it.
Watching a bunch of (mostly) men decide the fate of women’s health care while simultaneously opposing letting the government have any say in other medical areas so everyone can have access to care is particularly enraging. Facing the prospect of having to live by rules based on religion that many of us don’t subscribe to in a country founded on the principle of religious freedom is baffling. Hearing stories about doctors being prevented from helping their patients by law like the woman whose fetus was being crushed in her womb with almost no chance of survival outside said womb is confounding and infuriating.
Yes, an abortion is a terrible thing to have to do but it’s so much better than going back to the days when it wasn’t a safe and legal option and far preferable to being pregnant when you don’t want to be or can’t handle the physical trauma of carrying, not to mention the extreme responsibility of parenting. The only way to reduce abortion rates is to make sure that every woman has access to affordable birth control that is appropriate for her situation, including sterilization if she wants it, and the education and support to make good decisions and use the tools at her disposal wisely. Attempting to stymie it through legal maneuvers like date restrictions based on faith instead of facts, requirements for unnecessary procedures like transvaginal ultrasounds, or starving good clinics of funds will only result in more women and children dying. You know, when women die in illegal abortions, by being beaten for getting pregnant, through complications with pregnancy that could be solved by ending it, or even by their own hands as a reaction to getting pregnant, the fetuses die too. Who are they trying to save here?
So, politicians and lobbyists, get the heck out of my uterus and my personal life. There are actual problems to solve that need the attention you are lavishing on trying to destroy the very rights that have improved our society immensely over my lifetime, problems that include finding ways to care for the children who are already here and we know for a fact can feel physical and emotional pain. Enough is enough.