My first child was born when I was twenty-nine. I was married and financially stable, had supportive friends and family, and had years of child development training for my career. I had been caring for children since I was a child myself. I spent most of my career counseling parents of small children. Even so, even knowing it would be hard, having a baby was so much more challenging than I envisioned.
I became a mother when I was married. I was well-educated and had a comfortable and safe home and car. I wanted to have a baby more than I had ever wanted anything, and still, parenting has been the hardest thing I had ever done.
Parenting takes everything we have. All of our strengths, all our optimism, all of our energy, and all our money. It sucks us dry. And that was my experience, as someone with money, privilege, and support.
I cannot imagine anything crueler than forcing someone to become a parent when they aren’t ready to be one. As mothers, we quickly become aware of how much of ourselves we give to this job of motherhood. We give joyfully and gratefully, but parenting still drains us.
Mothers’ voices are largely absent from discussions about abortion access in the US, but with the proposed changes to Roe vs. Wade, changes that will severely restrict a woman’s right to legal, safe abortion, everyone must speak out. 59% of women getting abortions in the US are mothers.
This mother supports safe access to abortion for all women.
To force parenthood on a person who doesn’t want it is to tap a river that has already run dry. We live in a country where we have no guaranteed parental leave or childcare. In the US, a much larger proportion of mothers than ever are dying of pregnancy-related conditions when compared to every single other developed country. And the rate of maternal deaths in the US is increasing. And it is even worse when we look specifically at Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations. The health of pregnant women clearly is not a priority here. If we wanted to create a system that supported parents, we would have to start one from scratch.
During my pregnancy, I bought a food processor to purée my homemade baby food. We bought a hiking baby carrier with the ambitious notion that we would suddenly take up hiking once the baby was born. I read parenting guides to decide what kind of parent I would become. The food processor and hiking backpack were never used. I would never become a specific kind of parent.
Like all of us, I would parent first with instinct and then with guilt.
For some, motherhood is seen almost as a higher calling, which makes pregnancy seem sacred, and thus, something that should never be interrupted for any reason. For me, motherhood is truly sacred. It is a sacred choice. That is why this mother supports safe access to abortion. I have embraced being a mother to my two children, but I have also embraced being a mother to ONLY my two littles. I love when I am alone with one of my kids and can give them all of my attention. I often think how impossible that one on one time would be if I had more than two children. I love my children. And I want no more of them.
Everyone should have the right to choose to become a parent. And everyone should have the right to decide not to. Safe access to abortion is a fundamental right.
This afternoon I stood on my front lawn pitching a baseball for my five-year-old son. He kept missing the ball but not due to his batting… I was the weak link. I thought, “I didn’t know throwing a baseball was on the job description.” But of course, I was never given a job description for this unpaid, thankless, exhausting, all-consuming job. I had no idea what it entailed when I signed up for it. None of us does. But at least this was a job I applied for, and not one forced upon me. At twenty-nine and then again at thirty-one, I had children I was ready for.
I was only able to have these wanted, adored children and become the mom I am because of a choice I was allowed to make at twenty-four.
I got pregnant when I was twenty-four years old. I was two months into dating my husband. I knew I wanted to have kids someday, and I already knew I wanted to have them with him. But I also knew that it wasn’t the right time. We were fully immersed in the cocoon of early love. We knew that this baby, who would have been born within the first year of our relationship, would make it hard to maintain the honeymoon of early love. Also, we were in graduate school, and dead broke.
I never seriously considered staying pregnant.
I was living in rural Massachusetts at the time and got an appointment for an abortion an hour away from where I was living. It wasn’t easy, but it was nothing compared to the situation many women face today. Even in my brief moment of doubt while in the clinic’s waiting room, I knew this was what I would do. It wasn’t a baby growing inside of me. It was a bunch of cells going in a direction I didn’t want them to go, and I needed to get them removed so I could spend another five years figuring out who I wanted to become before having kids.
Every once in a while, I will remember that if that group of cells had turned into a child, that child would have been my children’s older sibling. But then, everything would have been different. Would I still have finished graduate school? Would my husband and I have stayed together? Having my children was harder than I could ever have predicted, and I was ready for them. I would not have been emotionally or financially ready for this child to be born. Even though I am a mother and I love my children, I am a mother who supports safe access to abortion for all.
Four years later, when I was ready, I got pregnant again. That pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. That pregnancy ended in tears and weeks of sadness. It was a pregnancy I wanted and losing it felt completely different from my first pregnancy. I mourned for that lost pregnancy. A part of me still does.
When I look at my children, I understand how both of my pregnancies lost to abortion and to miscarriage made these children possible. Those pregnancies made space for me to become the mother I am today.