It’s a cold morning on the north coast, clear but only for a little while; we’ve got rain in the forecast. Inland, rarely, there’s a warning for snow.
I won’t be pregnant much longer and a winter day feels just right.
There’s something I wanted to write about before my pregnancy ends, though, and so here it is. My whole life, since I discovered what abortion is, I’ve been vehemently pro-choice. I marched for abortion rights when I was in high school; in college, I volunteered for organizations that ensured safe access to abortion. I identified as a feminist early on in my life, understanding that to mean that women should have autonomy over their lives and their decisions, and the question of abortion felt like a medical decision that no one else should be able to dictate.
All these years, I’ve wondered if being pregnant would change my perspective. I wondered if there was something that might awaken in me a feeling that I was wrong; if I would suddenly tune into an understanding about the mystical feminine that I hadn’t been able to understand before pregnancy.
After 40 weeks of experiencing that magic, 40 weeks of the incredible process that is creating a baby, I do have a deeper understanding of all sorts of things. And one of them is that women absolutely should have access to abortions. Rather than make me anti-choice, my pregnancy has made me so much more interested in protecting women’s right to make the decisions about childbearing that are best for them.
These months have been, hands down, the best of my life. I have had a pretty smooth pregnancy, despite being an older mom and despite gestational diabetes. This is something I’ve wanted my whole life, something I was told I couldn’t have; I’d mourned my hopes for pregnancy, and made the peace with it that I could.
As a result, each day has truly been a gift. To watch my body change; to gain the weight necessary to take care of my little one; to grow to know this baby’s movements: I haven’t taken it for granted. Not in the least.
I’ve never lost sight of the fact that I could have chosen not to go down this road, once I knew I was pregnant; I have access to medical care that gives me the option of abortion. I chose not to take it. But my understanding of what pregnancy demands of a woman has of course deepened, and is now much wider. And what I’ve come to understand, in the midst of the mystery unfolding within me, is this: no woman should have to do this unless she actually wants to.
It is heartbreaking to think of the alternative, of women moving through this process if they wish they didn’t have to, or when the time isn’t right, or with someone they want to have in their lives only temporarily. I think of the women who are in unsafe relationships, who have dreams that would take them away from mothering, who simply do not want to have a child and I think: they should all have that right. To deny them that, to instead dictate that they must have a child, that they must put their bodies and their minds and their hearts into this process, is to take away every bit of their autonomy. It is to say that they are less important, that what they want doesn’t matter, that what they can contribute to the world will never measure up to this one thing.
I just don’t believe that’s true. People should be able to make the decisions that are right for them. Just as I hope my child grows into someone who is empowered to choose paths that are right for them, I want that for people everywhere.
I think of those marches I will join in the future, my little one by my side, in the name of greater understanding and deeper compassion. I think of what we might do, together, and in recognition of others. It warms my heart, on this cold January day, to imagine the work to come.