Category Archives: Parenthood

A few thoughts on abortion

I fiercely believe that medical decisions are the domain of a person and their doctor. I am pro-choice, a political stance that became firmer when I became a mother. I have never aborted a pregnancy, but the safety and legality of abortion have impacted my family in a positive way

I have two children. These kids are fiercely loved and very wanted. They were, shall we say, imprecisely scheduled. I found out I was pregnant not long after quitting veganism and graduate school, and while looking for work. The day before I discovered my pregnancy, I took my motorcycle to the cool part of Seattle to thrift some clothes and shoes for a job interview and meet my closest friend for dinner. I had a blast. I was craving odd food, so I ordered the pho with the seafood and quail eggs. As we ate, I told them how free I felt, how much possibility I sensed. Maybe 10 hours later I saw two unmistakable lines on the pregnancy strip. Everything changed.

The timing was not great. Though Will and I were solid as a married couple, more than we’d ever been to that point, we were not quite on solid financial footing. My career prospects were unclear. There were reasons we did not expect this to be the likely outcome. But here we were, and I was pregnant.

Here is the key part: I did not *have* to be pregnant, if I did not want to be. If I felt it was too wrong, I could stop. This was an opportunity, not a burden. I did not have to take it. And if the pregnancy started showing signs of failure, if it compromised my health, I could end it. Washington State had no late-term abortion restrictions. I have seen this be really important for some of my friends’. Late-term abortion, for them, was the necessary act to assist a difficult situation. For me, it was an insurance policy that my pregnancy couldn’t kill me.

If abortion had not been safe and legal, if that choice had been taken from me, I 100% believe I would have felt trapped. I would have felt scared about the pregnancy going badly. I can see many ways where I would have resented the struggles of motherhood because they would not have been the things I chose, they were the circumstances I found myself in.

My pregnancies were enthusiastic decisions. I experienced every discomfort (and there were a lot of them) in the context of it being my choice, a process for which I was a willing and eager participant. I was unafraid during my pregnancies, with faith that medical technology would ensure that I, unlike women in previous centuries, would certainly survive this experience. Motherhood, for me, is also experienced in the context that I am doing it because I wanted to, not because circumstance dictated that I had to. It would have been something closer to accepted instead of being pursued.

I cannot imagine not having that type of autonomy and sovereignty over my reproduction, as technology and ideology denied it to women in earlier times. Especially because pregnancy, for me, can be really miserable. I find it easier to have a 1.5 year-old with a 3.5 year-old sister than I did having a 1.5 year-old and being pregnant. I can totally see why women would come to hate sex and despise men if a subordinate position in society meant sex was a marital requirement and then it would almost certainly expected to lead to pregnancy (pain and suffering) each time you did it.

There are a lot of controversy about how to deal with the fact that pregnancy is how we create other humans, and maybe that embryo is alive, which makes for ethical gray areas. Reasonable people can disagree. However, human history has repeatedly demonstrated that pregnancy can be dangerous, if not fatal, for women. Sometimes, for women to be healthy, pregnancy has to end. There is no way to liability-proof a doctor without making it safe and legal for everyone. Restrictions are just preferences for ideology over living women. I can go either way about when a fetus is “alive”. I would rather not have to go through that ethical judgement in my personal life. But that I could if I had to? Gold. That solid prenatal care exists and can end if it goes badly means there is one less thing in the world threatening to take my children’s mother away from them? Excellent.

It is terrifying to me that the right to control my reproduction, and thus health, at all phases would be infringed upon. Government bureaucracies should not replace a physician and patient’s judgement. They say one in three women will have an abortion. That’s a rate higher than that of being left handed, or LGBTQ, or experience mental illness on an annual basis. It’s common. It’s a common experience that I have not had, but the right and access to it has deeply affected my life. Those are reasons abortion rights and access are important to me.

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Filed under Dystopia, Parenthood, Personal

Each day I rise

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I love my children as if it were breathing, as if it were instinct and vital to my being itself. It does not matter who or how they are, but it turns out I love these too.
I love my husband as I get out of bed in the morning: each day I rise, actively choosing to depart the bed, usually with ease but sometimes more deliberately. I have never regretted it.

On my left hand is an emerald ring; my husband gave it to me as a keepsake of the decision we made to marry each other. Emeralds are stones of imperfection: inclusions, fissures, tiny cracks. Its beauty is in the manner of which you come to appreciate its flaws; its endurance is in how you care for it. It seems a more appropriate stone to commemorate the very human institution of marriage than lauding the so-called perfection and indestructibility of a diamond. I have yet to meet anyone whose marriage was such, including mine.

The stories in our culture of love seem to prioritize dizzying infatuation and the sparkle over the sharp-image consideration. Unwise. There are too many stories (I am looking at you, Disney) that make all love seem like breathing and it seems to me that chosen partnerships simply do not work that way. There is no truth value to attraction beyond the attraction itself. I want to tell my kids – everyone has flaws, but find the person whose wholeness is of beauty, find the person of strong character whose personality works with their own, whose quirks they appreciate. A relationship is a deliberate act. Each day I rise and it is far better for the love and companionship of my spouse – deliberately chosen, every day again.

(With that said, he makes it easy.)

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Sketches of the Web

I taunt the cats with crinkle sound of dried mint being pulled off the stalk, as I squint from the too-bright light over my kitchen sink. They’d been hanging upside down in the kitchen, off the curtain rod, for days. The cats stared, wondering why temptation was so high up, spending a weeks swinging their paws at it. I put the leaves into a container. I harvested these leaves for tea. As my fingers ran down the stems, I thought of the people I should give mint tea too. I am nursing, it won’t be mine this year.

I wandered through the backyard M’s yard next door, holding my son against my chest and shoulder. He peeked over my shoulder at M’s garden, the ping-pong table, the swing, and the tables set up. A breeze cool enough to be refreshing but warm enough to feel like air’s embrace swirled between the very close-together houses. I saw M, and was promptly introduced to a longtime friend A – the reason for the party – visiting from North Carolina. M looked at A, and said, “Remember the garden we raided last night? It’s hers.” “Oh, great!” A smiled, “He showed us the garden and we had another fantastic M meal.” I practically beamed – we’d been telling M to help himself, as we had more than an abundance, and we were happy to share. He keeps sending tomatoes over from his garden – thick, juicy, and so ripe they’d almost burst. Our tomatoes are not so numerous, but our greens and herbs are. I’d been giving away Swiss chard to everyone I knew. It delighted me to know our garden feeds many.

A couple days later, Will would glance through the window and see of our landlord showing his wife how delicious our German Blonde cherry tomatoes are. There should be a word for the pleasure of benefiting others with your success, of sharing a happy experience that is delicious garden food.

I returned from a meeting of a political organization. It was past 9:00PM, and as I walked into my apartment, my father-in-law was walking out. He came to visit to make my attendance of this meeting easier, and in pursuit of much desired time with his grandchildren. We exchanged banter in the dim dusk-light, and he left. I had consulted him for advice with this group, sensing some difficulties. He gave me good advice; I used it. Now, with the meeting done, with the tasks I had accomplished well-enough, I walked into my home. My daughter ran out of her room. She was supposed to be sleeping, but the excitement of the day had her awake. “Mama!” she cried out, smiling. “Mama nap!” She grabbed my hand and dragged me through the dark hallway to her room, into her absurdly oversized bed so she could snuggle me as she fell asleep. “Mama nap.” She gives me a kiss, holds me with both her arms, and then falls asleep. My son is asleep in the other room. My husband is getting ready for another day. “This is happiness,” I think to myself. I’d underestimated the joy parenthood would bring me.

My son wakes me up most nights. I change his diaper, snuggle him, and bring him into bed with me. Nursing him has been feeling like taking a sleeping pill. No matter what time of day, no matter my position, I nurse him and fall asleep. We end up snuggled, together, for a big portion of the night. And I love it. I love him, I love cuddling him. I never thought I’d like babies, and I do think I like them categorically, but I’m crazy in love with my own. I did not see this coming. I’d be cooing him at the playground at Outer Harbor State Park, while my daughter ran around with her dad, and I cannot fathom how large he is in a few months, or that he’s only been around a few months. He might as well have been a part of my life forever.

My husband and I have been married six years now. We celebrated it by going to a fancy restaurant while my parents watched the kids. We strategized our menu choices. We talked about our jobs. We sipped cocktails and reflected on life and we’ve lived a lot of it together. We started dating at 19. We talked about how life has been so different than we expected, the struggles we had were not the ones we expected, but here we are. We’ve lived a lot of life in six years. We’ve moved around a lot. And for all the people I met, and all the jobs we have, and the addresses we lived at, we’ve constantly had each other. That has made all the difference.

My life is the joy of being completely tangled in this interdependent web. I am tangled up with family. I have fantastic friends and neighbors. I have a job with purpose and I have a husband who supports other pursuits. The greatest joy I have right now is that I belong. I belong with my family. I belong with my friends. I even feel like I belong on my street. Even as I try to discern the best way to serve my community and family, I am doing it from a position of knowing I am where I should be, and I am not alone. Oh, the tangled webs we weave. Consider me gratefudl and lucky.

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Being a Control Freak is a Futile Endeavor Informed by Unrealistic Expectations

My mother’s advice was solid, “You just have to make sure that they don’t drown, electrocute themselves, or fall from too great of a height.” I had been expressing some sense of being overwhelmed at the responsibility of parenting. My mom’s advice is a version of “You can’t control everything, just sweat the big stuff.” It’s a different message than I see out there, where there seems to be an assumption that parents can and ought to foresee and control all things for their children. Flukes and freak accidents are treated as events that should have been predicted.

The assumption of control is pervasive, to the point where some discourses in our culture expect that we take responsibility for all things existing in our lives. Women apologize excessively. It often seems to me that the retort, “Quit being a victim!” is used to dismiss the significance of one’s experience with being wronged rather than anything else. It’s the cousin of the just-world hypothesis, which assumes that every thing which happens is occurring righteously. If an experience is terrible, the experiencer brought it upon themselves; clearly we can control these things. Except that we cannot. Even the man struck by lightening might have lived if he took another path, but why would he have thought to do so?

I was asked today if I like living in Buffalo. “I do,” I replied. And that was all I said until prompted with another question. I love my life here. I have a fantastic job, my husband has a great job, my daughter is healthy, my home is comfortable and my life is challenging enough that I feel alive and productive. Though if I hadn’t happened to move back to New York State around the time my low-turnover agency had an opening, I would not have this job. The person who helped my husband get his job, a very good, much loved friend of our family who has been nothing but extremely kind to us, was a random roommate assignment his freshman year of college. My daughter was a surprise. My son is a surprise. All of these are correlated to things we did, but the opportunities themselves have a high degree of coincidence. So I am very happy in Buffalo, but all I can honestly say is that she’s been extremely well-timed for me. Your mileage may vary. I could not have foreseen well enough to create this life intentionally.

I have spent much of the last few months reading about predictive analytic tools for homelessness-alleviation program referrals and they are all flawed. There is so much research that comes down to a shrug, and while it is far better than a first-come, first serve system, it is not the certainty that everyone craves. The desire for certainty and predictability is as American as individualism. With the assumption of control also comes the assumption of potential perfection. These are all the unattainable goals. These are the expectations that will disappoint. The more I remember that, the better I am.

And it can’t hurt to listen to my mother.

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