Roaring Women

     If you watched just one, or even all three of the presidential debates this past fall and are female, you should be concerned…soul-crushingly, mind-blowingly, deeply concerned about your access to affordable reproductive healthcare and family planning services.  If you don’t mind the projected estimated added cost of $365 million dollars a year in additional security expenses so that Mrs. Trump does not have to move her son from their three floor gilded penthouse mansion to the White House, but you do mind the estimated cost of $528 million dollars a year in national planned parenthood funding which allows, among other things, some random 15-year-old girl in Detroit to get free birth control pills, then you are perhaps not interested in today’s blog.

     Do you believe, or think for even one minute, that if men were the ones who got pregnant and gave birth, there would ever be even the most minimal efforts or arguments that would possibly lead to legislation that might deny a man his right to choose to terminate a pregnancy if he found himself with child and did not want said child?  If more than 270,000 men were tested for cancer every year at Planned Parenthood clinics, do you think that there would ever be politicians shouting about defunding it and spinning false statistics and phony details about the health and social services they provide?  Do you believe, or think for even one minute, that if men were the ones who got pregnant there would ever be even the most minimal efforts or arguments to make effective birth control methods less available and less affordable?  Do you believe, or think for even one minute, that there would ever be efforts to restrict access to affordable reproductive health care services if it was 77% of men who had to lose, on average, 12 weeks of pay or more, because of a pregnancy?  Do you believe, that if it were 89% of men who had jobs where there was no paid family leave policy in place, there would not be great efforts to create some sort of legislation to make universal policies so that not just the lucky 11% of pregnant men had the kind of employment that provided both job security and some bit of financial aid or income during a maternity leave?  In my ever so humble opinion, if it were men who got pregnant and gave birth there would not be a march today in Washington, D.C. and in towns and cities across the country; there might be no need.

     Despite what some heartbroken couples might tell you, it is very easy to get pregnant even when you are making efforts and taking measures to have that not happen.  Accidents happen.  Accidents happen all the time to responsible people and irresponsible people alike.  Accidental and unplanned pregnancies happen to democrats and republicans alike.  Pregnancies happen all the time that are not happy, celebratory, joyous occasions; they are devastatingly bad news, and that cluster of dividing cells is a most unwelcome parasite to a person who does not want to be pregnant, and does not want to have a baby, cannot afford to have a pregnancy or a baby, and does not want to raise a child.  You have every right to think what you want about a person’s right to choose, but I’m sitting here writing to you and letting you know that until it happens to you, you do not know how you will feel, you do not know what you will think, and until you actually have to face that choice, you don’t know exactly how you feel about the implications for yourself and your future.  Don’t believe me?  How about this one…it’s your child who is pregnant and does not want to be, your straight A earning, soccer star teenager, on track for a full scholarship to college…Now there are implications for you AND for your child.  It’s so much more complex than just saying you are not pro-choice.  You might not believe me, but I know this much is true.

     I have heard and read some comments this week about the Women’s March on Washington, asking ‘why march?’  Asking, what is the point?  Wondering what is to be achieved?  It’s not just reproductive rights that are at possibly at risk with this new administration in place, but since I am not black, gay, disabled, or an illegal immigrant, it is the part of the Unity Principles of the Women’s March on Washington mission statement that matters most to me.  The official press release from the group states simply,  “that we stand together in solidarity and we expect elected leaders to act to protect the rights of women, their families and their communities.”  That is a clear explanation as far as I can tell.  It’s not just women, it’s the men who love them, or know them, or live next door to them.  Women’s rights are human rights…Those aren’t just words from a 20 year old speech.  They are words that matter.

     Access to affordable family planning and reproductive health care is not a woman’s issue, it’s a human issue.  You want to argue with me about family values, christian values, go right ahead…there is nothing christian about taking away a woman’s right to choose, thus forcing her to carry a pregnancy she doesn’t want and give birth to a child she doesn’t need…laws have been in place for more than 40 years that make abortion legal and safe, and that matters to women and men equally.  Women do not get pregnant alone, and if you think abortion is wrong then perhaps you might like to know that the more available birth control is, the less prevalent unintended pregnancies are.  According to a recent NPR interview with Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, the teen pregnancy rate is at an all time low, and she believes that high quality and affordable and accessible birth control is one of the reasons.  You might think that abortion is wrong, but I think having to have a baby that you don’t want, or having no access to safe and affordable medical services is so much worse, and if you disagree with me, that’s fine.  I respect your right to disagree with me.

     Never would I ever demand that you think like I do, or claim that you are wrong and I am right.  I don’t want to restrict your choice to have a baby when you get pregnant even if you don’t want to be.  I don’t want to take away your choice to welcome a new infant into your already financially stressed life, or overcrowded house, or unstable marriage, or vehicle that won’t have room for a car seat, because you do not think abortion is okay under any circumstances, and you choose to have a baby because of your religious or personal beliefs.  I get that, and I don’t want to take that from you.  I don’t want to take away your choice to bravely face an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy because you would not ever choose an abortion, no matter what circumstances you were in.  In fact, I might even crochet you a blanket if you are somebody I know, or a friend of somebody I know, and I would never, ever want to deny you your right to choose to have that baby.  I get that.  I would never want to deny you your choice to eat healthy food, quit smoking, stop drinking diet Coke, and take those pre-natal vitamins every day and carry that baby to term because you do not believe abortion is an option for you.  I would never want to take away your right to choose to birth that baby and bring it home and raise it, and provide and care for it lovingly through adulthood because you believe that abortion is wrong.  I get that.  BUT why would you want to take away my choice to do the opposite?  Because you think you are right and I am wrong?

     Never would I ever want to take away your personal choice to take the results of  that little blue plus sign in the window of your EPT test all the way to the big grand finale of ‘it’s a boy or it’s a girl!!!’  I would never want that choice to be taken from you.   NEVER would I ever deny you your choice to take that unplanned, and perhaps unwanted pregnancy, from birth all the way to high school graduation, or better yet college graduation…congratulations, your child turned out to be fantastic, and it is so wonderful that you brought her or him into the world and made such a generous contribution to the gene pool!!!  It’s terrific, and I mean this, I am very happy for you.  Your choice worked out for you…but how dare you want to see my choice eliminated?  My choice to not do any of what you did when you peed on that stick and saw that it was positive.

     In my ever so humble opinion, THAT is why people are marching this weekend.  IT is not about you and your choice, and it is not about me and my choice, it is about ALL OF US.  THIS IS US, we are humans sharing a planet and there are men and women roaring, begging, please do not attempt to take away our  right to choose what is best for me or for my family, or to purposefully make our access to affordable reproductive healthcare even more expensive or more complicated than it has to be, because you see, we promise we would never attempt to take away your right to choose what is best for you.

And She Was

Three months ago today my daughter became a new wife, with a joyful and beautiful ceremony in a restored barn at a County Park.  One year and three months ago today my daughter became a fiancée, with a  brilliant and big diamond in front of the fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  31 years and three hours ago I became a mother, to this daughter, with a quiet delivery in the early morning hours of a Thursday, in a room with ugly  rose-covered pale blue wallpaper, with my Sister by my side and my Mom, Aunt, and Nana down the hall…and my life was forever changed.

And she was, at once, nothing that I ever wanted and all that I could ever wish for.  And she was, with her first breaths, everything that was right in my world and the reason I suddenly cared so much about all the things that were so very wrong.  And she was the biggest baby with the roundest head in the nursery, while I was the youngest mother with the most uncertain future on the maternity floor.  And she was a dream baby who ate and slept and hardly ever cried, while I ate too much and hardly slept and often cried. To write that my first weeks and months as a mother were scary is an understatement.  You see, my life was a whole big mess of awful, but I, inexplicably, did not want to have to move back home to my parents’ so I lied, a lot, about everything…everything is fine, everything is fine, everything is fine…nothing was fine, nothing at all was at all fine, but she was.  That perfect little baby, through no fault of her own, came into this world with a confused mother who had made terrible choices, but there  she was, by my side, often in the crook of my left arm, accepting, all ten pounds of her, the consequences of my decisions.

And she was a girl who grew up without a dad, and for that I have yet to forgive myself.  And she was a girl whose grandpa could not have loved her any more than if she had been his own, and for that I will forever be grateful.  And she was a girl whose grandma could not have loved her any more, no matter how disappointed she might have been with me, over and over and over…I disappointed my parents but my child never suffered, and truth be told, neither did I, since my parent’s love was always, and has always been, without conditions.  And she was blessed to be born to a family where, despite our frequent and perpetual disagreements about most things, love always wins.

I found the courage to get out of a very bad and terribly difficult situation, and my family welcomed me back home with overflowing adoration for my daughter.  And she was the reason I often worked seven days a week.  And she was the reason I never called in sick.  And she was the reason I started college.  And she was the reason I finished college.  And she was why I tried to always be the best possible woman I could, because while it’s a popular sentiment now in our current political climate, it moved me deeply from the moment I first read it,  Strong Women- may we know them , may we be them, may we raise them.  And she was fine.  And she is fine.  And it turns out that she is now, as a grown woman and a mother and a wife, a culmination of all that I ever did right in my life.  There are many things that have happened to me, and because of me, that I wish had not ever happened, but these 31 years later, I love to say that she isn’t one of them.  And she was, at once, nothing that I ever wanted and most of what would matter, for all the rest of my days…