So there was a Roman Catholic Priest, a Methodist minister, and a Jewish Rabbi, sitting around discussing at what point life actually begins. The Catholic priest says, “Life begins at conception.” The Methodist minister says, “No, no, life begins at birth.” The Rabbi disagrees with both and says, “No, my friends, life begins when all your kids have left home…and the dog dies.”
It is funny, but it isn’t. There have been so many posts in the last few days about the murder of Dr. Tiller, and then several posts in my reader about new babies or babies on their way as I write this, or babies just beginning to move lightly in their watery home, and it never fails to amaze me the variety of human experiences regarding conception and pregnancy. Each person feels how they feel; awe and amazement, fear and uncertainty, a feeling of being a sacred vessel or, conversely, an incubator. So many different things combine to dictate how a person feels about the beginning of life that it would be impossible to list them all, and futile as well.
What also never fails to amaze me is the fact that so many people believe that they have the right to tell someone else what does and does not constitute the beginning of life. Or what they should do/feel/think/choose in the event of a pregnancy. I have been actually thinking about this a lot recently, due to a couple of really nasty, deliberately hurtful comments on my Friday Fragments post about the fact that I chose adoption for a child at a particular point in my life, so it seems like to right time for me to post about the whole issue in general.
See, for me, life is sacred; at one point in my life, I had two choices: abortion or adoption. Because of my own personal beliefs, abortion at that time was not a reasonable option, so I chose adoption instead. When I posted that fragment about having made that choice, I was in no way criticizing adoption itself, just simply stating that in my experience, an open family adoption may not have been the best choice because of the fact that it changes the dynamics of family SO much. Would I go back and change it if I could? It’s a moot point, because I can’t. If I were in that position again? At my age? I would make a different choice; that’s all.
The thing is, though, that I can only draw on my own experience. That’s it. I know other women who have chosen abortion in similar circumstances and I cannot make any judgements. I can’t tell you that I don’t approve, nor can I say that any of these women made the wrong choice. Who the fuck am I to make that kind of call? I am not that person. I don’t know what their lives were like when they made the decision to get an abortion, nor do I care. I just know that sometimes babies happen, no matter how hard you try not to get pregnant. I know that so many different things come into account when there is an unexpected pregnancy that for me, to cast stones or make some kind of a judgement based on the surface is presumptuous in the extreme. I remember one time I was talking to someone close to me, someone whose bed I shared nightly, about the fact that I had chosen adoption for a child, and some months later, during an argument, he said, “And this from a person who would throw their baby away like trash.” All these many years later, that still hurts-because he knew nothing about me at that point in my life and knew (or cared) even less about why I made the choice I made. Therefore, who am I to say that someone else is wrong?
I know this, that we as women simply can’t win in this arena. Taking out of the equation those who choose not to implement some sort of birth control and then abort every pregnancy, it is a catch-22. We get pregnant while being careful not to and suddenly we are sluts, single moms (sometimes) who can’t keep their legs together and have no self-control. We choose abortion and we are murderers, we choose adoption and we are throwing kids out like trash. We keep the baby and sometimes end up marrying the father so are now known to have trapped some poor, innocent man into marriage. We don’t end up marrying the father and we suddenly become one of “those” moms who have to go on welfare and bring down and entire nation by becoming a financial drain on the economy. In church we are told that the babies we keep are conceived in sin and therefore are marked at conception as somehow flawed, and if we choose abortion we certainly don’t tell anyone-as if THAT makes it so much easier to handle an unexpected pregnancy. It just doesn’t make any sense to me, and reaffirms my belief that no matter what we decide, we can’t win.
Here is one of the questions that always pops up in my mind. Who, exactly, gets to decide whose life has more value? A 16 year old girl, one whose life is just beginning, or the child she might have based on a mistake? According to different religions, the baby’s life is has far more value, and while I understand the Biblical concept of the sanctity of all life, I also don’t think we live in that kind of a world. Give girls and their parents resources so their lives can continue to move forward in a positive direction and maybe I would agree that abortion in those cases is wrong. Until then, I have to say that I want my 16 year old daughter to have the best life possible, and having a baby at 16 does not make that possibility very likely. What about a woman who already has kids? Are those children and mama, the ones who are already alive and breathing and living, less important than a just conceived child? If maybe mom is already struggling and doing it alone and doing the best that she can, if the addition of one more child into the mix will push her over the edge and deprive not just her but her existing children of possibilities, why should she not be able to make the choice that best serves the needs of her entire family? I don’t get that supposition, I really and truly don’t.
There are just so many facets to this issue; we could talk about pregnancy as the result of rape or incest, or we could address the lack of options and/or education for young women when it comes to birth control (and again, thank you to George W. Bush for those fucking Abstinence Only Sex Education programs that don’t address the reality that ohmygod people have SEX!). We could bandy about the issue of parental involvement and how sometimes kids are terrified to tell their parent (s) they are thinking about sex, and therefore are even more terrified to tell them that hey, guess what? We could argue to death the religious aspect of abortion vs adoption vs keeping a child, or we could look at study after study detailing the economic impact of any of the three. In doing so, we can ALL easily become confused and angry and upset, and end up killing one
another over it. And all of the information in the world is not going to change the fact that we each make the best decision we can based on the information we have at any given point in time. And that decision is different for different people, and for different reasons.
I love my kids; the four I have, and the one I don’t. I loved him when I found out I was pregnant with him, which is why I made the decision I did. I also loved the two children I already had, and knew that it would not be fair or right to ANY of us to bring another child into the mix. By the time I made the decision to adopt, I already had so many bitter and hurtful feelings toward the father of the baby that it would almost have been crime to bring the baby into that environment; I don’t know that I would have been able to love him simply because he WAS. And I don’t feel guilty, or ashamed, or embarrassed. I believe that had I made the decision to abort, it would have been for valid reasons as well, and who gets to say that those reasons, for any of us, are wrong?
So there you have it; Soapbox #765. Should I simply step down now, and hope that maybe just one person might have gotten some food for thought? Yes, I think so.