Pro Choice Protesters Holding Signs

How Becoming a Mom Made Me More Pro-Choice

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. It was more than wanting to have kids, I wanted to be the person who created, birthed, and nourished those children.

I grew up in a small town where building a family was the next step after high school (or sometimes, during), and while I knew I wanted that, I also knew I wanted it on my own timeline, because I wanted other things too.

I wanted to travel on a whim, volunteer for every deployment and training I could find, attend graduate school and more or less make every life decision based on what I wanted or needed at the time.

I knew the work that went into motherhood. I saw it in my own mother and my friends who became mothers before me.

I knew I wanted it, but later, when I was ready.

And I was lucky. Man was I lucky. Not only did I get to be a mother on my own time, but with an amazing partner. I even got to witness his parenting first-hand before having our son (step-parenting has its perks folks).

My pregnancy happened pretty quickly and my midwestern hips safely carried it to full-term. The 40 weeks was, at times, wholly uncomfortable, but altogether smooth.

Unremarkable really, one of billions of normal pregnancies throughout the history of our species.

Still, the night I found out I was pregnant, I found myself watching a documentary on Roe vs Wade. I wanted my pregnancy and the child to come months later. I wished for it, prepared for it, took a pregnancy test every hour waiting for it, and still the moment it showed “pregnant” something felt out of my control.

I knew I could hide it for a bit, keep it my happy little secret, but soon I would no longer be just myself, I would be my pregnant self – I would change in the eyes of so many.

In some ways, I welcome this.

I was changing after all. My body was morphing and doing something incredible, something it had never done before but someone knew exactly how to do. My mind was prepping for a new stage of life, mine and my family’s.

But in other ways it was sad.

I knew people would stop asking me about school or work and only about how the pregnancy was going. I knew strangers’ eyes would fall from my face to my swelling belly almost, but not quite, imperceptibly. I knew people would start to offer their opinions on my running, eating, sleeping, and general life habits.

I knew that, according to some, everything about my life, including my body, should be focused on the pregnancy, that everything that made me, me, for 35 year was supposed to take a backseat, or better yet be shelved altogether for the next 18 years.

I didn’t like that feeling. I didn’t like that I simultaneously felt both pressure to sacrifice myself and the urge to push back against that pressure. I felt that odd mix of guilt and defiance that comes when you don’t want to do what you’re “supposed to do.”

I thought to myself, “Damn, how hard is this for folks who don’t want to be pregnant?

Over the next nine months I found a balance that worked for me.

I still ran, and drank coffee, and pursued the things that gave me joy and fulfillment and watched with awe as my body changed to support this new endeavor. I completed my birth classes and read up on sleep training and breastfeeding. I was ready.

Four days after my “due date” I went into labor – again, pretty uneventful in the long history of childbirth, but (and new moms skip this part) – holy shit did that hurt. I was not prepared for how much pain, confusion, and general trauma it takes to push a 9lb baby out of your body.

Again, in the middle of it all, I couldn’t help but to think, “how could anyone think it’s ok to force this?”

That thought would play over and over in my head during the labor, delivery, and the months that followed my son’s arrival. I wanted that baby.

I was prepared, ready, and willing to sacrifice my body, my sleep, and my time to bring him into the world and to raise him, but holy shit it was, it is, hard. And even with all my preparation and privilege, I might still screw it up.

As a kid in a conservative Midwest town, I never fully supported abortions. I was never politically “pro-life” but I always carried and probably even promoted that stigma around.

Like so many things in a small town, abortions happened, but they just weren’t talked about. They were for slutty immoral girls in high school, gossip fodder for bored folks to feel morally superior.

As I moved through my 20s, and learned more about pregnancies and motherhood, and my own morals, I became more pro-choice. I could see the danger and injustice of those stigmas, of the way we look at women, sex, pregnancies, and bodily autonomy.

But not before I went through it myself did I understand, at a visceral level, what the anti-abortion movement means for women and children.

So here I am, pregnant again, this time it’s a little less smooth.

I’m a little more tired, my back is a little more vocal, and I’m a little less able to do the things that used to bring me joy. Still, I wanted this. I’m ready for this and eager for all the next steps.

But now, I no longer wonder “what if I didn’t?” because it’s becoming increasingly clear that despite my wants and needs, and the wants and needs of my family, my country is more than comfortable making that decision for me.

I know that many of my fellow citizens, my family and friends even, are not only ok, but feel morally just, in making me carry a pregnancy full-term, go through the agonizing birthing process, and then either raise the child or give the child up to a complicated and problematic adoption system.

There are dozens of practical, ethical, and legal reasons to keep abortions safe and accessible, but for me, it comes down to this.

Restricting or outright banning abortions is to say, as a society, that we are ok forcing a woman, a fully formed whole person, to use their body in a way that is unwanted or potentially unsafe. We are saying that the potential life that comes from a pregnancy is more important that the life that already exists. We are saying that we don’t trust women, in counsel with their doctors and loved ones, to make the best decision for their bodies and their lives.

That “we” know better and that “we” have the right to force you to comply with what “we” think is best.

To repeal abortion protections is to say all this in a society that doesn’t provide universal health care, accessible birth control, or maternity leave. It says it in a country that doesn’t require schools teach sex education based on science, or at all.

It not only forces women to use their bodies in ways that are not wanted, but forces them to do so without even the bare minimum of support, protection, or education.

Becoming a mother has been one of the most incredible, and probably one of the best choices I’ve ever made, not the least because it was a choice – my choice – and that’s how all children should come into the world – wanted, loved, and chosen.

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