October 3rd, 2010
My thoughts on abortion haven’t changed since I’ve had a child. You’d think they would, having a deeper understanding of the machinery at work, and the miracle that eventually surfaces, but alas, they have not changed one whit. Until I became pregnant, I can say with relative certainty that I never truly understood what it was like to be a prisoner in my own body, held captive by a tiny parasite that did little to thrill me, but instead seemed hell-bent on making my life as miserable as possible. It was all worth it of course, but I wasn’t in the mood for such platitudes while peeing through my pants as I hunched over the toilet for the twelfth time in as many half-hour increments.
I was a late to bond with my unborn baby; truth be told, I never really did until I saw her face out in the world. I hated being pregnant more than I can really articulate here, and my hormones were so horribly out of whack that I think if you’d asked me mere days before delivery if I wanted to change my mind with the promise of making it all go away, there’s a solid chance I’d have taken you up on that offer and called it a day.
Pregnancy, abortion and the decision to become a parent is so personal. Everyone reacts differently, although obviously my view on how I would handle an unplanned pregnancy is much more clear-cut as a parent growing a family than that of a teenager or even a twenty-something. But I maintain that this remains the most personal of decisions, and that no one — truly, no one — can say for certainty what they would do in another person’s shoes, which is why I find any sort of legislation on the matter so laughably deplorable. And this is before we go into the argument from conservatives that the government should keep their hands off of their healthcare! Except you, there, lady with the uterus! Mind telling me what’s in there? Oh, and Medicare. We love Medicare. Don’t cut our Medicare, are you crazy?
But I digress.
This post from Elizabeth made me realize something I’ve been meaning to articulate since the minute Sam’s been born. In summary, it’s an incredible account of the life of — and her relationship with — her sister, who has Down syndrome, and the moments during her pregnancy when her daughter was shown to have an elevated risk for Down’s.
I will repeat what I said in Elizabeth’s comments, and my emotions surrounding articulating this are so conflicted, but it’s as honest as I know how to be, so I’ll tell you: If Sam had been shown to have genetic abnormalities, there is a strong possibility we would have terminated. Naturally, as that was not the case, I can’t tell you anything for sure, because as I said, it’s nearly impossible to predict one’s precise reaction in such a complex, terrifying situation under the circumstances we were in — those of first-time parents with little more than an abstract understanding of what was headed our way that spring.
I’ll also tell you this: should we be fortunate enough to have another child, I can think of very few circumstances that we would terminate, and Down’s certainly wouldn’t be one of them. But of course, it’s easy to say what you would do in a situation that you’re not actually in, isn’t it?
(Before I go on: I’m not pregnant.)
I find it nearly impossible to fault anyone for making whatever decision they choose to make in those situations. As I said before, I am pro-choice to such an extreme that I am loath to put any limitations on abortion, barring elective procedures past the point of fetal viability. If you would — or have — made a different decision, I do not judge you in the least, and I mean that with all the sincerity in my heart, truly I do.
But for me, and truly, I am shocked by this, being Sam’s mom made me more confident in my ability to deal with things I’d previously thought myself incapable of, but it also made me acutely aware of how vulnerable we all are to being put in situations we hadn’t planned for. Yes, there is genetic testing and there are ultrasounds and a seemingly endless number of tests to prepare for whatever inevitability lies before you, but ultimately, even if that ultrasound comes back 1 in 3245 (like Sam’s did), there is that ONE baby who beats the odds. The world is not foolproof, least of all modern medicine.
And then there is Katy, one of the best moms I know, and not because of the challenges she faced with her son, but because she just is. All the genetic testing in the world would have been meaningless, as a necessary medical intervention during birth left Charlie with cerebral palsy. She didn’t plan on this. And yet, look at her. Look at him.
We’re all just a hair’s breadth away from a different life — a harder life, an easier life, a richer life; no one really knows what’s in store for us down the road. It’s part of what we signed up for when we agreed to be born (you didn’t get paperwork?), and it’s crazy and it’s terrifying and it’s wondrous beyond measure.