It’s my first Mother’s Day as a mom.
While I’d love to use the opportunity to write something sappy about motherhood, and how it’s changed me, I’d rather talk about something else that’s close to my heart.
My child was planned. He was born huge and strong, and he’s six months old right now. In the nine months I carried him, I had many doctor visits, read all the books, went to classes, experienced intense depression, and gave birth at 42 weeks after two days of induced labor.
So, you could say I know a little bit about reproductive health. Perhaps even more than the (usually white) men currently with their hands on the wheel when it comes to women’s health legislation in America.
These would be the same men who claim to be “pro-life,” from the party of “family values.” And I’m sorry, but they’re a bunch of bullshitters.
I was raised Christian, and when I was younger, I thought as a Christian I was supposed to be pro-life. But it was never a forced issue in my house, and the church I went to didn’t deal in politics. So the first time I really thought about it, I was on the bus as a freshman in high school and I was having a conversation with an older kid about abortion. And something clicked in my head. Like, "DUH. Obviously it should be a choice!" It was so stupidly simple to me. I’d always wanted kids, but I also felt that if I should ever fall pregnant unexpectedly, when I wasn’t ready to be, I should be afforded that choice.
I never got pregnant when I didn’t want to, in part because I had sex education in school and access to birth control. My one and only pregnancy was the one I had last year -- again, fully planned. I had a relatively easy time, and I still wouldn’t wish it on anyone who didn’t want it. It sure sounds simple, right? "It’s only nine months of your life. Choose adoption!"
If someone's volunteering to adopt the baby, then hell yeah, let’s do this. Will they also pay for the prenatal care and delivery cost? Even an uncomplicated vaginal delivery is just shy of $10,000. For a C-Section, it’s north of $15,000.
When we eventually got our hospital bill after a three-day stay, it was the price of a year of private college. Thank Christ for health insurance.
My husband had three weeks of paternity leave. He used up all his PTO and personal holidays and sick days he had left. Then came the holidays. It was lucky that our son was born at the end of October, and not January. The United States is still the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid family leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers 12 weeks unpaid to workers of a company that have 50 or more employees.
When he went back to work, I felt the effects instantly. I barely knew how to care for a baby and now here I was, alone for eight hours a day, while still in a crucial stage of healing and completely sleep-deprived. (I am still sleep-deprived.) I went through severe postpartum depression, and I thought so many days, “If only he could’ve stayed home longer, I would be so much better.”
I would be a better mother, a better me. Twelve weeks might seem a reasonable amount of time, but when my baby was three months old, I had only just gotten started. I couldn’t imagine leaving him, not only for reasons like bonding and breastfeeding made simpler, but also because I was so fucking tired.
But I didn’t have to go back to work, because I’m a freelancer, and we’re lucky enough to get by on one income for now. Even luckier that I have family close by, and a recently retired dad, usually available to help out. That way we didn’t have to pay for daycare, which is a little over $300 a week on average in Minnesota for infants. My baby is lucky that his full-time caretaker can also fulfill all his needs at any given moment. There are women in my life who had to quit their job because the cost of childcare was eating their whole paycheck. And on the flip side, I know women who had to be torn away from their young babies to go back to work because it was too costly not to work.
America has no support for parents, and we suffer because of it.
With all the mounting problems in this country, things like maternity leave seem like small potatoes. But the GOP is the “pro-life” party! Family values, right? If the men who run this country really were as “pro-life” as they say, I don’t think we’d have an alarmingly high maternal mortality rate. They would pay attention to places like Colorado, where a campaign to give women free contraceptives saw a huge drop in teen (meaning: unplanned) pregnancies. They could look at the countries that are consistently touted as being the happiest on Earth, and the kind of family leave that is offered there.
That is pro-life policy. Not so, here. Not for the so-called party of family values.
So listen up, you self-proclaimed Christians: If you want to be Pro-Life, BE PRO-LIFE. Make affordable healthcare available, give mothers and fathers paid leave in order to fully heal and bond with their children during this crucial time. Ensure women have access to mental health services in the difficult postpartum period. Subsidize childcare, so women don’t have to choose between motherhood and a career. Give their children lunch, and art programs, and housing if they need it. All of society benefits when we use every tool we have to raise children.
And let women have abortions if they want.
If my pregnancy hadn’t been planned last year, we wouldn’t have blinked. We still would’ve been just as happy to have this child, and he would be no less loved. Because, simply: We could afford to have him. If it just wasn’t our time, I would’ve valued having a choice. And for now, women have access to abortion in Minnesota. In other places, a pregnant woman not ready to carry a child may as well have a death sentence.
Becoming a mother helped me to understand not only that abortion should be available, but encouraged, for any woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant.
It’s that blindingly simple. All I’ve heard my whole life from pro-choice advocates is an attempt to soften the issue. “Safe, legal and rare,” or “Nobody is FOR abortion.” But I am! I am a mom, I am pro-abortion, and proud. It should be a fundamental right. And until those allegedly mother-loving clowns in Washington get with the program, there is no such thing as “pro-life” in America.
Happy Mother’s Day.