Thorny Knits

I've got a husband, twin toddlers, a cat who I probably forgot to feed this morning, and never, ever enough time to knit.


Blog for Choice

Sorry for the hiatus, y'all, and sorry that there's no knitting content forthwith. Those who aren't down are free to skip today's post and come back next time - I promise knitting content and maybe even a Crazy Twin Story to boot. For now, though, some politically inspired navel-gazing.

Blog for Choice

In November of 1972, I was conceived. My parents were young - 18 and 19 years old - unmarried (but some reports say they were engaged), and scared to death.

They put on a brave face, announced a January wedding date, and ploughed ahead.

My parents got married on January 13, 1973. Nine days later the Roe v. Wade judgment was handed down, legalizing abortion.

Even though I wasn't born for another seven months after that, I still feel as if my parents' wedding date, in relation to when Roe v. Wade was decided, is somehow significant. Though not how you might think.

I don't feel relief, as if I somehow scraped through a tight spot. The truth is, even if abortion had been legal, I can't imagine my mother getting an abortion. She was a good Catholic girl (fooling around with her maybe-fiance notwithstanding), who came from a large Italian family whose judgment intimidated her more than their love comforted her.

The sad fact of the matter is, my parents' wedding was a grim affair. I've seen the pictures. Everyone looks dazed, in a state of shock, except for the best man, who is quite obviously drunk off his ass. My parents' smiles are brave, but not particularly convincing.

My maternal grandfather looks like he's at a funeral. My maternal grandmother refuses to look at the camera. My paternal grandparents don't look much happier. My mother's siblings look extremely confused. As well they should - my grandparents didn't tell them about my mother's wedding until that morning. My grandparents didn't want them to be distracted for finals week at school.

Everyone appears stunned, at a loss for what to do or how to behave.

No one looks happy.

That day set the tone.

My parents' marriage, which lasted a grueling 22 years, was also grim. We never quite made it all the way into After-School Special territory, but we got close more often than a family should.

I was five years old when I first learned how long it takes a baby to grow in its mama's belly. Being a precocious kinda kid, I then immediately did the math to find out when I'd been "planted" in my mama's belly, only to realize that the math didn't work out. I'd been hoping to find out I'd been a Honeymoon Baby. But something was wrong, because babies take longer than seven months to be born. My mom tried to tell me that I was early, that I came before I was supposed to.

Mom's "brave face" has never been her specialty.

For the ensuing 17 years of pain, misery, resentment and depression, on all our parts, I would think to myself that if I hadn't come along, my parents never would have married. They would have eventually broken up, married other people, and maybe then everyone would be happy. It was a child's view of the world, of course, wherein everything that happened was all to do with me. But how else does a child see the world?

What's this got to do with Choice?

It's true. Even if abortion had been legal before January 13, 1973, I still would have been born. Chances are my parents still would have married, still would have been a bad match, still would have created a difficult situation for themselves, each other and for my sister and me.

But maybe, just maybe, being free to really choose to keep me would have changed things. Would have made my parents feel a little less trapped. Maybe then their wedding album would seem less like every member of my family is doing their best "deer in the headlights" impression.

I don't think for a moment that my mother would have made any different decisions, when she discovered she was pregnant all those years ago. But I do think it would have helped her to have options available to her. To be given the chance to choose to keep the baby she discovered she was carrying, rather than backed into a corner and given no other alternatives.

Because abortion was illegal, my mother was denied the chance to chart her own course, to choose her own destiny.

Maybe, given a choice, my mother would have approached motherhood with less bitterness and anger in her heart.

Some folks say depression is anger turned inward. I believe that's quite often the case.

My mother is the angriest person I've ever met, and she's been angry for 34 years now. She can't voice her anger, of course. She can't actually speak the words in her heart, that she was forced to have me, that she was forced to give up her life in favor of mine. She can't speak of how hurt she must have been by how her parents treated her then. She certainly can't give voice to how betrayed she must have felt, when she found out a few years ago that her parents, who judged her so harshly for becoming pregnant before she was married, had been lying about how long they'd been married, to hide that when they married, Grandma was two months pregnant with my mom.

She can't give voice to her anger, but it always finds its way out. Anger always does. That's its nature, after all.

My mother is the angriest person I've ever met, because 34 years ago she was denied the chance to want to have her baby.

Every baby deserves to be wanted, be it at conception or at some later date, after the surprise has worn off a little.

I'm not grateful my parents got married before Roe v. Wade came down. Abortion being illegal didn't save me, because in all reality, my life was never in danger.

But there's more to life than breathing.

I am the baby no one got to want. A fact which colored how my family, immediate and extended, treated me from the moment they learned of my impending arrival. A fact which colored how I behaved with my family from the moment I learned of it until this very day. A fact which no amount of therapy or medication or positive self-talk can change. A fact which is unchanged by all the protestations of "But we're so happy you're here now!"

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big girl. I've done the shrinkage and the happy pills and the "I'm okay, you're okay!" crap for a long time. I gave up feeling like I never should have been born long ago. Overall I'm pretty happy with how things have turned out. I'm happy with my life, I'm happy to have my life. It's all good.

Well, except that my mother has spent 34 years feeling trapped by my very existence, by a life she was never free to choose for herself, and now lives in such a quagmire of vicious, angry self-loathing that I just don't know if she'll ever be happy about herself or her life (and thus my life) again. We pretty much never speak. She forgets my birthday routinely, and has never made any real attempt to remember my husband's birthday (after 13 years), and has even begun forgetting my children's birthday. When we do speak, civility flees the room almost immediately, and bitterness, anger and resentment come roaring in.

I'm beginning to fear that things will be like this between us until the day she dies, no matter how many times and ways I try to reach out to her.

Illegal abortion didn't save my life, but it still managed to cost me my mother.

No baby should be forced upon its mother. Motherhood should be a choice, freely made, for all women.

I was a baby no one had a chance to choose. I believe all babies deserve to be wanted. Thus I am pro-choice.

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  • At Mon Jan 22, 08:35:00 AM CST, Blogger FemiKnitMafia said…

    Wow. That's intense. And familiar. And powerful. And appreciated. Thanks.

  • At Mon Jan 22, 11:03:00 AM CST, Blogger Lanea said…

    Amen. It's a hard kind of pain for people to understand because the whole issue is so politicized.
    I did the math, but for my big brother's "prematurity." My Mom was a brilliant young Catholic nursing student who should have been a doctor, but was denied that choice in Georgetown's first co-ed class. She and her wacky college boyfriend got married when they realized she was pregnant, our father's parents thought my Mom wasn't good enough and tried to deny us a name, my father is a drunk and an addict, and my big brother almost died of despair because of how abandoned he felt, despite our Mom's love and care. I had far too much responsibility as a child in a shattered family tending a brother desparate to die and a mother who could make her ex-husband love any of us. My brother finally healed as well as we could, and we lucked into a pretty good step-dad to go with our good Mom. But how different it all could have been if . . .
    Mom has been fighting for reproductive rights as long as I can remember, and while she's very happy she had us both, neither of us can help but wonder what would have been different if--.

  • At Tue Jan 23, 04:28:00 PM CST, Anonymous Carrie K said…

    Wow, that was intense. Birth control has come a long way since those days too, and as much as I don't like the idea of abortion, it's not my choice. It's the parents. And that's the way it should be.

    So typical of your grandparents! It's the whole "we suffered through it and so will you" thinking. Niiiice.

  • At Fri Jan 26, 07:14:00 PM CST, Anonymous zemookie said…

    Wow. That was very powerful writting.

    Sorry if this posted twice. My browser pooped on me.

  • At Mon Jan 29, 11:03:00 AM CST, Anonymous mamacate said…

    Thank you for this. It's a powerful statement. Having the opportunity to make an affirmative choice--so important.

    I never felt like if I hadn't been born to my parents in the moment I was born, I would never have existed. But then my theological leanings don't really jive with the catholic in general.

    Thank you...

  • At Mon Jan 29, 02:35:00 PM CST, Anonymous Trisha said…

    Well said. I am pro-choice as well and have had close experience with this as well. My husbands parents were 16 and 18 (and had only been together a month) when they had him. They stayed together to raise the kids and then split up. I think life dealt them a hard hand. I also got pregnant after knowing my husband a month (although I was 24 at the time and he was 28) and it was life altering. We made the decision to terminate and then a week later changed our minds. I can't imagine not having a choice. What makes me the saddest, however, is that you had no choice either and yet had to carry that burden. What a thing to place on a child's shoulders. Sounds like you are a stronger person from it and that you are aware that it wasn't your fault.

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