I just entered my 3rd trimester of pregnancy a few days ago.
At the beginning of my sex life I was obsessed with not getting pregnant. I vividly remember being about 20–21 years old and having sex with my then long time boyfriend and thinking how bad it would be to get pregnant. I mainly used condoms, but allowed a few minutes of unprotected play and it was in those minutes that I either saw myself ruining my life with a baby or burning in hell, no in between. It was also the beginning of online media, internet and all that and I remember watching “abortion” videos on YouTube that terrified me to the core. Sex was never enjoyable because I kept thinking of the consequences.
Modern day religious practices
I didn’t particularly grow up in the most religious of households. My mother was a big believer — and in her last 10 years or so her house started to resemble, smell and look, an orthodox church — but she was more spiritual than devout. I also remember her saying once that when she was in her early twenties (then married), her mother in law convinced her to have an abortion.
We talked about sex and she didn’t encourage virginity until marriage, but she was also frigid and sex was something dirty and disgusting. Pair that with her taking me to church mainly for tradition sake only at Christmas and Easter when everyone, regardless of age, would have to black fast in the morning, confess sins to the orthodox priest, then get the communion (piece of bread and some wine always given to the masses with the same spoon. Yes, you read that right), and I developed a huge fear of living in sin. In my early twenties, for as long as this lasted, I would tell the priest every Christmas and Easter that I had sex, he would listen, make a cross, and send me my way. It didn’t make me feel any better, though.
I was also philosophically inclined and it was really interesting to me to read (excerpts of or interpretations of) big names from hundreds of years ago trying to make sense out of life. I also vividly remember a chapter in my 12th grade Philosophy manual that directly dealt with the ethics of abortion from the perspective of Michael Tooley. You can agree or disagree with his Three Perspectives, but the fact that the issue of abortion was suddenly disputed as part of the ethics education of high school kids such as myself was a huge step in educating young minds about the benefits of critical thinking, and more, starting to differentiate between human-centric and religion-based ethics.
I would still think about the consequences of having sex while having sex (and then wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t climax). And there were so many stories going around that time to fuel all these fears; a woman got pregnant after a bullet went through a man’s scrotum AND one of her ovaries. Another one after using the same towel as her boyfriend who somehow came in it (?). Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but when you’re young and fearful you look everywhere for guidance. Just look at all the google searches starting with “can I get pregnant if…”.
I held these fears well over 25 years old (no, I did not believe the bullet crap or the towel or any of the other urban legends) thinking accidents can happen even with a condom. I took birth control pills and life just happened for me in a way that I only had sex in committed relationships but I always felt I was the responsible one. Somehow the guy would just vanish.
MY life would be changed, I would have to make sacrifices and if not, could I really see myself having an abortion? Ending a life? I was imagining myself 10, 20, 30 years after still in agony thinking about the murder I committed. I was reading testimonials of women who had abortions how their babies haunt them in their dreams and have been depressed ever since.
Still, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that bringing to this world an unwanted life would be better. Which was the scenario in which I would suffer more? Taking, ending a life and dealing with the pain, agony and consequences for the rest of my days, or bringing a child in this world and making him (or her) deal with the pain, agony or consequences of not being wanted?
At around 26 years old my fascination for humanity translated into wanting to study psychology (after having both a BA and MA in Journalism) and it’s at that age I started to feel like all my life I’ve been one of Plato’s shadows in the Allegory of the Cave and now I was finally ascending towards the exit and starting to see the reality.
Through both my own experience and understanding the hidden forces that shape who we are, attachment theory, the absolute vital importance of our first years that define our entire life, I saw how deep the cuts were for an unwanted child. A lifelong venom that can only be tamed, muzzled at times, but still a latent demon lurking in the shadows of our own existence.
Even in my deepest religious and fearful years I failed to see the glorification of a fetus above everything else. I was lucky enough I never had to make that decision — and I also vividly remember my college graduation day when I actually thought to myself that I’m in the clear and if an accident happens now I have more resources to raise this baby. Funny, again, all my thought process had nothing to do with my presumed baby-daddy. It was still all on me, like somehow I was creating this life out of nothing.
Pro — life or pro birth?
I also failed to see the arguments of those who glorify giving birth, who somehow always seem to stop at the birth part and disregard the ocean of uncertainty that happens after. They spitting out cookie-cutter solutions like ‘just put it up for adoption’ or ‘you’ll learn to love it’, feels like they’re talking about some piece of furniture that looked nice in the shop but somehow doesn’t fit the house color code. I wonder how many of the protesters outside Planned Parenthood have thought about adopting, fostering or at least being a Big Brother or Big Sister to some kids.
Just google ‘unwanted child psychology’ and the search engine will return about 33 million results in less than a second. Like this article. Or this. It’s hard enough not to fuck up a child when you actually want it, as you’re coming with (and end up projecting) some of your own childhood experiences, let alone pretend it wasn’t a mistake. It will unconsciously ooze from your every pore, but hey, it’s fine, psychologists still have to make a living and this is a goldmine for them!
My favorite feeling from this concoction is emptiness. There’s no way around it, it feels like a hole in your heart than no one and nothing will ever fill it. Some people cope turning to substance abuse or sexual escapades that only deepens the wound until it’s the size of a canyon. Others try to ignore it but even the smallest of stressors, like a mundane fight with their partner, makes it come back tenfold, making them feel like they will never be good enough to receive the love they crave. And nothing will ever be good enough because you cannot substitute parental love with anything else.
The adoption part is always tricker, because yes, there are many couples willing to adopt, myself included, but the same system that is designed to protect kids for ending up in households that are detrimental to their well being also keeps them in orphanages and foster homes until they are no longer adoptable.
In the United States, the average cost of domestic adoption is $43,000 and it feels like it’s a real money-oriented industry. In my native Romania, relatives up to the 4th degree have to say they are not interested in caring for the child before an adoption takes place. The foster system in both countries is similar, it aims to reunite the child with the biological family. So basically adoptive parents either have to be financially well off enough to buy a baby or risk going through the trauma of adopting through foster care and having that child taken away from them.
If you want an older child, things are a bit easier, but then you have to be aware of the fact that he or she has been institutionalized for years and could have behavioral problems.
The structural neglect of institutionalized children
I mentioned the importance of the first few months and years of life and how it affects the adult. Netflix has released The Beginning of Life which is a great overview if you don’t want to spend hundreds of hours immersed in psychology journals trying to get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately, as babies are given up for adoption it’s more certain than not that in those few crucial years they will face something called ‘structural neglect’ as they’re not exposed to the same “nurturing environment needed for normal and healthy psychological development”. This can lead to developmental delays that can be observed even after they’re adopted.
Basically, it’s like a mind map where no matter which path you choose, to keep and overcome resentment or give away for adoption, the child will most likely end up in the same psychological place. It’s like starting the life race already with a disadvantage.
The weight of the decision
In my early twenties I struggled a lot with deciding whether to abort my hypothetical child. The thoughts going through my mind even as I was not pregnant were horrifying enough that I cannot even begin to imagine what someone who actually has to make that decision in real life goes through. Which is why I cannot even begin to understand how it’s so easy for some to make this weight-of-the-world decision for someone else.
Most — 98% — of the abortions taking place in Poland, as it’s the main issue of conversation lately, were due to genetical “malformations incompatible with life”. What sort of ungodly mind can think that bringing a person that will never actually experience life to this world is more dignified than letting that light fade before it’s even lit?
It seems to me that most of the pro-life talking points end at birth. I haven’t seen Christian couples adopting unless they had fertility issues. Most of them will have 3–4 kids of their own and go on how much of a blessing their life is for themselves, failing to understand that life it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ baseball glove.
Pro-life people in the US are (mostly) also pro-gun but invoke the right to defend themselves if faced with a situation they don’t want to be in. Still, pregnant women don’t have the same choice and their “weapon” is more demonized than the AR-15 you can buy at Walmart.
Police officers are thought to ‘shoot to neutralize’, aiming at the chest area, which is basically code name for “shoot to kill”, because of various reasons, which is why we have a lot of social unrest due to some misfortunate actions, while people defend them taking a life. In this scenario, apparently, the life itself isn’t that holy, it could pose a threat so it’s OK to kill that person, but a pregnant women whose pregnancy is threatening her life should “stop being so selfish”.
After the birth, it’s everyone for themselves, right?
As I navigate through my extremely planned pregnancy I cannot imagine forcing a woman to go through this without a choice. And a support system.
I viewed a personal theoretical abortion as the most demonic thing possible, yet I’m glad that I could go through that thinking exercise. I had a choice and most likely I would’ve kept it if something would’ve happened. But the agony of that choice shows that no, abortion is not viewed as a way of birth control and no, it’s not as easy as ripping off a bandaid.
My heart breaks for the women who are stripped off their rights and my blood starts to boil whenever I see that most of the pro-life government officials who pass these laws are men who will never, ever be in this situation.
My only hope is that I manage to teach my son that equality is a birthright, not earned. And that he has his share of responsibility in every little aspect of life.