My sister describes pro-choice women as baby killers and my nephew and nieces know that their aunts are pro-choice.
So how do my sister’s children perceive these people who have known and loved them since they were tiny? People who have fed them and loved them and changed their diapers and brought them presents and wiped their tears? People who have clearly not killed them as babies. People who loved them as babies, and now, actually.
I don’t know the answer to that question. This is one of the most torturous questions to me when it comes to this insane debate of abortion. I suffer a severe disconnect from those children as a result of my sister’s and my relationship. I try unsuccessfully to love her good qualities but our ideological differences are too harsh to get along for longer than one family dinner, if that. It’s a brutal form of bullying, to be honest. Religious bullying, which makes no logical sense and is so blindly dogmatic and hysterical that there is no way to communicate with her.
And what does this do to me? These values she applies to general life include us all; she is not an exception maker. Her beliefs dictate absolute adherence to her prescribed morality, regardless of relationship. She does not understand why other women would say she does not value women. We come from a family of strong women. She is as crazy as me, with the same illness, but with different expression, thus to now more successful expression. And she would never get an abortion. She would weather on. She would somehow find the time and energy and motivation to have an even larger family, and deal with even more chaos. There’s a possibility she might snap on the way; might absolutely lose her mind and get put away because she can’t actually handle the stress, but she wouldn’t get an abortion.
And that’s her expectation of every woman.
I used to be pro-choice but personally anti-abortion, now I am pro-choice with more perspective on the effects pregnancy and family has had on my life. It was my first pregnancy, with Kestrel, that flipped on the manic-depressive cycles I’ve lived with ever since. I hardly remember anything from Zoe’s first year of life because my mental health was so poor. And when Ashley was newborn, I heard voices telling me to hurt him, at which point I checked myself into psych care and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I am positive: my body and mind could not endure another pregnancy. The medications I need to keep myself stable are not safe to take during pregnancy, and me being unmedicated is a bad thing. The likelihood of me attempting suicide if I was both unmedicated and hormonal as all get out is, in my own estimate, disgustingly high. I live in a state of heightened emotion; I suppose I always did, even before pregnancies or manic-depression, and have a bad habit of over-reacting. I can generally see that in retrospect, which tends to be quite embarrassing. But even I notice how out of control my moods get around my period, and hormonal types of birth control make me suicidal. I lash out cruelly when this happens, usually at Ian but also and most often toward myself in self-destructive ways. I don’t think I could safely make it through another nine and a half months of being pregnant again, at least not in this body.
For this reason, I opted to have the Essure devices implanted for sterilization three years ago. I don’t even know how that reflects with my sister. I think it was the responsible decision; I don’t think she would disagree. And yet, though the procedure is several nines percent effective, there is always that slight possibility. Those two or three freak cases. I don’t expect myself to count amongst them, but it’s just part of human nature to sometimes ponder on the “what ifs?” And my what if is clear: my body and psyche would be in grave danger if I were to carry a full-term pregnancy again. The choice that is best for me, and my family, would be abortion.
And no, it wouldn’t be easy. In fact, I think it would be harder than you can possibly imagine. Because you see, as much as I admire science and attempt to adhere to reason (hardly easy for a highly emotional person), I still have a persistent fondness for magic and miracles. My soul is quite joyous and convinced that things do happen for a reason, that there is some underlying sense of order that we can’t see. For this reason, my first intuition were I to find I was pregnant after undergoing sterilization would be to think of it as a miracle. But given scrutiny and understanding, the long-term impacts would soon become clear, and in even the early days of hormone fluctuation, I would quickly come to a sense of reality. I don’t want to ever again have to spend time in a psych unit if I can help it. I don’t want to watch myself spiral into rage and despair. I don’t want another razor blade to touch my skin at the wrong angle. I don’t want to fall pray to the sort of mania that compounds my impulsively sexual trauma and makes the most basic of every day relationships desperately difficult. And I never, ever, ever again want to hear voices telling me to hurt someone I love so very, very much. I need to be here for the children I already have, not buried in the dirt or locked away in a mental institution. For love of them, I would make the very, very difficult decision that goes against my romantic heart and notion that the world is rainbows and butterflies. Tough decisions must be approached with tough logic.
But maybe such an occurrence could happen for a reason. And maybe that reason is because life is fucking hard and things don’t always happen in the happiest, most miraculous of ways. Maybe it’s because the world is rough and everyone has to do things they grieve for and don’t want to do for long-term stability, like when a man slays a violent intruder or a country enters a war against genocide or slavery. And maybe, just maybe, women have the fullest understanding of the impact pregnancy will have on her life and the lives of others, and are the best equipped individuals to decide whether a pregnancy is viable for her in her particular situation. In short, maybe women are people, too.
So why is that I’m not really a person anymore to my sister, for the sheer audacity of believing myself capable of making my own decisions in the best interest of myself and family?
And what, darkest of all, does that say to the children?