Friday, March 14, 2014

Choice and Liberalism

When I learned that I was pregnant I technically had a choice. I legally had a choice. When I saw my flickering bean on the screen, my choice was made. The chips had to fall as they would.

By no means did making the choice make the subsequent actions and the choices easy. In my experience, a child never makes anything easier. Co-parenting with someone who, to put it lightly, dislikes you, is difficult. Even after years, for many of us things don't get much easier, you just have to learn to let go more.

One of the strangest things I've encountered is people who assume that because I am pro-choice, because I worked in a women's clinic for a long time and definitely recommend birth control and the morning after pill, that it's okay to say to me if I ever mention that things are hard, that I had a choice. As if that negates the difficulty, or that I am not allowed to say that it's hard to be a single mother.

"You know you had a choice, right?"

"You chose this life for yourself."

"You didn't have to keep the baby."

I didn't decide to get pregnant. My birth control pills failed me. I'd used them just fine for 12 years, but that one day, there was a failure. I was 21 days pregnant when I went to the doctor to have them tell me what was wrong with me. It turns out that nothing was wrong at all, it was just a major crossroads in my life.

What I did decide to do was to become a mother. A single mother. I knew my child's father wasn't the person I wanted to raise our child with, and that I wasn't the one for him either. I'd watched my parents' relationship and knew I had no desire to replicate that for my son.

I knew that it would be hard to be a mother, but there was really nothing I could've done to prepare myself for just how hard it would really be. I read a lot of books, and talked to people, and tried to do everything I could to prepare.

But, I wasn't prepared to make $100 too much per year to be eligible for WIC. I wasn't prepared to make just enough too much per year to get child care assistance. I wasn't prepared to work full time, take care of my child the rest of my time with no help, and bring home less in my paycheck than my kid's dad was bringing in from unemployment. I wasn't prepared to be trapped in Austin and the contiguous counties. I wasn't prepared to lose almost every friend I'd ever shared with my child's father.

I did the work though, to dig us out, to support us, to make new friends and re-cultivate old ones, to find new work, to make a home for us and it was not easy.

It's gotten easier, as we've gone along, and I have less to complain about and more to be overjoyed about, but I shouldn't have had to feel judged for my decisions about my body. No one should.

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