- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
My girl DeeDee was to most, including her older sister and mother, too young to care for a child. They, as women, had traveled the road of being young mothers and saw promise and redemption in DeeDee, who shared my gifted and talented classes in high school. I distinctly remember the somber faces sitting in the waiting area of the doctor’s office where DeeDee would terminate her pregnancy. I recall the blank faces of the women, some my age, some older, and the weight. I could see the weight that they were carrying, and not any in pregnancy pounds. I sat there with her, sixteen, holding her hand, hoping she wouldn’t be broken by what she was facing, wondering if I would have the courage that she did even in her trembles. This was my first experience with abortion past a medical, textbook definition and what I had learned in my Catholic CCE classes about how girls like my friend DeeDee and the doctors who performed abortions were evil. DeeDee wasn’t a murderer. She was just a girl, an awkward book worm like me who believed in the boy who promised her everything, including love, but who wouldn’t even accompany her on that day because he “didn’t know if the baby was his or not.” In that moment, whether I realized it or not, I became pro-choice.
Many years later, past my teenage years, my best friend T, who was struggling through an unproductive relationship with her son’s father, and working diligently to support a new baby boy, found out she was pregnant, again. She cried, we both did, wondering how this happened, though we knew, and lamenting on ideas of raining and pouring. At this point in our lives we were both mothers and we understood, without doubt, the cost of mothering. She knew she wasn’t prepared to take on the responsibility of another child. I mostly listened, and wiped tears, and held hands, much like I had done with DeeDee those years before. In addition though, this time, I gave what I could financially to help her end the pregnancy. I suppose now, according to many, I was supporting the end of a life and was by definition, complicit in committing murder. In my eyes though, I was helping to save a life, T’s, in giving her hope and another chance to get it right. Who among us, in all our glory and sin, does not deserve another chance? The human journey, especially for women, is hard.
Nailah, my magnificent, brilliant, and healthy five year old daughter, gives me life. After reading Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ post concerning the GOP’s desire to gain (more) control over women’s reproductive health I revisited my own birth story. Nailah’s father and I were newlyweds and so ready to start a family that we hurried into getting pregnant. I knew, I believe, when Nailah was conceived. I certainly knew I was pregnant before a test (even a blood test almost) could confirm it. I was excited about becoming a mother, that in itself I realized was the good fortune that some women never have. We chose midwives who worked within a local hospital, as we wanted our birth experience to be as natural and non-evasive as possible. I quickly had to change to a high risk doctor though, as I realized that I had a very rare blood clotting disorder that would make my pregnancy difficult. This condition could be dangerous, but it usually was not according to my doctor and specialist, so I went on with my hopes of a fairytale birth like those wonderful ones I watched often on The Learning Channel.
Despite a difficult and painful pregnancy, I had done all the right things. I ate well, took those disgusting prenatal vitamins, picked out African baby names and bought lots of books for my future bundle of joy. I would read to her, nightly, as she lay in my womb. I was hopeful and unprepared for what would soon come. It came anyway. A few days before my pregnancy hit the six month mark I was told by my doctor why the headaches I had been having were leaving me incapacitated. I was quickly admitted into the hospital and told that I was, essentially, having a stroke. The condition was pregnancy induced hypertension (or preeclampsia). Over the next few days my organs began to shut down. Also, my daughter was not receiving the blood flow that she needed to develop. We were both apparently dying.
We survived, the both of us. We are fortunate in ways that I can’t lend words to. Nailah, born at one pound and one ounce, spent the first four months of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit, as did I, visiting every day for her entire stay. And even in that, the terror of not knowing from one day to the next if the child that you love with all of you will die, or be handicapped by any one, or all, of a long list of illnesses associated with premature infants, was mostly unbearable. It was a weight. A weight similar to what I had witnessed the women in DeeDee’s doctor’s office carry, and DeeDee, and T, and, well, many women. The other day, after reading Tah-Nehisi’s analysis and contemplating what has been happening in the news from the GOP’s stance on abortion definitions to South Dakota’s attempted legislation making possibly murdering an abortion doctor, or anyone associated with an abortion procedure, a justifiable homicide, I pondered if I would have known upfront the hardships that I would face in my pregnancy and even what Nailah might have faced as a result of my condition, would I have chosen to terminate my pregnancy. Would I become one of the women that this nation appears to hate? Would I be a murderer, a sinner, a statistic?
What I have realized is that regardless of whether or not I chose to terminate my pregnancy or stand by the sides of my sisters T and DeeDee, as a woman I am still very much under attack. Regardless of whether abortions are legal, or whether killing an abortion provider is legal, abortions will still take place, as they always have. What many consider means to stop abortions are actually only means to withdraw safe environments for women to do what they will do, which is and has always been what they deem necessary. As much as I despise comparing the events of the Maafa with, well, anything else that has ever occurred, I somehow feel less free and less in control of my personhood today. I stopped trying to change people’s minds in my twenties. I am fully aware that opinions are heavily formed by experience, and we each have our own. What I hope to do is provide something more profound to this debate- humanness. We live in and by theories that others philosophize, laws that others enact, decisions that have absolutely nothing to do with our well being, bartering all the while with the lives of others. In these acts, we call ourselves righteous. There is something very, very wrong and even cowardly about it all, which, I gather, is all I really am trying to say.