People like to say that a child is not a choice but I think that’s a lie. I think every single child is a choice. But the reader board at my children’s school screams loudly that a child is not a choice. I get it. They are pro-life. Being Catholic, I’ve seen the words a thousand times but I never really knew the weight of those words; not personally. They are the self-righteous indignation of people who’ve never had to make “that” choice. Children should not have to think about whether or not they were a choice. It bothers me that those words greet my children upon their arrival at school every morning because my children were never a choice for me, they were always a blessing. I always knew that I wanted to be a mother.
I’ve always spoken openly about my belief in a woman’s right to choose.The woman in question making the choice was always some theoretical woman in some hypothetical situation that resulted in an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. I never thought I would have to consider those words, to be in a position to make a choice about my own child.
I’m not going to shock you with a story from my youth about how I found myself in a bad way after a night of young love or how too much alcohol at a frat party left me to make the most difficult choice if my life. No. That never happened. Though it does, all the time. I won’t tell you a story of being molested by a family friend only to find myself 13 years old with nowhere to turn and no one to believe me. That never happened either. But it does. I won’t tell you of a break in during the middle of the night where a stranger forced himself on a young woman across the world from her family, terrorized her before beating her and using her for his own pleasure and her defeat, before leaving her for dead only to find herself carrying her assailant’s baby. That never happened. But it does, every day. These women and so many more have a right to their choice.
What brought me to my choice was less sensational but still the most difficult decision I ever had to contemplate. When we found out that I was pregnant with our last baby, the sweet baby that I miscarried, we were not expecting to be pregnant. It was not planned. We were living with my in laws, confined to only a bedroom’s worth of personal space. I was 39 and all I could think of were 1000 reasons why being pregnant at almost 40 was a terrible idea. My biggest fear was that there would be something genetically wrong with the baby and if I were to die in 30 or 40 years, who would take care of that baby. But there was one overwhelming reason to have that baby, from the moment I knew I was pregnant, I was completely in love with this child and all that he could be and do.
I remember after a brief moment of pure joy after seeing our baby on the monitor the doctor began rattling off potential threats to the pregnancy and saying things like advanced maternal age and preparing me for genetic testing at week 11 to make sure everything was “ok” and talk of amniocentesis to know if we wanted to continue with the pregnancy. It all became white noise, the soundtrack of terror, as my heart sank and fear set in. What if I failed this child? The Big Guy and I left the appointment in shock and fear and it was all tinged with sadness. For a moment, it felt more like a tribulation than a celebration.
We went to lunch to discuss the inevitable. What should we do? We discussed all the possible outcomes and I was angry; angry that I had to even consider anything other than just having this baby. I was mad at a world that filled me with so much trepidation. I was pissed off that I had to think rationally about a life. I wanted to celebrate my miracle not weigh options like I was buying a house.
With my 2 previous pregnancies, all genetic testing and what ifs were never even considered. I vehemently refused because no matter what, I was having those babies. Now, I had to consider ever possible option; for the baby, for our children, for the Big Guy and I. I just couldn’t reconcile myself to anything other than having this baby and loving and caring for it forever. Concerned and worried, the Big Guy agreed. It isn’t who we are. Even though I am 100% for freedom of choice for women, there was no choice for me because, you see, it wasn’t some abstract fetus; it was a Bella or Gabi.
Even though I had never met this sweet baby yet, I already loved him because I knew what he would become. I knew the love my heart would feel. I knew how my heart would swell when they lay him on my chest for the first time. I knew how when he held me in his gaze while I fed him; it would be just the two of us. I knew a lifetime of kissing booboos and “I Love You”s would never be enough to encompass the love a parent feels for their child. I wanted that again, so much.
We left that lunch excited for the future. We were giggling and discussing what ifs and name choices and how we would announce it to everyone? We were terrified of what might be ahead of us but we were thrilled at the idea of another child to love, to watch grow up together. It was our secret miracle and we couldn’t wait to tell the family when we surprised Gabi with a big sister t-shirt at her 5th birthday. All the worry I had, left me in the sureness of our choice. Then three weeks later, my choice was taken away. It was the worst day of my life.