Recently while I was driving, my eight-year old daughter started a conversation asking how people had babies. After a moment of almost going off the road I realized that she wasn’t asking how they are made but how they were born. She already knows they grow in women’s tummies. I’ve had three C-sections, so I started there, but eventually had to get into vaginal birth and it was still very basic, no problem.
Then the tougher questions came.
“Do I need to have a boyfriend to have a baby?”
Okay, good moment to express my equality stance by saying, no, you don’t need a boyfriend. You don’t need to be married. You can have a girlfriend. You can be married if you want. (There was a tangent taken that you do need a boy and a girl to make a baby, but you’re too young so we’re not going to talk about that, but no, you can be single and have a baby.)
So far, so good. Or really just satisfactory because this is the most uncomfortable, but necessary conversation to have with your child.
Then it got tougher still.
“What if I don’t want to have a baby?”
You don’t have to have one.
“What if someone wants to make me?” (No idea where this came from, but she was concerned about it.)
I won’t let them.
“What if you’re not there?” (Thanks for reminding me of the fragility of life and my impending mortality.)
If you don’t want to have a baby, there will be people who care about you who will make sure that you don’t have to have one. Or a boyfriend if you don’t want one. But don’t worry about that now, okay? You have a long way to get there.
I could feel us both near tears by the end of this conversation, and I guess I put it out of my mind.
She was satisfied with the answers; I was satisfied-ish with my answers and all was well until the next time this subject (or another one like it) comes up.
This was weeks ago, and this morning at about 3am, I suddenly woke up and realized that with the way things are going in this country, my daughter may be more prescient than I thought. The irony that this came to me unbidden on the eve of the birth of Jesus is not lost on me. Perhaps he is the child of the most famous, single teenage mother to date. Not only a single mother, but a person of color living in her parents’ house, struggling with some tough decisions that a teenage girl should not have to make. Obviously, we know how her story ends; the Archangel Gabriel asked her and her faith led her to her decision, her assent to becoming the Mother of G-d.
I tried to ignore the replay of that conversation with my daughter in my head. It would not go away. I spent two hours tossing and turning and not sleeping when I realized sadly how relevant that exchange was.
What I thought of as a little girl’s worries about things she doesn’t understand are more relevant to today’s women than I realized.
There are women today who are forced to give birth against their will because someone else decided that they can’t have an abortion.
They became pregnant in the first place because someone else decided that they can’t learn how to prevent pregnancy.
Someone else decided that they can’t choose their own birth control and family planning; that their reproductive rights are nothing more than an antiquated notion as they are patted on the head and sent on their way.
These same people, who find the names of their football teams sacred, who can’t say the word vagina even when legislating against taking care of it, who choose to have vasectomies and abandon their own children are deciding that my child can’t make her own choices.
I realized that this world is not as far off as I thought it was.
In stating that I wouldn’t let anyone do that to her, it was the knee-jerk reaction of a mother protecting her child, but I won’t be there forever. Who will protect her rights when I’m gone?
We need to fix this now.
No more Rick Brattins, representative of Missouri who wants a woman to have the permission of the father to get an abortion.
No more Bob McDonnells, former governor of Virginia, who wants to force women to undergo an unnecessary and invasive medical procedure before having an abortion (which has thankfully been ruled unconstitutional recently in federal court.)
No more Joe Walshs, Republican representative who said that there should be no exceptions to anti-abortion legislation including if the life of the mother was at stake.
No more Sam Brownbacks and Scott Walkers, governors of Kansas and Wisconsin respectively who followed Bob McDonnell’s trans-vaginal ultrasound stance.
No more Todd Akins and Richard Mourdocks.
This needs to stop.
Abortion needs to remain safe and legal for ALL women regardless of circumstances and socio-economic disparity.
We need to teach girls and boys alike that abortion is a last resort, but it is always an option. If we weren’t so afraid of premarital sex being the official bogeyman of a teenager’s life, we could talk about real reasons why teens should wait for sex. We could teach comprehensive sex education including PREVENTING pregnancy, which in itself would prevent abortions.
We wouldn’t be demonizing contraceptive drugs in their non-birth control use and glorifying and making easily available men’s erectile dysfunction drugs which are held up in every advertisement as take this, have sex.
I won’t be around to protect my daughter and make sure that her wishes for or against pregnancy are followed.
I need the rest of this country to look out for HER INTERESTS instead of their own.
At eight years old, my daughter should not be worrying about people making her have a baby or forcing her to have a boyfriend or be married if she wants a baby.
At eight years old, she may not fully understand it, but she knows it’s wrong and it worries her.
It worries me too.