Archive for the ‘abortion’ Category

Why Don’t You Leave Your Name And Your Number And I’ll Get Back To You?

June 2, 2009

This, for those of you following at home, is called phoning it in.

I am so exhausted from a weekend visiting in-laws – during which Emilia took up drumming and basketball and other activities more ordinarily associated with teenage boys than preschool girls – and I think that I’m coming down with something and, also, probably suffering from an iron-deficiency and so I’m having real trouble summoning the creative energies to say anything profound or funny or even remotely interesting.

Shown: Hoodlum, Preschool Female v.2.0

So I am, for today, just going to have to direct you elsewhere:

1) I’m not sure, but I think that whoever is writing this blog knows my kid. Hang on: maybe it is my kid. Whichever one of you taught her how to blog, you’re fired.

2) This is me wringing my hands about Bill O’Reilly. Look how much fun I’m having! My joy is almost palpable. NOT.

3) You know how you’re always telling me that I never update you on stuff, like how is my nephew Zachary, the one who was so deathly ill last fall? Well, I don’t need to, because my mother is on top of that. You’ll be interested – or not – to know that he’s well enough to be having teh sex. I’m going to pretend that I didn’t just write that.

3) I didn’t write this, but I wish that I had.

4) Boobs.

That’s all that I’ve got. Sorry.

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A Story Not My Own

April 8, 2009

This story that I`ve been telling about my brother – my lost brother – is not my story, not really. It is becoming my story – that is, it is becoming a story that matters to me, a story that involves me, a story that I am driving forward and that is driving me forward and so has become part of me, part of my life, mine – but still. At the end of the day, it is not my story. It is my mother`s story.

She is telling it here.

And it is breaking my heart all over again.

Lost

April 3, 2009

I have moments when I lose the thread of the story that I tell myself about why this is so important to me. I tell myself that this – this story about searching for my long-lost brother – is a story about helping my mother. I tell myself that this is for her, and for him. I tell myself these things, and I stumble over my lack of conviction. It is these things, of course. But it’s more than these things. I want to find him for me. I’m not sure why.

I never knew that I had a brother. His absence from my life, such as it was, was unknown to me. I never felt the loss, because I did not know it. It’s wrong, perhaps, to even describe it as loss. His absence from my mother’s life made it possible for me to exist. Had she stayed with his father, as was her plan, I would never have been born. We were never fated to share a life, he and I, so how can his absence from my life be understood, be felt, as a loss? (Also, oh god, loss. My heart aches for not being able to parse its experience of loss in a manner that makes such loss comprehensible. My heart, it aches, and is confused.) My brother was not lost to me. He was never mine in the first place.

And yet: I’m haunted by the moment, in the telling of her story, when my mother said “your father would have adopted him.” They were friends, she and my father; the circumstances surrounding her giving up this boy brought them closer. My father offered to stay with her, and with him, and make a family. But it didn’t happen that way – my mother didn’t know that she could change her mind about giving up her son, and so the wheel of the fates turned and the boy went to another family and was lost forever to mine. Is it this that haunts me? The idea that he could have been my older brother, that my life might have been the same in every respect save for the presence of a brother? No, because – if there is one thing that Lost has taught me – history does not unfold that way. Keeping my brother would have set my mother on a different path in a different life, regardless of whether or not my father was with her on that path. It would have set her on a different path in a different life. A life without me. So am I haunted by the idea that, but for the grace of the fates, this boy, this lost boy, might have had my life? Is this why I want to know him?

I don’t know. I’m still sorting this out. All I know is, I keep turning this Dharma wheel, hoping that it will project me into a time and place where I know my brother. For better or for worse.

UPDATE: I’m shutting down comments on this post. Apparently, not everyone in the world supports public adoption searches – which, fine, but some of those not-everyones are unable to express their opinion about that in a manner that is civil. My heart’s too vulnerable around this. I’m putting the comments away, to keep private, for myself, and closing further commentary. Anyone who needs/wants to get in touch with me about this, please use e-mail.

Abortion Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

March 25, 2009

“She only saw him once.

Once, from behind the window of the nursery. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, and he was oh so small. They asked her if she wanted to hold him, and she said no. Just as she had in the delivery room, right after he was born, when she had squeezed her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t see him, her heart, the heart that she was giving away. She said no.

No.

It would have killed me, she said. It would have killed me. I couldn’t have gone on. I loved him.

So she said no. She refused to hold her son.”

I was holding my own son – then just two and a half months old – on my lap when my mother told me this story. I would be stating the obvious if I said that I clutched him a little tighter as I listened to her words and watched the tears brim in her eyes, but I’ll state it anyways: I held him, tightly, and my heart ached to think of not holding him. My heart ached to bursting at the thought of not holding him, of giving away any opportunity to hold him. And then my heart ached some more, because I had, once upon time, done something that, in some respects, amounts to the same thing.

When an anonymous poster made a plea, last week, for everyone to pause and consider the emotional fallout from adoption – this within the context of debates concerning the emotional consequences of abortion – I immediately thought of my mother and the gut-wrenching turmoil she experienced as a result of giving up a child for adoption. And then I thought of myself, and of the secret inner dialogue that I conducted with myself while she and I sat discussing that boy, that child that she had given up for adoption years before I was born. The secret inner dialogue that went something like this:

Me: Oh, my god, my god, how terrible, how heartbreaking, how did her heart survive it?

Myself: How did YOUR heart survive it?

Me: Survive what?

Myself: Abortion.

Me: That’s so different.

Myself: It’s not.

Me: The heartbreak of giving up a child…

Myself: Isn’t abortion a kind of ‘giving up’? Except, you know, MORE FINAL?

Me: Yeah, but…

Myself: But what?

Me: She’s mourning a child that she lost, a child who is still out there somewhere.

Myself: Exactly.

I clutched Jasper to my chest and squeezed and thought about the child who is not out there somewhere. A little part of my heart collapsed in on itself.

My mother’s heartbreak was almost unbearable to absorb. Her guilt, her worry, her desire to both know and not know whether he’d been given a happy life, whether she’d done right by him to give him up. She insisted that there was no regret – she’d done what she had to do, she had no choice, it was the best thing to do, the only thing to do, at the time – but regret is complicated. She didn’t regret making the choice that seemed best for him, but she still hurt over that choice. She hurt over that choice because it represented a loss, for her. Because it represented the loss of an unknown and unknowable future. Because it was a choice that changed someone else’s life, someone else’s future. Because some part of her felt that she needed to explain that choice, perhaps apologize for that choice. Make it clear that the choice was made out of love.

The choice that caused her so much pain was not the same kind of choice that I made. There is no one to whom to explain my choice. There is no one to whom to apologize. No claim can be made that my choice was made out of love. There is no one to whom I might make that claim. Because that’s how abortion differs from adoption: it means that the only person you need ever – can ever – explain your choice to is yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sorry or not. Abortion means never having to say you’re sorry. It means never even having to consider the question.

Which is not to say, of course, that we don’t consider the question. I’ve been considering the question – of whether or not I’m sorry, of whether or not I should be sorry, of whether or not sorry matters – since I first set foot in that abortion clinic. I have agonized over this. As I’ve explained in these virtual pages before, I can’t say that I regret having had an abortion, but I also can’t say that I don’t. It’s complicated. Its complicatedness sometimes hurts my heart. Which is precisely why people talk about the emotional consquences of abortion. Because many women find, like I did, that their hearts hurt. Because many women struggle to figure out how to reconcile the complicated tension between regret and not-regret and find that they’re unable, and because many women do so while bearing their children, their wanted children, in arms.

But that struggle – that is, my personal experience of that struggle – is one that can, most of the time, be compartmentalized, tucked away on some back shelf of the psyche and forgotten until some event – pregnancy, say, or miscarriage, or one’s own mother’s admission of having given one’s brother up for adoption – prompts one to go rummaging around on the shelves of Buried Hurts and Ambivalent Regrets and Things That I’d Rather Not Think About Unless My Sanity And/Or Moral Stability Depends Upon It. My mother’s struggle with her longstanding conflicting emotions around having given up a child for adoption is not – has never been – something that she can just tuck away on a shelf and forget about. She has never passed a day, she told me, without thinking about her lost boy – without looking at the faces of strangers who seem about his age and wondering is it him, without reading in the newspaper or hearing on the news something about any male person of his vintage and wondering is it him, without casting back to that baby in the blue blankie and wondering what became of him what became of him what became of him?

And that is so hard for her. I have seen the heartbreak on her face. Some 45 years or so after the fact, and the heartbreak is still there. I see the heartbreak on her face and I tell myself, there but for grace went I. And, thank gods for that grace, that I did not go.

But it is not so simple. It is not nearly so simple. For I know that the primary reason I am able to compartmentalize my own, quiet struggle is because it is entirely my own, and it is entirely my own because of the nature of the choice that I made. My child does not wander this earth, living another life. My child – and it is such a mental and emotional wank to even use these terms – was never born. My child never became my child. He/she/it was embryo, barely fetus, not a child. I did not have a child; I had a pregnancy. And then I didn’t.

(And yet. Even as I say that – “I did not have a child; I had a pregnancy” – I want to take it back. I’m a mother. I’ve had a very early term miscarriage. I very nearly lost Emilia to miscarriage. I know the terror of losing or fearing to lose that embryo, that not-quite-fetus, that not-child who is loved none the less for his or her unformedness. I would never have said – could never have said – of the embryo-that-became-Emilia, this is just a pregnancy, there is no child here. For even though she was not yet child, she was the cellular embodiment of my wish that she become a child, that she become my child. In the absence of that wish… is it just cells that remain? I don’t know. I do not know. I have not yet sorted this out. It is painful, trying to sort this out, this which might be, simply, unsortable. All I know is that these experiences are different, despite their similarities, and that I remain firmly committed to the rightness of having the ability – the choice – to distinguish between them. Ah, me.)

What remains: my inconstant, ambivalent hurt, and my mother’s endless heartache. Neither of these would I wish on anyone, but neither would I hold them up as justifications for tampering with our rights to choose those hurts, those aches, over others. We both chose our heartaches, out of desire to avoid greater heartache for ourselves or for others. In my mother’s case – in any birth mother’s case, I think – a more difficult choice was made, because it was a choice that opened up another future for another life, a future that she would never be able to see but would always, always feel. I, on the other hand… I chose the road that denied other lived futures, and that has made all the difference.

The right difference, the wrong difference, I don’t know. It is, ever and always and only and nevertheless, the one that I chose.

I live with that.

*Because you’re asking: yes, we are – I am – still looking for that boy, the lost boy, my brother. There has been some very limited progress recently, and I’m hoping that it yields something, but I don’t want to jinx things by speculating. Thank you all for caring so much.

Juno’s Choice

February 25, 2008

I’ll say this right up front: I haven’t seen the movie Juno. (I haven’t seen any other Oscar-nominated flick either, because big-screen movies are no longer a central part of my life experience, now that I am a mother and hiring a nanny for a night out costs a gajillion dollars that I would much rather spend on handbags and chocolate and DVDs.) (Which, you know, really should be enjoyed together. Lounging in bed with a box of chocolates, watching the last season of Buffy while you fondle your brand new cherry-red leather bag with the multiple pockets and the extra-long strap? Bliss. But I digress.)

Where was I? Right. Juno. Haven’t seen it. But I’ve heard all about it and I plan to see it the minute I can get it on DVD and that qualifies me to comment upon it. Also? I am currently and have been in the past pregnant, and had a baby, and it’s a movie about being pregnant and having babies. So.

That’s the crux of it, actually: it’s a movie about having the baby. And, more to the point, about being young and being caught in some maternal web that you didn’t expect to stumble into and that you don’t know how to get out of and making the choice to just make yourself at home there until such time as you can extricate yourself in some straightforward manner. I’ve been there too. I didn’t handle it the same way, but I’ve been there, in that web, wondering how to get out.

There’s been a lot of critical commentary since the movie’s release about how the movie a) treats teen pregnancy too blithely, what with the snappy dialogue and the laissez-faire attitude of the heroine and all, and b) marginalizes abortion as the go-to solution for an unwanted pregnancy. In a recent article, a Vancouver writer (a man; is his sex is relevant to this discussion? you tell me) asked – discussing Juno and Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up as a piece – how it is “that neither (character) really considers abortion as a viable alternative to carrying a fetus to term? In the contexts of both films, all roads for our pregnant women (should) lead to the abortion clinic. This is not an ideological analysis, it is rational one, it is what both of these characters, as they have been written, would do. Instead, for the sake of the stories in question and the messages inherent in them, the writers have perverted their characters’ actions, giving these women no coherent rational (sic) for their actions, or lack thereof.

Whoa. Abortion is the only thing that either of these characters would do, the only road that they would take, full stop? And the fact that their stories centered upon them making other choices is a perversion of what would have been more rational actions? The writer goes on to say that what the monumental success of films like Juno – films that about unplanned pregnancies that evade the subject of abortion as the only real alternative for young, smart single women – reveal “is that behind the Indie soundtracks, hip, animated graphics, weed-smoking slackers and Mohawk hair cuts, we remain as a society utterly conservative in our views on what women should do with their bodies.”

It may be entirely true – in fact, I suspect that it is entirely true – that we remain, as a society, utterly conservative in our attitudes toward women’s rights v.v. their bodies. But that does not mean that the rejection of certain choices – or the pop cultural representation of the rejection of certain choices – represents a social step backward in women’s struggle for more control over the right to choose. Ensuring that women have choice – that they are able to control their maternal destinies – does not require that the so-called alternative choice be presented as the social norm. In fact, I’d argue that any socio-cultural pressure toward that end – making abortion the norm for dealing with unwanted pregnancies – actually militates against meaningful choice. The idea that ‘the right thing’ – or in the above-quoted writer’s words, the rational thing – for any bright young woman with a bright future who is facing an unexpected pregnancy to do is to have an abortion is a kind of anti-choice position, isn’t it? The idea that is there is only one rational choice for women – or, worse, for certain kinds of women – is oppressive regardless of what that ‘choice’ is, precisely because the idea that there is only one such choice makes that choice, well, no longer a choice.

I was pretty young when I had to make that choice. I was no longer in high school, but I wasn’t quite yet an adult (especially when I look back on it now, from the vantage point of old age), and I was fully vulnerable to the suggestion – the unspoken but nonetheless culturally pervasive suggestion – that nice girls (smart girls, girls with futures, girls like me) did not have babies before they’d gotten themselves properly established on some appropriate life path. This suggestion did not come from my parents – my mother held back from trying to influence my decision, but her pain over my ultimate decision was obvious – but from the culture. I was an older version of Juno, and a younger version of the character from Knocked Up, and amongst my peers, abortion was just what one did when faced with this situation. It was the only rational choice, the only option, understood within the context of my lifeworld. And to that extent, it wasn’t really a choice. Not a meaningful one.

To be clear, I don’t regret having taken the road that I did. I really don’t. I don’t not regret it, either – it’s complicated, but I will always be haunted in some difficult-to-articulate way by the choice that I was and am glad to have been able to make – but from the standpoint of my life as it is now, I wouldn’t alter a single footstep from the pathways of my past. But I do wonder, sometimes, sometimes more often than is comfortable, whether I might have made a different decision in a different life – in a life where I maybe knew a little more of what I know now about life and love and babies, in a life where I might have viewed the alternatives to abortion as more meaningfully possible alternatives. I might very well have ended up making exactly the same choice. But had I done so, under those different cultural circumstances, I might have done so without viewing the alternatives as completely unfathomable. And mightn’t that have been more empowering than just doing what everyone else was doing because that was just what one was expected to do? Mightn’t that have been a more meaningful choice?