Being Pregnant Makes You Public Property

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I apparently missed Blog for Choice Day 2009 -- like a missed period, it matters to me. But thankfully, I can still celebrate the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with the Roe vs. Wade Blog-a-Thon because it runs January 21st through the 27th -- which might just be enough time to share some of my most important stories.

Prologue: I was pregnant when I was 35 years old, so my doctor recommended an amnio test. I had the test done just before the holidays that year.

Act One: Naturally when I arrived at the big holiday party at my sister's house, 'everyone' was asking me when I was due and whether I knew if I was having a boy or a girl. When I said it was a boy, of course, every other person countered with how their intuition &/or ultrasound was wrong (for some reason people either want to argue with and/or scare pregnant women -- or touch their bellies as if being pregnant made you public property). But when I countered with the fact that I knew it was a boy because I had an amniotic fluid test the challenges ended.

Eventually the news got around to my sister's mother-in-law, Mary. Now Mary & her family are devout Catholics; my sister converted before marrying into that clan. And it was around that time that I, out of respect for them & desiring to keep the peace, gave up having any religious or political conversations with anyone 'on that side' -- something, unfortunately, none of them have ever been polite enough to reciprocate. So when Mary heard the news, she walked right up to me and confronted me: "Why on earth would you agree to have an amnio test? That could put the baby in danger!"

I was rather shocked because that's both an attack on my judgment and a rather damn personal question (I mean she might as well have asked me to put my feet in stirrups and examine me right there in my sister's kitchen). But being polite I just replied that due to my age amniocentesis was a standard part of pregnancy protocol, and quite safe nowadays.

But of course, she didn't stop there.

"Well, what could you possibly gain from that? I mean if there was anything wrong with the baby, that's as God wanted it." Pause. And then the accusatory, shame-provoking, "You wouldn't do anything about it..."

A million options for reply popped into my mind...

I could have argued that some conditions detected by amnio could also be corrected in utero.

I could have allayed her fears and stated that at the time I had the amnio, abortion wasn't really an option.

I could have stated that as the mother of one special needs child already, I welcomed the opportunity to, if necessary, prepare myself, my finances and my world for an additional special needs child.

All true things...

But what I wanted to do was tell her how rude she was, that this was not her pregnancy, that this was my business not hers -- and furthermore, she should refrain in general from being so rude as to cram her religious and political beliefs down my throat when for years I had done nothing but politely bite my tongue.

Instead I just demurred that I was only following doctor's orders -- and before she could say anything else, I said that I had to pee again (dramatic sigh) and escaped. And you'd better believe that I kept my eye out for her the rest of the night, and never let her get near me again.

Epilogue: I look back at that time and know that I did the right thing, the proper thing. I took the high road, alright. But by deferring to the polite "let's not upset anyone else here", Mary (and other members of that clan) still feel they have the right to upset me.

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