Sunday, September 5, 2021

What You Don't Know

October 2004. I'm pregnant with my first child. We've been married for 2 years, we have degrees and jobs and a condo and a dog. We're ready.

December 2004. Todd loses his job. He gets a new one quickly. He moves away to Michigan, where we can raise the baby near family. I stay in Chicago until April to sell the condo and prepare for my long-term sub. I go to my doctor's visits alone. I have a very difficult time finding a doctor in Michigan to take me on because I’m so near my delivery date. We buy a house. I stay home for a bit. Todd hates his job but we have good benefits, so he stays. I have to go back to work 4 months postpartum, which was not the plan. I'm glad we have family to help with childcare, because we can't afford it or even access it because I work evenings part-time.


August 2007. I’ve struggled to find a full-time teaching job since Maddie was born, and I finally get my dream job. 

October 2007. I’m pregnant. Though we weren't trying for a baby, we're thrilled. I start bleeding at school. I miscarry over the weekend. I go back to work on Monday. I feel guilty because I think I caused it by not wanting to give up my new job. I’m sad for a while. I have a hard time getting in to see my doctor, but when I finally get checked out, I get a bill coded for “spontaneous abortion”. When I opened it my face got hot and I had to look up what that term meant.

I become hyper-focused on giving Maddie a sibling. I take my temperature and chart my ovulation cycle. I pray the rosary on the way to school every morning. Todd’s career is going well. We’re finally making some financial and professional progress. 


September 2008: I’m finally pregnant again. 

December 2008: Todd loses his job. He can’t find another one. He’s unemployed for almost 2 years. I’m working full-time and working on my Masters Degree. Thank goodness he can stay home with the baby, because we can’t afford child care on my Catholic school teacher’s salary. We eventually lose our home and move into my recently deceased grandmother’s home. We argue a lot. Todd decides to go back to school. We take a huge leap of faith and add on more student loans to our already stretched budget. 


March 2013. Todd is in seminary. I’m home with the kids since we just moved to Illinois for his first pastoral appointment. The kids are on the state insurance plan because we’re low income. I’m pregnant with Harper. I have better access to doctors than I’ve ever had. I have a safe and uncomplicated c-section birth. We’re finally on a stable path financially and professionally. Ava has two years of quality preK because of a state-funded early childhood program.


Todd had a vasectomy around Harper’s first birthday because we decided our family was complete. He didn’t need my permission from his doctor, though he’d have been consulted if I’d decided to have a tubal ligation. His procedure cost us $7 with insurance. I’d rather not count up how much it cost to deliver 3 babies by C-section, but it’s in the thousands of dollars even with insurance. 


I’ve never considered abortion. I always had choices and backups and contingency plans. I had a loving partner, and even though we struggled with money for a while, we always had family to help. We had faith. We had insurance through employers and later through the state. We were lucky. But we were na├»ve about how difficult and costly raising a family would be. I didn't know how much of myself I'd have to give up to raise kids. I didn't know how much I'd change and grow. I'd still do it all again.

Looking at me and my family now, you might be surprised that we struggled. And that’s the point I’m trying to make: you don’t know what a woman is going through. You don't know what a family is going through. You don’t know. 

Despite what you may have heard growing up, women are capable of making decisions about their bodies with their doctor and their partner. Women should not have to leave jobs to raise kids—unless they want to. Women should make enough to pay for quality child care. Women should have access to birth control if they don’t wish to have children at that particular time. And men should have to shoulder half the burden of the cost of bearing and raising children. 

What is happening in Texas right now is beyond belief. And Texas is just the beginning—other states have signaled their desire to adopt similar abortion bans, and some already have dangerous laws in place that harm women in very vulnerable situations. This episode of The Daily does a good job of explaining why this particular legislative tactic is so successful--it's not because of a great moral or religious certainty, but great legal uncertainty.

My greatest concern with the Texas legislation is that women and those that are trying to help them will be punished for seeking health care, all while the men who made them pregnant face no consequences or accountability. If this were really about the sanctity of life, Texas would not rank 48th in women’s health or 50th in children’s health care and wellness.

You don't know what it's like to need an abortion. Be glad you or someone you love has not been put in that impossible position. But if you don’t know anyone who has had an abortion, consider that maybe you weren’t a safe person to talk to. This is more common than you might think.

You might not know. But please, listen with compassion to those that do.

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