On Saturday, January 22, 2005, I marched in the first ever Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco.
In July, my mom called and asked me if I was sitting down.
“I don’t need to sit down,” I said, while I grabbed the futon behind me in the bedroom I was renting, just in case my knees gave out.
“Your sister is pregnant.”
“Seven months pregnant.”
“She has not seen a doctor. We found out today.”
My sister was 20-years-old.
On Saturday, January 21, 2017, I marched in a local branch of the Women's March on Washington. I stood on the lawn of the Old State Capitol in Iowa City, IA, with my little boy at my side.
A million things happened in the 12 years standing between the two marches.
My sister’s daughter, Olivia, is now 11. My son, Oliver, will soon be two.
And there was another baby in between.
When I was just nine weeks into my relationship with my now-husband, I got pregnant. I didn’t know I was pregnant. Until I nearly wasn’t.
A few days before I took the test, I was out in the yard watching my friend’s cute toddler saunter through the grass. “This is the kind of thing that makes a person want to have a baby,” I said. “Those little feet navigating the earth.”
Little did I know that I was when I was muttering those very words.
A few days before that, I had I sent an email to my new love after a night filled with dog shit, telling him that cleaning up the dog shit made me want to raise a baby with him. Then, suddenly, I had a half-thought, half-feeling. I went to the store and bought a test. It was positive.
My friend’s child was still adorable, and the dog shit cleanup still made me understand that this man and I would rock child-rearing together — but I didn’t want to be pregnant. Not then. Maybe, despite my recent musings — never.
I was pregnant, and I didn’t want to be pregnant.
Never before had I felt like I was standing inside the walls of a prison cell. I felt like in one moment I had become jailed for all time.
I was 35 when this pregnancy occurred. Thirty-five years old, with a bachelor’s degree under my belt, and an interesting resume. I had experiences behind me that made me feel like a well-crafted quilt. I’d been a nanny in Italy! Run a half-marathon in San Francisco! Eaten all of the food in Chicago!
And yet, I was not ready for one piece of the quilt to be softer than the others, to be pale, like our baby’s skin would certainly be, to creep onto all the other patches, taking up my time — my time, and most of my mind. I did not want to be a mother.
I stood in the hallway, with the pregnancy test in my hand, balancing myself now on the wall. I needed help standing up as the blood rushed out of me.
Ohmygod I think I might want to have an abortion. Ohmygod I think I understand.
I followed up with a doctor, to confirm the pregnancy. She sent me for some follow-up labs, and when I went in for those, I was less pregnant. Can you believe that?
Still pregnant. But less pregnant.
The baby was leaving me.
I knew I was pregnant for five days. Five days of certainty — that there was a life inside of me. And then, that life up and left, as quickly as it had come.
To say that I was relieved is a gigantic, gigantic understatement. You could see the breath that I had been holding cough itself out. You could see the clouds in my eyes clear. It was tangible — my relief.
I am the daughter of a Mexican-American woman and an Irish man. I stand at the intersection of High Catholicism & High Catholicism.
Our family boasts large numbers of offspring. The reproductive system, I learned, was meant for reproduction.
I don’t disagree, outright. But there’s so much more to the Story of Us. How we got here, and what happened when we did. How much did our parents want us? Plan for us? How did that affect our lives?
To bring a child — you do not feel capable of caring for or are logistically not capable of caring for — into this world, is to take arms up against life. It is assault, head-on.
My sister knew she was pregnant almost the entire time. She just stayed quiet, wishing the pregnancy away. She thought she could fix it. Just pray harder. Wish a little more. Make it unreal.
When I got pregnant with my son, I was still scared. Terrified, really — to bring a little being into the world. No doubt, my partner and I made the decision together. But I had to carry the baby alone and birth it on my own and pray that the man who swore himself to me and my baby would be along for the ride for the rest of his life. Terror, I tell you. White knuckled shit.
Beauty, too. And light.
But I got to choose to find the beauty and to choose to find the light. I got to choose to be ready, to choose to allow my life to make a 360-degree turn.
I got to choose.
When I marched a couple of weeks ago, I marched for the rights of women everywhere. I marched for our right to things that are very possible and things that will not ever see the light of day — like true equality. I marched alongside men and women and children and wishes and hopes and torment and fear.
And with a large sense of wonder, I marched for a woman’s right to choose.
Life has been such an incredible journey, teaching me all about my own hypocrisy.
I wouldn’t change a thing.