Rav’s Repro is a column in which Erin explores all topics related to reproduction and reproductive rights.
When we talk about choice in the world of reproduction, we often distill it to views on abortion. Are you pro-choice? Or anti-choice? The majority of people in my life are pro-choice. I think.
But what about all the other choices?
We fight for the right to choose, to have agency over our bodies. Why, for some, does that exclude other choices?
Recently, online, I saw a handful of discussions happening on the way the HBO show Girls wrapped up the series. For those not familiar, the lead character Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) gets pregnant after a weekend fling and decides to keep the baby. Some of the discussions centered on this being an anti-feminist decision and some centered on what a horrible mother that character would be. Regardless of what one may think of the show, both of these responses bothered me.
Why? Because they place judgment on someone else’s reproductive choices.
It is not my place or yours to decide what the right decision is for anyone, let alone for a fictional character. When I got pregnant unexpectedly in my 20s, no one thought I would be a good mother. Few understood my choice. And I get it. I was unstable, on and off drugs, and not in a healthy relationship with the father. But, that choice changed the whole trajectory of my life.
Does this negate my feminist credentials? In some of the comments on Facebook, people bemoaned the tired old trope of the young woman getting her life together after having a child. But, that is my story. I can't change that. And it’s a story that may ring true for many people, of all genders.
All of this got me thinking about the many ways in which we quietly or not-so-quietly pass judgment on the decisions made around reproduction. The scope of this is fairly significant, but for now, please stop commenting/judging/eye-rolling on these.
Choosing to have a baby when everyone thinks you shouldn’t.
As I mentioned above, we need to respect someone’s decision to keep a baby, as fiercely as we would when someone opts for an abortion. Some people choose to go through with a pregnancy and give the child up for adoption, some are quite young, or single, or struggling financially. It’s none of our business. Do every one of these situations turn out as well as mine did? No. But, we can't know that or make judgments about the possible outcomes.
Choosing never to have a child.
People, particularly women, are indeed under societal pressure to procreate. Although this has lessened in certain cities, still, as a whole, the world places value on becoming a parent.
For me, being a parent has been the greatest gift of my life. I would not change the decision to become a mother for ANYTHING in the world. But, that doesn't mean it’s the right thing for everyone else.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a child-free life. It doesn't mean there is some dark secret to uncover. Leave it alone. When someone tells you they’ve made that choice, please don’t continue asking. If you say you don't like chocolate, I am not going to pester you every time we go out to eat about the virtues of chocolate. So, let’s have that attitude about these larger issues, too.
Choosing assisted fertility intervention.
I cannot count the number of times someone, usually well-meaning, has explained to me why they would NEVER do IVF, IUI, etc. Well, I did make that choice. My road to a second child has not been easy.
Could it have happened without intervention? Maybe.
But without assistance, the source of the problems that have plagued the five losses I had may never have been discovered. It is not your business to comment/judge/advise on how other people choose to conceive. You don’t know their story, you don't know what they’ve been through, and it’s none of your fucking business. So, stop.
Choosing a type of birth.
I have had many discussions with people about the “best” way to give birth.
What’s the best way to give birth? Um, the way that gets the baby safely out.
Whether you choose a natural birth, an epidural, you need a c-section, you opt for a water birth, a home birth, a hospital birth, and the list could go on — none of these types of birth are better or worse or make you less of a mother or parent. The thing about birth is that you can “choose” all you want, but you have little control over what happens. And the best thing you can do, and allow others to do, is to adapt and go with the decision that the moment calls for. The end.
Making all of the other decisions related to pregnancy/childbirth/caring for an infant.
Yes, we can all agree that we want to consider safety and health when making these choices. But, like with all of the above, you don’t have every piece of information regarding someone else’s decisions about their body, their pregnancy, and their child. So stay out of it.
Stay out of circumcision, stay out of pregnancy diet and exercise, stay out of breastfeeding and formula feeding. Stay out of when and how someone goes back to work.
The bottom line with all of this — reproductive choices go far beyond abortion and contraception. So can we all quit casting side glances on what others do or don't do regarding ALL the choices?
Instead of speculating on whether or not our choices align with feminism, instead of openly discussing if someone will be a good parent, instead of chastising people for doing things the “wrong way,” let’s allow people agency over those choices. They are not ours to make. We have our own, and they are shaped by how life plays out for us. The next time you feel ready to jump in with your opinion about this stuff, I hope you take a minute and reconsider.
Hey, Erin! How’s your pregnancy going?
I am 30 weeks pregnant. Holy Moly! Things are sailing along. The abdominal strain, backache, and acid reflux have kicked it up a notch the past few days. But, that’s to be expected.
What is mind-boggling to me is that my due date is ten weeks away and I will be full-term in seven weeks! Insert OMG emoticon here.
My husband and I had our birthing class this past weekend — basically an intro for him and a refresher for me. It was more helpful than I thought it would be. And, I am in major organization/nesting/have to get things ready mode. I would like to be done with the major stuff in the next month. I remember what it’s like, and the closer that due date gets, the harder it is to get this stuff done.
Here’s hoping that by the next column, I’ve accomplished some of that checklist! XOXO