In other words, we tell people that sex is necessary but babies are bad. It is an ugly trap indeed.
Hello! I’m Paige, Robert’s wife. And despite miscarrying twins and a traumatic birth, I am loudly pro-life.
Let’s get right to it, shall we?
The fact that we even have to engage in a debate over whether or not certain human beings count as human beings is absurd. The fact that we think we can arbitrarily decide when an existing human becomes a human is absurd. The fact that we think it is okay to place one person’s right to bodily autonomy over another person’s right to life is absurd; one is clearly more precious than the other.
And yet, here we are. There are a million factors contributing to this attitude, ranging all the way from selfishness to cruelty, but today I want to tackle what I think is a major factor: ignorance.
I often hear pro-choice people claim that nobody actually wants an abortion and that women only seek them out of desperation. While this is demonstrably not true, desperation and societal pressure clearly influence many women toward aborting their babies. There are so many voices that tell women our dreams and careers die as our children are born, that it is irresponsible to have babies until we are “well established” by others’ standards, and that the resulting physical changes that come with pregnancy and childbirth are unnecessary and even cruel to “force” women to undergo if not explicitly desired.
That is a lot of noise assaulting the ears of shell-shocked women who have missed a period. As a culture we have told women that pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering are unattainable things we cannot handle until other people decide we can. We tell women that their lives are entirely and forever forfeit if they have a baby.
Did you read that correctly? Our culture, decades after our foremothers fought to end cultural entrapment, tells women what they can and cannot do. We tell women that they cannot handle having babies, and thus put pressure on them to seek abortions. The pro-choice argument often spins that in reverse by claiming that the pro-life gang tells women what they can and cannot do by telling them they can’t have an abortion. Thinking about it for a second makes it clear where the pro-choice argument gets it wrong, though. If you are old enough to access the internet, stumble upon this article, and read this far through, I’m going to assume that it is not a revelation to you that babies are a result of sex. Yes, babies are a result of sex; sex results in babies. Intervention is required to prevent sex from resulting in babies, because babies are the natural end of sex. When a person, regardless of gender, consents to have sex, they are thereby consenting to the possibility of creating a baby. There is no other way to look at it. Trying to be “safe” by using pills or condoms or both give you a good shot at not getting pregnant, but neither are guarantees. I shouldn’t have to list any examples here proving that young women, men, girls, and boys are pressured into having sex; turn on the radio, open up Netflix, look at the advertisements popping up everywhere you turn, and you will find sex e v e r y w h e r e. Glamorized, sensationalized, and set as an expectation. In other words, we tell people that sex is necessary but babies are bad, so every effort needs to be put into preventing the creation of a baby as you participate in the aforementioned necessary sex, and if the little bugger manages to slip by anyways, abortion is watching your six. It is an ugly trap indeed.
Empowering women definitionally looks like helping them discover their power, not telling them they don’t have enough and thus need to kill an innocent baby to stay afloat.
Because we don’t have a culture of empowering women, there are a lot of roadblocks put in our way that make having a baby scarier and indeed more difficult. Our healthcare system, lack of maternity leave, lack of education, and insistence that children are a nuisance who belong anywhere but here make it hard for mothers to navigate participating in society while also thriving in their motherhood. The pro-choice argument says the solution is to allow women to end pregnancies even though they cost innocent human lives. The pro-life approach, also clearly pro-women, says that the solution is to change our culture to support women when they become pregnant.
It’s clear, then, that despite miscarrying twins and a traumatic birth, I did not waver for a second.
That’s what Robert invited me here to talk about. I am his wife, and he has walked beside me through it all. My relationship with my body disintegrated when I was diagnosed with epilepsy, and I had reconciled it just in time for me to get pregnant with my eldest daughter.
She’s two and a half now. She knows all the lyrics to every Elsa song, could eat nothing but chips and dip with a side of olives all day and every day in total contentment, and sometimes pees on the floor. She’s beautiful.
Being pregnant with her was rough, to say the least. My center of gravity was thrown off majorly as my body decided to carry her entirely in the front, to the point where if you looked at me from behind I didn’t look pregnant. I was tired basically all the time. It felt like my body looked different every time I walked past a mirror, and feeling like a stranger in your own body is a surreal experience. She was born after an eighteen-hour labor. It was a textbook birth, no complications and no intervention necessary. The hospital I gave birth in was great: I was allowed to have as many people in the delivery room as I wanted (which resulted in quite the party, with a minimum of five people besides me hanging out at any given moment) and my daughter was immediately laid on my chest skin-to-skin for a full hour before a doctor touched her. Then Robert and I brought her home, and ever since we have basically been pressing random buttons and hoping things turn out right.
I breastfed her for fifteen months. This meant that after 36.5 weeks of donating my body to her via pregnancy, and then eighteen hours of the worst pain I had experienced up to that point, I also donated my breasts to her for over a year. I was her sole source of nourishment for a while. My body bore the incredible responsibility of producing food ‘round-the-clock for her as it also carried out my normal day-to-day tasks.
All of this put that reconciliation my body and I had done into jeopardy.
Then I got pregnant again. I was ecstatic, for sure, confident that any issues my body and I might have would be solved soon. But at my first ultrasound I found out I was having twins, that they were 10 weeks along, and that their hearts had stopped beating.
The ground fell out from under my feet. I hadn’t even considered the possibility. I had been caressing my stomach, talking to them, talking about them, while they were dead inside of me. I had never felt that hollow.
But I wasn’t given the opportunity to mourn, because I had to protect them first. My doctor wanted to usher me over to surgery where they would be removed from me and treated like medical waste. Human beings. Treated like medical waste. That’s how disgusting our society has gotten. That is the result of our insistence that women aren’t strong enough to have babies.
Robert and I had to navigate figuring out the most ethical thing to do for them and sign so much paperwork to ensure their tiny, tiny bodies were treated with dignity and sent to the funeral home that cremated them for us for free. (Shout-out to Beggs Funeral Home!)
I shared the experience on Facebook and many people offered their condolences; including my loudly pro-choice friends. And let me tell you, that was more insulting than anything I had experienced before. People who thought that either my babies weren’t people or, even if they were, I should have been allowed to kill them if I wanted to, were trying to offer condolences for the fact that they died. That lack of cohesive logic hurt me deeply, especially in the immediate aftermath of the incident. If I had chosen to kill my babies they would have supported me, but since it wasn’t my choice it was a tragedy. If I had chosen to kill my babies they wouldn’t have actually been babies, but since it wasn’t my choice they suddenly were. That kind of warped logic is what happens when we try to piece together a philosophy that allows people to have as much sex as possible with zero consequences.
But I pulled myself together. It was a long process, but I did it. Robert and I gave them names, my family helped me make a shadowbox with their urn in it, and I mourned them.
And then I got pregnant again with my youngest daughter. She is two and a half months old now. She can hold her head up for small periods of time, smiles, and gets very upset when she can’t see or touch either Robert or me. She’s beautiful.
Being pregnant with her was even more rough than my first pregnancy. Rougher emotionally for obvious reasons, but also rougher physically. I was chasing a toddler around the whole time, dealt with extreme fatigue, constant headaches, and gagged every time I changed a diaper or smelled sausage. I ‘dropped’, or ‘lightened’, about two weeks before I actually went into labor, which meant I literally couldn’t close my legs and waddled everywhere because she was so low. I also dilated at least four days before labor began (though it was probably earlier than that) which meant that once labor began it ran. I had my first contraction and my next one about five minutes later. For reference, you are supposed to get to the hospital when they are four minutes apart. After frantically packing, getting to the hospital, passing my daughter off to my grandparents to watch, and lots of squatting while my husband read The Ball and the Cross aloud, my second daughter was born. The whole process took four hours. Four hours between “ow” and “hello.” I couldn’t believe it.
It was also a very smooth delivery. I had chosen to run this race completely unmedicated, which made it even more painful than my first birth. It was truly excruciating, and I could spend several pages breaking the physical sensation down for you. But everything checked out, and no intervention was needed.
Until I went to the recovery room.
I had stayed in the delivery room for a while, holding my daughter unimpeded for over an hour, and then she was weighed and whatnot. My body had been shaking, but both my doctor and my nurse assured me that the hormones and physical exhaustion could cause it and that it was perfectly normal. Everyone thought I was in the clear.
It was probably 3am at this point. After eating something from McDonald’s my family was about to go home. I wanted my mom to help me to the bathroom before she left, so I called my nurse so they could both help me pee and change my pad. I swung my legs off the bed and suddenly felt something falling out of me and down my legs. It was blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Everything happened very quickly after that. The one nurse I had called multiplied into six. I was rushed to the bathroom to sit on the measuring cup they put on the toilet to measure the amount of blood and clots I was passing. Then I was rushed backed to the bed where the nurses pressed and pressed and pressed on my stomach to force all of the clots out, changed the bedpad underneath me constantly in an effort to continue measuring the amount of blood I was losing, and got me on an IV so quickly that the nurse was holding it up on her tip-toes because she couldn’t get a pole fast enough. I was naked, cold, and couldn’t stop shaking. Robert was holding our daughter and my mother was holding my hand down in order for the IV to work.
I think I was in shock. Like, actual, physical shock.
I couldn’t stop shaking.
I was asking the nurses questions to try to understand what was happening. I wasn’t screaming. I don’t think I was even crying. My mom says I was apologizing to the nurses. I was really worried about my cat pajama pants being stained. It felt like hours. I kept thinking about the donation Robert and I had made two months earlier to Partners in Health, an organization training doctors and building infrastructure to lower the extremely high maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leon. If I was there instead of here, I would have died. I kept looking at Robert holding Nora and imagining how he would parent two children without me. I kept repeating the mantra I had clung to throughout the pregnancy and childbirth: this is my body given up for you.
The lead nurse followed her instincts and checked for one more clot, and she was right. After she pushed it out, it ended. They left. I put clothes on. Robert put the big blanket we had brought from home on me. My family left.
And two and a half months later I am in one piece, but still processing the trauma of what happened. All of the effort I had put into befriending my body again, trusting my body, being grateful to my body, had shattered. Delivering my daughter without medication made me feel so powerful. I had never loved my body more than I did in that moment. In that moment I discovered just how strong I am, how capable I am, how Big I am. That high was taken away so soon.
I felt so betrayed. I couldn’t stop shaking.
While I did physically stop shaking in the hospital room, I don’t think I’ve stopped shaking inside yet. My daughter is here and I am healthy. Despite that physical trauma I am able to breastfeed, which means my body is still producing nourishment for my daughter, and I try to remind myself frequently what a miracle and a power that is. It swings like a pendulum: sometimes I feel like a warrior, sometimes I don’t feel anything, and sometimes I feel deep contempt for my very broken body.
And yet, friend…
I will not stop engaging in the marital act with my husband, because it’s really great (sorry, mom) and when it inevitably ends in a baby I will once again embrace that power. I will continue tithing part of our family’s paychecks to organizations that support women. I will continue engaging in debates and discussions to fix the aforementioned roadblocks put in place by our culture that make parenthood difficult, including paid parental leave, healthcare costs, childcare costs, absurd expectations that both parents need to work over forty hours a week to maintain enough income for a household to survive, and stigmas around single parenthood. I will continue setting our family up to foster and adopt children.
And I will continue to be pro-life. Nothing, not even my broken and unreliable body, will stop me from acknowledging the truth that life is precious even when it is inconvenient. As long as I have sex I will be prepared to have a child, because that is how sex works. I will love babies, because they are valid members of our society regardless of how many people claim to dislike them due to their inconvenience.
Let me repeat it one last time:
I am still pro-life, and I will continue to be pro-life, and I will always be pro-life.