When she was brand new to the world, I was responsible for her body—feeding her, bathing her, getting her medical care when she needed it, and all the rest that’s involved in keeping a body healthy.
As she has grown, she has gradually taken over more and more of the responsibilities involved in caring for her body. I brushed her teeth, and then I helped her brush her teeth, and then she brushed her own teeth. Nothing profound there; it’s the process of parenting. We do for, we do with, we supervise them doing, and at some point, we let go and, hopefully, our children are well prepared to take care of themselves.
Since her birth I have worked hard to help her undertand that her body is her body. She is in charge of her body—who touches her and how; what she takes into herself and what she rejects; and what to do if she feels pressured, afraid, or violated.
This is me a year or two after I had my first period. (That’s my sister in front of me and my mom behind. Never say we didn’t rock the 80s.)
Technically, the first sign of blood marked the beginning of my childbearing years.
I wasn’t ready for sex yet, but I knew that my life would someday include sexual intimacy. I expected that I would become pregnant and have a child at least once.
I also expected that I would have sex a good deal more often than I would get pregnant. In fact, I expected that most of the sex I had would not have conception as its aim. I knew that sexual intimacy would be one part of an intimate adult relationship, no matter how many children my future partner and I chose to have.
I knew that, if I became pregnant unintentionally, I would probably not terminate the pregnancy.
I also knew that the choice to carry any possible pregnancy to term belonged to me because that pregnancy would happen inside my body.
My body is my body.
I knew that, if I paid attention and took care of myself, I would probably never face an unintended pregnancy. I expected to have easy access to safe, reliable methods of birth control. (I acknowledge the privilege in that statement, but as a teenager and young adult I did not know that all young women my age did not enjoy the same access to reproductive health care that I did.)
All of those expectations were correct. When I became sexually active, I went to the Planned Parenthood nearest my home where I asked for and received inexpensive birth control pills and a paper bag filled with condoms.
For the duration of my fertile years (which ended in 2007 when I had a hysterectomy), I used a variety of birth control methods and by the miracle of modern science I never became pregnant when I didn’t want to. I never faced any issues with access; when I had insurance it paid for my birth control and when I didn’t have insurance I was able to find subsidized sources that made it affordable.
I became pregnant three times, and gave birth to 3 children. For all my failings as a parent, I know this deep in my soul: all of my kids were and are passionately, wildly desired, carefully prepared for, and deeply loved.
Every child should be born into the arms of a parent (biological or adoptive) who weeps with joy at the first sight of the new baby, and from the body of a woman who willingly, lovingly carried that baby.
I also know this: parenting is difficult. Taking care of small, helpless people is physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding. It’s expensive, not just in terms of money but also time and energy. I have always felt fortunate that I live in a time in which medicine has changed parenthood from a biological imperative into a choice.
Some people don’t feel so fortunate.
I never would have imagined, in my early years as a sexually active woman, that I would someday have a daughter who would face a life in which she has less power over her reproductive life than I did. She is coming of age in a world in which some people in power want to force doctors to rape women seeking abortion (I have had a transvaginal ultrasound (unrelated to pregnancy and medically necessary) and if you say I’m speaking hyperbolically, I will cry bullshit.). She has heard that a certain blowhard pundit has referred to women who use birth control as sluts. She lives in a nation in which an elected representative stood on the House floor in his state and compared women to farm animals and a Republican presidential front runner has made public statements indicating that he believes we should all stop having sex unless we’re attempting to achieve a pregnancy.
Where am I? When am I?
My daughter’s body is her body. Entirely. She will share her body with the partner she chooses. She will control her fertility in the manner she and her health care provider deem appropriate. She will share her body with a fetus when and if she chooses to do so. Her body is hers. When she needs or wants input or help making decisions, she will choose who to ask for that help.
I’m pretty damn sure that these guys aren’t the kind of people she’ll be asking for that help should she decide that she needs it.
I am full of hopes and dreams for my daughter. Most of all, I hope that she is always fully herself—present in her life, living with integrity, and growing into the many gifts and talents with which she is blessed. Never, from the moment I knew she was a girl until now have I thought, “Hooray! A uterus for growing the grandchildren!”
Someday, she may grow a baby in her body, and the person to whom she gives birth will be precious and wonderful and I will love that child in my very DNA.
That just wouldn’t be possible.
I will not be sitting idly by while a group of joyless ideologues robs my daughter of her power and dignity.