I found out I was pregnant with Evan at four or five weeks, and it was because I’d had unusual nausea/enhanced sense of smell on a couple occasions, and it matched my prior pregnancy experiences so I knew to get a test. I’m sure it would have been much longer had I not had a highly specific desire to vomit after eating runny egg yolks, which was a common factor in all three of my pregnancies.
I was full of anxiety, because this unplanned (yet otherwise welcome) pregnancy came at such an older age and I wasn’t in a particularly healthy stretch. I wanted to test for viability immediately. We did not want to bring a child into the world that would potentially require a lifetime of care we wouldn’t live long enough to provide.
My health insurance was out of whack (I had tried to renew on Covered California months prior, but kept running into problems, and gave up until I desperately needed to see a doctor). It was the beginning of the pandemic, and the week after we learned I was pregnant, I contracted COVID. I spent many exhausted hours on the phone over the course of several days, was required to produce a positive pregnancy test (thank you, Planned Parenthood), and it was still weeks longer before I was seen.
The health insurance issues were eventually sorted out, but as much as we expressed my concerns to the prenatal doctor at every visit, I didn’t qualify for the more extensive tests until about 22 weeks when I got the amniocentesis that confirmed, to our great relief, that everything was fine.
I had already felt Evan move at that point, but we had only told immediate family. I didn’t want to get excited until I knew we would likely have a healthy, whole baby. I was distressed at the thought of facing a potential termination decision. Aside from the potential loss of a happy dream, I knew that certain members of my family would find it unforgivable if we decided that ending the pregnancy was the most responsible decision. (I knew most others would love on us regardless and sit with me in that private grief.)
Evan is a blessing, and it was such a relief after a relatively tough and very lonely pandemic pregnancy when they were born healthy (with just a slight snafu that landed us in the NICU, but which resolved in time to go home the next day).
I know I’ve blocked out much of the hard memories of raising my first two babies, but OMG. PARENTING A TINY, NEEDY, DETERMENED-TO-SELF-DESTRUCT BABY IS TOUGH. The first weeks were weepy and really hard. We couldn’t have people in to help, including the grandparents, due to COVID risk.
Ricardo stayed with me for the first several days, but then carefully, armed with sanitizer and fresh face masks, returned to his office where he worked alone at that time. I am privileged to have a supportive partner whose income primarily sustains us, a wonderful, understanding boss who is flexible with my part-time schedule, and the benefit of time and prior experience to equip me now. But at my occasional breaking points, I think: I can’t believe we force teenagers to be parents and we don’t provide support for new parents as a society. I can’t believe we send people back to work full time when they’re still bleeding after giving birth (it takes up to six weeks to stop, and there remains a fragility beyond that). I can’t believe we don’t allow babies to bond with their parents to nourish them beyond, for many, a couple weeks, and many “essential” workers don’t have even that much time.
For those celebrating the inhumane, immoral, oppressive, sexist (zero penalties for the sperm part of the equation?) policies out of Texas last week, you are turning a blind eye and washing your hands of the increased and prolonged suffering these laws will cause. Many of “The Unborn” – cherished beings until they’re somebody else’s reality to care for – will be birthed into tragic conditions, and their families of origin will be shamed for not being better providers of financial means and emotional nurturing, perpetuating generational poverty and other systemic failings that people who claim to be followers of Christ will chalk up to individual sins.
I grieve for our Nation and my religious heritage. I am baffled at how these sacred teachings have been contorted to justify such immoral policies, though I suppose that’s been true for millenia. Oversimplifying everyday tragedies, and blocking access to pregnancy prevention and education, is directly contrary to Jesus’s recorded teachings. The blatant hypocrisy drives people away from what should be a source of life-giving comfort. The politicization of Christianity has justified slavery, murderous Crusades, and more – I just wish the people I know in the present day would reject such elements and devote living their faith to humbly serving those oppressed by our society; not siding with the oppressors.
I’ll keep working and living the values that affirm life and reduce suffering. Let’s be consistent, loving, and nuanced in our advocacy and values.