Saturday 2 September 2023

Thoughts on a Saturday

When it comes to babies, like dating, if it's not a "Fuck yeah!!" then it's a no. 

I didn't used to believe this. I myself was not particularly into babies, though I did feel my son's spirit out there calling to me, and had felt with my husband nearly from the beginning a primal sense of our child's possibility. I was very into *my* baby, but I'm not really the person who feels an overwhelming need to hold anyone else's baby. 

But I also felt like there were so many people in my life who didn't want children who would make excellent parents. I wished, for the sake of humanity, that these fantastic people would be at my side in the endeavor of parenting. I wanted the club to be full of my favorites, and for us all to plot a new course together. 

Now, having a real, human child, I deeply appreciate the fact that the majority of abortions are had by women who are already mothers. The bones-deep understanding of the commitment, the risk, and the paradigm shift of parenting that comes only after a child's arrival is at least as primal as any urge to reproduce, and I think actually a lot more. 

So, kudos to those that realized a lot of that even without the experience of bringing a person into this world. It's major, and if you're not into it, I'm absolutely with you that you shouldn't sign up for it. 

The problem is that we have built so much of our culture up into grooming girls and women to subvert their own instincts around mothering--instincts which, by the way, do not dictate that they should want to have babies when every condition is set against them. The knee-jerk reaction is to minimize concerns, talk up how adorable babies are, hint at some otherwise unattainable fulfillment, and generally ignore the needs of the fully-formed human in front of us. 

I can tell you personally that the falling birth rate in the US is a function of the incredible risk the endeavor entails, where we have neglected maternal mortality to the point that it's actually rising, where we value the mass hallucination that is the economy over the very real animal needs we have to not just survive but thrive in a healthy environment, and where the answer from rightwing male politicians about this is not to correct any cruelties but in fact to enslave women to misogynistic pressures with no prospect of escape. It's absolutely suffocating. 

I say this all as a corrective to my prior doubts, where I often thought that some folks were hesitating to become parents partly because they were so present in their assessment of the situation that they were selling themselves short in terms of rising to the challenge. 

Several years into being a mother, I can tell you so much more about the systemic pressures to always be selling oneself short in ways that are very physical can be very dangerous. I hear so differently the doolally optimism that is reflexively trotted out when a woman expresses doubts about motherhood. 

I actually know now how discussions about a second child will never, ever hold me at the center. It's all about some fantasy of what siblings might be like, or what my husband wants, or some extrapolated sense of my own regret that fails to account for holding together what I already have. People occasionally ask me what I want, as if I consistently get the opportunity to consider that or was taught to value those impulses. Women in this culture are given very little scope to identify their own happiness and desires without guilt, to be ambitious and be praised for it, to thrive in their own lives. The pressure is to always be of service.

But I'll tell you something: Turning the other cheek only works for men, and not even all of them. For women, it's part and parcel of the erasure, the exclusion of one's own screaming instincts that this whole thing is not working well at all. And in the face of very reasonable doubts about our most essential act, entailing one's own ability to survive the risk, the answer should be to ease the way, not expect compliance and resilience in place of actual process improvements. 

So, if it's not a "Fuck yeah!!," it's a no. We need abortion access, bodily autonomy, mandated maternity leave as well as paternity leave, time to recover and bond, universal affordable childcare, reasonable prospects to safely school the children we choose to have, and a society that prioritizes living like the social animals we are so that the project of raising our high-demand offspring well is shared among many enthusiastic adults. 

Neglecting the outcomes and issues faced by living people in the now in favor of obsessing over pregnancy is abuse. Believe women, and do not turn the other cheek.

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