Sunday, January 8, 2012

A New Understanding of Bodily Integrity

This post was sent to me by guest blogger Julie W. - M

It could be said the core belief of pro-lifers is that every human life is significant.  From this belief, we deduce that the right to life supersedes any discomforts, inconveniences, and difficulties (save a threat to her own life) a woman experiences during pregnancy.  However, pro-lifers - particularly those that have never been pregnant - should be careful not to belittle what a woman experiences and endures while gestating a fetus.  This was my own mistake: I had held the view that pregnancy is only nine months long and is that so much of a sacrifice for a human life to be spared?

And then I myself became pregnant, unexpectedly.  I had always pictured having children after my husband and I had finished our academic careers, maybe done some world traveling, and had settled down with a stronger source of income.  At the very least, I had promised myself I would finish my bachelor’s degree before having children.  And here I was, two semesters away from graduating, with a positive pregnancy test in hand.  The very next day I met with my school counselor and absorbed the harsh reality that I couldn’t possibly have a baby and complete two 16 credit semesters while my husband worked 40+ hour weeks.  I left the counselor’s office, went home, and promptly burst into tears as I relayed this new information to my husband.  Why did this have to happen now, when I was so close to finishing?  How could I possibly complete my program while trying to care for an infant?  How would we afford the medical expenses?  What about everything else we had planned for our lives before having children?  My husband, ever-the-awesome, calmed me down from hysterics and reassured me that although this was drastically different from what we had planned, we would get through it and everything would be ok.

As the weeks went by, I was still trying to cope, but things just worsened as I began to experience the effects of pregnancy.  The baby inside me changed everything: smells and tastes, what I could and couldn’t eat, how often and what kind of exercise I could perform.  My energy level plummeted and in addition to sleeping 9-10 hours a night, I took 2 hour naps each day, making  my days seem an endless cycle of class, studying, sleep, repeat.  My emotions would also fluctuate arbitrarily and I would start crying for no particular reason at all (which, in case you have never experienced it, is immensely frustrating – can you imagine having just a regular day and all the sudden you start crying and can’t stop?)  I was often nauseated for long periods of time before I threw up, regardless of whether or not there was anything in my stomach. 

On top of all of this, there were a select few people who knew I was pregnant and seemed bent on always showing their jubilance – “That’s wonderful!  Aren’t you SO excited?!?”  I struggled not to feel angry and bitter.  I did not want to admit it, not even to myself, but at times I resented what was inside me, feeling more like it was a parasitic blob of cells rather than a beautiful baby.  There were a small handful of dark moments when I secretly hoped I would miscarry – my life would be easier if this all just went away.  I felt ashamed of these thoughts and horrified at myself for thinking them.  I had always been strongly pro-life, how could I be so selfish as to imagine these things?  Ironically, the people I felt safest talking to about all this were my two very pro-choice friends.  Knowing how I felt about abortion, they did not at any point even mention the prospect of having one, but they were sympathetic to the fact that I did not want this baby.  I was afraid of what anyone else would think, should I reveal my feelings toward them.

As time passed, my feelings changed with the small milestones of my pregnancy.  The first time I really felt unconflicted joy was at my 10 week obgyn appointment when we got to see our baby on the ultrasound – such a tiny little being, but with a heart beating away!  With every new week, I would read about how the baby was slowly developing.  The ill-effects of pregnancy lessened and my excitement slowly started to build.   Not long ago, we finally found out the gender – my baby is a girl and her name is Zoey.  Now I am counting down the days until we get to meet her and I could hardly care less about putting off my graduation.

In hindsight, I am not ashamed of the feelings I had early on in my pregnancy.  However, they serve as a staunch reminder to me that it may not be possible to help how you feel; what really matters is what you do with those feelings.  Even when I felt most angry, bitter, and frustrated, I knew that none of this was the baby’s fault and she should not have to suffer for it.  But I have also learned to treat the concept of bodily integrity with much greater respect.  What a woman goes through during pregnancy, physically and psychologically, should not be belittled.  Furthermore, pro-lifers should be cautious not to underestimate the life-changing effects pregnancy can have even after the baby is born.  The better we understand and care about the mother’s circumstances, the more effective we will be at saving lives.

2 comments: said...

What a wonderful post, Julie.

We all have times of frustration where we feel like we could just KILL somebody-- but, of course, we don't act that out. What we do is more important than what we think or feel.

Even so, it's important to acknowledge people's feelings, especially women who are going through crisis pregnancies. Negative feelings about pregnancy can make us uncomfortable, since they're so often exploited by the abortion industry and its supporters. But we can (and should) acknowledge the reality that pregnancy and parenting is a mixed bag-- ultimately rewarding, but not always smooth sailing-- without concluding that unborn babies have no right to live!

I wish you the best with the rest of your pregnancy :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Julie.
You have put into words what I feel strongly that most women share,to different degrees, at some point in their pregnancy; most often the beginning. I believe the best approach is to openly accept and examine those feelings and use them as an opportunity to learn more about and strengthen our beliefs.
As a pro-life mother who has counseled women in other areas of pregnancy, who have and have not had abortions, it has been hard at times to not be judgmental. But,these are the women who need to feel safe, acknowledging their fears and disappointments as natural reactions and reassured they are not alone in their thoughts.
Rather, I see this as an opportunity to share our views with compassion and faith accepting them as women with real concerns. Perhaps by accepting them, they can learn to accept their babies as the tiny human miracles they are.
Although, the nausea, hormone shifts, and mood swings ARE difficult and sometimes almost unbearable at times, many woman, like you, become captivated with the images of another human being and the absolute miracle of birth with the first ultrasound.
I am so happy for you, your husband and especially Zoey to be able to participate in this miracle.