coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Monday, May 20, 2019

CHOICE: 1998 advice to a pregnant teen

Here's a letter I wrote to a 15 year old pregnant niece of mine over 20 years ago.  In light of the current attack on Roe vs. Wade, I think this is thought provoking.  I think there's a lot we all need to think about.  If we don't think, we may not act.  If we don't act, our hard fought rights will be eroded.  Anyway, I'm sharing this letter and I still stand behind it. How wonderful that she had a choice.

5 Nov 1998

Dear ---,

So glad to hear you received the clothes. M and I had a lot of fun picking them out. T got a kick out of how different maternity clothes are nowadays. You can’t imagine how UGLY maternity clothes used to be. Big, clunky collars and blocky shapes. Yuck. And they didn’t used to have maternity jeans, so I had to cut out the stomach in mine, and sew in elastic panels. 

Sounds like your pregnancy is progressing nicely. You’ll be amazed at how glorious the whole experience is.  Nothing else like it in the world. Your Grandma is famous for having really easy deliveries. She was able to just pop ‘em out with little pain and with short labors (she delivered J at home because it went so quick she didn’t have time to get to the hospital). Maybe you’ll have inherited that from our side of the family? Did your Mom ever talk about her pregnancies and deliveries?

How’s school?  Does it seem weird to be going to classes pregnant?  Also “in the old days” they made girls quit high school when they got pregnant. You couldn’t attend classes when you started to show (or when the gym teacher found out - they used to track our periods in gym class in order to figure out when one of us got pregnant).  I was in college, trying to major in art, when I was pregnant.  People really thought it was weird that I was still taking classes. One professor actually asked me why I was still enrolled.  It really pissed me off - I remember answering, “What else am I supposed to do?”  It just never occurred to me to live my life any differently than I had been. People can be so mean, you know?

Here’s the advice part of the letter (warning, I’m not a normal person - so please just humor me):

Yeah, well, life can be pretty @#*! hard, especially when you don’t have a lot of money.  It’s the nature of “Life” to take it’s best shot from time-to-time - sometimes hitting you square in the face. The really special people in this world seem to be the ones who are strong enough to take it on the chin, pick themselves up and keep on trying to do their best. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a pro-boxing match on TV - I love boxing. I think it symbolizes a whole lot about the way reality is for working class people. I really love that “down but not out” stuff.  And even when someone doesn’t win, if they fight with A LOT OF HEART, they still earn the respect and admiration of the audience. It‘s really all about the effort - not the result. I see you as having a lot of heart.  I’m in awe of the things you’re doing right now to keep yourself afloat. What an enormous effort it must be to try to get through school this year, and to provide a safe, healthy environment for yourself while you’re pregnant. I think you must be pretty wonderful.

And on top of all that, you’re also faced with some major real-life decisions. I’m glad to hear that people are giving you a lot of time and space to make the decision about the baby. That’s important.  Because (as you’ve figured out by now) once we get pregnant, women are faced with those three scary choices:  abort the fetus, allow the pregnancy to go full term and keep the baby, or give the baby to someone else to raise. Realistically, each one of those decisions will bring you physical and emotional pain at some definable point in time.  Each decision becomes a path your life will take forever.  Any one of those choices will probably bring you additional emotional pain further down the line. That’s just the way it is, but the fact that each is a hard choice makes them all equal in some ways.  Of course, each choice will bring you moments of great happiness in the future, as well.  Consequently, I don’t think any one of them is a bad decision. They’re all good choices to make, depending on who you are, what you want from your life, and what you feel you can handle.  Emotional pain isn’t the end of the world. When you have a lot of heart (which you do) and are a strong woman (which I think you will become) - you can handle emotional pain. It can shape you for the good, or for the bad - depending on who you are, and how you approach it. 

Independent of the pregnancy, what do you want to do with your life, by the way? What were your plans for after graduation before you found out you were pregnant?

Please write and let Uncle T and me know how you’re doing.  We care about you, and we’re concerned about your current situation.  And, of course, we wish you the absolute best.  


23 comments:

  1. Wow. What a great aunt (as in really good) aunt you are. Straight-forward, honest advice. I hope she made the best choice for her and became the strong woman you envisioned, while retaining her heart. Yes, choices -- and living with the consequences of our choices -- are the stuff that make us autonomous adults and without them we are less than whole. Hard to believe that the elderly, male lawmakers shutting down our rights get this -- since they seem so clueless and uninformed about basic biology but they must because their laws are not life or children -- they are definitely about making women a lesser species.

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    1. Women learn about consequences quite early.

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  2. You're a good auntie. I would have loved to have received this letter 35 years ago. What constantly astounds me is that nobody ever gives a thought to all the men that make these babies and then walk away, not all, but many do. How are they not also responsible? It's sickening that other people get to decide.

    The thing is, pro-life people often use religion as a reason to deny abortions but why are they being allowed to force their religious beliefs on others? It makes me angry.

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    1. Me, too. And you are so right about the role of the fathers, too. Seems like that's the way it has been since the dawn of time, which is why it is so important that women make the choice for themselves. I wish I had been there for you 35 years ago.

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  3. That was a great letter. I just got done watching a Cold Case episode about abortion back in the day. We're headed backwards now, not forward.

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  4. That abortions would ever become illegal again anywhere in the United States is not something I thought would ever happen. Thank goodness your niece had choices and that she had your support and encouragement to think of her life.

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  5. I am sure that beautiful letter brought you and your niece even closer. It has been a battle against women since this man took office with it all coming to a head with what Georgia, Alabama and Missouri just did. They have been planning all of this for years now. While we were watching Muller, judges were being appointed and these actions were all put in place.

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    1. I know, so much damage is being done to our democracy.

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  6. Amazing Colette. Is it too much to ask what choice she made and how it turned out? If so, at least how she is doing?

    This touched my heart.

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    1. She chose to keep the baby. Eventually she married (not the father of baby 1) and had a couple more children. We are not close and never were. I took a chance reaching out to her. For a short time we were in touch and I thought a relationship could be built. It was not. I wish her the best, but this is not a story with a particularly happy ending.

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  7. I hope everyone in your niece's life was as supportive about her decisions as you were. No matter what she chose I hope she went on to s successful and happy life. Something "pro-life" proponents don't realize is that pro-choice also means you can choose to give birth.

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    1. This is my husband's side of the family. They were not supportive of her at the time, but they came through for her later in their own fashion, allowing her to move back home with the baby. She is not particularly successful, having very little schooling or opportunity. I don't really know if she is happy. It is one of those situations where it is what it is. You are so right in your last sentence.

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  8. I don't know what will happen and right now the mud is pouring down and drowning us. I hope whatever SCOTUS does, women AND MEN can start protesting louder and voting harder.

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  9. What a fantastic Aunt you are and what Sage supportive advice you gave to your Dear Niece. I Hope she made the right choice for herself, one she had a Peace about. I was an unwed Mother once, so were both of our Daughters... the fact all of us had Choice was important, regardless of what Choice was chosen or for what reasons behind it. I know being supportive for the Daughters was paramount to me, to speak Truth in Love into very difficult situations and to try to do so objectively is difficult... since it was their Choice, not ours that counted. Of coarse they wanted my personal opinion, but I reminded them that though I was willing to share it, ultimately the Choice was theirs to make in their situations. I just feel as tho' this present attack has less to do about Choice than it does about controlling, oppressing and demeaning Women... which is why I resist it so strongly. Even if any Woman's Choice would be different than my own, she has that Right to Choose and not be forced against her Free Will, to have anyone else make those crucial life decisions for her involuntarily. Anyone NOT her just doesn't have enough skin in the game to have that much power over her and her body!

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    1. "I just feel as tho' this present attack has less to do about Choice than it does about controlling, oppressing and demeaning Women" So true!

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  10. Birth is a woman's world. A man may say this without risking being seen as anti-feminist One of the most shocking aspects of the Alabama decision is that it was made by a group of men. Yes, I believe in human equality but the onerous way the birth method has evolved means - in my view - that only women should be involved in the official framing of attitudes and of laws which centre on birth. Women suffer at the moment of parturition (I know; I have watched this happen) and frequently bear an unfair proportion of the tough stuff that follows. Motherhood, a wondrous and often courageous state, is something only women can understand. Men should either be supportive or shut up. Their contribution to the birth process is, at best, minimal; at worst accidental. Thereafter men should set out earn their right to pronounce - in all humility - on birth matters.

    I admire the friendly and helpful tone of your letter. Its strength lies in its implications of a mother-world which your niece may have been too young to appreciate. My only query concerns the words "how glorious the whole experience is". It's true you go on to describe the problems and their resolution but there are woman for whom the whole business is horrible start to finish. It may be anti-motherhood but it is also a human failing. How another woman - commenting - should respond to this is beyond me. And now I will butt (one t or two?) out.

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    1. I say it was glorious because it is truly astounding and surreal - magical, miraculous, etc. Still it hurts like Hell. I was in labor for 31 hours. I begged for medication and they wouldn't give it to me so I begged for a knife. Finally, they gave me Demerol, which didn't exactly remove the pain, but made me not care about it. I never had another child because of the pain. But most women would understand what I mean when I call the experience glorious. Like a glorious battle where your side experiences terrible losses and horror, but wins. Maybe I should write a labor and delivery post so other women can respond. Could be interesting.

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    2. Also, it would have been cruel and rude to dwell on the pain with her. Once you become pregnant you're kind of stuck. It has to come out one way or another. Most first timers are scared of delivery, for good reason. We veterans must find ways to let them know it is something hard to do, but we survived and (hopefully) they will, too.

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So, whadayathink?