The Personal and The Political
Tomorrow we will elect the next president of the United States. In honor of this occasion and as a tribute to that old feminist adage that “the personal is political,” I am re-posting something that I wrote at my personal blog, First Fig. It reflects on one point where the two intersect for me. I would love to hear where the personal and political meet for you. Oh, and go vote!
There are very few things in this world that I feel more passionately about than pregnancy and childbirth. My own experience with both have been so emotive, terrifying, joyous and overwhelming; rarely have I felt more powerful and vulnerable than when I am pregnant or giving birth. These have been transcendent experiences for me. I am a better person for going through the indignities of being pregnant and giving life to two beautiful children. I am a better person because pregnancy and birth require sacrifice.
Obviously the sacrifice of the physical body is necessary when pregnant. A woman has no choice but to share food and nutrients with the growing child. Often times that foetus acts like a parasite, leeching calcium from a woman’s bones. In my case, my babies stole my thyroid hormone, making it difficult for me to function normally. As the baby grows, you helplessly watch as your body contorts and balloons into a shape that is so unrecognizable that you can’t help but question whether it is your reflection in the mirror. Then, of course, there are the hormones. The hormones that make it difficult to string together a coherent sentence. The hormones that create bone-deep weariness. The hormones that make you question the intentions of every one around you, including those who are closest to you.
But perhaps it is the smallest indignities that hurt the most. Like not being able to tie your shoes or the constant heartburn. Like having to say no to chocolate cake because of the gestational diabetes that makes your babies gigantic. Like not being able to get out of bed without assistance or having your back ache so badly that it brings tears to your eyes. Like being unable to pick up your oldest child and hold him close to you. Like foregoing sex with the father of your children and the man you love more than anything because you are so big that he can’t get within an arm’s length of you.
This doesn’t even take into account what happens during birth. Nobody tells you about the doctors that treat you like a mentally challenged child. Nobody tells you that your legs will be forced back to your ears, exposing your most vulnerable parts to the cold air and the stares of anybody who passes by. Nobody talks about the blood and the shit, the fluid that comes erupting from you like Vesuvius. You don’t know desperation until you have felt the crowning of your baby’s head ripping apart your most delicate tissue. And when it’s all over there is the stab in the leg, the pummeling of your stomach, the stitching and the weeks of bleeding to look forward to.
And I will do it all again.
I will do it again because the sacrifice is worth it. It is worth it to me to bring children into the world who will know what true love is. I sacrifice my body, my mind, my dignity, my free will so that a few spirits will know light and truth. It is a sacrifice I freely give to my children, my husband and my heavenly parents. It is not a sacrifice, however, that I give freely to the world. The price I ask for re-populating our society with decent citizens is for the society that I willingly contribute my time, money and resources to respect the sacrifice I make.
I have a few dreams in which society could respect me for this sacrifice: free maternity care would be a good place to start. A lot of western and non-western countries provide free health care to pregnant women, making the infant and maternal mortality rate significantly lower. As a working mother, I would love to have real paid maternity leave so that I could be more of a presence in the most formative years of my children’s lives. Even affordable daycare would go along way to helping mothers who have to work spend more time with their children.
But today, I’ll settle on just one way this country could respect the sacrifice I, and all mothers make…Respect our lives.
I took it for granted that most Americans, most politicians, even the Mormon church agreed that the life of a pregnant mother is of value. That a mother’s life should be protected at all costs, even if that cost comes at the expense of the child she is carrying. I am hopeful this is the case but it scares me that a man who could be elected president of the United States could go on national television and say that exceptions for a woman’s “health” are an extreme pro-abortion position. As a childbearing woman, to have concerns about my health so openly and condescendingly sneered at, was beyond horrifying.
So to John McCain and all those who believe like him, I have this to say:
My life is of value. My health is of value. This is personal to me. I am not part of an extreme pro-abortion conspiracy to murder all the unborn children that take up residence in my womb. I am a wife and a mother. A woman who comforts and cares for the abused and outcast of society. I am a woman who has served my country bravely, just like you have, sir. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death twice to bring children into this world. Children who will love their country and protect her freedoms. Children who will be part of the next generation of American goodness. We have both sacrificed for our country, sir and though you may not believe it, our sacrifices are equal. Just like the value of our lives are equal. I respect the sacrifices you have made for this country. And now I ask the same respect from you.