Women Will Lose Themselves to Motherhood if Roe Is Reversed
Itt’s impossible to gauge the depth of a hole you’re in until you begin to climb out. I’ve felt this way in the most challenging times of my life, usually when suffering loss: death, divorce. I remember the worst moments in discordant flashes—sobbing in a closet, inhaling a scarf; dive-bar gin and curvy roads; lying beside my bulldog, whispering “I’m sorry” in his ear. Moments of grief and despair whose dimensions I didn’t fully understand until they lifted, revealing a terrible edge from which I didn’t know I’d fallen.
This is how I feel now, two years ago, after the U.S. experienced its first COVID-19 surge. I was twelve weeks pregnant with our daughter, and she was just 2 months old. Our son is almost 2 years older than her, so she’s now nearly half of her age and he lives in a world with a pandemic. Our family is in the minority. We have not been infected with the virus, which has claimed the lives of approximately 1,000,000 Americans and infected around 60% of Americans (probably a large underestimate because of unreported positive home testing). Protecting ourselves and our children (who are too young for vaccination) has meant that we have had to pay a heavy price. Although we chose to become parents, it was not an option to do so in isolation. I now see that I have lost my self-control under the burden of motherhood.
Before I was a mother, I imagined myself as a kind of mother who took her children on adventures without planning and would let them lose themselves in imaginative play. I’d let them learn by experience rather than cautionary tales. I’d laugh at smears of paint on walls and glitter ground into the rug. It’s messy art! I’d proclaim, so expansive and emotionally generous in their younger years that, later, they’d let me see their confused and aching teenage hearts.
Naïvely, I thought who I knew myself to be as a person—artistic, ambitious, playful, curious—would be who I became as a Mother. It was something that I didn’t expect to see in motherhood.
Learn More How to Celebrate Mothers’ Selflessness
Birthing and pregnancy have always been able to erase the self. Many of us emerge with some combination of shifted bones, dysfunctional organs, stitches and scars, months of bleeding and leaking, all of which can change our relationship with physicality—exercise, sex, even walking—robbing us of previous forms of release and connection. Between 6% and 20% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression—many of whom have never experienced depression before—while up to up to one in three feel high anxiety levels either during pregnancy or in the postpartum period. The effects of sleeplessness on our intellect, creativity and patience are all too real.
Similar to my first, my second pregnancy was very painful. This time, high-risk. After having our baby in September 2020, I continued bleeding for 3 months. He didn’t sleep through the night for 15 months, a sentence so banal it can’t possibly convey the despair of it, the heart-racing shock of being awoken to screams every few hours night after night, for more than a year. Due to his susceptibility to other respiratory diseases, our son stayed home a lot until Omicron cases began falling in the city. For us, the respite that parents may normally be granted in the form socializing, babysitting and/or a return at the office was not available.
Each day I felt stifled and empty. There I was, screaming into a pillow at 3 a.m. because the baby was crying again, wouldn’t stop crying no matter what sleep-training method we tried. There I was on my home-office floor, sobbing as I pleaded with the baby monitor, “Please, please!” Snapping was all I did. NoMy daughter yelled at me before I even processed her request. It was a smothering anger that seemed close to rage. She refused to eat dinner, but asked for snacks the instant she sat down.
Learn MoreIt was an unplanned pregnancy, but I made a choice.
New qualities began to emerge in me. A deep and unsettling fear about the world beyond our door, an angry at the politicized approach in public health, which left parents and children vulnerable, and a welling up of distrust, and cynicism in my once open heart. It all, fear, anger, frustration, endless mundanity and the need to swallow my own emotions in order to provide for my children left me feeling like an empty shell, feather-light and desiccated. I could be broken by even small irritations. I cursed, and finally apologized. What’s It is wrong Are you with me? It was something I thought a lot. It was a great question. Please read the following: I?
My mother was me. My body was my children’s body, to climb on and feed off, my mind was consumed by keeping them healthy and happy, and with my anger at myself for failing every single time. I may have been a full-time mother, but without the ability to live into the self I’d created Apart from motherhoodThey deserve better.
Now that our daughter is in morning preschool, our son sleeps through the night, and different risk calculations mean we’re venturing back into the world more, I’m slowly carving a path back into my mind and body. As I connect with the parts of myself I lost, I see flashes of the mom I want to be—one who says yes instead of no, who can meet tantrums with patience, who can enjoy her kids for the bright, beautiful, funny people they are.
It isn’t a happy end. Because the last two years, in which mothers left the workforce in record numbers to shoulder the burden of childcare in a country that has abandoned us to the pandemic, and are now suffering a maternal mental health crisis, are a damning preview of what’s to come if Roe V. WadeThe U.S. has overturned this decision: People with uteri have to be forced to make sacrifices for a role that the U.S. considers more important then autonomy, ambition or our actual lives and which they will not support.
Learn More If Roe v. Wade is overturned, these states will ban abortion
I live in Texas, which has effectively already banned abortion, and which has already charged, however “mistakenly,” a woman with murder for an alleged self-induced abortion. From where I sit in this state that has taken such a horrifying lead in stripping people of reproductive freedom, it’s easy to see the worst-case scenarios: a forecasted 21% increase in America’s already abominable maternal death rate if a nationwide abortion ban is put into place, women criminalized not just for self-managing abortions but for miscarriages and stillbirths, cycles of trauma and poverty and abuse continuing unabated. This is what it looks like best-case scenario? You have probably experienced the same thing as me: A complete loss in self-worth.
And I can’t help thinking that’s the point.
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