Today’s must read is an essay from RH Reality Check’s Robin Marty:
In just the last seven years, I have experienced nearly every biological joy and trial that comes with being a woman. I’ve been on hormonal contraception. I’ve struggled with unexplained infertility. I’ve had a miscarriage. I’ve attempted vaginal birth. I’ve had an emergency c-section. I’ve had planned c-sections. I’ve used natural family planning to try to conceive. I’ve used natural family planning to try to not conceive. And, as a result of that, I became a woman with an unplanned pregnancy.
Currently, I am enjoying a state that I have never been in before–one where I don’t have to think at all about my reproduction, fertility, trying to get pregnant, trying to avoid pregnancy or being in a state of pregnancy. It’s a huge and welcome relief, frankly. Between miscarriage and two fairly closely-spaced births, I’ve spent well over two of the last three years having enough HCG in my bloodstream to be able to produce a positive pee test if I was so inclined. The seven months that have passed since I have had my last (and I do mean last) child is the longest I have been unencumbered by pregnancy hormones since 2009.
So it’s with a bit of irony that I read the incessant assertions from the religious right that I am in fact not a true woman anymore, simply because I have chosen to remove myself from the baby game. I already had one strike against me, obviously, just for advocating that women should be allowed to decide when or if they want to have children, and for believing that sex can be meaningful even if there isn’t some potential for conception to occur during the process. I’ve had sex to try and create children, and honestly, it can be a very stressful, non-magical endevor. As much as I can guarantee that all of my children were conceived equally in love, I can’t say the same about the… um… enthusiasm.
Since the birth of my son (and, nearly as importantly, the snipping and cauterizing of my fallopian tubes) I’ve had the chance to relearn both emotional and physical intimacy, two items that are often lost among couples with a houseful of small children or an empty house two partners are trying desperately to fill. It’s a task that is much more emotionally charged now that sex is for us alone, and without a worry about the “consequences” of sex that the religious right seems so focused on making a part of the bargain. We don’t need potential consequences. Our family is complete. After all, they already outnumber us. I’d hate to get even further behind.
But to them, I am no longer a woman.
“Women around the world have swallowed a detestable lie that a person’s identity can somehow be separated from his or her biological body… Women like [Sandra] Fluke who accept this detestable lie, have thereby rejected the glorious beauty and radiant splendor of what is really at the core of a woman’s being, namely her profound ability to procreate, to form a new life, to carry that life within her for nine months, to birth that new life into the world, and to nourish that life until it reaches independence.
The life-creating potential and nurturing capacities that belong to a woman’s very nature are most marvelous. But in the name of so-called freedom, Fluke and others want to elect a president who will support them in rendering their feminine bodies sterile and who will aid them in killing their offspring when their sterility strategy fails.”
Have I lost all “beauty and splendor” now that I am permanently out of the baby-making business? Do I no longer get to have an “indentity” now that my “profound ability to procreate” has come to an irreversable end?
For those willing to allow me to keep a sliver of womanhood, even if I have lost my ability to create and birth tiny human beings, I am still at the very least “corrupt.”
“Abortion strikes clear to the core of a woman because a woman’s God-given nature is to create, sustain, nurture, and protect new life. Whether a woman ever gives birth is irrelevant. It is still a woman’s essential make-up to bring forth new life into the world. God designed us that way.”
Just to believe that a woman should have the right to control how many (or even no) children she should bring into the world is a “corruption” of our very natures, according to those who are the most extreme. Whether a woman gives birth or not, she is a “mother,” according to them, just by being female. Much like the state of “pre-conception” that Jessica Valenti discusses in her new book Why Have Kids? all girls and women of reproductive age are in a state of “mommy-to-be” whether she cares to be or not.
To them, there is no society of men or women, but men and “potential mothers.” Once you remove yourself from the motherhood game, whether it occurs before or after you have children, you have denied your right to lay claim to womanhood.
Yet somehow, I don’t feel corrupt. I don’t feel a lack of “splendor.” In fact, I feel exactly as much a woman as I did before I had my tubes tied, or before I gave birth or even, shockingly enough, before I was pregnant. I feel the same as I did about my gender, my beliefs, my true nature, and my potential.
Most of all, I feel relief. Relief that regardless of what happens in the future, there will never be a point where I will be forced to add onto my family due to lack of access to birth control or abortion. My family is complete. And I am complete, even if I’m missing a small part of my tubes that the religious right claims is the most important part of me.