Our second child is the result of a crisis pregnancy. Our daughter’s first mom found herself pregnant at a time in her life when she was not ready to be a parent. She could have had an abortion and in many ways that would have been easier. Placing her daughter for adoption was not a simple decision; it sidetracked her life plans and caused her a great deal of anguish. But she continued her pregnancy because she felt it was the right thing for her to do.
I’m a fourth generation feminist and pretty early on I was aware of the way that a woman’s life can take a sudden turn for the worst when the rabbit dies. My family tree is made up of women whose reproductive lives were out of their control. Infertility may be not be a party, but then neither is fertility run amok. In some ways I feel I have more in common with the woman waiting at the abortion clinic after the poisonous positive test than I do with the average mom on the playground with two or three carefully planned and perfectly spaced kids.
I appreciate that there is irony in my position. After all, when I suffered through miscarriages I mourned a baby that would not be. My tears were not for a cluster of cells or a faceless embryo; they were for the child I would never hold in my arms or see grow to adulthood. If someone had come to me and said, “But it wasn’t really a baby,” it wouldn’t have assuaged my sorrow. In my heart, each miscarriage was my potential child lost.
But I can hold these seemingly contrary views because I believe that ultimately our experience of pregnancy is about context. Within the parameters of my yearning, an 8-week old embryo held the promise of a specific baby with my husband’s eyes and my own love for show tunes. Had my life been different at the moment of its conception, that same embryo may have meant further poverty, greater emotional demands on an already strained psyche, or a dangerous drain on my health.
Really who better can understand the anger and frustration a woman must feel when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy than an infertile woman? Our best-laid plans – the families we meant to have, the lives we meant to lead – are so easily upset when our fertility betrays us. No one knows the way our lives can slip off-course courtesy of wayward uteruses and disobedient ovaries more than the women who can’t get pregnant and the women who too easily do.
I am grateful that my daughter’s first mother had options. I’m glad that her decision to continue the pregnancy was made freely and that she was not coerced by legal constraints into continuing her pregnancy. And I strongly believe that her commitment to the daughter we share is made more meaningful because it was not forced upon her.
Dawn Friedman is a free-lance writer and blogger living in Columbus, Ohio.