Rally In Austin

Last week, my son and I headed south to Austin, Texas.  The prior week, Senator Wendy Davis stood on her feet for thirteen hours to block a bill, if passed, would have affected women’s health issues, restricted women’s choices, and closed 37 of the 42 clinics in Texas.  As women, whether we support the Pro-Life campaign or the Pro-Choice campaign, we should not let our campaign choice impair our judgment of a fellow comrade who is a resilient, courageous woman that was willing to stand for THIRTEEN hours for her belief and her right as an American citizen.

I will tell you that I tend to lean more towards the Pro-Choice campaign.  Just by my past choices, I am by default, a Pro-Choice specimen.

I, myself was an unplanned (illegitimate) child of the 1960’s, during a time of heated debates.  Even though I was too young to rally and protest injustice for the Civil Rights and the Women’s Rights Movement, it seemed the seed was planted inside me waiting for the moment to sprout.  When Wendy Davis called for supporters in Austin, I eagerly wanted to stand with my sisters and fellow supporters.  After all, this is what historical moments are made of and I wanted be a part of history.  I wanted to show my support and honor all those women who came before me; the ones who fought for my right to vote and my right to choose.  I wanted MY voice to be heard that day.  No, I wasn’t on any stage and I wouldn’t have a microphone in my hand.  Nevertheless, my voice and applause was in collaboration with all those others souls who were standing in support to honor the lone, Wendy Davis who stood on her feet for thirteen hours!  I mean thirteen hours, on your feet with no meal breaks, no bathroom breaks, and no leaning on your desk, all the while, talking non-stop about one topic.  This one woman along with others by her side did this remarkable task all because she believed that every woman should have the right to fair treatment and the right to choose.

As an author of a book that conveniently is titled, One Woman’s Choice, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share my book information.  I had post cards printed up with the book cover on one side and added my Twitter account at the bottom along with a one line sentence at the top that read, “Supporting women and the choices we make.”

Just outside the gates, protesters were standing and holding their creative, political signs, sharing their potent words.  As we walked through the capital gates, Planned Parenthood had tables set up just inside along with other Pro-Woman advocates, handing out flyers and requesting for us to sign in so they could get a head count.  Without hesitation, I leaned over, grabbed a pen and signed my name to be counted for their roll call.  Apparently those supporting Pro-Choice and Wendy Davis were supposed to wear orange clothing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo.  I had on a navy blue polo shirt.  So they gave us a little orange sticker dot to place on our shirt to show our support.  Cool, we’re all good now.

My son and I trek down into the crowd, looking around in amazement.  I take a deep breath and I begin to hand out my flyers.  I’m met with some reluctance and a little resistance.  I understand that these activists have lots of campaigners asking them to look at something, take something, sign something, or sign up for something.  I am somewhat of a meek person usually.  I don’t have the car salesmen personality and I am better at servicing customers than attracting customers.  Hey, we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  But sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone especially when we need to accomplish a goal.  This was one of those times.

About twenty minutes after arriving, the music stops, one of the guest speakers gets on stage, the mood of the crowd shifts, and the rally begins.  The crowd roars in unison with every valid point the speaker makes.  After a brief respite, the crowd quiets down and I continue to hand out my post cards.  But the activists now seem less friendly and less interested in what I have to share.  I’m wondering what it could be.  I’m feeling a little insecure because neither Jaren nor I have on orange clothing.  Are they judging us by our colors?  Seems crazy right?  All these years we have been drilling into our American society to “not judge a person by their color but rather by the content of their character” and here we have a protest between two opposing sides suggesting that their followers wear a specific color so others can tell what side you represent.   As I walk among the orange shirts, I feel somewhat like an outsider.  But hey, I have on my little, round- orange sticker.

I pull my chin back up, muster up some more courage and begin to hand out more post cards.  That’s when I met this one young lady.  I handed her a post card and she replies, “You do realize my uterus is my property?”

At first, I was taken back and to be honest, offended.  When she saw me, she made her quick inaccurate assessment and judgment.  I replied, “Yes, and my book is called One Woman’s Choice.  I’ve made the choice to have an abortion.  I’ve made the choice to give birth and raise my son who is right there (pointing to Jaren) as a single parent, and I’ve made the choice to give life and be a birth mom.  That’s what Pro-Choice is all about, isn’t it?  Supporting all choices women make?”

She said, “As long as we are on the same page.”

I said, “I have on an orange sticker.”  To which she replies that the “others” were also wearing the orange sticker so they could mingle among the Pro-Choice activists and get their Pro-Life campaign pamphlets out.

As Jaren and I walked away, I was fuming.  Jaren tried to smooth over the situation.  I said we came here to support this cause and this is how we get treated just because we didn’t have the right color shirt on.  I wanted to shout out to her and ask her what choices has she made?  Has she ever had an unplanned pregnancy?  Has she ever struggled as a single mother to support her child?  Has she ever had an abortion?  Has she ever had to say good-bye to her infant baby because no one in her family offered to support her?

I am thrilled that so many Americans came to support Senator Wendy Davis.  But I also know that not every man or woman who supports Pro-Choice has ever had to make a life changing choice or experienced an unplanned pregnancy.  I respect all those who gather to support a women’s right and freedom to choose the path she feels is best for her when an unplanned pregnancy occurs.  But don’t come at me with your premature judgments.  I don’t just believe it.  I don’t just speak it.  And I don’t just protest it.  I have actually lived it!Image

UNWANTED

A pregnant woman

A pregnant woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find the whole Pro-Choice, Pro-Life debate frustrating at times. I don’t believe there are any other political issues in this day and age that draw greater polarities of opinions than this political topic. But this post is not about the debate, nor is it about the adults who are arguing over the debate but rather the children. They are the ones in the cross fire.

As much as the debate frustrates me, there is one thing that bothers me even more and that is when I hear the term “unwanted.” This term seems to get easily thrown around by both sides of those debating Pro-Life and Pro-Choice with no apparent consideration of whom it may offend or hurt. I’m curious about these people who sometimes crudely debate this issue; who make their harsh judgments and careless comments about the “unwanted” kids? Who are they? Have they themselves ever felt unwanted? Were they born out of wedlock? Were they adopted? Were they raised by a single parent? Did they grow up poor or homeless? Were they abused or abandoned by one or both of their parents; or bounced around from family to family or foster home to foster home? I would like to hear from the voices of these children.

There are several birth mother groups popping up on the internet and Facebook, some of which are wounded, angry birth mothers who would like to abolish “newborn” adoptions as much as Pro-Lifer’s want to abolish abortions. They believe there are those who try to take advantage of the misfortune of an unplanned teen pregnancy and feel women are being used to supply the needs for the childless parents. At times, I do understand how they feel. As a woman, to have a society judge you for getting pregnant in the first place, then tell you that you are a baby killer if you choose to abort, to telling you it is unfair to raise a child as a single parent, to coaxing you into relinquishing your child; only to have society then tell the birth child he/she was “unwanted” by his or her first/birth parents.

People say it’s different now. For some, it is. But after reading the birth mother blogs, they say that the changes are not genuine but rather a marketing (open adoption) ploy by adoption agencies to get more birth parents to relinquish their parental rights, which turns into more dollars for them. Adoption agencies are playing match maker, representing both sides (birth family versus adoptive family) and will coach or persuade as they feel appropriate, sometimes beguiling one party to benefit another. I will say that my own experience with my birth son’s adoptive parents has been nothing more than positive, open, respectful, and loving for which I am very grateful. I do believe that we are the exception though and not the norm. I’ll let you make your own judgments on this.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 10 million single mothers raising children and 24 million children live in a biological father-absent home. These statistics are alarming and show us that too many women are facing their unplanned pregnancy independently. Men are abandoning women every day during the unexpected prenatal period and somehow we as a society accept this behavior. We allow men to go out and sew their wild oats and then walk away from their responsibility. Society tells women, “Well, you should have known better.” “A man is going to be a man.” Or my personal favorite, “Men can’t help themselves.” Really? Are we talking about children or are we discussing grown mature men. Do we need to remind men that sex was not created for just an orgasm; sex was created to produce life. When girls and boys become men and women, there is no “one” gender to blame for an unplanned pregnancy.

I have heard some men say, “She said she was on birth control.” We all know that birth control is not 100% effective. Even so, it’s not okay to leave the responsibility on one partner. If you do, don’t blame someone else for any consequences. Think of it this way. Your friend handed you gun. You decided to play make-believe Russian roulette. Your friend assures you that they removed all the bullets so you don’t have any worries. Do you aim and shoot? Do you consider the adverse consequence? Do you trust your friend well enough to risk your life?

In my memoir, One Woman’s Choice, I share that my own existence was based on an unplanned “accidental” pregnancy in 1963. My biological father went to prison when I was four years old and was absent for most of my adolescent years, causing my mother to shoulder the responsibility for my every need. I’ve had my fair share of teenage boys and adult men use me for their sexual hunger with no consideration for the unforeseen consequences of their sexual desires or deviances. Even my son’s father refused to take responsibility when he learned of our unplanned child, except to offer to pay for the abortion. And I’ve listened to countless women tell a similar story that resulted in abortion, adoption or single parenting because their male partner couldn’t handle the consequences of sex and walked away. Yes, you might say I am somewhat frustrated by how men can think about sex all the time without thinking about the consequences. Yet still, we continue to blame women for unplanned pregnancies. To borrow a line from the film, Philadelphia, “Can someone please explain this to me like I’m a five year old?”

I don’t know if society has brainwashed men for thousands of years or men have brainwashed women. Maybe a little bit of both. But brainwashing doesn’t make it true. Does society really believe that men are incapable of controlling their own sexual needs or that their desires are stronger than a woman’s desires? I don’t. I think this is an excuse. But that’s not the issue. It’s what happens after those desires are fed that result in an offspring that causes the debate which women and children seem to get caught in the combat zone while men sit on the sidelines observing from afar.

Now I already know that some of the men reading this may be thinking I’m bashing all men. I’m not. I personally know a few good men who didn’t abandon their partner when an unexpected pregnancy occurred and I highly respect them. But you have to admit, even when this happens, we’ve heard some people blame women again and say, “She tricked him.” Just for the record, I’m not saying that all women are saints. But statically, more women are carrying the load and responsibility of an unplanned pregnancy from the time of conception. Society watches her every move, her every decision and is ready to fire back with quick accusations, assumptions and sometimes unfair judgments.

With the exception of forced sexual contact, I don’t think that an abortion or an adoption should take place without the consent of both biological parents. I hope one day it will be illegal for any parent to walk away from his or her responsibility once a child is born unless their parental rights are legally relinquished. I truly believe that if more men supported their partner during an unplanned pregnancy, we would see fewer abortions and adoptions because many, many women chose these options when all other hope is gone, as a last resort. If we don’t begin to educate our youth and re-educate our society, we will continue to fall into the same repetitive cycle over and over again.

But I’m getting side tracked. Back to the “unwanted.”

I can tell you from personal experience that although I have chosen abortion and adoption, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t want my children. Have you ever “wanted” a new car but couldn’t afford it? Some of us know to leave the dealership before we get cornered by some smooth talking salesman who begins to talk us into agreeing to something we know we shouldn’t be doing. Some salesmen can be very persuasive when it comes to getting what they want. Sound familiar? Somehow the salesman gets into our psyche and convinces us into buying a new car. We skip a few payments (you could replace this with “periods”) because of our financial hardship and now the salesman is no longer sweet or charming but rather standoffish and unapproachable. For some of us, our car gets repossessed. It still doesn’t mean we didn’t want the vehicle, it just means we couldn’t afford the vehicle. Some may ask their family or friends for help while others may ask someone to take over payments to avoid repossession.

My point is the vehicle was not unwanted. Just like children are not unwanted. I would say most parents “want” their children whether or not; emotional, physical, or financial hardships prevent them from carrying out their obligation and responsibility. Broadcasting that a youngster is “unwanted” puts the emphasis on the innocent child which is unfair.

No child (or human being) is ever “unwanted” because we always have God, whose love is boundless, endless, and timeless.

Abortion

Do I dare even attempt to discuss abortion in a radical sense? Or for that matter can any of us discuss abortion in a sensible debate? Those who openly discuss abortion are those who either have never had an unplanned pregnancy while others proudly display their ethical crown and openly express their hate towards those who chose to abort and maybe the ones who regretted their choice to abort then later lash out in a hypocritical protest. And then there are the ones who are afraid to speak out, some of which had an abortion and now fear the backlash and judgment that will be thrown at them hastily so they quiet their voice for fear of ridicule.

As many of you know who have read my book, I have had abortions. I am not proud of this fact. When I had my very first abortion back in the early 1980’s, I truly believed that my only two choices were to either single parent or have an abortion. Adoption never even came up. The thought never entered my mind and I don’t remember anyone bringing up the adoption option. However, to speak frankly, I can’t say that if someone would have offered this option, I would have chosen it. I had no idea what it was like to be pregnant or for that matter to be a mother. My maternal instincts were very immature.

In my book, One Woman’s Choice, I acknowledge that my own existence was based on an unplanned pregnancy in 1962. My parents didn’t have the option to abort me. Well, legally abort me. They basically had two choices. Keep me or leave me. They chose to keep me. But this choice didn’t come without sacrifice. And too often, I became the sacrificial lamb.

I remember when I was around four years old, my older brother and sister would get picked up by their father or by their paternal grandparents for the weekend; I was left behind with our mother. My father had recently moved to Florida and my paternal family had no plans of picking me up for the weekend. I was sad to see my siblings leave home without me and even sadder that my own father wasn’t coming to pick me up. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes it was great hanging out with mommy. No sharing attention with my older siblings; just me and mommy by ourselves was fun. However, other times, it was quite a different story, like when my mother was forced to take me on her dates. My mother made it very clear that the only reason I was going out with her and her date was because she had no one to watch me, no place to drop me off. Basically, she was stuck with me. I remember how this made me feel. I had strict orders to keep quiet and make no sound. It was very apparent that I was not going out with my mother and her date because they wanted me to join them; I was going as a last resort choice.

As a mother myself and a single mother at that, I couldn’t imagine making my son feel like he was a burden or an unwanted guest. And sadly, this is exactly how I felt; unwanted, uninvited, and unaccepted. My father didn’t want me, my mother didn’t want me at that moment and her date surely didn’t want me ruining his plans. Wow, now that’s a heavy load.

From the moment I arrived, my delivery into this world was based on lies and deceit. My mother was still legally married to her first husband when she gave birth to me and with the approval of her separated husband, led the hospital to believe I was his child so his insurance would pay for my delivery. And if that’s not enough, I overheard my mother on a rare occasion give the impression to an old friend that I was from her first marriage. Guess that’s because she was afraid that if they knew the truth, they would judge her. Does that mean I am a shame to the family?

At four and five years old, we can’t really decipher the entire scenario and make reasonable or for that matter practical judgments. At four and five years old, our heart and mind is developing and we are learning about the world around us. We learn from our parents how to love and honor each other; what is acceptable behavior and was is not acceptable. It was during these times, I was very confused about my place in this family, my existence to my environment and my worth as a human being.

I’ve confessed to my son about my abortions and he is aware that he and his younger brother were both unplanned pregnancies. He also knows what influenced some of my decisions. I told him that I myself was unplanned and at times, because my childhood pain was so deep, back then I “sometimes” wished that I was aborted. I know that this may sound horrifying to many of you. But in my mind, I felt like I could have still been in a spirit form hanging out with God my father rather than in this human form with pain and suffering. Of my mother’s five children, I am the only one who was born out of wedlock or illegitimate. I mean who wants to feel like you were given birth because there was no other option, no other choice. Who wants to feel like a burden or that your life has brought shame to your family?

With tears rolling down my face, I said to my son, “I believe that if abortion was legal when I was conceived, I would have been aborted.” You may ask why I feel this way. Well, besides what I described above, my mother suggested for me to abort my first pregnancy, she suggested to abort my second born son who was later placed for adoption. And lastly, upon finding out my first born son was bi-racial, (and too late to suggest abortion) she wanted me to place him for adoption. Why would I think anything else?

I reassured my son and admitted, “When I got pregnant with you, I had a choice. I chose abortion before you were born and after you born and could have chosen to abort both you and your brother. I gave birth to you both because I wanted you both. That’s one thing you can be sure of. ”

I will tell you of the three choices I have made; choosing adoption was my hardest choice both before and after the adoption took place. This choice brought about such pain that I would not wish this on my worst enemy. You can ask other birth mothers and just about all of them will tell you the same. Single parenting was by far my easiest choice. Although it is a lifelong commitment and can be very stressful at times, as a parent, we get so much in return. The love of a child is like no other love I had known before and something that I had longed to feel. As for the abortions, who knows how life would have turned out if I chose to give birth to the children I aborted? Would I have felt like they were a burden to me and mistreated them solely because they came at an inconvenient time, or because I was not married nor did their father want to marry me or parent or for that matter co-parent the unplanned child?

I am a single mother and more often a single parent, and a birth mother and I accept that I am not a perfect mother or for that matter a perfect human being. I know we all have our shortcomings. And I have confessed to my sons and apologized for any wrong decisions or poor choices that I may have made.  But I want them to know that I had a choice and my choice was to give them life. Not because I had no other choices, not because I felt pressured or needed to satisfy their father (who didn’t want any more kids) or a society or my family or my friends or my religion or whoever else wanted me to choose something other than what I felt I needed to choose.

My sons were chosen and they are loved.