Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Crisis Pregnancy, a Personal History

"Crisis pregnancy" is a phrase much in the public discourse right now, so here are my own experiences with being pregnant and in crisis.

I've had seven live births and two miscarriages, a bit above the average of 1.6 births per woman in the US in 2020. Five of my nine pregnancies have been "unintended", in the sense that I was actively tracking fertility signs and abstaining when I thought I was fertile. Of those five pregancies, three could be described as "crisis pregnancies" in some sense. In only one case, the first, was the crisis financial. In none was the crisis life-threatening, or even entirely health-related. 

My first crisis pregnancy was in 2003. We were renting an apartment in Los Angeles, and I was a stay-at-home mother at 24, with a seven-month-old daughter, when I discovered that my flu symptoms were actually an effect of being six weeks pregnant. I was taken aback but not distressed. Darwin and I had to make some immediate financial decisions, which led to us caring for his 93-year-old grandmother in her home for six weeks until her death, and caring for the house until the new baby was two months old, at which point we moved to Texas. 

That baby is now a beautiful, talented 18yo, a triple-threat on stage, seamstress extraordinaire, headed to Benedictine College this fall to study psychology with a minor in dance.

My second crisis pregnancy was in 2010. I was a homeowner, almost 31, with four children 7 and under (and one miscarriage, an unintended but not unwelcome pregnancy). We were overwhelmed and ready for a break, and when we discovered we were pregnant, we needed some time to process this very unexpected turn. (We were blogging then, so here are the real-time ruminations.) We desperately needed an evening alone to talk about the future, but we also weren't ready to tell folks why it was so necessary that we have a date, so we could not get a babysitter for love or money. This, in turn, started a train of thought about moving closer to family, and so when baby was two months old, we moved to Ohio, to our current home.

That baby will turn 12 next week, my youngest daughter, a tall willowy girl who loves to cuddle, who has blossomed into a famous reader after struggling with dyslexia, who sews for her dolls and keeps a private sketchbook into which we're sometimes privileged to glimpse.

My third crisis pregnancy was in December. I was days shy of 43, with seven lovely children ages nineteen to four, a gracious and healthy marriage, a comfortable home, and a secure income, surrounded by supportive family and friends who value life at all stages. When I saw my positive pregnancy test, I wanted to die. Even to the few trusted friends I could bear to tell the news, I was only capable of hinting at the depths of my misery. I informed Darwin right away, but we had little privacy to process our shock, and when we were alone I could only lay in rigid silence, or scream quietly into my pillow. It was a physical struggle to fight past the weight in my throat and on my chest to form words to tell him how I felt, and it was a mental struggle to distill the abyss of my thoughts into distinguishable syllables. At no point did I doubt God and his love for me, or my faith, but I cried out in unbearable pain. At no point would I have actively harmed myself or my baby, but it would have been a relief to know that I could go to sleep and never wake up.

I lacked no external support, socially or financially or morally. Like Jesus, whose agony I emulated, I had twelve legions of angels at my beck and call. But all I could do was to beg for this cup to be taken from me, but not my will but Yours be done.

There are many crisis pregnancies, far more than we can ever know. Many of them can be succored with financial assistance. May of them can be comforted through better social networks and more progressive family-friendly policies. And many require a quiet, terrifying death to self, where the cup comes before joy. I don't think there's any way to make that go away, because it's part of being human. We should indeed do all that we can to ease the many burdens of pregnancy, especially for mothers in distressing circumstances. But there is no way to eliminate crisis pregnancies, until we eliminate mothers altogether. 

1 comment:

Christy from fountains of home said...

Wow, this is fantastic because it is so true. It would even be great to know that experiencing crisis pregnancies and all those awful feelings aren't singular or unique and happen to us even in the "best" of circumstances. But in a contraceptive world, only the perfect pregnancy is allowed to be spoken of.