I saw a sonogram on an iPhone for the first time the other night. My friend fiddled with her screen and then slid the phone, complete with cracked case and leopard print cover, across the table in between our frozen banana and chocolate desserts at Soft Serve Fruit. She told me about what I was seeing, one part of which was, I think, the placenta, but I don't totally remember because I was listening to her voice, filled with so much bubbly excitement, it made me excited.
It's not my place to talk about someone else's body, but I am here, a little, because I wish I could convey how different, how animated, how happy my friend looked. Everything about her was lightened, from her hair to her skin. We talked about the comparison of fetus size to fruit, about whether she's finding out the gender, about how we both want to be moms. It was such a joyous conversation, and so full of life and passion and excitement.
I know plenty of people who've been faced with unwanted pregnancies. I've seen the way the carrying of that literal and figurative weight can drain, drown, overwhelm a woman. I've seen an unwanted pregnancy wreak havoc, threaten to utterly undo someone's life.
I just read an excellent YA novel, My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson, about two teenagers faced with unexpected pregnancies who deal with them differently, and become friends. In one case, the woman's mother does everything she can to try to force her daughter to get an abortion. The mother had one when she was a teenager, and thinks any other choice will derail her daughter's future. Said daughter has other plans and doesn't care what anyone else thinks, and while I could tell that for her that would be a hard road, I couldn't help but cheer for her because she was strong, even when she was scared. She knew what was the right choice for her.
The truth is, no matter what choice a woman makes about a pregnancy, there will very likely be someone—friend, family, stranger—to tell them what they are doing is wrong. Kindof like there is always someone out there to tell us that so many of the things we are doing are wrong, whether it's what we're eating, who we're dating, how we're dressing, how much time we spend online, what career choices we're making. I shouldn't be shocked, but I continually am, how instinctive it seems to be to believe that whatever way you've chosen to live your life is, for many people, a default model for how others should live theirs. I have that instinct in me too, but I fight it with everything in me, because I abhor it. I have enough trouble trying to figure out my own life; I would be hypocritical in the extreme to try to pretend I know what's best for someone else. I don't, and neither do you.
And that to me is at the heart of what shouldn't even be an "issue." I hate that anyone would tell a woman she is "wrong" for choosing to terminate a pregnancy, or to keep one, yet both happen, all the time. "Fuck them," I said, losing any semblance of eloquence at the idea that someone would tell my friend not to go forward with her pregnancy. It's not that I don't think other people are entitled to an opinion; of course they are. But to profess to care about someone and not respect their decision to do something that so clearly is what they want to do baffles me.
What also baffles me is the idea that because I believe women should be able to make their own decisions about their reproductive lives I'm somehow out of the group who cares about "life." Fuck that too. I care deeply. I don't think you have to love babies or children or even your fellow humans to be pro-choice, but I do, and I am. In my head, I am already bringing my friend's child toys and I've offered to babysit as much as I can. I don't think it'll be an easy road, but the joy I saw on my friend's face, radiating out of her, was so beautiful, I know it will be worth whatever hardships she has to face, and I know she knows exactly what she's doing.
I believe life is like my friend's iPhone, with its splintering cracks and fashionable case, messy and beautiful all at once. Sometimes it's hard to know where one stops and the other begins. Sometimes there are catastrophes, and sometimes they feel insurmountable. But I don't think they ever truly are; we make decisions and we learn from them and maybe, if we're lucky, help other people in making their own. I forget sometimes to appreciate the messy alongside the beautiful, the lows along with the highs, the cracks amidst even the most serene transcendent experiences.
I think sometimes about what I want to teach my own kids, should I be lucky enough to have them, and while of course I'd love to say I never want them to experience any cracks, ever, that's unrealistic, unreal. That's not what life is about. Life is about finding the beauty amid the messiness, or making beauty happen, by any means necessary. In my opinion, that's what my friend is doing, and I couldn't be happier for her. That's not to say I wouldn't have supported her had she made a different choice; that would have been a different kind of beauty, and that would have been okay. Life is about self-determination, about forward motion, about knowing that we wake up every single day with, well, a whole day ahead of us to make, or remake, ourselves.
We adults don't grow in increments of fruit like my friend's fetus, but we do, hopefully, grow. I've done things this year I never would've imagined I could, or would, and some have been messy, some have been beautiful, some have simply been lessons that I'm still learning from. And I'm so incredibly grateful I get to keep on learning, every single messy, beautiful, life-filled day.