When is it time to tell the world that you are pregnant? When does it make sense to start snapping ultrasound pics of your uterus and sending out grainy black and white shots of what appears to be a slightly anemic sea monkey to your friends and family? A cousin of mine has been taking full advantage of her profession as an ultrasound technician to send out what feels like an almost constant stream of snapshots of her fetus since conception in February. She is barely three months pregnant, but it feels like her baby (which I’m told will be a boy) should be here already.
And yet, she is barely at the point in her pregnancy where she can even begin to find out whether or not her pregnancy is truly one that will mature into a fully formed human being, independent and capable of surviving outside of her body. What will she, or any one of the millions of other women who behave in the same way, announcing their children’s existence even before they attend their first prenatal doctor’s visit, if they find out that their pregnancy is not viable? That their potential children would have no quality of life? Can she still have an abortion if she has already so publicly and firmly turned her pregnancy, which is a medical condition that she herself has, into a separate human being in her own mind the mind of her friends and family members?
I doubt it. That is the line that the anti-choice and the pro-choice dance around and use to wound one another. My body but someone else’s life? That hardly seems possible. And yet, the baby-centric culture that we have created, wherein it is somehow bitter or radical for me, a single woman, to defend my right to my own body by belonging to the Abortion Gang, but normal for a pregnant woman to spam her entire e-mail address book with a flood of fetus photos. Sure, her job as an ultrasound tech means that my cousin is able to scan herself more often than a hairdresser changes her hair color, but she is hardly alone in transforming from a multifaceted woman into an obsessed baby bakery.
I’m not sure whether I find the barrage of baby news and photos so obnoxious because it began upon conception or because of its sheer volume. It could be because, despite the fact that it is remarkably easy to conceive a child, her behavior indicates that it is somehow a daring or difficult choice. Yet, I believe, that it is so much more challenging and admirable to make the decision to not have a baby. To dare to put quality of life above “life,” to make the hard decisions that, unfortunately, no one will be sending you cute little pastel care packages for. It is so much more difficult to decide to have an abortion, to decide that you cannot have a child now, because, unlike the decision to have a child, there is no one there to pat you on the back, let alone legions of family, friends and acquaintances. As Mother’s Day approaches, though, if you are one of these courageous women, then please pat yourself on the back. Whether you have children now or not, know that you decision mattered, and that you deserve to be praised every bit as much as and more than those who decided to carry pregnancies to term.