Tuesday, January 8, 2008

trying very hard not to sing in the rain

Immediately after the birth of my son, I had the surgeons perform a tubal, something I've been begging MDs to allow since I was 21. I asked repeatedly for a long time and was turned down because 'I'd have regretted it.' Looking at my son, I'm glad he's here, but being condescended to by ObGyns in terms of reproductive choices for years was not pleasant.

In any case, I went back in a few months later to get the final test results on the bits they pulled out. I am the only person I've ever met who had their tubes cut out and showed to them (see what happens when they dope you sideways? you ask to see strange things). The tests concluded that yes, I am sterilized.

It was all I could do not to go singing out of the hospital. I did, however, skip all the way to the parking garage grinning like a fool, bemused boyfriend in tow. The final I attended that evening was greatly ameliorated by the fact that I'd been to the vet to get tutored (sorry, old joke about the difference between dogs and cats.) Riding back in the car, I tried to explain my glee, which struck the boyfriend as a little ghoulish. I was rocking back and forward, punching the air and singing, 'I can't get pregnant any more, w00t!' I seriously contemplated sticking my head out the window to sing it at passing cars.

I suppose, if I had to break it down, it was the removal of the fear. Staring at a pregnancy test is a benchmark in every sexually active woman's life, along with the resulting panic and prayer (even if it's just a generalized 'please, no.') Even women who are married and not averse to being pregnant are not necessarily thrilled with the idea. Pacing the bathroom, crying, nausea, bargaining with god, the devil or whomever shows up; I'm free, goddamn it. I'll never have to see the lines again, never have to go through my body changing and the looks I get or the rearranging of my whole life because I cannot be sure that I'll get any help, should I chose to have the baby. I've been married, (ick) church-going and had a full time job and not received any support from my youngest daughter's father, to whom I was married, because babies weren't his problem.

Isn't the conservative, religious promise that if you're a very good girl, they'll stop punishing you by refusing to help? If you do everything you're supposed to, then you could earn the help of your partner, who doesn't have to help you unless you're behaving. I was taught that and a pretty face were insurance that you would be treated well.

My mother wonders why I ran screaming from the house as soon as I could and continue to be such a troublesome woman. Before anyone gets snarky, I'm told I've got a nice enough face and a relatively trim figure. Now if I would only get a girdle and a skirt, I could be putting ground glass into meatloaf and drinking daily in as little as a week.

In my experience, men are neither obliged nor likely to help with the children they father. Not having to worry again, to watch a child perform first steps, first words, alone because her father, in the other room, was too busy amusing himself to bother to care; all these things are off my future plate.

My oldest child's father actually brought a picture of his 'real family' to the hearing in which he surrendered all his parental rights and showed it to her. I don't give a shit whether or not he felt trapped by the pregnancy. Since he never spent any time with her, his feelings on the subject are moot.

The boy's father, whom I love hoping that he'll behave but am never sure of, thanks to experience, either will or will not comply. Either way, after my son grows up, never again. I'm not sure I could take the loneliness again. I've never had a more lonely moment than trying to beg my youngest daughter's father to care that she was taking her first steps. He told me not to bother him unless she said daddy and was very angry that her first word was mommy.

The burden just is not the same for men as women. Even after all the deadbeat dad legislation and commercial campaigns on responsibility, men still do not have to be there or give a shit. I think that we, as a nation, have come to expect men to do little.

Look at how hard we applaud men for doing a portion of what the child's mother does every fucking day (and works, too.)

Later that night, I lay awake for awhile thinking about my new sterility, still ecstatic from the knowledge that I'd never have to see a pregnancy test again. It's not just the ability to have sex anytime, anywhere (w00t), without the specter of pregnancy. It's not just being exempt from the long, lonely process of watching the child grow and watching society (which has changed considerably in the thirty years I've been around) still snub the children of single mothers and the single mothers for 'not being good enough to keep their man/relationship,' which I am still hearing about.

It's not being utterly beholden to that system of oppression. I'm out, goddamn it. No one can drag me back into that fear and grief, into the discomfort and risk of pregnancy. I'm done.

My body is mine and will stay mine until I fucking well die.

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