Watching My Sister Give Birth Made Me More Pro-choice
I’ve always considered myself pro-choice.
I grew up feeling empowered anytime I heard a catchy phrase such as “keep your hands off my uterus”, or the classic “my body, my choice.“
I felt a lump in the back of my throat when I heard stories of women getting harassed as they walked through a crowd of protestors to have an abortion.
Never did I ever think my feelings towards being pro-choice would strengthen as I saw my sister prepare to deliver her first born. But they did.
My sister, someone who was always so adamant about not having children, was about to be a mom. Her pregnancy was relatively normal, the baby was healthy all the way through and so was my sister. Though the baby wasn’t planned (surprise!), my sister was surprisingly excited to be a mom, and her partner, the father, was equally ecstatic.
My sister began dilating a week out. Though everyone else around her was on edge (me included), she handled the next few days like a champ. She never complained though occasionally she felt discomfort, experienced mood swings, or expressed concern — but what normal human being doesn’t do that on a regular basis?
She Was Scared, But She Never Showed It
She admitted to me that she completely lost it when the carseat wouldn’t fit into her hatchback, but she chalked her emotional breakdown to the flux of hormones circulating through her. Even her emotional breakdowns were calculated and rationalised.
When her water broke, she was convinced that they were just Braxton Hicks contractions.
“We are going to go to the doctor, he is going to check me out, and then he will tell me to go home and get some rest,” she adamantly informed her boyfriend and I.
You would think it was me that was having the baby, the way she was coaching me through it.
When we arrived to the hospital, however, we discovered that she was already 3cm dilated. It was go time! Well, almost.
The incompetent hospital administration couldn’t find her insurance in the computer, despite my sister making sure everything was in order a few weeks prior. She calmly filled out all the paperwork once again, even though water was leaking down her legs.
Even during her strongest, most painful contractions, she never once yelled or screamed. Even the doctor said she was doing a great job. I figured she told all her patients this but then she followed up with, “I’ve seen and heard a lot of things in my day!”
A few tears trickled down my sister’s face when the pain became too much. Instead of seeking comfort outside of herself, she closed her eyes and began breathing deep until the Anaesthesiologist was able to administer the epidural. The moments leading up to that point were the worst. I’d never seen my sister in so much pain, and even worse, there was nothing I or her boyfriend could do to help her. I tried to massage her, but she didn’t want to be touched. Instead, she stoically breathed through every damn contraction.
Once the epidural was coursing through her body, she could finally relax. A wave of relief washed over her and everyone else in the room. Now that she was properly drugged, she could finally think clearly again. She muttered, “I never want to do this again.” I believed her.
The next few hours went by relatively fast. Because one of the stirrups was broken on her hospital bed, I got volunteered to hold my sister’s right leg (which meant I was in the center of all the action.) That experience left me forever changed. Not only do I hold mad respect for my sister, but for every other woman who has ever given birth. Not surprisingly I was flooded with emotion when my niece finally made her way into the world. Tears were streaming down my face, but these tears were different than any I had ever released. These were new life tears. Hopeful tears. Unconditional love tears. Protective tears.
At some point, I slipped away to use the en suite bathroom in my sister’s hospital room. What I saw when I sat down to pee, shook me to my core. Hanging on the back of the door were pamphlets available in both Spanish and English entitled “Violence Is”. The pamphlets were intended to help women in abusive relationships seek support. The fact that these pamphlets were placed here made me sick to my stomach. How common is domestic violence? How many women give birth because they feel like they “have to”?
Imagine being a woman who was raped and for whatever reason (either due to lack of finances, lack of access, or societal guilt) chose not to have an abortion.
Imagine being a woman whose partner was no longer in the picture.
Imagine being a woman whose partner physically abused her.
Imagine being a young woman who didn’t have health insurance or the financial/emotional support of loved ones.
My Sister Had All the Support
She made the decision to have the baby.
She spent months making sure everything in the nursery was Pinterest-worthy and BPA free.
She had a supportive partner who loved her and was equally as excited to be a daddy.
She had health insurance.
She had a well-rated hospital, with a nice staff, located within 20 minutes from her house.
She had the emotional and physical support of her family.
And yet her experience was still life changing, earth shattering, and at times, hard to swallow.
But…. not all women have that support. In fact, very few do.
Pregnancy is scary. Giving birth is scary. Taking home and caring for a newborn is scary. Bleeding for another six weeks after giving birth is scary. Hormonal surges are scary. Breastfeeding is scary. Having breakdowns in the shower is scary. Sure women have been doing it since the beginning of time, but no matter how many Mommy blogs you read, nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the physical pain and emotional roller coaster that follows. Just like every woman should have the ability to choose to be a mom, every woman should have the ability to choose not to be.
When having a needle shoved into your back, risking the chances of becoming paralyzed, becomes not only a viable option, but a necessary one so that the intense cramping in your abdomen subsides, you suddenly become hyper aware of how important it is that women make this choice for themselves.
image by Jonas Kakaroto, Unsplash.com