I am not an incubator

Listening to the right talk about laws for “fetal rights” and “personhood” makes it sound like a fetus is an independent creature simply living inside of us for a short while because it has no way out until labor. The reality though, is that women are not simply keeping a fetus warm while it inevitably grows into a human. Clearly, otherwise many more women would have c-sections at 24 weeks so they don’t have to be pregnant for 40. Even if a woman goes into premature labor, which is defined as before 37 weeks, doctors try and do everything they can to keep the baby inside for as long as is possible and safe, because it needs our bodies to grow.

From the moment the embryo implants into the uterus, we are quite literally growing every single cell. There’s a reason why embryos only live so long on their own either in labs for in vitro or in a uterus before implantation. It literally needs us to grow, and it’s exhausting. The energy drain that pregnant women feel, especially in the first trimester, is evidence of this. The embryo or fetus is essentially a parasite, one that we want to nourish and will eventually become super cute and take over our hearts, but in the meantime, it’s taking over our bodies. Everything we eat and drink affects it, which is why so many things are legitimately off limits for pregnant women, like many drugs that are otherwise safe for non-pregnant people. The trajectory of an embryo becoming a fully formed baby is not guaranteed. As I discussed before, there are many things that can happen to interrupt or distort its growth (and sometimes nothing specific happens at all), and the result can be miscarriage or stillbirth. We are not simply vessels waiting for a human to inevitably come out. It’s not a landlord-tenant relationship. It is literally part of our bodies.

The battle between the rights of a fetus versus the rights of the mother to her own body are ridiculous.They are one and the same because WE are one and the same. There would be no fetus without the mother. My fetus is a part of me and my body. If I want him to grow into a healthy baby boy, there are certain things I know I should do, like eat healthy and take care of myself. Myself. Me. Same goes for when breastfeeding, helping baby grow with a different part of my body. If we want to say we care about potential children, we logically cannot disregard or go against what’s best for the mother as well.

Scary scenarios

After Donald Trump’s hilariously disastrous performance in the second presidential debate last Sunday, one comment started circulating that I found particularly thought provoking. The tweet read, “Trump won’t drop out. Hey, Republicans, how does it feel to be forced to carry something to term?” At first I actually laughed out loud at the irony, particularly since Mike Pence is being dragged along on this ticket and he has an abysmal, frightening record against women’s rights. But it did get me thinking about what it means to be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against your will, something conservatives actually want to enforce.

If an alien species came to Earth and started implanting its embryos into male and female human abdomens, telling us it needed to leech away our nutrients until it grew into full form, and then would burst open and potentially kill us in the process (think of the movie Alien), we’d automatically be outraged and say what torturous, inhumane, totalitarian behavior that is. We’d say these aliens have no right to control us like that and make decisions for our bodily autonomy. The analogy is clearly ridiculous, but that’s the point. If it were anything else sucking the life out of us, it’d be torture and no one would expect you to respect the rights of the creature over your own. Yet when it’s our own species, it’s somehow acceptable to tell us what we can and can’t do with our bodies. What could come at the end of the pregnancy is more important than what is happening to a pregnant woman’s body now.

Even though I’ve called my future child a parasite and leech, I am incredibly excited to be pregnant and to become a parent. I love this creature inside of me so much already, and I can’t imagine how that love will blossom once he’s born in 8 weeks (approximately). At the same time though, I also cannot fathom what it would feel like to go through this pregnancy NOT wanting the child that would result. Those opposed to abortion, particularly men who cannot understand what pregnancy is like, typically say “it’s only 9 months” as if that’s no big deal. It’s not like it’s 9 months of paying off a debt, or 9 months of having to take a medication every day. This is 24/7. Once you live every single second of every single day for 40 whole weeks feeling sick, exhausted, nauseous, achey, having back pain, not being offered a seat on a crowded bus or train despite said physical discomforts, constantly feeling the urge to pee, not being able to sleep, and who knows what other symptoms many women feel, only when you’ve lived that will you understand that 9 months is no small feat.

I’ve been incredibly lucky that my pregnancy has been relatively complication and symptom free compared to many other women. But even so, if I knew that at the end of this 8 week countdown, the result would be a baby that I could not take care of, a baby that would ruin my future, my finances, my relationships, my career, my body, etc, I can only imagine how horrifying these last 7 months would have been. I’m already overwhelmed with all the things I need to prepare for and all the changes that will come, and that’s me WANTING to be a parent. Adoption is an easy out, some say, forgetting how hard the pregnancy actually is, and how hard it can be to part with this child you’ve grown inside of you, no matter how much you know in your head that it’s the right decision.

Luckily, I also became pregnant by my husband in a loving, consensual manner. Had I been raped, I cannot fathom the thought of knowing that these extreme bodily changes were the result of someone violating me. To feel every kick and movement inside of me as a reminder that I was raped, that at one point someone else was inside me against my will, would be incredibly re-traumatizing. Especially considering this baby moves at least 100 times a day. 100 times a day remembering why I’m in this state, who did this to me, and why I have to have my life and body completely altered as a result. Or perhaps you’re still with the abusive partner, and knowing that you’ll have a child together means you know he’ll have more power over you, more control over the family. Even if you break up or divorce, that connection will forever be there even if you have sole custody.

Trying to imagine that this is something that the right wing wants to force on women (to say nothing of the pains of actual labor and birth), is disgusting to me. Some women may be able to turn a tragedy or mistake into a beautiful situation, but that’s their choice, a choice that cannot be forced on anyone. To say that they want to force such extreme physical and emotional actions on a woman because they care about “life” is just absurd, especially when they simultaneously are opposed to universal healthcare for children, welfare for families with children, gun control, and many other life saving programs. It’s a sadistic pleasure in watching women suffer who’ve done something wrong, who’ve acted out of line, who’ve had the audacity to have bodily autonomy and do something like have sex outside of marriage (also ignoring how many married women opt for abortions). This is the true desire to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term: to control.

Final thoughts

This was all I had to say on the topic at the moment, but I’m sure more will come to me as pregnancy and motherhood progress. We shall see. I’d like to see some light at the end of this tunnel, for all states to have equal protections for pregnant women and equal access to reproductive rights. Only time will tell, and until then, I’ll continue to fight and speak out wherever I can.