When I became a mother, I was unprepared to say the least. I was in my early 20s, underemployed and had no community of mothers around me at the time. I cried when I read the positive pregnancy test—and not from happiness. I was overwhelmed, distraught and unsure I could handle the responsibilities I knew motherhood would throw my way. Yes, I considered abortion. But ultimately, I decided to throw myself into the unexpected instead.
It may not have been my first one, but motherhood was my choice, and I'm thankful that I had that option each and every day. But more so, I'm thankful that other women have it too, because no one without financial stability, support, or the desire to be a mother should have to become one. And while I was always vaguely pro-choice in the "Of course, I'm pro choice; I'm a smart, young feminist!" kind of way, now that I'm a parent, I understand the magnitude of what those choices truly mean more than I ever did.
My journey as a parent has been so much more all encompassing than I ever could've imagined. It altered my life in every possible way—physically, emotionally, and financially. It changed every relationship I had. It forced me to ground myself and settle down. It pushed me to the brink of my sanity over and over again, especially in the early days of postpartum, when I learned how lonely and dark motherhood could sometimes be.
While I didn't feel ready to be a parent in any way, shape, or form, I surely wasn't as alone as I sometimes felt in the most jarring, transitional stages of new motherhood. I had help. I had family, all of whom quickly got on board with me having a baby. I had friends who made me diaper cakes and knitted pink hats and booties when I found out I was having a girl. Plus, I'd finished college the year before, so I had a bachelor of arts degree and an additional certification that gave me career options. I had a partner who was working hard, and while we didn't make a lot of money, we had a small amount of financial stability that we hoped we could grow in the years to come.
We also knew that if we were in over our heads, we would never be without a place to stay or food to eat. We had hard-working middle class families behind us who would surely put a roof over our heads and help us until we got on our feet if we had needed it. We didn't have it all together, but when I think about the circumstances under which others become parents, I feel extremely lucky because far more people don't have the people or resources that I had. Some people have none at all.
Even in the best of circumstances, learning to be a parent is a completely monstrous task. The struggles mothers are up against in today's world are immense. From mounting childcare and living expenses, to typically being allotted very little paid leave from work (if any), to the emotional tasks and pressures of parenting in today's violent and tragedy reaming world, every woman becoming a mother jumps through flaming hoops and has her body hairs singed off at some point. No one shrugs her shoulders and says "this is easy." It is work that you can't do without putting your heart and soul into it. And when you want to be a mother, you get used to laying your heart on the line, over and over again.
But parenthood is not for everyone, or it shouldn't be. A woman who knows she doesn't want to be a mother shouldn't be forced to become one or to carry a baby to term, especially in cases of rape or incest. Yes, it would be lovely if no one ever became pregnant accidentally and found themselves up against a choice no one wants to have to make. But that's not reality. And the fact of the matter is, abortions will continue whether they're kept safe and legal or not. While it may be unpleasant to think about, the alternative to legal abortion is far too grim. No one deserves to be born into resentment, extreme poverty, tragedy, illness or birth defects resulting from drug abuse or lack of prenatal care.
The decision to become a parent is a massive one and it needs to remain a mother's, whether that happens at conception, over a positive pregnancy test, or sometime after. That belief is what it means to be pro-choice. Asking women to become mothers when they don't have the desire, strength, resources or health to be one is not something I could ever support. Parenthood has taught me how important choice truly is. And while my decision to become a mother was likely the best one I ever made, for some women, the best choice is absolutely not to be one.