As the US election approaches and debates about key issues can be seen plastered on the walls of Facebook, one particular comment resonates with me and my current situation. It is the statement that, ‘My body belongs to me and I can do whatever I want with it.’ I don’t know about other women but I don’t really like to go around boasting about my body. In reality my body is a lot more faulty than I ever would have wanted it to be. Often it fails me and many a time I find myself feeling like 82 instead of 28. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t do anything I wanted with my body because it doesn’t really seem capable of doing all the things I want it to do — like run a marathon for instance, or endure a long labour. The truth is, when it came to nurturing and birthing a baby, the very thing that women claim is their right to choose how and when and if this happens, my body was pretty darn crap at it.
I had an unplanned pregnancy and have mentioned in a previous post that this caused all sorts of stress for me. First there was the Zika virus scare that caused me to have to cancel my Caribbean wedding and organise another one in six weeks in the UK, then the interview I had to give up for a great job as I knew having a baby meant I wouldn’t be able to take it anyway, then the stigma of becoming pregnant before marriage when you are part of a large church, then the realisation that my body would go kapoot after I had finally managed to be the fittest I had been in over 10 years, then there was the end of my football career that had just started to flourish again as I played in an FA Cup match with a Premiere League team the week before finding out I was pregnant and of course the intense, heart-stopping fear that I would fail at being a parent and had no clue yet how to take care of another life when I was still learning how to love my new husband. My pregnancy was pretty awful timing. I didn’t choose to be pregnant. I didn’t choose for my body to manufacture an egg and time it in a way that it is perched and ready to merge with a hapless, blind sperm. So how could I then choose to reverse the process?
I didn’t choose to end my pregnancy but embraced it despite the difficulties I was facing. It seemed, however that my body thought, on its own whim, about ending it, or at least went through some of the motions to do so. I bled a lot at the beginning and experienced cramps that left me praying on the toilet for God to help me accept the possibility of me no longer having the baby that I originally didn’t choose to have but came to love even as a spot on my uterus. It seemed my body didn’t really want to come to terms with this new reality and so continued to try to have periods as normal. Yet despite my body being broken and faulty, an early scan showed a roughly formed foetus with tiny, thin wiggling legs and arms, happily moving about amidst the blood. I knew then that this baby had a purpose and would be born regardless of what I wanted and how good my body was at nurturing it.
Again my body didn’t seem to want to give birth to this baby, moving painstakingly slowly through labour. I, by then, truly wanted to see my little boy’s face, but my body resisted, even when he made it known that he was ready to see mine by the bursting of my waters two days before his birth. Because my labour was so long, I was forced to take anaesthetic to mask the pain so spent the major part of the birthing process not feeling anything at all. Yet I could see on the monitor how my baby’s heart rate went worryingly low and high. I heard when the doctors talked about him being in distress and not having oxygen. I watched as my body chose, on its own, to work against my baby, to tire him out, to stress him into pooing. to threatening an infection, to leaving him with a bump on his head the size of a pear. After ten hours of watching my baby persist through the trauma of my body’s incapabilities, I had utmost respect for him. I could not, ever, be arrogant enough to look at the baby in my arms and think that I had any right to choose his existence, that I had any control over his entry into this world. I hadn’t even really been able to help him get out without stress and strain. I wasn’t the one who kept his arms, legs, brain, ears, nose, stomach, reproductive organs and ever other intricate part of his body forming effectively over nine months.
Looking into his beautiful eyes now as he turns one month, I can’t ever imagine again life without him. The trauma of my labour is already hardly memorable. The awkwardness of carrying an extra 30 pounds around is even less easy to recall. The wedding drama, the emotional lows, the stigmas, the worry, the heartache, the scares, the last beautifully header that helped assist a goal in the last football game I played, they are pixilated in comparison to the clarity of this new image; an ever-growing love for this young boy who is now in my care.
The truth is, I don’t have control over my body, or my life, or this baby boy. My body acts independently of my choices, my life takes turns I could never have fathomed and my baby boy has an incredible mind and perseverance of his own. We do not have the right to choose what to do with our body and with another life. Even if we tried, we couldn’t really make a definitive choice that didn’t have terrible consequences that we didn’t plan for. This arrogance in saying that it is our right, as women, to choose if to allow a baby to live or die, is similar to the arrogance that leads parents to control their children and lead them to live lives that are essentially slow, painful deaths versus the more immediate death of an abortion.
Giving life is a gift. No human being has ever chosen to give life or orchestrated the process. No woman has ever been able to script her birth. No person has ever had access to the inner workings of a child’s brain in order to control its development. We DON’T have control. We need to give up the pseudo-control we are holding on to. We need to stop rationalising the killings of innocent lives no matter the circumstance. We need to stop being so gosh darn arrogant. We didn’t choose to be born and neither will we ever be able to choose when another is born. And neither should we choose when another should die.
Instead, let’s stand in awe and be grateful for the incredible privilege of being responsible for a precious, beautiful, purposeful and new life.
‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’ Psalm 139: 13-16.