It's a meme, and it's a timed meme, and I read all those wonderful essays and opinions and it felt like everyone had time to prepare what they wanted to say about how they felt and believed, and here I am caught short, and it's the 24th not the 22nd --
-- and from what taste I've had of parenthood, parenthood is a lot like that. I spent four years as essentially a stepparent to the Little Fayoumis, and they were full of all sorts of adventures, and sometimes I even felt like a real parent. And I loved him unconditionally, but at the end of the day we both always knew that he was not my blood and bone, and while I had to care for him, I didn't have to let him within the deepest parts of the end of myself that I keep between me and a total meltdown. I could be replaced, and he could be shut out, and in the end, when his mother replaced my place in our little family unit with that jackass (as briefly as it happened), I shut him out to keep myself sane, for I'd have been bleeding after him if I'd made a parent's try at patching up the damage his would-be stepfather caused.
But for all that, the Little Fayoumis was not my biological son, and since we're still in the dark ages when "biological son" for a XX bio-woman generally means womb-time as well as genes, it was never in any way up to me whether he got born or not, or how.
Even such a limited slice of parenthood as I had (and that may be all the parenthood I'll ever have; I'm coming to terms with that at this point) was fucking hard work, and occasionally thankless, for all the little and big joys of it. I'm trying to imagine the physical risk involved. I was frankly appalled when iroshi
cheerfully told me about how the womb, after childbirth, is essentially an open wound, and has to be treated with immense care that same way. Pregnancy and childbirth are frankly fucking scary prospects. Yes, in theory, the female body is supposed to do these things. But who among us got the ideal female body that came out of the shop well-calibrated and just needs the occasional tune-up and routine maintenance? We're human, that's what, and the human condition involves random body parts doing psychotic things all the time. Even if every other part of me was to manufacturer spec, there's nothing saying that my reproductive system has to be in perfect working order too.
The thought of pregnancy hormones terrifies me. I was completely off my rocker in high school, could have died at almost any point in time in there, and even when I am on well-adjusted meds now, any random hormone fluctuation makes me snappish and tearful and not emotionally trustworthy. If I go off my meds and stay there, I am a suicide risk.
I know this. I have spent years coming to terms with that, too. (At this point, I'm stable and sane enough to admit that out loud in a public journal. Thank you, Priestess-Confessor, Darkside, and St. John's Wort. I have enough of a coping system built up that I'm not in immediate short-term danger if one thing, or many things, go wrong, but I have no reason to trust myself with my own life in the long-term without very secure backup of some sort, both emotional and biochemical.) If my hormones went out of alignment, I have no way of ensuring that I'd survive the experience.
Sex is about so much more than reproduction. There are too many ways to get unintentionally pregnant, despite precautions and best intentions. (And there are too many people who want to get pregnant and can't; there are too many children going unwanted and unloved; there are too many children born resented.) I don't think sex is a sin. I don't think that sharing pleasure with someone you don't intend to stay with is a sin. I do think that having sex with someone you wouldn't ever care to see again, or whose name you don't know, is rather stupid, and I would probably take care that anyone that I care about who is getting hurt by doing so would hear that I think it's rather stupid. I think that having sex in full defiance of proper precautions and being surprised and hurt when conception occurs is beyond stupid, and deserves remedial sex-ed, with diagrams, lectures, and a clue-by-four.
On sex-ed: I believe that reproductive education should be taught as early as possible. Guide Dog Aunt has a beautiful book about how babies are made, and it teaches the bare bones of the human reproductive process in a fashion that any child who is old enough to listen to a bedtime story can follow. Of course it's incomplete. The bare bones of teaching are always incomplete, but they lay the foundation so that understanding will be built up around them. If you're old enough to ask "Where do babies come from?" you're old enough to learn that a human-seed from Daddy goes inside Mommy and meets up with a human-egg from Mommy, and grows inside her womb until it's ready to come out, and only grown-ups bodies can have babies. (For the purposes of a toddler, adolescents are grown-ups. They're small and moody grown-ups, but they're grown-ups from the perspective of a toddler. And for a second-grader, the reproductive system can decide it's a grown-up before the mind is ready to be a grown-up. And so forth.)
The main argument that I've heard against teaching reproduction early is that sex education teaches sexuality as well as reproduction. And yes, classic high school sex ed does cover sexuality, if only in the form of "You will be having a lot of confusing thoughts and feelings as your hormones kick in." But the stereotypical toddler asking about how babies are made is not interested in adult sexuality. They want to know about BABIES. Attempting to explain adult sexuality this point is not a good plan. Sexuality education can wait until the kid is good and ready, but reproductive education should be the same kind of educational right as early as basic literacy, math, science, and arts.
The best sexuality education that was ever given to me was by Ariane Emory (elder), who wrote in one of her many instructions to Ariane Emory (younger) that you should never try to get anything with sex that you can't get with brains. Your critical reasoning turns off when hormones are applied in that kind of doses, so then you're in a situation you wouldn't trust yourself to navigate with brains, with your brain turned off. Smooth move there. Leads to grief. I know it, I've done it, I really regretted it, so don't you go repeating my mistakes. (Paraphrased.) Ari-elder's wisdom attempted to follow me through high school, and of course I ignored large parts of it, but she tried, and I tried, and chasing Shawn was a rather large adolescent mistake that subsequent years tried and failed to make better, but at least I didn't get pregnant.
Until the perfect contraceptive exists, there are going to be situations of unintentional pregnancy. I don't feel capable to judge any situation of unintentional pregnancy, because I'm not in their shoes and I haven't had perfect moral awareness handed down to me from the Powers that Be. Neither are you in their exact shoes, and neither have you had perfect moral awareness shoved up your nose, given that whatever textbooks there are out there are necessarily imperfect, and subject to the flaws and misunderstandings of generations of human use, and the flaws and misunderstandings in your own human brain. Your moral sense is flawed because you're human yourself, isn't that a fun thought? There is room for similarity and comparison, but I'm not you and you're not me and thank gods for that.
If you're planning to say that abstinence is the perfect contraceptive, I hope you start figuring cases of rape into that as well. I don't think that anyone who wants emergency contraception because she was raped should have to prove that she was raped, or even say that she was raped. I think she should be able to go into a pharmacy and speak with someone and get a morning-after pill, and have someone there to make sure she's OK after the hormones in those have their effect on her system, because high doses of hormonal anything will seriously fuck you up. I believe it's unfair to someone who's been assaulted to be treating the victim of an assault as coldly and nastily as often does happen. If they'd been in a real position to prevent things from turning the corner from a scary brush with someone into actual rape, don't you think they would have done it? Applying your hindsight to their assault is rude and cruel.
If someone truly supports abstinence as the only acceptable method of contraception, I sincerely hope that person also supports the castration of rapists and state-funded pregnancy care and full child support for anyone with an unintentional pregnancy. This is a society of humans you're dealing with, not angels or heavenly creatures or anything like that. Humans. Who don't do the right thing or do as they're told. Humans. If your vision of a perfect society involves everyone following the rules from the same rule-book and doing exactly as they should at all times by your rule-book, then please stay the FUCK away from my government, and please stay as far away from me. I believe in best efforts, differing rule-books, mercy, and clue-by-fours.
I don't believe in forced contraception or forced abortion. Someone who's a complete fucking idiot, or two someones who are complete fucking idiots, who are nevertheless legal adults, should probably never attempt to reproduce, but if they actually want to do that, or if they find themselves in a situation where they are doing that regardless of intent, still need to be allowed to have their child in peace. However, I should think that some effort should be made to instill some clue into these people both before and after the child gets there. A difference in religion doesn't make a potential parent a complete fucking moron; a difference in lifestyle doesn't; attempting to feed a toddler beer does. I am honestly curious about how many cases of child neglect or endangerment could have been prevented with the availability of free common-sense parenting classes, and an advertising barrage addressing some of the things that clueless parents do that they shouldn't do. I know that there are already ads aimed at getting clue into clueless parents, but I wonder how many more bad situations could be prevented.
I don't think that a pregnancy should be viewed as a punishment. If someone is looking at their pregnancy as a burden and a punishment, I don't think that's a healthy situation to bring a child into. Yes, adoption is a viable option for many people, assuming they can make it through the process of pregnancy. I don't presume to make that assumption about anyone's medical state. I would not force anyone to go through a pregnancy if they in any way do not think that they are capable of doing so. I cannot make that decision for someone. I do not think a doctor can make that decision for someone either. I think a doctor can advise someone, but in the end, it is the decision of the woman in that body with that pregnancy to make.
This one goes both ways -- if someone who a doctor considers medically incapable of bearing a child chooses to make that attempt, the doctor does not have the right to terminate that pregnancy without that woman's consent (or the consent of her medical next-of-kin if she's not capable of making that decision for herself). She should be advised of the odds of the pregnancy killing her and the baby both, but if she's still determined to do it, that is also her choice.
I have heard enough from friends of mine who have gone through miscarriages and abortions to know that no matter how it happens, the process is not easy. The anti-abortion lobbying bloc would have you believe that an irresponsible wouldn't-be-mother woman can skip in and skip out with no physical effects; other parts of them would also have you believe that you run a significant chance of reproductive damage and death. I'm not sure where I'm going with this paragraph anymore. It does not leave a person unaffected by it.
The loss of a pregnancy has an impact. What the impact is depends on the person's physical and mental situation. If you don't want a child, or if the child would be in a situation that you would not ever want one in, or if you do not believe that pregnancy would be worth the risks, it is not a decision to be made lightly, but it has been a decision ever since people started to understand the reproductive cycle and how to reliably disrupt it. Best that it be done by people trained in how to do it properly, and best that it be done with mercy and understanding.