Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
My daughters have been asking a lot of interesting questions in this process called becoming a woman. And, of course, they’re asking me a lot of very personal questions. The latest one started when Emmi asked me if she could watch the movie Unplanned.
Now, I didn’t know anything about the movie. So, I told Emmi that I would consider allowing her to watch it after I had seen it myself. I go to Vudu, and I just buy this thing because I’m thinking, well, I’m probably going to say yes. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. It turns out that Unplanned is an American drama anti-abortion movie based on the memoirs of Abby Johnson, also by the same name, Unplanned.
This woman basically claims that she was tricked into working at Planned Parenthood, and she didn’t really espouse the beliefs of Planned Parenthood. And that when she tried to leave Planned Parenthood, they harassed her, made her life a living hell. Now, while the story sounds wonky to me, I suppose anything is possible.
The thing about the movie was that it graphically shows two types of abortions: one is what can happen with the morning-after pill, and the other is late-term abortion. Now, some doctors claim that that’s an exaggerated version of a late-term abortion. But the reality was that it was both incidents were just graphically illustrated for the viewer. I decided against allowing my child to see it. It was a while ago; I think it was when the movie first came out.
More recently, the same child wanted to know if I was pro-choice or pro-life. And I thought, “Oh man! She’s just loaded up with complicated questions.”
The first time I ever heard about abortion was when I was about ten going on eleven. My aunt asked me if I would go on a trip with her. I was really excited because she was one of my favorite aunts, and I said yes. It meant a trip on the bus. I asked her where we were going, and she said she was going to the doctor.
My aunt went to the doctor. She didn’t seem to be there long, and when she came out, she complained that she was somewhat in pain. I didn’t really pay much attention to it. I mean, I was very young, and I was very excited about being on the bus with my favorite aunt. She wasn’t complaining about feeling poorly. My aunt was just complaining that the doctor had given her a shot or done something, and she was in discomfort.
A few hours later, we’re at my grandmother’s house, and my aunt was just really cramping! She’s just crying and cramping, and I’m wondering, “What is going on?”
Next thing you know, my mother, grandmother, another aunt, and everybody is in the bathroom. I’m wondering, you know if there’s something wrong with my favorite aunt, the one I went to the doctor with. Then I hear them, and they’re talking about the embryo being in the toilet. And, of course, the way they described it was like a big blood clot.
I just remember shrinking within myself, thinking about what had just happened. My aunt lost a baby. I didn’t even know my aunt was pregnant. And then, of course, in those days, my mother and my aunts, definitely my grandmother, were not very careful about what they said around the kids. And of course, they started talking about how she had gone to this doctor, and she had some kind of shot, and as a result, she had an abortion. She had been aborting her baby or the embryo.
I didn’t know how to react! I really didn’t know how to respond to this. I felt a tremendous loss of innocence because my grandmother, Ava, was Catholic. She was the mother of my aunt, the one that had the abortion. So, she was a Catholic, my grandmother, my aunt. I knew that the Catholic Church said abortion was a mortal sin, which basically meant you were going to hell no matter what. You were hell-bound. Both of them had taken me to catechism. Both of them had taken me to church countless times. And then making things even more confusing, Hispanic culture at that time was all about women becoming mothers. Children, even if unplanned, were always wanted. People always found a way to work it out. But my aunt was a single woman. And I knew that in our culture, it was not okay for a woman to have children out of wedlock.
So, I was confused about how it was that my aunt was a Catholic had an abortion. I was confused about how it was that my grandmother, who taught me to be a Catholic, had supported my aunt through her abortion. I was just very confused! But they have been taking me to church for so long that my belief was that what they had done was wrong and they were going to hell. I was really sad for them. Right?
So, up until my twenties, if I had to label myself now that my children need me to label myself, I would say that I was pro-life. And then, in my early twenties, I took a biology course at San Diego State University that put me on the road to be pro-choice. First and foremost, I learned that an embryo is not the same thing as a baby. We tend to use them interchangeably, the words, but they don’t mean the same thing. Around that time, I also started to see that it isn’t always good for people to have children. It’s not just the children that are sometimes unwanted. It is that those unwanted children can be horrifically abused. I thought to myself, “This isn’t all black and white the way that my grandmother taught me. Children don’t deserve to come to this world to suffer like that. A child should be wanted and loved, not unwanted and abused.”
Around that time, I found myself in a situation where two friends asked me to help them get an abortion. The first friend had managed to get all of her ducks in a row, find the place, get the paperwork, find a way to pay for it. She just couldn’t find a ride to Planned Parenthood to get the abortion, and she asked me to take her. I couldn’t do it. As I said, I was on the way to becoming pro-choice, but I wasn’t quite there yet. I didn’t judge her for her choice, but I just couldn’t help her. I couldn’t support her in her choice. Because I thought, it’s not my place to tell her what to do. It’s not my place to judge her. But I can’t help her because if I help her, I’m committing a sin.
Then another friend was using abortion as a form of contraception. This was about her fifth abortion, and she asked me to take her to Planned Parenthood to get the abortion. And the answer was no. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t choosing a different form of birth control. I still felt that had I taken her, it was a sin. It’s a horrible sin. I just couldn’t do it!
Then in my middle twenties, I had my first miscarriage. I didn’t know I was pregnant. I was working on something called a 12-hour relay. I was part of the staff. After working for approximately twelve hours, maybe even sixteen hours, I went home, and I started hemorrhaging. I mean, it was like the floodgates had opened. Of course, my boyfriend at the time took me to the doctor.
The doctor said I had a miscarriage. I was shocked because I had always been told that I couldn’t get pregnant. And to be honest with you, I didn’t want to be a mother at that time in my life. At that time in my life, I would not have been a good mother. I wouldn’t have had an abortion. But I was still, believe it or not, in the process of changing—going from pro-life to pro-choice.
As I sat there explaining this to my daughter… I wanted to explain it because I wanted her to see that it had been a process for me. I hadn’t arrived at a decision on a political basis. I hadn’t arrived at a decision callously. It had been a process, an emotional process, a process of growth.
Then I had my second miscarriage. I’m sorry. I’m already crying. I wanted that baby. I didn’t know I was pregnant. I have been told the first time I had gotten pregnant was a fluke. I was older. I was in my early thirties. I still don’t think I would have made a perfect mother. But I loved the father of the baby, and I was excited. You know, I realized that I was late and I was excited, and I lost it. I lost it. You would have thought that this would have made me jealous of women who could carry pregnancies or who chose to have an abortion, but it didn’t. It didn’t make me jealous. Actually, it just really made me think about the hard choices we have to make as women and as people.
And around that time, it must have been maybe six months later, I found myself in the position of being asked, yet again, if I would take a woman to have an abortion. This was a late-term abortion, and everything that had been Catholic in me screamed no! But I wasn’t Catholic anymore. Yes, I still believed in God. But I concluded that not everybody shares my religious beliefs, and I’m no one to impose my beliefs on others, religious or otherwise. Culture changes and we change with it. Society changes, and we change with it.
I love this woman so much. She was so traumatized. This baby, there were so many things wrong with it. I’m sorry. I just can’t help but cry. She was hurting so badly, and I knew I didn’t have the right to tell her what to do. And if I were going to be a good person, I would support her through her choice the best way I could. So, I took her to the place.
It was an incredibly traumatic experience for this woman. It was not an easy experience by any stretch of the imagination. It had a long-term impact. The last time I spoke with her she said, she still believed it was the right decision. I’m glad I was there for her. I wish I would have been more mature. I wish I would have been stronger. I wish I wouldn’t have been as conflicted as I felt at that moment. But I did the best I could to be there for her. I wish I could have done more.
Then after having three surgeries, going through IVF, I became pregnant myself. And I started losing my babies around week twelve. I went into premature labor so many times. I lost count. It was a struggle. And I made it to thirty-two weeks, twelve weeks of which I spent in the hospital. I was very, very blessed. I was in San Diego. I was at the Mary Birch Center, specializing in women’s health, and they had a whole wing for women in my situation.
Believe it or not, it was at that point in my life when I was almost losing my babies all the time, desperately trying to hold on to them, that I solidly became pro-choice. Because I saw such incredible women in that ward. There was this poor lady. They had her hanging with her legs up, head down at this horrible angle, all the blood brushing to her head because her cervix had opened. But her placenta had not opened, and she was only, If I remember correctly, at twenty-four weeks. So, she was actually in that position for about six weeks. I believe, if I remember correctly, she made it to thirty weeks or thirty-one weeks. If she had decided she couldn’t do it anymore, who was I to judge her or to blame her?
Another lady had been there for twenty weeks, and her husband lived so far away that he never visited her in those weeks. When she gave birth, he was so far away. He wasn’t there with her. And I get it. I mean, he lived far away, and he had to hold down a job. They have two other kids.
There was a single mother there who had diabetes, and she was having lots of problems. Her friends were keeping her two-year-old in their home. They were helping her. They were taking care of her. And this little girl, every time she saw her mom, she would just cry and cry and try to hold on to her and say to her, “Mom, please. Mommy, please come home.”
I remember every time that little girl went in because I was in the same room with this lady for a couple of weeks. It just broke my heart. I couldn’t imagine being the mom.
I also couldn’t imagine being the young girl, the nurses told me she was fifteen, and she was screaming. Oh, to this day, the screams, I haven’t been able to forget them. She was crying,” Mommy! Mommy! I want my mommy!”
The girl was fifteen years old, three hundred pounds, and she was about to give birth. And one of the nurses said to me, “It breaks my heart. She doesn’t realize she’s becoming a mommy. She doesn’t get to be a kid anymore; she’s becoming the mommy.”
So, it’s actually being in that ward that solidified my belief in pro-choice. It comes down to this. I believe that each individual woman has the right to decide for themselves whether or not an abortion is the right thing for them. She should base her decision on their religious beliefs, position in life, meaning are they in a good place or a bad place, their social-economic situation, etc. Can she take care of this child? Can she give this child away for adoption? I think a woman is entitled to make that decision for herself.
For me, I believe that had I had an abortion, it would be a sin. But that’s based on my religious and my personal beliefs. I don’t believe, as I did when I was young, that supporting a woman who’s going through an abortion is wrong. I don’t believe that. I believe I should support anyone going through a difficult situation to the best of my ability.
My daughter asked me, “what should I believe, mom?”
And I responded, “Honey, if you’re asking what you should believe, it means you haven’t had enough life experience or develop the maturity to make that choice.”
She says, “but mom, I’m a feminist.”
I said to her, “defining feminism or being feminist doesn’t have anything to do with your moral compass. You need to experience being a woman. You need to have that experience through your own life, in the life of other women. And one day, you will know that you’re pro-life, or you’re pro-choice. The one thing that you can know right now is whatever decision you make. I will love you, and I will respect you.”
I did decide that she was too young to watch the movie, Unplanned. It still feels she’s a little bit on the young side. She’s getting closer to the point where I would allow her to see the movie if she asked me. I think part of the reason that I would allow her to see the movie is that I believe that strong independent women take responsibility for their bodies and their choices. I would definitely discuss with her why, from my perspective, the movie’s protagonist isn’t either.
My daughter asked me for final words of wisdom on this issue, and I just reiterated what I had said before. However, she came out on this issue; whatever decision she made, I would respect it. I would support it because I am her mother, a choice I made, and I had committed to be there for all my children before they were even a wish.
There is no denying, ladies, this was a tough one for me, both discussing it with my girls and sharing it with you. Whether you share my beliefs or not; I hope you can respect how I arrived at my opinion.
You know how lonely it can be to be an older mom and how much harder it gets when the kids become teenagers and start asking such hard questions! So, share a link to our show and Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
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