In a thoughtful, very candid post, TNC talks about how Kenyatta, his partner, came very close to dying after giving birth to their son.
Peripartum cardiomyopathy, the disease that led to congestive heart failure, is rare and lethal. It kills women. And no one knows why. Kenyatta was lucky. She didn’t need a new heart. She only needed her meds, and time. But luck has not obscured from us a set of essential and disturbing truths.
For reasons beyond me, childbirth–in the popular American mind–is swaddled in gossamer, gift-wrap, and icing. Beneath the pastel Hallmark cards and baby showers, behind the flowers, lies a truth encoded, still, in our wording, but given only minimal respect–the charge of shepherding life is labor. It’s work. And you need only look to the immediate past, or you need only look around the world, or you need only come close to losing the love of your small, young life to understand a correlating truth–pregnancy is potentially lethal work.
My embrace of a pro-choice stance is not built on analogizing Rick Santorum with Hitler. It is not built on what the pro-life movement is “like.” It’s built on set of disturbing and inelidable truths: My son is the joy of my life. But the work of ushering him into this world nearly killed his mother. The literalism of that last point can not be escaped.
Every day women choose to do the hard labor of a difficult pregnancy. Its courageous work, which inspires in me a degree of admiration exceeded only by my horror at the notion of the state turning that courage, that hard labor, into a mandate. Women die performing that labor in smaller numbers as we advance, but they die all the same. Men do not. That is a privilege.
This is a point Monica and Amanda Marcotte make fairly often: pregnancy is not easy, and that’s true even as we’ve generally moved to an approach toward obstetrics that is set up specifically to reduce risk to mothers and infants. (As Megan Carpentier has pointed out, the risks attendant to pregnancy are especially pronounced for African-American women.) But the there are as many, diverse “potential complications” for pregnancy as there are potentially pregnant women, and to chip away at the reproductive health options available to women — which Congressional Republicans are, of course, doing right now — is to resign women toward the assumption of those risks.
Katrzyna, one of TNC’s commenters, puts it beautifully.
This is exactly how and why my ambivalence about being pro-choice changed. I was always pro-choice, but I wasn’t militant about it.
Then I had two children. It clarified the risks and difficulties for me in a concrete way. My pregnancies were uncomplicated — one natural delivery and one C-section, with normal recoveries– but I was still sick all day, every day from the first week of conception to the end of the fourth month, and I still have a huge scar in my abdomen from the C-section, and I have nerve damage from the C-section.
Other women get gestational diabetes or high blood pressure or heart failure. Women die from this.
It clarified my thinking.
Motherhood can only be a volunteer army. We cannot ask women to go through something that can kill them, just because it serves someone else’s ends.