07 October 2009

Three Months: One Woman to Another

I can't believe it's been three months since my surgery. Soon, I'm supposed to be more or less normal. That is to say, if my doctor and gynecologist give me the OK, I'll be back on my bike and able to have sex. I have the equipment for either pastime; for the latter, all I need is a suitable partner!

Tomorrow I see the doctor, and I see the gynecologist next week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. At least I'm not using that as a birth control method--not anymore, anyway! ;-)

Now I feel a little guilty for making that bad joke. Last night, I talked again with the young student of mine who told me, last week, she'd just gotten pregnant. When we talked last week, I tried to give her both the "pros" and the "cons" of giving birth or having an abortion. What surprised me is not only how confident she felt in speaking to me, but also how confident I felt in listening to her and offering her advice.

In some way, I could feel--not only vicariously, but even in some visceral way--her pain. "I don't want to give up my child," she insisted. Although having a child wouldn't have been the "best thing for her"--at least in the sense most of us think of that phrase--I felt a lot of respect for her when she articulated her wish not to have an abortion. No matter what science says, there will always be people who think that life begins at conception. And science has been wrong before.

She was convinced that she had a boy growing inside her.

Of course, as an educator, I thought of how that young woman's life as she knew it would, in effect, end before she turned twenty years old if she had the baby. School would be out of the question for many years; she would also have to find a way to make her relationship with her boyfriend work, or raise that baby alone or with the help of family members. The only problem with the latter option was that, well, it wasn't an option with her conservative, religious parents. As for her boyfriend: They'd broken up a few weeks before the pregnancy, gotten back together, had sex once (one time too many, in her parents' eyes) and gotten pregnant.

She still hasn't even told her parents that she'd gotten pregnant. And she doesn't plan to, she says.

Which means, of course, that they won't know about her abortion.

When she talked to me last week, she told me that her boyfriend wanted her to end her pregnancy. She also told me he accused her of "getting emotional about everything."

"Well, that's one thing he never could understand. He doesn't have that embryo inside him. So his body, not to mention his spirit, could never feel to him the way yours does to you right now."

Her eyes widened. "Yes! That's one thing guys never could understand about us."

The funny thing, in retrospect, is that I didn't pause mentally when she said that. I also didn't feel as if I were acting or "faking it" when I went along with her. Somehow I could just feel her emotions so strongly that I can honestly say I understood her about as well as someone in my situation could.

But last night, when she said, "I just knew I could talk to you," I felt that I had to "come clean," at least in one way.

"Well," I said, "I was feeling your pain. But I'll admit that I never have been pregnant, and never can become pregnant."


I explained why. To which she responded: "I never would have guessed. But you are so wise and so caring. I'm glad I talked to you."

"And I'm here for you, even when I'm not your professor anymore."

"You always will be."

Thank you for reminding me of that, young lady.

By the way: Class went very nicely. Maybe it's just because I enjoy teaching that class--a literature course--more than I enjoy the course on writing research papers, which is what I was teaching the other day. The students in that class are fine; it's just hard to make that course, which students are required to take, enticing. It's lots of detail work, which doesn't draw upon my strengths and passions as a creative person with a conceptual mind. I can teach that course reasonably well, but I'm sure others could do it better. But when I'm teaching lit or other kinds of writing courses, the students are looking at my soul.

And that young woman spoke to it. I was describing my encounter with her to Jason, a trans man I know and whom I bumped into on my way home. "She would've come to you, no matter what," he insisted.

Three months since surgery...It's going to be interesting to see what happens after six months. Or a year. Or whatever comes after that.


EdMcGon said...

Speaking as the father of two children, I can honestly say that nothing I ever do in my life will be as important as having them.

Look at it this way: 1000 years from now, I doubt any trace of my life will be seen. My words and all I know will be lost to time, or else ignored. But hopefully, my knowledge as well as my genetics will live on in my offspring many generations from now. THAT is true immortality.

Having said that, too often we make the mistake of saying a woman is "ruining" her life by having a baby too early. Is that possible when she will most likely never do anything more important in her life? Unless she becomes a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or president of the U.S., or some other lofty world-moving position, then she is not ruining her life by having a baby.

However, a woman with that kind of ambition either wouldn't get pregnant, or wouldn't question whether to get an abortion. She would know.

I know some might call me sexist, but I would also add the same thing applies to men. Having a child, and raising that child, is the most important thing any man could do too.

Justine Nicholas Valinotti said...

Ed, I don't disagree with you at all. In fact, I sometimes wish I'd had a child. If I were younger and to find a suitable partner, I would certainly consider adoption. I know that child wouldn't have my physical DNA, but he or she would have a sort of metaphysical counterpart to it, if you will.

Ironically, that is one of the reasons I didn't have children: I was afraid of some kid inheriting my emotional make-up and all its constituent fears, anger and the self-hatred I felt.

By the way, I really didn't try to encourage that girl to have an abortion. I pointed out some of the possible consequences of having an abortion as well as those of giving birth. I honestly can say I didn't know which I would've preferred that she did: I am not knee-jerk pro-abortion. I understand how her life could have been affected by having the baby. But at the same time, as someone who thinks no one has the right to take the life of another, I could understand how she felt. The difference between us was that she believed that the month-old embryo in her was a full-formed male human being; I, on the other hand, am not sure of exactly what moment the sperm and egg become a life. And I don't know whether that question will ever be resolved.