Self

I Shut Down My Uterus Store At 31

Photo: Courtesy of the Author
When my daughter was younger, after school I would often take her back to work with me (just by Bryant-Denny Stadium, in the back). Snack and homework time while juggling work was our daily routine.

I have an only child. I shut down my uterus store at 31. The “We are closed” sign went up and no more babies were to enter as customers. The womb is in the tomb. “One and done,” I still joke to people.

But that’s not what I wanted.

Growing up I always pictured a large family. At least five kids, I said. I will be a great mom, I said. It will come naturally, I said.

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None of that was true. Mama said there would be days like this.

I struggled through the first year. Postpartum depression hit me like a sudden car crash. I was T- boned. I was scared and scarred after almost dying during childbirth when an artery tore and ripped my uterus and cervix and I essentially bled to death before transfusions saved me.

I know about life, death, birth, and rebirth. I know God.

Were I to get pregnant after my daughter’s birth, I would almost certainly die, and — at the least — the baby’s health would be in question. Yet I felt the safety net of options beneath me.

I worry, once again scared, that my daughter — my now-19-year-old baby — won’t have those options. What if she gets pregnant and acknowledges how difficult motherhood is? What if she decides she is simply not ready to be a mom and it’s too much?

What if her birth control — which she takes to help regulate mental illness — is taken away? What if she is able to use birth control but gets pregnant anyway? What if the other parent is not ready and doesn’t want to raise a baby alone?

My mind races through the day and night, the question like a thumping heartbeat: “What if? What if? What if?”

I don’t want her to carry that fear. I want her to have freedom over her own future. I want her to choose her own path. Like mother, like daughter. Like every parent, I want my child to thrive.

My views on abortion are so extraordinarily complicated by religion, society, and shame, which cannot light without the fuel of isolation. Shame carries the Scarlet A that society has put on women: that it is a motivator for “moral” behavior.

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Like almost every other facet of my life, growing up in the Deep South jewel of purity culture deeply affected me. I intensely respect that some religions cannot support abortion. I have compassion and empathy and would never ask someone to change their view.

But laws are not religion.

My views are nuanced. My personal views don’t always line up with my votes. Women are complicated. We are not all the same. We are, in fact, vastly different. We may believe more than one thing at the same time!

I expect Roe vs. Wade to be overturned. I expect there will be more parents like me concerned for their children's well-being and safety. None of this is a surprise yet many people are stricken.

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Women — especially women of color — suffered and fought their way through the pandemic trenches (if they were lucky enough to survive COVID-19) and came out on the other side to a world that wants to further oppress them. Many didn’t make it because Black women in Alabama have the third-highest death rate among mothers in the nation.

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Women are used to walking through life physically afraid, intimidated, and through an undercurrent of oppression. We don’t get on the elevator. We don’t take that trip alone. We think about what we wear. We listen for innuendo. We watch where you look. We hold our breath around every corner. We glance over our shoulders. All of this while we complete everyday, mundane tasks.

How harrowing then to find that the true danger was just around the corner, lying in wait, in 2022.

I think of all the babies we’ve had and all of the babies we haven’t. I think of the babies we wanted but who did not come to pass. I think of celebration and regret. We are a reproductive hive. A collective force — a life force — when we choose to be.

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Imagine the power of that choice.

When I became a mother it made me unstoppable. I chose a path I would not take back. There was also a time when I chose not to become a mother. A more twisted path, yet strong as stone under my bare feet.

My daughter — my favorite person, the one who made me a mother — might not get to choose whether and when to become a mother.

Meredith Cummings is a multimedia journalist, senior journalism instructor, social media manager, and nonprofit director.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.