28 May 2009

What Now?

This is a somewhat strange year in that I turned 65 in March, my daughter, Lanisa, will turn 45 in September, and my granddaughter, Theresa, turns 30 next month. That many "milestones" in one year can start you musing about the meaning of life. Fortunately for me, Deep Thought did come up with the answer of 42, so that problem is solved. Now it is a matter of coming up with something interesting to do with time now that it really isn't owed to anyone else.

Barring any unforeseen accidents or complications, I probably have at least 20 years, regular little money, and a somewhat sadly lumpy body that really needs a regimen. It would be nice to have some just fun to do things on the "bucket list", but more important, how about some short term things to do that are good for others. Any ideas would be appreciated.

While you are thinking about things to do with time, here is a reprise of the column I wrote three years ago about the infant who became next month's 30 year old.

Would You Want A World Without Her

This Lovely young woman is my eldest grandchild. Formally, she is Theresa. To virtually everyone who has ever met her, she is known as "The Incredible T". According to her, if Cher and Madonna get one name, she deserves to be recognized by a single letter. She and the Divine Miss M have removed two of the 26 available. The rest of you will have to make do with the leftovers. In June, she will be 27 . Her mother will be 42 in September. You do not need advanced mathematical skills to know that her appearance was a family crisis.

At the time I was a divorced woman with two children, no support, working a demanding job while trying to juggle family obligations. For a while my daughter got lost in the mix. The announcement of a pregnancy at 14 was the result. Although I feared for her health and offered her the option of an abortion, my heart really wasn't in it. Somewhere, I must have passed something along, because she just curled up and said, "I can't kill my baby". It wasn't some microscopic bit of protoplasm. It was a baby.

I come from a generation where boys took responsibility and married the (almost virgin) girls in question usually a few days after graduation from high school. Then there were the girls who went to visit relatives somewhere only to return six months later looking older while the child went for adoption, but no one talked about that. No one I knew ever had an abortion. We knew they existed; certainly there were horror stories enough, but they applied to "bad" girls not to the "accidents" good girls had. Of course, there was no true birth control then. The first pill didn't come along until I was 18.

Times have certainly changed since my teen years. Women's lib has happened, birth control is easily available, abortions are legal with variable limitations from state to state, and welfare exists for those who choose to keep children they couldn't afford to keep otherwise. It is a different world, but is it a better one? There is a side of me that thinks the time to have a child just isn't that long. How much does it take out of some one's life to give birth and give the child away or keep it even with the attendant psychological trauma. There is another that knows what a huge problem it can be to be pregnant at the wrong time in your life, not to mention that barring a major illness and even with the great advances of modern medicine, a woman is never closer to death than when delivering an infant. Then there are the cases where you might be carrying a child as the result of rape or incest or an infant with severe physical or mental defects who will need a life of care if they survive.

I have no religious convictions on the issue. As long as there have been women with problem pregnancies, there have been abortions. The early church didn't consider a child as requiring baptism until after "quickening" (that point when the child in the womb can be felt by the mother). Strangely enough, quickening coincides fairly well with the lowest possible age that a premature infant can be saved. I do have strong ethical considerations. In a perfect world, every child would be wanted, born or adopted into a caring family, and loved. Whenever possible there should be two parents, simply because that makes life easier both emotionally and financially. News flash for those who haven't heard: Life isn't perfect.

Wealthy women have always been able to get abortions. They probably called it a D & C done by some expensive and compliant physician often outside the United States, but they got it. Poor women went to back alley practitioners or interns looking to make a supplement to their meager salaries, or they had the baby and either kept it or gave it up for adoption. The argument then really comes down to the haves and have nots.

Do I believe that there should be some limitations on abortion? Yes. I favor parental notification as long as there is an option for a judge to stand in loco parentis. Incest and other forms of abuse do exist. The minor in question needs to be able to access help and intervention that bypasses those situations, not to mention bringing the offending party to justice. The argument that you can't give an aspirin to my child without my permission, yet you can give her an abortion without my knowledge makes sense. Third trimester should be off limits except for life threatening conditions. Fortunately, this is the rarest kind no matter what the anti-abortion crowd would have you believe and almost always for severe medical reasons. That leaves the diciest areas of morning after, first trimester, and second trimester.

Morning after - Some hazards with the drug apparently exist, but whether or not to use this option should be totally up to the woman. The egg hasn't come anywhere near a sperm. There is no there there. You can be more pregnant with the pill or an IUD that are legal than with the morning after pill that often isn't. At one time or another, everyone has been truly stupid. The morning after pill is a "no harm, no foul" solution.

First Trimester - This has to be totally the decision of the woman and her doctor. I may not like it, hope that someone will counsel the woman on other options such as adoption and possibilities after the fact including using birth control or keeping her legs crossed. There's an old fashioned idea for you. If you don't want the time, don't do the crime. There are darn few females out there over the age of 12 who don't know what causes babies. A little self control and responsibility couldn't hurt. Whatever my attitudes, that decision isn't any of my business. It is even less the business or some male legislator. If you can't get pregnant, you don't get to have an opinion.

Second Trimester - This is the hardest area. There are hazards and there can be major complications to an abortion at this stage. A child born after 22 weeks can survive outside of the mother's body if delivered prematurely. There may be defects such as cerebral palsy and the other attendant problems of not reaching full term, but they can survive. A child with various birth defects can receive surgery in the womb or have the condition corrected such as a club foot once delivered. Modern methods of determining pregnancy mean that the woman almost always knows she is pregnant within the first trimester. As long as the first trimester is legal and competent care easily available, there is really no reason to get to this stage without making a decision. The key is competent, easily available care. Early access to service is important. Without that access, a law that says no abortion except for "rape, incest, or the life of the mother" simply makes no sense. Without that guarantee, I have to again come down on the side of a woman in conjunction with her physician's advice.

Whatever a woman decides to do in this difficult situation, is not my decision to make. It is certainly not one to be made by an elected official other than the very limited areas I indicated. My personal opinion about what a pregnant woman should do is obvious. Her picture is at the top of this page. Happy Birthday T.


Anonymous said...

Jamie, Nice, heartfelt post, including the one about your daughter and grandaughter -- shes beautiful by the way.

Regarding your 'time now that it really isn't owed to anyone else' Jamie, this is a good opportunity for you to look at things from a completely different point of view. And when you do - when you get to make your decisions, no matter how small - without having to consider others in the equation, surprising things may happen.

carol g said...

Was great to re-read this post. I had the pleasure of working with "THE Incredible T" a few years back. She is an amazing person, as is her grandmother. I am working on a bucket list of sorts for myself. It is starting with a preparing for a large garage sale... we have far too much STUFF. Then I will see where it goes.

Linda said...

For starters your granddaughter is beautiful and I'm sure that she'll find 30 to be a wonderful time of her life. I rather wish I could go back and start over from there myself! Barring that, I wouldn't mind going back to 42 either what with it being the answer to all things!

I don't have a bucket list at this point but considering I don't ever expect to be able to retire, I probably would never get to things on it if I did. If I could, though, I would love to travel to small out of the way interesting places and then write blog posts about them! Wouldn't that be fun?

Jamie said...

I asked T about "30" and she told me the number didn't exist. So I told her that she could stick anywhere that suited her since I was rather fond of 36 myself.

Ivanhoe said...

Age is just a number. I've been "stuck" at 28 myself for a while :o)

This Eclectic Life said...

I like that post Jamie. The issue of abortion is a very volatile one, and you are brave to voice your opinions here. I'm torn over it myself. I have to come down on the side of personal choice. But isn't it wonderful that your daughter made this choice? Happy birthday, T.

Travis said...

Very well communicated points. I agree with some, and disagree with others. Mostly I agree.

Of course, being male I'm very careful here. While it's true that it's a woman's body and I respect her right to choose, I'm often concerned about the man who wants to take or share the responsibility. I don't have an answer.

And happy birthdays all around! I have no idea how to counsel you and stuff to do, but I also have no doubt that whatever you choose with be historical, relevant, and interesting.