Rogue Valley Roasting Company
Coconut Dream Bar
** This is in two parts because I keep running myself out of time to finish these while I'm actually Out of the house. Also, some of the State of the Union speech was relevant to this wide-reaching topic, so I'm doing a little modifying of what I've already written and will post two separate blogs from about where I left off last week. Hopefully the dramatic conclusion will follow fast. **
I'll write about drones next week (or not). This week, I've decided to talk about hard choices. All this talk about sequesters and minimum wage and mental health and other public services, kind of provoked this, though I've been thinking about writing this for a long time.
This is a story about three abortions - the one I had, and the two I didn't. This is the story of how public policies played a part in each decision. I'll try to keep it brief.
In the vice presidential debate last year, Paul Ryan mentioned his "little Bean" in his response to a question about abortion. Well, I had a little Bean, too. In fact, I got a tattoo of the kanji symbol for "Bean" on my belly on the day she would have been born. My ex - her father - was with me, too, getting his own tattoo over his heart. This was not an unwanted pregnancy. Unintended, yes. Unprepared for... but not unmourned for. And we chose it - I chose it.
I was not a scared kid, either, with my whole future ahead of me. I was 28. And it was the past behind me, and the unstable present, that had driven my decision. Everything I had learned in a lifetime of poverty, and debt-driven almost-middle-class poverty, was that what little help there is is usually not enough. I had learned that the public assistance programs were so over-burdened that I usually didn't qualify, and the process could take weeks, months, years longer than you could last without the help. I had learned that working hard - even above minimum wage, even more than 40 hours a week - wasn't enough to even pay for myself, let alone start a family on. I had learned that something is always looming - the tires are getting balder, the cavities are burrowing deeper, and the people who have offered to help are about to be crushed with their own crises, and you're two breaths from being on your own again. I had learned that I could live in my car if I had to, but I couldn't force all that stress and uncertainty and insecurity on a child.
It was not until that moment, though, that I knew how badly I wanted to be a mother. And I learned then that, you can have a fair idea of your mind, but you really don't know what you would or would not do until you must decide what you will or will not do. I didn't know if I'd ever get the chance again to have a child, but I knew that I'd never put myself in the situation where I would have to make that choice again.
I was wrong.
I had vowed at the time to get myself more financially stable so that I could raise a child without all the risks that Bean would have faced. Instead, my finances basically imploded. I tried going through one of those debt management services, but this was before the reform act that was passed in 2009. The company got their fee up front, none of my creditors made me any offers - some of them pretended that the debt management company didn't exist - and on my thirtieth birthday I got court papers from my biggest creditor. I suspect they decided to sue instead of negotiate a settlement because according to the paperwork the mediator had, I own a rafting company. Imagine my surprise. And still, when I try to get my credit report, I keep getting asked about my home mortgage. (Anyone else see that report on 60 Minutes this last Sunday? That's a whole other travesty. Anyway...)
After the mediation hearing, where it was decided that I was going to have to file for bankruptcy, I turned to my future husband and said, "Well... it doesn't get any better than this!" and we stopped using protection. We were pregnant surprisingly quickly. He still had good credit, after all. And we had decided that we were willing to go into complete financial ruin if we had to, just to become parents in this lifetime.
Fortunately, there is such a thing as public assistance, and here in Oregon, it is much easier to navigate than in California where I had been with Bean. Almost all my medical care was covered. I received food stamps and WIC vouchers, not to mention invaluable nutritional advise and breastfeeding classes through WIC. I also qualified for state and federal assistance for school, so I got a couple of classes in before I popped. I could still get financial aid, now that I have dependents, but now that I have dependents, it's a little too difficult for me to manage going to school, too.
(I also have to give an extra shout-out to my bosses for being extremely accommodating of my extreme morning sickness. It probably wasn't as bad as Kate Middleton's, but it was pretty debilitating and I missed a lot of work. Very few employers would be so supportive, so thank you guys again).
So things were looking good, and I was uncharacteristically happy going into our first ultrasound. We were expecting a boy - woo-hoo! But we also found out then that we were expecting a boy who had an abnormality in his brain. It's called an isolated ventriculomegaly. It could signify a range of disabilities, including Down Syndrome and other developmental delays, some mild, some severe. We weren't sure what we were facing, and we had to consider how able we would be to care for a child if he required intensive financial and other special care.
For the second time, I found myself facing the choice I never dreamed I would face.
** see the next blog for the dramatic (long) conclusion...