since many of my friends seem to think I'm 'god's gift to parenting' (joking, but lots of people tell me what a good mom I am pretty often), let me tell you how I came to it.
the first time I got pregnant, I was 22, living in Florida, with a bunch of us irresponsible young adults sharing a house together that was a filthy mess, and I had 50 pot plants growing in my closet. my boyfriend was a self-possessed asshole who wanted to have sex with just about every woman he laid eyes on, so I thought long and hard about whether having a baby at that time, in that place, with him, was the right thing - while my idiot boyfriend spent a lot of time screaming at me that I COULDN'T have it, that he wasn't ready to 'ruin his life', and I had no right to ruin it for him. he tore my favorite tapestry into shreds and kicked the door off the house to illustrate his sincerity, at which point, one of our roommates came into our room, yelled at the boyfriend to leave me alone, and took me off to Key West for the weekend, where we slept on a beach, and woke to discover that we had laid our blankets out on a massive field of goose shit. after spending the morning in the laundromat washing our blankets and clothes before wandering around town not able to go in anywhere because we were barefoot, we headed back to the house where I devised a ritual involving two apples - one with an 'x' carved into it, and another with an 'o' - that I placed in a paper bag, and took with me to the ocean beach on a full moon. after communing with the waves and the night, and calling on the Goddess to help me choose, I reached into the bag, drew out an apple at random, and saw that it was the one with the 'x'. I would have an abortion. I ate that apple, tossed the other one into the ocean waves, and informed my crappy boyfriend that he needed to come up with half the money for the procedure. he called his mommy, and she sent us the whole amount because, as she explained to me when I questioned her choice, "your instinct as a mother to save your children is very strong". I told her he'd have been better 'saved' by having to get a job and come up with the money to take care of his responsibilities himself. the roommate who took me to Key West drove me to the clinic where I was given a shot of demerol and valium, then had my uterus scraped out with an iced-tea spoon, and vacuumed. after the drugs wore off enough, I was sent home to recover in my own bed. I have a vague memory of the shmuck boyfriend sending his underage girl-crushes to keep me company, because I'm sure I didn't want to see him, but I sent them away, because eww.
the second time I got pregnant was not long after that (less than a year), after we three roommates had moved to New York, and I was so stupid, I was still 'dating' that asshole, even though he treated me like garbage, and cheated on me constantly. he refused to believe it was even his (because if he was sleeping around, it meant I was, too, right? wrong.). I made an appointment with the abortion clinic straight away, and loser boyfriend made a big stink about having to take the day off of work from from his shitty, minimum wage job at the deli making sandwiches, to ride his bike to where I was living, to drive me - in my car - and pay his half for this second procedure (no calling mommy this time). we had fun terrorizing the Jesus-freak protesters that were terrorizing the women trying to get into the clinic, but after having the same injection, and the same scraping and vacuuming, and he had driven me home (in my car), when he left to get to his all-important job, he did do a decent thing and called my best friend to tell him I had just had an abortion, and could probably use some company. my bestie did come over with his girlfriend, and they spent the afternoon with me, which was nice of them, and almost made forgive the boyfriend for being such an asshole. I hope I broke up with him, then, but I probably didn't...I mean, I did eventually (obviously), but not that day.
I managed to not get pregnant for awhile after that - not until I started dating my most serious boyfriend to date, when I was 28 or so, who I got pregnant with in the first few months of our relationship. I was furious at him, and remember showing up at his house in the middle of the night to yell at him about it, and throw one of my wooden clogs at his head. but he paid his half, and took me to Planned Parenthood to have my third abortion - I had just met this guy and started going out with him - I wasn't going to have his baby! he sat anxiously in the waiting room because I told him I was going to make him come in and watch the process, but the clinicians who performed the procedure talked me out of it quickly by telling me that most men passed out during the process, and then they would have to deal with him and his nonsense, rather than tending to me and my needs, so why bother. this procedure took place in Vermont, where they Don't knock you out, and I was a bit apprehensive, but the pain wasn't bad, and I made it through ok. when I came back out afterwards and told this boyfriend that I was ready to go home, he had the deer in the headlights look to him, saying he'd been sitting there sweating it out, waiting for them to call him in, and I thought 'good, that's fine with me'. we broke up for awhile after that, but then moved back in together, and I got pregnant Again - I may have tried to convince my guy that we should have the baby and get married, but he was Not into that idea, so there was a fourth abortion, and another eventual break-up.
several years later, when I was 34, there was a murder-suicide involving two friends of ours in the small town we lived in, and I went to visit my now ex to tell him about it (he had moved a few towns away for work), and we coped with the stress by having sex. guess what? yeah...the orgasm went through me like a lightening bolt (like the lightening path through the Kabbalist Tree of Life) and I knew instantly that I was pregnant again. I said as much to ex-boyfriend, but he didn't believe I could know that. I continued to 'know that' for the next two weeks as I drove past Planned Parenthood every day, twice a day, on my ways to and from work, and I didn't want to go and get the pregnancy test until I knew for sure what I wanted to do about it (because I knew I was pregnant, you see).
I thought that on the one hand, I was pregnant with an ex-boyfriend who I cared about deeply, even though we had moved on from each other, and not some loser I picked up in bar for a one night stand. I thought about what a good and decent person this guy is - his work ethic, his heath, his heart and soul, his music. I thought about how I used to tell myself that I would never have kids period, because I loved my freedom to move through life as I chose, and how a baby would ruin that for me - that I was selfish person and didn't much like kids on the whole. I used to think that if I ever did choose to have a baby, I would only do so if I were married to the love of my life, and lived in a nice house with a picket fence, and the whole 1950's bullshit American dream story, and I also knew that my life was never going to look like that. I didn't want another abortion, for fear of turning my womb into Swiss cheese, and I had had enough of death, and wanted to embrace life, so I chose to have my son. he knows this story. he knows that I was in no way prepared to have him, but that I CHOSE to. he was wanted. I finally went to Planned Parenthood, got the pregnancy test, told them I was going for it on my own, and had them set me on the right path with a prescription for pre-natal vitamins, and lots of literature to read up on what was about to go down in my new life, as a 35 year old impoverished single mom.
my ex didn't ask to become a father. my son didn't ask to be born. it was chance, or circumstance, or coincidence, or synchronicity, or whatever you call it, but ultimately it was a choice I made that involved the lives of three people, two of which weren't me. so I made another choice - I chose to let my son live his life the way he chooses. I thought, 'if I'm going to bring a perfect, innocent being into this world for no reason other than not wanting to have another abortion because I was irresponsible about having sex without using proven birth control methods, than I was going to do my best to let that being lead me in knowing how to parent him'. I saw/see my role as a sort of body guard - prevent the child from doing himself severe harm (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually), but past furnishing the basic necessities of life (food clothing shelter), mostly just asking open-ended questions to help him chose how to raise himself. even on my best days, I manage to screw it up somehow, but the child is growing, learning, achieving, and making me so proud in general because he's such a great person. not the smartest, the fastest, or the strongest, but smart enough to know what it means to be a decent person, fast enough to know slow and steady wins the race, and strong enough to shoulder his own burdens (of which, I hope there are very few). I've been lucky, in the sense that I was prone to saying that since 'the Universe is said to only give you what you can handle, than it gave me the world's easiest child to raise because it knew I wasn't up to the challenge of anything else'!
so, to all those folks who tell me what a great mom I am - I'm not. I'm just a person who has a fair amount of resentment about some of the ways in which I was parented, and made some adjustment to what I think my parents did that worked, and what didn't. like I said, I mostly let the growth process happen on it's own, and steered my kid away from things that might cause him bodily harm. when he was a baby, I'd say "ah ah ah!" instead of "no", saving 'no' for truly life-ending dangers. if he did something I liked, I would praise him in a high pitched voice - for something I didn't like, I'd use low tones. I would pay attention to behaviors I wanted to see repeated, and ignore those I didn't. it's kind of like training a dog, really...I am naturally creative, and would rather play inside my imagination that do most other things, so I was great at stimulating a growing baby's natural curiosity and wonder, but completely useless at teaching anything about how to shave, or, say, 7th grade math and science (I chose to leave that to professionals, with more or less success, given the individual educators). in any case, if you're one of the folks who thinks my kid is great, then feel free to use these techniques yourself. the BEST possible advice I can give to potential parents is this - DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN UNTIL YOU FEEL READY TO DO SO. by that, I mean think about how ready you are to come so close to the edge of wanting to kill yourself and everyone else, including your children, and then somehow mange to Keep Your Cool and Not Do It, then maybe you can handle it. now, I only had one kid, without a partner, so take that into account, too. I didn't have another relationship I was trying to navigate while raising my child, and I can't imagine that's easy, let alone doing that with Multiple kids! parenting is no joke (though it IS supremely important to laugh, a lot), if you plan to do it right, and never at any point do I think I'm doing it right.
and when I screw up, I APOLOGIZE. that's really big too, because my mom, to this day, has Never apologized for any of the many things I could (and in some cases, have) legitimately ask her to apologize for. just do your best to love them for all your worth. treat kids like people because they are. I have been asked, "why do you ask for your son's input on things?" and I respond, "because he's a person, and has opinions, and I like to take that into account when making decisions that affect him". I did this as soon as he was old enough to talk, and know his own mind...4? maybe 5? I mean, I didn't consult him about major life decisions, but I'd ask him what he wanted to eat, or wear, or how he wanted to wear his hair...or who he wanted to play with, or let touch him. and by most accounts, he's a pretty great kid - a little goofy, always ready with a joke, but if that's the worst anyone can say of him, than that's not too shabby in my book, all credit to him. also, Don't Have Unprotected Sex Unless You Are Ready And Willing To Live With The Possible Consequences. that is all. just keep it in your pants, and don't rush into anything you can't handle. and just assume you can't handle parenting. it's crazy out here ~