You may have noticed some outrage on my page these days. And those are only the public messages, not the private ones. Some people are seriously pissed at me for writing posts that do not laud childbearing.
To which I say, why? Why is it so important that we revere pregnancy and procreation?
I’m gonna go with the marketing of Big Religion. Once birth control went mainstream, women suddenly had the option of not spending their lives trapped in an endless cycle of what The Women’s Room termed “[baby] shit and string beans.” More and more women saw they’d been denied the opportunities of their male counterparts. They got angry. They demanded the pill and equal rights.
Big Religion pushed back, utilizing Christian conservatives. Religious types blasted feminists as harlots and undesirables, while praising traditional, stay-at-home mothers. Conservatives labeled women shrill. Ball-busters. And don’t think this ended in the 1970s. Rush Limbaugh is still obsessed with Hillary Rodham Clinton, mocking her 70s pants, hair, and glasses this century.
Much of America couldn’t get past the avalanche of conservative spin. The Bible Belt certainly couldn’t. Hillary Rodham took Bill Clinton’s last name. She ditched the glasses, dyed her hair blonde, and traded in her pants for pink suits with skirts.
It worked. Arkansas embraced her. America embraced her.
And Hillary bided her time until she thought America had evolved enough to accept a strong woman in pants.
Turns out, we hadn’t. 53% of white women voters went for Trump instead. A guy who bragged about assaulting women.
Last week, 63% of white women in Alabama went for alleged child molester Roy Moore. Were we going backwards or what?
Not all of us. If you break down the numbers, those women think of themselves as Evangelical Christians. The same group that went for Trump. How can two such sinful men get so much of the so-called Christian vote?
Religious spin, of course. (Racism, too, but that’s another post.) The same Big Religious Patriarchy that went all in on feminist harlots went all in on abortion. They made the embryo the most sacred of all cows, and motherhood the holiest of all callings. (Once you have a kid, though, it can starve to death or die from lack of medical attention, especially if it’s poor or not white.) And the southern states bought in, big time. They ignore other issues, because abortion is murder and murder is bad, and you don’t vote for what is bad and that makes voter research quick. It’s a win for the lazy voter and religion, a loss for the country.
Big, Religious Patriarchy has been effectively spinning for years. The more kids their adherents have, the more their power religious leaders wield. No wonder the womb is sacred. Of course religious leaders praise women for fulfilling their “traditional” roles and being “obedient and “feminine.”
And even if you aren’t religious, this reactionary spin seeps into our media, our culture, and our bones.
Spin is everywhere. Even here, on my pages. On my previous posts, where I list reasons not to have children. That doesn’t mean those reasons aren’t legitimate, mind you.
And I still think people should think – long and hard – before having kids. I wish we all hit puberty with a form of birth control. Then humans would have to consciously opt in to have children, rather than consciously having to opt out.
But, perhaps like the religious right, some of my spin came from fear. Big Religion fears women gaining power, realizing they’ve been complicit in their own repression, and screaming “I’m outta here!”
I feared being a terrible parent, with a terrible temper, like my father. I feared that, like my mom, I’d be worn out, an emotionally empty vessel after all the years of taking care of children. I feared I wouldn’t be able to give a child all that it needs.
I got past those fears — mostly. I came to terms with adopting a child in need. Singular. One kid only, I could manage. But then my husband didn’t want to adopt. He wanted that one child to have half of my genes, and half of his.
And that’s even more terrifying. That’s goddamned genetic roulette.
Especially if your family has some, er, atypical genetics.
Starting with triplets. Yes, triplets. On her second pregnancy, my mother’s overachieving ovaries released three eggs. THREE! There were complications, including one stupid male doctor. Mom lost all three embryos, plus a fallopian tube and an ovary. (Don’t worry, she rallied and made up for it by having another five kids.)
There was no way in hell I could be a decent parent to 3 infants at once. Andy and I were on our own. We couldn’t afford a nanny. I told Andy that, in case of triplets, we would offer two of the babies up to two of my girlfriends who were planning to adopt. He thought I was joking.
He came around, grudgingly, when I pointed out that the alternative was not having kids.
But that still left us with one other genetic issue:
Asperger’s runs – nay, GALLOPS — in my family. If you’re familiar with Asperger’s, then you know it’s not officially called by that name anymore, but you’ll also know the type of high functioning autism spectrum disorder that I’m referencing.
If you aren’t familiar, the character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is probably the best example of Asperger’s in pop culture. Enigma code breaker Alan Turing is an excellent historical example.
“Aspies,” as some self-label, are characterized by being brilliant thinkers and social nightmares. Like one of my nephews, they might teach themselves to read and do long division by age three. Like one of my sisters, they may spend kindergarten in a corner, reading a book, painfully aware of their classmates’ ridicule.
They miss social cues. Their speech is sometimes flat, sometimes grating, and often alienating.
Aspies often require early, intensive intervention in order to fit in with their peers and make friends. Until recently, most Aspies didn’t get that intervention.
My father certainly didn’t. He’d never heard of Asperger’s until I informed him that he clearly had Adult Residual Asperger’s. I don’t think he believed me until one sister, her son, and another grandchild were officially diagnosed a few years later.
Dad had manners and social graces pounded into his head by his mother, though. He learned to fake neurotypical behavior well enough to achieve some career success (aided by being a white male with familial connections). Conversations with Dad often devolve into lectures, however, with the focus on HIS thoughts about HIS favorite topics.
That’s not surprising. Perseveration and one-sided conversations are two common indicators of Asperger’s.
It’s not just my genetics that are problematic, though. Do you remember who else on this blog perseverated relentlessly? On everything from doors to male grandchildren? And lacked the slightest bit of social grace or awareness?
Andy’s father Jay. There’s no way that man did not also have Adult Residual Asperger’s.
I pointed this out to Andy. Andy agreed.
I asked, once more, “Are you sure you want our own kid? We could have triplets. All. With. Asperger’s.”
Andy is an optimist. He said, “Or we might have one sweet, charming little girl.”
I snorted. “First, I already told you, we’d have a boy. Boys are something like five times more likely to be on the spectrum. Second, the Bossy Ashbough Tyrant gene is dominant. Are any females in my family sweet and charming?”
“She was only an Ashbough by marriage and you know it. So let me ask again: are you absolutely sure you want to spin that genetic roulette wheel? Because there’s a good chance it could land on a red three.”
Andy’s a gambling man. He set his jaw and said, “Yes.”
And we spun.