My mom moved us from New York to Arizona the summer I turned eleven. When the plane landed, and 105 degrees of hell hit my face, I vowed to leave the state as soon as I was an adult and could make my own life.
I left for college at eighteen and lived in Arizona until I was forty-nine— chose west coast over east, the heat over humid, cactus over lilac. I found myself in Arizona, grew to love it, and chose to stay.
I confirmed I was pregnant in a dingy motel pretending to be an apartment in Tucson three months after my first legal margarita. Michael and I, unmarried, lived in one room when we weren’t in class, working shit jobs, or eating way too many one-dollar Whoppers.
Before the pregnancy test, we existed in those precious pre-adulthood moments of using financial aid to buy the latest cassette instead of groceries. After the pregnancy test, I could barely breathe, took a shower, and cried.
Wet hair, towel tucked under my arms, I swiped at the mirror and stared back at myself as if something otherworldly might emerge from the mist with all the answers. It didn’t.
Instead, I stood there combing through my tangles, realizing I’d never thought about having children. I’m an only child. I didn’t date a lot or dream of a big wedding. My life wasn’t about men, family, or babies.
I wanted to be a lawyer, and then I wanted to be an actress.
That afternoon, I went to Planned Parenthood. They educated me on a body I’d given little thought to save, whether my thighs looked too big in jean shorts or remembering to take those little pills on time once Michael and I started having sex.
I paid five dollars that day and left with more information than conversations with my mother, female friends, and high school health classes offered combined.
There was no crying after that day. I had information. I had choices. Safe, legal options.
As a country, we love to box-up on this issue. Women who would “never have an abortion” and women who “would never carry an unwanted child to term.” What’s lost in the “oh, never” and the “hell, yes” is the choice.
People make decisions about their lives every day. They do this under the umbrella of liberty, which by definition is “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.”
Some decisions are easy— staying in Arizona. Others are scary and tangled up in more critical questions of who we are and what we want from this life.
Generations of women didn’t fight for deliver or abort. They fought for room under the umbrella, for choice. So every woman: gold cross around her neck, devout atheist, pearls, pierced nipples, and the hundreds of other female variations could look into that foggy mirror and breathe.
They stood in front of judges, politicians, smug strangers, and corporations who tried to push them out into the rain. People who justified their exclusion with the same morals and self-righteousness often coupled with banishment.
Women, unlike men, bear the joy and burden of carrying children grown inside our bodies. We are not walking incubators. We are humans first and born under the same liberty as men.
Our choices, like men’s, are personal. They should be private, but here we are again in the eye of a storm. Compelled to speak out like our fore-sisters and demand an audience with the same fingers-in-the-ears institutions.
This time, we are revealing our most profound choices, telling our stories, in the hope of shining light, explaining away the evil monster baby killer myth, or busting free of martyrdom.
While these reveals are brave, they are also outrageous. Women don’t owe anyone their choices. Society doesn’t own us simply because we are biologically made to carry its children. And we have spent enough time explaining ourselves and apologizing for our bodies to last an eternity.
When I found out I was pregnant, it was neither a glorious morning nor the world’s end. Instead, it was a crossroads, a time when I had to decide.
Over the next few days, I sent out gratitude to the women who died for my privilege and held hands with every woman in the mirror before and yet to come.
Then I lifted my chin and made my choice free from “oppressive restrictions imposed by authority.” As is my right, guaranteed to me by the Constitution when I emerged from my mother, a human being, and became a citizen of the United States of America.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Rainy night.