Monday, March 9, 2009

Upon Our Shoulders

Why, as women, do we seem to carry so much responsibility/burden/guilt on our own, strong shoulders? We care for our children, our aging parents, our partners, our friends, our co-workers, our communities. The more we take care of others, the heavier the weight becomes, making it so easy to quietly become that "caretaker," blurring the vision of ourselves, stripped away, as we really are. Who we really are.

The reality is, though, for many of us, we don't even have the luxury or time to consider who we are beyond "caretaker." The reality is, for many of the women I speak with daily, they just try to get some semblance of food on the table so their kids can eat, manage getting their kids to school and try - somehow, somehow - to obtain their abortion. Meanwhile, you'd be forgiven to think most of them got pregnant all by themselves. The "man involved" is often off, off and away...somewhere...with a change of telephone number; a change of address; change of heart; and a great, big, firm "Fuck-you-very-much-I-don't-want-anything-to-do-with-this-so-called-pregnancy." So, all too often, the unwanted pregnancy becomes her unwanted pregnancy, her problem.

Though she wasn't alone at the time of conception, life carries on as though she was. And it might've well been that way, too, because it's not like she's going to get any help from him:
the him who can't even bother to spend $5 on a gallon of milk for their nine month old daughter who just had open-heart surgery; who sneakily slipped off his condom and came inside her before she even realized what happened; who just told her, once he found out she's pregnant, that he's married with children; who's incarcerated for smacking her around.

Despite all this, women usually tell me it's their own fault they're pregnant. Every day, they say:
  • I should've known better and not had sex (even though in the last ten years, she had never been pregnant);
  • I shouldn't have had any alcohol at my cousin's wedding (because, then, maybe she wouldn't have been raped);
  • I shouldn't have had sex without a condom (even though her husband had a vasectomy);
  • I should've had an abortion two months ago instead of waiting until I was 18 weeks (despite only being three weeks late because she was still having her period).
Much of my day, I say something like, "So, since your husband had a vasectomy and because you often go three months without a period, it's only reasonable for you to have expected that you were not pregnant, let alone 20 weeks pregnant."

Her: (Big, long sigh.) "God. I know. You're right." (Big sigh.) "But, still." (Pause.) (Deep breath.) "I still should've known. "

And so, yet again, another large, heavy weight gets hurled onto our shoulders; onward we carry these responsibilities/burdens/guilt as though we're alone. As though it's our job. And we barely notice how heavy it gets. We barely notice ourselves.


  1. Oh my god, thank you! this is an amazing point, amazingly written. in georgia a law was passed, shortly before i began working in the clinic, requiring clinic staff to read a long piece of bullshit during the appointment-making call for the woman to "think about" for 24 hours before she could come in. aside from all the other nonsense that this implied and entailed, one thing that always burned me up was that it required us to say "you should know that you can seek assistance in pursuing child support from the father and state assistance for raising a child" (or something like that) -- WHILE that same legislature was simultaneously seeking to cut TANF, WIC, etc as well as make it easier to avoid paying child support (by exchanging it for "spending time with [his] children", as though every father is necessarily the kind of person his kids will be safe around. ugh anyway sorry for the ramble!

  2. It wasn't a ramble, R....thank you for your comment! I am sure it's really frustrating to have to read that state-mandated script, while at the same time, knowing things that you have to say aren't necessarily true. Especially when it comes back down to how once again, the woman seems to harbor nearly all responsibility....and often, without much support.


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