Apparently, we’ve been lying to girls for a long time

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I am a woman who was born in 1973, almost 6 months to the day after Roe v Wade was decided.

All my life I’ve been told I can be anything I want to be. That I had just as many choices as my brother who was born in 1974. That is, besides being paid as much as him for the same work, or paying the same amount for health insurance until the ACA, or being treated the same in business transactions, etc. But, I digress…

I did believe it until yesterday. My grandmothers and my great aunts who were born during or after the Great Depression made sure I believed in the power of education and that things were only going to get better for women. I believed it so much that I earned a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in my chosen field, speech-language pathology. I am a pediatric child language researcher and speech-language pathologist. Speech-language pathology is predominantly female at the clinician level and predominantly male at the Ph.D. level (although that is rapidly changing). We still have significant issues with representation in the field, although that is rapidly changing as well. I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences with the upcoming generations in the field. I’ve had the chance to conduct research into making evaluation and assessment more equitable for all children, not just kids who grow up in mainstream culture, middle-class homes and who speak Mainstream American English. I’ve been able to practice what I preach to my students. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.

My great grandmothers’ generation (born late 1800s) was the last generation of women in my family to have large families of their own. I don’t know much about why my dad is an only child. But, he is. And, so is my mother. As it turns out, endometriosis and poly cystic ovarian syndrome reared their ugly heads on the maternal side (as did some other unrelated circulatory and cardiac issues which are exacerbated by pregnancy and/or hormonal changes as it happens). My maternal grandmother was only able to have my mother. Out of her 5 sisters, only my youngest great aunt was able to have 1 child — a cousin who is 4 years older than me (who has only been able to have 1 child). My mother had me in 1973. And, then she had a stroke caused by the hormonal changes post-partum and the high doses of hormones in birth control pills at the time. She recovered, and recovered quickly, because my brother was born in 1974. Fortunately, she had a doctor who recommended that she have her tubes tied because of the way her body reacted to pregnancy when my brother was born.

I’ve known all my life that pregnancy is dangerous. It nearly killed my mother. 

My own difficulties with endometriosis and PCOS started when I was about 15. I realize now that my mother was scared to put me on birth control pills because of her own experiences. But, I suffered in excruciating pain every month. The waves of cramp would be followed by cold sweats. It would get so bad, that I would stick my finger down my throat so I could throw up and sleep for an hour or two until the cramps would start up again. This would go on for 1-2 days every 4 weeks. My first surgery was at age 17. I would go on the pill for a while to control the endo & PCOS, but then my blood pressure would spike and I wouldn’t bleed if I got cut — all the things that happened to my mother on the pill. So, I’d have to stop taking the pill and let my body re-regulate. It wasn’t until I got into grad school (at a university with a med school, thank goodness!) and began seeing a reproductive endocrinologist that I learned what was going on and why. It turns out there’s a genetic clotting disorder coming straight down the maternal line in my family, in addition to the endo & PCOS. I was counseled to think long and hard about trying to have a baby because my personal and family medical histories made me high risk even before I got pregnant.

So, at the age of 22-23 years, I knew that having my own biological children was really out of the question for me. I also learned why hormonal birth control isn’t an option for me. I’m grateful I learned that then.

I’m grateful that if I had gotten pregnant, abortion was the medical treatment I would have needed and I would have had access to it.  Even when I lived in Tennessee and Georgia and Florida, I would have had access thanks to Roe v Wade. I now live in Nevada, where a woman’s right to choose is codified into state law.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the choice to follow my dreams. But, I’m afraid I’ve been lying to the generation of young women I work with. I don’t know that they’re going to have the same options anymore. That’s especially true for women from Utah and Idaho, because those states already have trigger laws on the books.

Because, yesterday, Amy Coney Barret suggested that pregnancy wasn’t a burden for women. That was her experience. So it must be for all women, right? Just pop out the baby, give it away. No harm, no foul for the woman or the baby. John Roberts wanted to know why women might need an additional 9 or 10 weeks to come up with the money to pay for a medical procedure that by law can’t be paid for through Medicaid or other public monies. Because, we all know that the man who got the women pregnant will step up to help out by 15 weeks, right? Or, because a young, scared teenage girl know what’s happening to her body at 15 weeks, right?

Yesterday, it became readily apparent girls and women are second class citizens to a glob of cells that can kill its host. We tell girls that they can be anything they want and that they can follow their dreams. It’s just that today, that feels like that’s a lie we’ve been telling more than 50% of the country for a long time.

I don’t post much here because I have to write so much in my professional life. But, I really felt the need to get my thoughts down in pixels. Thank you for reading my rant.

Wow! Thank you everyone! I needed to write my thoughts out this morning and wondered if anyone would read the diary at all. It seems I’m not the only one who feels this way. I need to be in and out due to my day job, but I’ll pop in as I can. Thank you again. In gratitude, speak2me

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.



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