Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how easy it is to lose my autonomy and authority over it.
I’m sitting here, 23 weeks pregnant.
I felt her start moving about two weeks ago, bubbles and flutters that turned into a random jab, an unmistakable punch or kick.
My friend sent me a book for her (her first book), “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.” Sometimes, when I’m alone in my apartment, I read one out loud, thinking about what she can be, what she can accomplish.
I spend my lunch hour filling my registry—bottles and burp clothes; swaddles and cribs and clothing that is so unimaginably tiny.
Half my wardrobe is off-limits now, too tight or stretched to fit properly over my growing bump. Strangers offer me seats on the subway. My husband and I have dinner conversations that revolve only around potential names, hours and hours worth of “Olivia?” “Too popular.” “Ruth?” “Old fashioned.”
She is mine. Has been since we discovered her back in May, when I felt a protectiveness I never thought possible. I gave up, with shocking ease, things that were potentially harmful to her: happy hour cocktails, that afternoon coffee break, sushi. I researched for hours, the safest crib, the safest car seat, the safest stroller. Read and read and read about what was happening to her week by week, how to best prepare for her after she arrived. I toured the maternity ward. Signed up for breastfeeding classes.
I’m sitting here 23 weeks pregnant and I already love this baby (saying “baby” is a choice I’ve made, my decision) more than I ever thought I would. More than I ever thought I could.
But now, I’m also sitting here, at 23 weeks pregnant, thinking about the 20-week ban that passed in the House. Thinking about how this ban says three weeks ago I stopped being able to make the best decisions about my own health and well-being and future; her health and well-being and future.
Thinking about how this ban says three weeks ago my doctor’s professional opinion would cease to matter. The opinion of my carefully chosen doctor, whose practice answered my phone call at 3am in July when I asked with a shaky voice how much bleeding constituted an emergency, and who saw me the next day to alleviate my fears, to confirm everything was OK. My doctor who called me back three times in one day, long after business hours finished, to answer the same questions, even though she must’ve been exhausted, having spent the day helping another woman bring her child into the world. My doctor, who knows me so well she knows the color of the cover of my pregnancy journal. My doctor, who I trust right now more than anyone, who I need to trust right now more than anyone. Thinking about how this ban says her skill, experience, and expertise would cease to have mattered three weeks ago. How she would have to weigh a prison sentence against best medical practices.
Thinking about how this ban chose three weeks ago based on a blatant lie that has become more important than my body, my decisions, my life. That a blatant lie about fetal pain, discredited and false, has become more important than me.
I’m sitting here 23 weeks pregnant. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and the scary, messy, unpredictability that will come with bringing her into the world, becoming a parent, becoming a mother. Not a day goes by that I’m not gripped by a fear of something going wrong, a twist in fate, a sudden nosedive.
And now, not a day goes by that I don’t think about how easy it is to lose my autonomy and authority over it. To lose the solace that I might have any control.
Elizabeth Skoski lives in New York City. She is the author of the novel, For Girls Who Find Themselves With Child, the proceeds of which are donated to The National Network of Abortion Funds. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Electric Literature, and Bustle among others.