My Body, Whose Choice?

    My Body, Whose Choice?

    I felt it might be time that people with, what may be a more “controversial” view, share their stories - with the hopes that our voices will help others, or at least ignite the consideration to a different level of understanding.

    a human's right to choose.

    A man’s right to choose. A woman’s right to choose.

    An individual’s right to choose - for themselves and themselves only. 

    You decided that you don’t want children? 

    You chose to have an abortion?

    What is wrong with you?

    I find that these questions or inferences appear entirely too often. 

    The topic of abortion is at the forefront of today’s world now more than ever. 

    One dominating the conversations within the system, society, social media and our own homes, and rightfully so. It’s important. 

    It is a topic that until today, I have always kept rather quiet on or held close to the chest, much like everything. I was unclear how sharing my own experience could be useful to someone else. I often find that people tend to react too quickly; their voices as tools used without much strategy or intent, only to create more harm than good. 

    Despite my general reticence, I felt there was a missing piece in the infinite archive of opinions on this topic. And while all those voices should be respected and should be taken into consideration, and with some serious conversations internally and with Joe, the man that is my rock/greatest support: I felt it might be time that people with, what may be a more “controversial” view, share their stories - with the hopes that our voices will help others, or at least ignite the consideration to a different level of understanding. 

    When it comes to the topic of abortion, it feels, at least for me, that we hear more opinions from the women that have children, do want children one day, or are pro-life, while also hearing from those in political power with personal agenda. We do not often hear from the women that do not want children, the horrifically undeserving victims of sex crimes, and the women that simply cannot afford to provide a child with the necessary financial, educational, and emotional stability. It feels as though there is not much of a community or supportive platform for those women to feel heard. 

    I am one of those women.

    Perhaps one of few or perhaps one of many. 

    (Something I hope to discover). 


    but what if I don't want children?

    I am not disputing that the information, the psychiatric evaluations, and the extensive level of analysis could be worthwhile for many women and should always be made accessible. I am disputing that it should be mandated for everyone. Not every woman struggles with the thought of having an abortion and not every woman feels the same way when making that choice. If it was a tumultuous decision to make for a woman then those services should be made available. But for those of us that did not feel such a way - there is nothing wrong with us .

    - Shanna Cooper -

    I have known for quite a while, through personal reflection and determination of my own view of this current world, that children do not fit my vision of my future. I am not ashamed to state this. I am not ashamed to stand by my own belief, that unless I have accomplished the things I truly desire (career, marriage and lifestyle goals), and unless I am able to provide a child with absolutely everything in this world (including household help) without any financial burden/stress, career sacrifice, lifestyle sacrifice, or relationship sacrifice with my partner, that I do not want children. 

    Being a mother, for myself, is not the identity that I want to take on. That the nouns of a businesswoman, a wife, a mentor, a writer, a charity crusader, and a friend are more important to me. This is a mentality that I embrace with love and acceptance, and also respect for those women that feel and desire differently.

    The story I am about to share, I share with two hopes:

    1. That I make other women of similar thinking to me feel less alone/scrutinized and less hidden.
    2. That I show my support for those with the efforts to make the ability for an abortion easy and always possible, anywhere in the world. To make an abortion a woman’s choice and her choice alone.

    As someone who’s health felt hindered after 15 years of birth control, I had chosen to no longer consume mass manufactured hormones and allow myself to live naturally. Joe and I chose the route of Phexxi gel - a true blessing and one of almost no non-hormonal birth control options outside of using condoms (another issue with our system). I also relied on the use of Daysy for secondary protection- a fertility tracker that would alert us of fertile days.

    Of course with any approach - there is always the small percentage chance that pregnancy can occur. But our percentage chances were even lower and I will explain why in a minute. 

    In December of 2021, Joe and I found out that I was pregnant.

    Our immediate reaction to this was indeed one of shock but also met with an undeniable certainty of a course of action. Joe’s chances of being able to have children were low due to his history of cancer as a young adult and chemotherapy. While my fertility abilities are strong - we did think that we were more likely in the clear than not. However, we always remained responsible and cognizant of the what if. 

    And just like that, not long into our relationship, we were faced with an event that many couples would be celebrating or contemplating.

    We had discussed many times, even before our first date, what our individual desires for children were. Joe and I both stood in the same mindset from day one- children were not desired, maybe in the long future by choice but if it doesn’t happen, it is totally fine.

    Knowing this and standing true to it, Joe and I chose to have an abortion.

    Within minutes of finding out, we began to hunt for the appropriate clinic. Having lived in DC for many years as well as Europe, I had expected there to be quite a few options. The joke was on us. We were in the state of Texas - a state, like many others, that had decided to make things far more difficult for women. A state with very few providers available in each city and at times none offered. A state that will also put you through one hell of a process before allowing you to abort. 

    Because we were so sure of our decision as a couple, time was of the essence. We wanted to complete this process as quickly as possible before my body and hormones got too thrown off track. (Mind you I am 98 pounds, 5 feet tall and rather in touch with my body, so I was already showing and feeling symptoms at the 3-4 week mark). 

    A desired procedure that appeared to be more difficult than we thought. We came to find out that the city of Austin, where we lived at the time, had only one clinic. ONE CLINIC. Despite this scarcity, we were able to make an appointment for the next business day.

    And so began a hellacious process - one that I will never forget. One that I realized would be impossible for a woman that had to work a 9-5 job, had responsibilities that did not grant them flexibility of a schedule like mine, or financial obligations hindering their ability for extensive travel, time off or medical costs. A rather horrifying thought to feel as if there was almost a dead end with a sign stating that it was mandatory to have a child unless you were as lucky as I was.

    I entered alone as Joe was not allowed in. I signed in and preceded to sit for 3 hours, just to be taken into a room for a pregnancy test. I was then sent back out into the waiting room for another hour, to then be taken into another room, just to be told that I was pregnant (thanks I didn’t know). While laughable at this stage, the most laughable moment was yet to come. I was given a stack of pamphlets and told that a 24 hour waiting period, AND a one hour session with a therapist were mandatory before being able to have the procedure. Waiting a ridiculous amount of time just to be told that was frustrating enough, but the pamphlets and what transpired after is what truly enraged me.

    To be handed a stack of information with the titles “Reasons why you would want a child”, “How to get support from the father if he is refusing”, “Are you sure you want to abort?” without my request was offensive. To be told I would have to come back the next day to have a psychiatric analysis was offensive. I make my own decisions in life. I am capable of surviving without the hand of others. I do not need to be forced to sit and discuss my thoughts and personal feelings with a stranger who will then assess if I am mentally sound before granting me an abortion. The invasiveness of this evoked a level of frustration in me that I never had experienced before.

    I am not disputing that the information, the psychiatric evaluations, and the extensive level of analysis could be worthwhile for many women and should always be made accessible. I am disputing that it should be mandated for everyone. Not every woman struggles with the thought of having an abortion and not every woman feels the same way when making that choice. If it was a tumultuous decision to make for a woman then those services should be made available. But for those of us that did not feel such a way - there is nothing wrong with us and I should have the right to decline such external assistance/processes before engaging in a procedure for my own body of my own choice.

     

    Why was I expected to feel sad, ashamed, uncertain, or embarrassed? 

    Why was I questioned or being convinced to keep the child?

    Why was I given a such a template level of communication and treatment as if I was not an individual? 

    I walked in there feeling, strong, confident and secure in our choice. 

    How dare you treat me otherwise without first asking me. 

    Why would I then have to spend another 5 hours of my next day going through motions I personally had no need for? 

    How can they ask women to take so much time out of their busy days, spend so much money, and make the process so difficult if they are not going to give us the individual care that we deserve?  

    Does me not wanting a child make me a bad woman? Does that make me a selfish human?

    To be strong in my decisions and to know what it was that my partner and I wanted? Why is that such a shock to so many?

    With such a bad taste in my mouth and feelings of offense, Joe and I decided not to return to such a clinic and that the state of Texas was not the appropriate place for us. We decided that we would not pay for the procedure in Texas; i.e fund the very system that made me feel like I had tape over my mouth and no individuality. A system that makes it so difficult for every single women and also so offensive to women who stand confident in their decision.

    Strong in my stance and with a man that too stood strong in his stance, we ventured to a state that did treat us with respect for our own decision as couple. One that did make the process incredibly easy and one that did not make me feel challenged, questioned or analyzed as a woman. A state that will likely be one of very few in the coming months/years.

    With a short and efficient visit, we obtained the pills, and followed through with our decision in the privacy of our own home on New Year Eve/New Years Day. A process that was physically unpleasant/uncomfortable, but one that for us, was truly a relief and strengthened us as a couple. A process that we never thought twice about and never looked back on in regret.

    I was often asked “Are you okay?” after sharing what we decided to do with those close to us. Of course asked out of love and concern for us which is greatly appreciated. But noticed at times that it was asked as if the expectation was that I would be in emotional despair. It reminded me of those moments when so many automatically respond with “I’m so sorry” when someone says they’ve gone through or are going through a divorce. Yes, in many instances - it is a sad and devastating experience. But there are others where it is actually celebrated and a positive choice. Perhaps the tone/impression of our responses to someone should be determined once the room is read as we are not all the same.

    I wanted the opposite reaction. 

    To say, “Please do not have sympathy for me having an abortion. Please congratulate me for making a choice that I felt was best for me. Please show support for the women who stand certain in what they want, even if it goes against the societal norm. Please admire us for being true to ourselves.”

    This was our choice - as two individuals. A choice we made together; the next brick in the building of my story, his story and our story. No external person or institution influenced that. We followed through with the conversation between our heads and our hearts: and that is why we felt no guilt and no remorse. Why we felt confident in our decision. Why I felt no less like a worthwhile woman after the abortion than I felt prior. 

    If you can read this without personal bias, and with an understanding that this is purely a story of two people not related to you - thank you for reading this for what it is. A story sharing my own reasonings for going through with this choice. Reasonings that I feel were financially and emotionally responsible for myself. Determined by a total acceptance and confidence of who I am as an individual human being.

    If it inspires you, comforts you, educates you, or sparks any feeling in you - I am thrilled to hear that. 

    If you feel that my choice and reasonings for it are selfish, unholy, immoral, or awful that is absolutely fine. 

    Don’t agree, judge me, criticize me, unfollow me, choose not to support this brand - I do not mind. 

    Why? 

    Because that is your choice and ultimately on you - not on me. 

    Because that reaction is the very issue we face as a society today. 

    We preach, strive and talk about individuality, freedom, and the right to choose while simultaneously turning around and scrutinizing those that don’t follow the same yellow brick road as us. 

    We dismiss those that do not mimic our every thought and move. 

    Hypocritical don’t you think?

    That sort of one dimensional thinking is certainly not what Birds & Blokes and its community strives to be. It is not what I aspire for this brand to stand for.

    We stand for individuality - for acceptance and for using others’ stories as inspiration (not dictation) for people to follow their desires and passions. A community that engages in constructive conversation, not reactive conversation.

    The intention of Joe and I sharing this is to promote the concept that every woman, man, human should be able to make their own decision. That each individual experience and determination is not for anyone else to judge or disrespect. That whatever one person decides does not have to fit the mold of the societal, religious, or human expectation of others. 

    That each choice, from micro to macro, is ours and ours alone. 

    It will mold us into who we are and it will lead us to your own happiness.

    Do not let such external noise of others influence your choices. 

    It has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else but you.

    This is one experience. One viewpoint. Our story here. 

    What is yours?

    Tell us - and welcome to the unfiltered movement. 

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