A crucial voice always seems to be missing from the emotionally fraught battle over women’s reproductive rights. It’s not only if is abortion wrong but also that of the legions of unwanted children that will result from women being prevented from making one of the most important decisions in their lives.
What are the childhoods of unwanted kids like?
How are they suffering?
Anti-choice people not only don’t care about the effects of abortion bans on women and their existing children, but they also don’t care even about those unwanted kids the second after they are born.
Most women end a pregnancy because they aren’t in the circumstances to be the kind of mothers they want to be and the kids deserve.
I recently read that a combat veteran might survive, but never recover. The same is true for being an unwanted child. Having your existence and needs resented is a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s a foundation of quicksand, leaving people with abandonment and trust issues, as well as depression or anxiety at the least. Many unwanted kids are also neglected and abused, leading to PTSD, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicides.
Why do so many people care so much about the unborn, yet lack all compassion and empathy for women, men, and children stretched too thin emotionally, energetically, and financially?
Quicksand is a lousy foundation
Childhood, when you need the care, nurturing, and protection of your parents is a dark, fear-filled place without those basic needs being met. I existed in survival mode.
My earliest memory is of being unsafe, my mother raging and beating up my teenage sister.
My passive father held my sister helpless, instead of stopping my mother. This trauma occurred in our lovely upper-middle-class house that was in no way home. I add the setting since many seem to have the bizarre idea that kids are only abused and neglected in low-income families.
Abuse and neglect are equal opportunities.
People with more money can just hide their problems better. They live in houses further apart, and the neighbors don’t hear or pretend they don’t. They don’t call the police or social services. They don’t want to get involved, they have their own secrets, they don’t want to embarrass their professional neighbor or incur their wrath.
My mother shouldn’t have had another kid, I was an unwanted child
When my mother missed her period, she thought she was entering menopause, a welcome relief. Her youngest was in school, and she wanted to go back to work part-time. She enjoyed working, meeting new people, and using her intelligence.
She wanted the freedom and satisfaction of doing something she was good at and earning her own money. There were experiences she wanted that my father didn’t value. He couldn’t complain if she paid for them herself.
I don’t blame her for wanting any of that, and I would have been fine not being born for I was an unwanted child. Yes, there have been wonderful people and aspects of my life, but I wouldn’t have known anything about them, much less missed them, had I not been born.
On the other hand, if I had to go back to being an abused, unwanted child, helpless and hopeless in that family situation for even a day, I’d prefer death.
My slightest need was resented. When I had to ask for a glass of water before I could reach to get one for myself, my mother looked at me with disdain. Then she’d huff in annoyance and rant at me as she got it.
I hated having to ask and did so as little as possible. There was milk at meals and I drank then. She wouldn’t let me have water on my nightstand, since she had a bad childhood memory associated with that image. So I went from dinner to the morning without any.
Well into adulthood, a doctor told me I didn’t have enough water in my body for my organs to function properly. Only then did I realize I only drank when dehydrated I’d learned to ignore normal thirst signals as a kid.
When I was around seven, I began feeling sick after every meal. A doctor said to avoid dairy, but my mother didn’t change my diet. In addition to everything else, I felt lousy physically all day. In my early twenties, I learned that I’d had a stress-related digestive disorder and dairy intolerance all of that time.
My mother was emotionally abusive and none of my emotional needs were met. She didn’t physically abuse me, but seeing what my sister suffered, I feared that the slightest thing could make her start. My older brother, in the same emotional pressure cooker, attacked me physically and terrorized me.
I don’t know that I can describe the helplessness, frustration, anger and despair of growing up like that. Most of all, I was so unbearably hurt that my parents didn’t care about me enough even to protect me physically. To me, that is the № 1 job of a parent, a basic precept of love, that you protect your kid from physical harm. My brother was never physically abused, to my knowledge, but he had learned that it was okay to physically abuse me from my parents hurting my sister.
What didn’t happen that should have
The trauma and emotional abandonment were bad enough, but I also suffered from a painful longing for all the good things I should have had and didn’t. It was as painful as if all of my skin had been ripped off. I didn’t receive countless hugs, kisses, and ruffled hair. I was rarely picked up and was never held. I didn’t experience feeling safe in someone’s arms or cuddling on their lap.
I wasn’t woken up by a smiling or kind mother. Instead, I heard an angry yell and rant. She called me ungrateful for all I had, not understanding those material goods, and a great place to swim and play tennis were nothing without love, safety, and caring parents.
She didn’t comfort me when I was sick, upset, or hurt. When I fell while playing, I’d laugh, so the other kids wouldn’t think it strange that I didn’t run to my mother for comfort as they did.
I yearned for affectionate looks, and for my needs to come first to someone. Your mother or father are the only people who ever do that, and it is essential to your well-being. Grandparents can as well, but I rarely saw extended family and wasn’t able to develop those relationships.
The only time my mother looked at me with affection was in front of other people, playing the good mother for them. She had problems, didn’t want kids, except my brother, and shouldn’t have had them. My mother said that her life ended when my sister was born, and she told me that I was the bane of her existence.
She treated me like a doll with no feelings. One that she could leave on the floor to be stepped on and forgotten. Then, when she wished to put me on display in public for my precocity, she could pull my string, and I’d say, “I love you, Mommy.” no matter what upsetting thing she had just said or done.
Every child needs to be wanted
I saw an anti-choice man on TV recently, claiming he was being attacked for protecting children. He was deluding himself that he was protecting children by forcing women to give birth. He was causing countless children to endure the hell of being unwanted, many of them also abused and neglected. In addition, those female children will grow up as second-class citizens with no right to bodily autonomy and reproductive rights. As adults, they will be subjected to all the prejudice, discrimination, and abuse that goes along with that drastically reduced status.
That man is forcing their mothers into 18 years of child-raising when they don’t have the circumstances or resources to provide for a kid’s needs. He was ignoring all the stress and trauma that having no say over your life brings about. There is frustration, anger, and helplessness as well. All of that is on top of existing in survival mode. Many of those women and their kids are already caught in a cycle of poverty. Other women will be reduced to poverty when their parents throw them out of the house for being pregnant.
How many will reach a breaking point when that child’s birth costs them education and job opportunities, in addition to being rejected by their families? How much can one person take?
The women making that difficult choice are the ones protecting their children. Some are protecting them from being born into devastating food and shelter insecurity. Others are protecting them from a childhood of domestic violence or a family already stretched too thin by existing family obligations to take good care of a child. Women know what is best for them and the well-being of their children.
Our American child poverty epidemic
The U.S. child poverty rate is a disgrace. Most of those children are African-American or Hispanic. One in seven American kids lives in poverty, and it affects their physical and mental health, their education, and prospects in life. More economically advantaged women will be able to travel to end unwanted pregnancies. Overturning Roe will place more burdens and pressures on women and families who are already in crisis.
According to a study on the National Institute of Health site,
“In 2014, 15.5 million children – or 21.1% of children under age 18 – lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty line .… 25% of children under age 3 are poor. These figures position the US second only to Romania in rankings of childhood poverty rates among 35 industrialized countries.”
That is disgraceful and unconscionable. Soon even more children will be born into poverty, struggling to survive.
As usual, the vast majority of these burdens and the suffering will be carried by women and children, the people with the least status and smallest voices.
“The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau
So do the mass of women. I hope they won’t suffer this latest attack on our basic human rights quietly.
For all the people who grew up steeped in the hell of being unwanted children, and all who are there now, I see you, I hear you, I understand.
Image by story on Freepik