Monday, July 19, 2004

U.S.: She gives new meaning to the term "heartless bitch"

Now I'm 34. My boyfriend, Peter, and I have been together three years. I'm old enough to presume that I wasn't going to have an easy time becoming pregnant. I was tired of being on the pill, because it made me moody. Before I went off it, Peter and I talked about what would happen if I became pregnant, and we both agreed that we would have the child.

I found out I was having triplets when I went to my obstetrician. The doctor had just finished telling me I was going to have a low-risk pregnancy. She turned on the sonogram machine. There was a long pause, then she said, ''Are you sure you didn't take fertility drugs?'' I said, ''I'm positive.'' Peter and I were very shocked when she said there were three. ''You know, this changes everything,'' she said. ''You'll have to see a specialist.''

My immediate response was, I cannot have triplets. I was not married; I lived in a five-story walk-up in the East Village; I worked freelance; and I would have to go on bed rest in March. I lecture at colleges, and my biggest months are March and April. I would have to give up my main income for the rest of the year. There was a part of me that was sure I could work around that. But it was a matter of, Do I want to?

I looked at Peter and asked the doctor: ''Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?'' The obstetrician wasn't an expert in selective reduction, but she knew that with a shot of potassium chloride you could eliminate one or more.

Having felt physically fine up to this point, I got on the subway afterward, and all of a sudden, I felt ill. I didn't want to eat anything. What I was going through seemed like a very unnatural experience. On the subway, Peter asked, ''Shouldn't we consider having triplets?'' And I had this adverse reaction: ''This is why they say it's the woman's choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That's easy for you to say, but I'd have to give up my life.'' Not only would I have to be on bed rest at 20 weeks, I wouldn't be able to fly after 15. I was already at eight weeks. When I found out about the triplets, I felt like: It's not the back of a pickup at 16, but now I'm going to have to move to Staten Island. I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don't think that deep down I was ever considering it.
When we saw the specialist, we found out that I was carrying identical twins and a stand alone. My doctors thought the stand alone was three days older. There was something psychologically comforting about that, since I wanted to have just one. Before the procedure, I was focused on relaxing. But Peter was staring at the sonogram screen thinking: Oh, my gosh, there are three heartbeats. I can't believe we're about to make two disappear. The doctor came in, and then Peter was asked to leave. I said, ''Can Peter stay?'' The doctor said no. I know Peter was offended by that.

Two days after the procedure, smells no longer set me off and I no longer wanted to eat nothing but sour-apple gum. I went on to have a pretty seamless pregnancy. But I had a recurring feeling that this was going to come back and haunt me. Was I going to have a stillbirth or miscarry late in my pregnancy?

I had a boy, and everything is fine. But thinking about becoming pregnant again is terrifying. Am I going to have quintuplets? I would do the same thing if I had triplets again, but if I had twins, I would probably have twins. Then again, I don't know.
It's impossible to read this and not think that we've reached where we're going in these United States. This narrative is actually Amy Richards's story as told to Amy Barrett; so, it is a true story.

Notice Richards/Barrett's language, according to which a baby is a used piece of toilet paper, an annoying pest, and a bad experience. In the world view depicted in the piece, a living baby is something to be got rid of, something to eliminate. Killing two babies in one shot is 'mak[ing] two disappear."

Notice the emotional detachment from and disinterest in what potassium chloride actually eliminates. It's not about two babies; rather, potassium chloride eliminates any possibility of Richards having a life different from the one she envisions for herself. Nothing, not even precious life, is allowed to get in the way of her Manhattan lifestyle and her absorption with herself. Richards's own personal merry-go-round is not about to stop for triplets.

Chemical murder prevents Richards from moving to Staten Island, from getting married -- after all, it's not necessary to marry for only one paltry baby, right? -- from shopping at Costco. Who wouldn't kill two babies when confronted with such a horrible future?

More repellent than the detachment is Richards's moral vacuity. Who knows what she'll do if she gets pregnant with twins. Maybe she'll whack 'em, maybe she won't. After all, it's her body, her choice, and she is her own little ground-god with power of life and death.

H'tip to The Corner.


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