I have given birth to two Gwen’s in my lifetime but it was only half on purpose. Let me start from the beginning- I scheduled my first abortion in the spring of 2003. I was 16 years old, a junior in high school with a 4.3 GPA, and 6 weeks pregnant. I did not know what the word Feminist meant and I did not know how to drive a car. What I did know was how to march in the March for Life protest in DC with my Catholic church. Can you imagine? A bus full of 13 year olds with no concept of responsibility, relationships, or repercussions- all chanting together “Roe V Wade has got to go!” simply because that was all we were taught. Three years later, as I laid on the exam table at the local clinic while a surly middle-aged man probed me with an ultrasound wand, that chant was all I could think of. I scheduled the abortion anyway. I was supposed to go to college. I was supposed to get the fuck away from my parents and their crumbling relationship. I was supposed to be anywhere but here.
It wasn’t until a few days before the scheduled procedure that I received a phone call from the clinic. They made a clerical error. They were going to be closed for election day the day of my scheduled abortion. Could I reschedule? Sure, but we don’t have anything available until the following week. Okay, no problem. We have to let you know, though, if you wait another week to have the procedure, the embryo will be more fully formed and the procedure more invasive. WHAT?! I am only 16 and I have SATs and Prom to worry about. Can I call you back when I am sure with my decision? Take as much time as you need, honey.
I never called back. I was 8 weeks pregnant at my Prom wearing a midriff baring dress (and I still looked fucking hot). My daughter was born the following December. I did not go to college. I did not get away from my parents. And I am currently still here. I do not remember much about that pregnancy. My body was young and resilient and my mind was young and stupid. I threw caution to the wind and still carried on with life as if there was not another human dependent on my safety. I drove in cars with reckless teenagers. I never got enough sleep. I ate Dorito’s like it was my day job. The thought of the baby not surviving because of my actions was never in my mind. I decided to keep this baby so of course it was going to survive.
I used to joke for a very long time that all I was ever good at in life was pouring lattes and making babies. The thought to make an income off of the latter came about 10 years after my daughter was born. I learned that it is illegal to pay a person to carry your child in every country except three- India, Ukraine, and the United States. JACKPOT. I would rent out my womb, make a pretty penny, and finally get my life in order. I was the ideal candidate- young, white, non smoker, previous uncomplicated childbirth experience. I quickly filled out an application for the only surrogacy clinic in my city. Two weeks later I received a phone call from a strange lady telling me how nice this couple from Europe was and how we would be a perfect match for each other and WHAT?!
Let me tell you straight up- it was the easiest thing I had ever done to get pregnant on accident, and it was one of the hardest things I had ever done to get pregnant on purpose. The second time around there were rules to follow. Survival of the fetus was on my mind every minute of every day. I had to drive 1.5 hours every 5 days for an ultrasound. I had to take 13 pills daily in addition to the shots I had to administer to myself. I had to eat healthy, exercise, wear my seatbelt. I had to report back weekly on my health. My life was not my own and I was very cognizant of this fact as my feminist awakening had already happened.
I recently reread The Handmaid’s Tale and holy shit. Never before have I related more to a fictional character. It was one of the weirdest times of my life- knowing that this non-living, non-breathing cluster of cells inside of me was more important than my own life- knowing that after a doctor’s appointment I was not the first person to be told the results of my own health and what was happening inside of my own body. Being pregnant on purpose after first being pregnant on accident changed my entire outlook on life but also made me wonder WHY THE FUCK DO PEOPLE WILLINGLY DO THIS?!
It was terrible- I was now old! My body ached every time I tried to stand. My feet were so sore that I had to buy special shoes to wear. I was only capable of eating a small serving of each meal because the food would make my stomach stretch and my organs literally could not handle that. My lungs were pushed up into my ribcage. I had to massage my chest after every meal to make sure that I could still breathe properly. But none of that mattered because I was keeping moneybaby safe. It worked and I gave birth to a healthy baby 3 days after my daughter’s 12th birthday. They named the baby Gwen and now my teenage daughter enjoys sharing that she is the OG (Original Gwen).
As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I am given the choice to be pregnant on purpose again. Another moneybaby could seriously change our lives for the better. I could pay off my house. I could save for my daughter’s college education. I could buy SO MUCH makeup from Sephora. So how to decide to proceed or not? My daughter says yes. But only if they name this one Gwen, too.