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I Kept My Baby At Age 21 Against My Parent's Wishes — Why I Believe In The Power Of Choice

Mother and her daughter

Choosing to keep a baby is just as important as choosing not to, especially when others try to influence the decision.  

I know this all too well. After I became pregnant at the age of 20 in 1979, my parents scheduled an abortion appointment without my approval. But I never showed up — and I gave birth to my daughter several months later. This was part of the inspiration behind my debut novel, Never a Cloud

In Never a Cloud, the main character, Violet Grey, when faced with a similar predicament, chooses to become a single parent.

 I wish I’d had Violet’s strength and vision. 

In my youth, my father gave me an ultimatum: get an abortion, or get married. So I acquiesced to a shotgun marriage. Yet I felt strongly then, as I do now, that keeping the baby was and is my voice, and my choice — nobody else’s.

Getting married should have been, too.

That’s why, throughout its storyline, Never a Cloud reminds all women to take charge of their lives. Not to make choices driven by a fear of what people will say; not to lose themselves to relationships or subsume their identities to the whims of husbands, fathers, or brothers; not to slip into the false comfort of financial dependency on a man. 

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Though it can be frightening, there is a great strength that comes with making our own decisions and letting others do the same. 

My parents were good people and certainly professed open minds. In fact, they had left the Catholic Church for the Unitarian Universalist one specifically so that their two daughters would be exposed to the ideas of many religions and be taught to think, and to choose — taught that life is not didactic; but rather, filled with many opportunities to choose and determine the course of one’s life. The following quote stuns as so contemporary:

“As a faith tradition, we are committed to Reproductive Justice, which espouses the human right to have children, not to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments and to safeguard bodily autonomy and to express one's sexuality freely.”

It is not a coincidence that Roe vs. Wade was based on the constitutional rights of liberty and privacy. Our country today is still, sometimes violently, sorting out both.

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My parents were good people, but I think that when confronted with my pregnancy they fell back on shame, and their good sense was overwhelmed by worries about what others might say. Sound familiar today? Unfortunately, it is. 

I chose to have my baby, but I might have chosen abortion. (Three years later I was about to choose abortion, having scheduled one, only to arrive at the clinic and learn that the test had been a false positive.)

The important thing is that I felt as strongly then as I do now — that it was, and is my voice, and my choice — nobody else’s.

This gave me a much keener sense of who I was then and who I am today. The conversations around “my body, my choice” usually surround abortion itself, but let us be reminded that it is CHOICE ITSELF we are fighting for.

I dropped out of university and left home at nineteen. In 1977, my roommate and I boarded a Greyhound bus in New England; our destination was CA.

Susan sold pies at Heidi’s Pie Shop, and I scooped ice cream around the corner.

From LA, I flew solo down to the Yucatan; later, back in the states, I joined a hippie commune, practicing eastern meditation. I didn’t become more enlightened; I got pregnant.

It’s almost a cliché now, and yet still hard to explain, the sense of entitlement we young people felt then — we felt entitled to have adventures; we felt entitled to choose our own lives and our own futures. No less important now; just a little lost, perhaps.

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Being a single mother wasn’t easy, of course, but it sure was wonderful.

I went back to school, got my degree, and became a teacher. And now my daughter has two girls of her own — my beautiful grandchildren. “Life is a tree of many branches,” as someone very wise probably once said.

In my novel, life asks Violet, Ava, and Margot, to circle over their lives, and examine them from a new perspective. Sometimes self-understanding comes from within, like mist slowly clearing, and sometimes from without, like the cry of a hawk.

Ava, my young feminist, on her white horse, lance in hand, charging happily at the future, would never have imagined that the Supreme Court would reverse Roe vs. Wade! She speaks, and I write, for women everywhere.

Let’s celebrate Violet’s arc in the rainbow. See the white dove fly.

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Jo Brunini is an artist and a poet who interviews French artists, and blogs about her life, the art world, and the beauty in everything. 

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