The question took me by surprise.
I knew that one day, I would have a heart to heart with my child, sit him upon my knee and speak to him honestly about how babies are made. But I wasn’t prepared for the question to come as I was backing into a parking spot at , my six month belly fitting snugly beneath the steering wheel.
“Mommy - did you eat the baby?”
I gave a quick reply, a dismissive no. Had I been focusing my complete attention on him, I would have anticipated the follow up.
“Then how did it get in your belly?”
Now there are mothers who keep their prenatal promises to themselves after their children are born: no peanut butter until their third birthday, no television until they are two, and I will give him the respect of the unvarnished truth.
I am not one of them.
What came out of my mouth was that God had put the baby in my belly, because Mommy and Daddy loved him so much, and God felt that it was time to bestow the gift of a child upon us. It satisfied his two-year old self, and I exhaled, and moved on. Now that he’s almost eight, he had more of an idea of the truth, that it involves closeness between the parents, that it starts with a kiss. But he hasn’t asked beyond that, for which I am grateful. Yet I know that it is my responsibility to tell him, when the time comes, the facts.
It occurred to me in the last few days, that Todd Akin’s parents withheld the truth from him as well. Most children’s views of conception evolve as their world knowledge and maturity grows. I remember Christine Rizzuto telling me in third grade that a lady gets pregnant when the man pees into her belly button. It bore enough resemblance to the truth for me to believe her.
Eventually, the playground conversations grew more sophisticated and I got the real picture. So even though my parents never sat me down with a copy of “Our Bodies, Our Selves,” by the time I was in the upper grades of elementary school, I knew what was what.
How then, did Todd Akin reach far into adulthood to preserve his pre-adolescent ideas? I understand that the Catholic Church frowns upon science and that he must take certain ideas on faith. I’m sure he believes that God’s bigger purpose influences such things as mothers conceiving children, the righteous winning out, and the just desserts of those who have wronged God. Yet, his maturity seems to have frozen there in a place celebrated by the religious as a positive ideal. The tuning out of society and biology is a difficult accomplishment. It takes dedication and resolve, qualities that are and should be commended.
When the Christian Right hijacked the Republican Party, it seems that they cornered the market in touting their own morality. Yet, the likes of Todd Akin, and his cohort Paul Ryan, raise questions not only about the positions from which they legislate, but how indeed those positions came to be. Can we honestly entrust our elected officials whose job is to serve the common good, to protect the rights bestowed on us by our Constitution and our “Creator,” when their philosophies stem from a stunted growth?
To examine Akin’s statement, that a woman possesses biological abilities to “shut down” the pregnancy that might occur during a “legitimate rape,” is to follow it to its logical conclusion. If a woman cannot get pregnant during a legitimate rape, then if a pregnancy does occur, the rape charge is nullified. She must have wanted it, if not through her actions, be it screaming, fighting, crying, stating “No,” but in some small physical way. This is not only stupid and wrong, it is infinitely dangerous.
Paul Ryan and the Republican machine are distancing themselves from Todd Akin, urging him to step down from the Senate election in Missouri, and rewriting his Wiki-page as we speak. Todd Akin has issued a video begging the forgiveness of those who misinterpreted the words he “misspoke.” Yet, it isn’t the public who needs to accept his apology, nor is it solely his to give. Somewhere in Missouri there was a mother, once upon a time, who relegated a frank conversation and childrearing to the Church. She, and those of us afraid to have embarrassing talks with our kids, are responsible for the misinformation they spew as adults. Those of us who use our rightful choice to become mothers, through the myriad ways there are to become one, owe the truth to our children.
Because ignorance in a child is acceptable. In an adult, it is simply, unelectable.