What Life Used to Be Like
Abortion is a human right
This morning, for the first time since March 2020, Max left the house for work again and he won’t be home again until after dinner. After two years of working from home, his company has asked that he return to the office one day a week. So with Bruno at Kita and Hugo away on his class trip, I am home alone today. And it is so very quiet in my apartment. It feels almost like my ears are ringing. I’ve been home alone here and there since March 2020, of course, but this feels very different. This is a weekday. This is what life used to be like.
A month before we got married, Max got a good and stable job at a company that he had always wanted to work for. It was a dream come true with only one catch: the company had no office in Berlin. For the first two years of our marriage, and the first year of Hugo’s life, Max lived in a small town in western Germany and I stayed in Berlin. He came home every weekend and once Hugo was a few weeks old, we occasionally took the train to stay with Max in his tiny apartment for a week or two. Eventually Max was able to transfer to a different department of the company, which had its office in a town closer to Berlin, and this allowed him to move home again, but required a nearly four-hour daily commute to and from the office.
For years, Max left the house between 6:00 and 7:00 each morning, taking subways, trains and buses to work, and came home again between 7:00 and 8:00 each evening. For years, the daily routine of getting the kids up, fed, dressed, snacks packed, off to school and Kita, home again from school and Kita, their afternoon activities, then dinner and bath time, was mine alone. It was a lot. It was often too much. But it was the only way and so I managed to make it work. I felt helpless and trapped a lot of the time, but I also felt lucky. Besides the fact that it was Max’s stable income which made it possible for me to have a more flexible job, I was the one who was there for what felt like nearly every moment of our children’s early years, healing at least one wound from my own childhood.
Then Covid descended and from one day to the next, Max’s office closed and he was home all the time. At first, I joked that all this togetherness would be the end of us. I’m an introvert and I crave time alone. But the truth was that it was the best thing to come out of the pandemic for us. For two years now, Max has gotten to participate in our lives on a daily basis. Taking the boys to school and Kita every day, overseeing Hugo’s German homework for a few minutes in the afternoon if necessary, kicking a ball in the courtyard with the boys for ten minutes before dinner. I can poke my head in his office any time I want. We have lunch together almost every day. He’s just around and I revel in that. We all do.
Bruno’s time at Kita is coming to an end this summer and Hugo will soon be old enough to get to school on his own. Every day, I think about this chapter of our lives slowly creaking shut, the one in which the children were so small and helpless and dependent. The next one, in which we move into a new stage of family life with children whose focus is increasingly on things beyond our four walls, is slowly opening. It feels a little bit like freedom and is full of thrills to contemplate, but it also keeps me up at night wondering if we did a good job.
These close, cozy years are ending and I know the ones ahead will fly by faster than the previous ones did. Don’t forget, you soaked up all you could, I tell myself. Sometimes it was too much and I lost my patience and my anxiety got the best of me. The sacrifices I was forced to make with regards to my work nag at me. But I was here, all the time. I was present and focused and here. And in the end, thanks to Covid, so was their father.
Our family looks the way it does thanks to abortion rights, as is our ability to parent the way we do. I believe strongly that abortion is healthcare and an essential human right. It helps young people plan their lives the way they want to; it helps parents do better with the children they already have. It allows people in every stage of their reproductive life to have some measure of control over their future.
I know and love women who had illegal abortions another lifetime ago. No one should want those times to come back. Abortions on kitchen tables. Abortions without anesthetic. Abortions with no recourse if something went wrong. Pain. Shame. Dirt.
Something that makes me uncomfortable about the current conversation about abortion is the idea that some abortions are more necessary or “moral” than others. When it comes to abortion, I believe that it should be safe and available to all, to any single person who wants one. I also believe that there are no groups of people who are more deserving of abortions than others. No one should be forced to have a baby, ever, at any point. If a woman’s fetus is not compatible with life or if she was raped or if her birth control failed or if she’s too poor or if she just doesn’t want to be pregnant, period, it doesn’t matter. Abortion should always be a safe and available option for any person who is pregnant, no matter what.
Being forced to birth a baby who will die, or will put your life in danger, is grotesque and tragic and wrong. But being forced to birth a baby that you just don’t want is too.
Things to do:
Donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds and/or Planned Parenthood. To support women in European countries with restrictive abortion laws, you can donate to Abortion Without Borders and Abortion Support Network.
Find details here on local organizations working on making abortions accessible in each U.S. state and support them.
Watch the stories at We Testify, which began as an idea in Frida Kahlo’s backyard in Mexico City, and remember that those of us who want abortion to remain legal, safe and accessible for all far outnumber those who don’t.
Things to make:
This salad dressing, made with minced onion instead of grated garlic, was wonderful on a big bowl of gorgeously speckled Castelfranco radicchio leaves. I skipped the panko-scallion topping to make it extra easy.
I made this recipe for bhindi masala with frozen baby okra (available at my local Turkish grocer) and it was such a hit.
Things to read:
This made me laugh out loud.
Three months after reading it, I still can’t stop thinking about and referencing this fascinating book on Italy’s relationship with citrus fruit. (Also, the Amalfi lemon salad is a delight.)
Val Monroe’s newsletter, How Not to F*ck Up Your Face, is a breath of fresh air every week.
Letter from Berlin is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.