By Chelsea Page
Childfree Not Carefree
Years before I created my new online class about the virgin Mary’s motherhood journey and the reproductive justice ethics led by women of color, I wrote to a friend:
My decision not to birth a child and, later, not to adopt a child, has been so lengthy, messy, and labor-intensive that I feel astonished that I have literally nothing to show for it. I hoped that at least I have cleared space for a different kind of family or community in my life. I await it with some of the eager impatience that I imagine my infertile sisters feel when they long for a child.
More recently, I have been trying to get pregnant (yes, I changed my mind about birthing a child), and I am coming to terms with being infertile. Looking back at this long-ago letter has reminded me that there is more than one definition of fertility:
I admire parents in the trenches who strive to care for children in a spirit of cooperation rather than coercion, who mess up and keep working to improve. Perhaps one day my partner and I will be important in the life of a child or in another family’s life. Until then, we will celebrate the parents, cultures, and ecosystems from which children spring, helping to protect them so that the children who will remake the future can be born.
With this class, it does feel like I’ve given birth to something, even if that something is invisible. Perhaps it’s the old feminist idea of giving birth to oneself—like the spiritual virginity of Mary, mother of God.
Full Arms Mary Study (FAMS)
This is a live online class for people approaching or questioning parenthood, who seek community in this churning time of ethical discernment and precious liminal space in the life journey. Are you trying for, wanting, or expecting a baby? Or are you not sure? What if it doesn’t happen? What if it does? Do you resist simple answers? Is parenthood a surprise, a call you’ve been fighting, a daunting obstacle, or just a long messy story?
Reproductive justice is the right to have children, to not have children, and to raise children in safety and economic wellbeing. The reproductive justice movement, created and led by women of color, understands that “choice” is neither straightforward nor evenly applied and accessed.
In my observation, parenting preparation tends to focus on individual readiness in terms of societal expectations on the parent and the forthcoming needs of the child. At best they provide resources in the areas of health, birthing options, caregiving, and community; at worst they begin the process of perfectionist and consumerist mothering for some who are privileged, while regulating and coercing those whose bodies are not valued for their own sake.
This is a spirit-centered class designed to step out from society’s emphasis on practicality and conformity in preparing for parenthood. Activists working at various intersections will present in this class, so that multiple “personal is political” reflections comprise the content and method. Mary of Nazareth, Jesus’s mother – before, during, and after her unexpected pregnancy – is the primary sacred text. Faith is not a requirement. Interest in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam will suffice.
People of all genders and agender individuals are welcome in this class, as are all identities and approaches to conception, pregnancy, adoption, and birth. Willingness to talk about your ethical reasoning, needs and preferences is the only prerequisite. The class runs once a month online for six months, from November through April. Apply by October 15 at http://www.fams.study or at http://marystudy.wixsite.com/fams. Take time to build a framework around your personhood and the personhood of those you raise in the world, because life is being birthed, crucified, and raised up every day.
Chelsea Page is a white cis woman of doubtful fertility in her mid-30s who grew up in San Jose, CA. Chelsea was raised Roman Catholic by a feminist mama, studied feminist theology and sexual ethics, and is now a servant in the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA. Chelsea has participated in and led numerous popular education groups. Her spouse Marcus Page is a peace activist in the Catholic Worker movement. If Chelsea were an animal, she would be Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web. She can be reached at email@example.com.