The kids scatter to their favorite places on the playground and Jupiter is left to sit with the other Mommies. She scans the benches and their occupants, finding the most promising spot for the least annoying playground conversation. She mentally draws a thick black “x” across the Mommies who look the least relatable and opts for the seat next to the Mommy with the black frame glasses, the Radiohead T-shirt and black skirt. This one looks like she falls into the category of Thinking Mom on first glance and those are far more promising in her opinion than the other types.
They exchange their polite “Hellos”. Jupiter takes out her knitting and sits back.
“Are all those kids yours?”,the other Mommy asks.
“Yeah. Minus the 3 at home.”
The other Mommy bristles,clearly annoyed.She looks like she might refrain from comment but doesn’t.With open and clear judgment,she says.”My husband and I only have 1. We don’t think it’s really right to have more than one.The planet has enough people on it”
Jupiter smiles politely. This woman is like herself, opinionated. She likes that. She respects it.But it doesn’t mean she’s not thinking about arguing the point to defend the choices she’s made that have made her life what it is.
Mostly she lets the comments like these pass. The women at school functions that talked about her large family like she wasn’t even there, tossing around words like “irresponsible”,acting like her children were kittens born to an unspayed mother cat, overcrowding an animal sheltering . The lady at the library who stared at her newborn in the Maya Wrap and rolled her eyes straight up to heaven and said,”good lord, you had ANOTHER one!”.The strangers who have the nerve to ask,”Wow, don’t you know what birth control is?”. But really, she reasons,If someone is really bold enough to poke their nose where it doesn’t belong,don’t they deserve to have their nose tweaked a bit? It’s not really in her to say nothing at all but she never seems to say the “right” thing to make it feel better,so often silence is her solution.
Knit,Knit,Purl,Purl, works the ribbing of a sock.Jupiter looks focused on the knitting as she quietly asks her benchmate,”Are you pro-choice?”
The Mom stammers a “Uhhhhh…”. She suddenly realizes it may have been too blunt and that the other Mom has been blindsided and probably thinks she’s a Bible-Thumping Pro-Lifer so she quickly adds,”It’s ok if you are! I am too.I was just wondering.It was an honest question. “
‘Well, of course. Of course,I am.”, comes the response, like it’s the only reasonable thing a person could be.
Jupiter finishes the ribbing of the sock and pauses before continuing with the leg of the sock. “I’ve just noticed over the years that the more kids I have, the more flack I get from people who say they’re adamantly pro-choice. I just find it funny because I guess I would assume that if someone is in favor of supporting women’s reproductive rights,they’d be a bit more tolerant of a woman who chooses to have more than one child.I just wonder why they don’t say they’re pro-abortion instead if they aren’t going to actually support choices” She adds a laugh to relieve tension.
Inside her head, she’s saying “Shut up now. If you keep going, you’ll just be that Crazy Lady With All The Kids At The Park instead of what you’re trying to show her you are. You’ll just end up a character in an anecdote she tells her friends at parties to show how uneducated and mentally challenged those more-than-one child women are.”
It’s a problem she has,this talking thing. She tries not to talksometimes because once she does, it all comes out and god only knows what the it will be.She tells herself to shush but her mouth just doesn’t quite get the message in time.
“I just can’t figure out what people want me to do? Kill my kids to save the planet or just feel completely torn up with guilt over making them in the first place!”. Hahaha!
The Thinking Mom is quiet,for what seems like forever.She’s either considering grabbing her one-child and running for the minivan or trying to defend her one-child position. Jupiter isn’t quite sure. “Huh”, is all the Thinking Mom finally manages.
Jupiter surveys the playground for sight of her kids. Her boy stands on a platform, his arms raised high as he proclaims,”I’m the king of the world!” He’s made of pure sunshine and buzzes with energy.
It’s hard but she controls her emotions before trying to talk again. She hates more than anything when her voice shakes with emotion when she’s trying to speak. It seems to make the point less valid and as shaky as the vocalization. “I’m sorry….I’m used to the criticism and I DO understand. Trust me….I DO understand it …we love the planet too. We grow our own food, we recycle every damn thing, we don’t even have a car…..we’re a hell of a lot “greener” and sustainable than a lot of people….and sometimes it feels like when people think I have more children than is “responsible”…well, it feels like they’re saying,”Your kid should have never been born”. And that kills me and quite frankly,pisses me off.”
The Thinking Mom looks at her own child,joyfully plummeting down the slide with glowing bliss and seems to have some sense of what it would feel like if someone thought the world would be better off if he didn’t exist. “Yeah,I can see how it might feel that way.God,I’m sorry.I didn’t mean it to sound so harsh.I just… crap, I’m sorry.”
Mutual respect established,she continues.”You know what I am? I’m pro-birth control.No offense.”
“None taken.So am I.IAnd it totally pisses me off at what the asshats in Bush’s administration are trying to pull now.”, Jupiter says,trying to pull focus away from her own “mistakes”.
The Thinking Mom laughs,”Ok, fill me in. We’ve been in Cape Cod for three weeks and my husband insisted on no internet or TV. I must have missed something.What’d they do now?”
“Oh, they’re trying to expand the definition of abortion to include the Pill, IUDs and emergency contraception.“
“Holy shit…you cannot be serious!”. Thinking Mom is outraged, just as Jupiter is.
“Margaret Sanger is rolling in her grave,I’m sure.”, Jupiter muses out loud,more to herself than anything.
“Oh,wow…I haven’t heard about Margaret Sanger since …in forever. I didn’t even know who she was until I read something Gloria Steinem wrote about her and then I thought,’Wow, she’s got to be one of the most important people in history ever and probably hardly anyone even knows who she is’.”
Jupiter completely agrees. Margaret Sanger saw first hand the repression of women through lack of choice,witnessed the overburdened hips and weary defeat in faces of women bred like show ponies. She fought the law and made out better than Sonny Curtis and The Crickets or even The Clash did.
Both women banter back and forth about the implications of limiting birth control. The financial, the social,the whole picture.Both are boggled to the point of speechlessness sometimes at the idea that a bunch of men think they have any right to counteract Margaret Sanger’s crusade to allow every woman to be the mistress of her own body.
Jupiter knits the rounds,the purple yarn making perfect “v’ formation , like geese flying south. “I shudder to think how many children I would have if I didn’t at least try to use birth control.I’m the Poster Girl for failed birth control and just the general rule that Shit Happens.Ok,well….LIFE happens”
She shares without detail the rape conception as a teenager that she fought to not abort….. the twins conceived on The Pill (thanks to an error in prescription by Planned Parenthood,ironically), the Broken Condom Incident and the just plain lack of good judgment (aka “There’s no way in hell I’m ovulating right now. Cum inside me”) . Plus the two she herself was not biologically responsible for.
The children bound over to their mother with cries of “I’m thirsty!” and “Can we have a snacky?”. Jupiter doles out the Squishy Squash Muffins she brought along, passes around the water-filled canteen ,offers a muffin to Thinking Mom and her child who is named after a rock star. “They’re homemade…no bad stuff in ‘em and I swear, my kitchen is clean. Well, the parts that count,anyway”. Thinking Mom and Rock Star Kid accept their muffins and say,”Thank you”.