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My Feminism Fuels My Mothering

Photograph by Veronica I. Arreola

Approximately four weeks before I gave birth to my daughter, I stood on a Chicago sidewalk counter-protesting an anti-abortion demonstration. My 8-months-pregnant belly stood in contrast to the graphic photos and signs. One man in a suit walked up to me puzzled by the sight of a very pregnant woman holding a “Keep Abortion Legal” sign. This moment epitomizes how many people think feminism is in contrast to motherhood.

I feel like I was born a feminist. I recall having an inherent sense of fairness as a kid and quickly saw the the unfairness in the world through gender. It was mostly prompted by my love of sports and the boys on the playground who had the inability to accept that girls wanted to—or could—play.

I recall more feminist moments in my youth than I do learning the actual word. I guess that once I learned it, it fit so well that that moment did not imprint itself. I went off to college and earned a minor in women’s studies along with my biology degree. I got married and then a few years later, got pregnant.

As shocking as it seems to people, the implantation of a fertilized egg into my uterus did not wipe away 28 years of feminism from my brain. Rather, it strengthened my feminism.

My feminism fuels my mothering. And in turn my mothering has reinforced my feminism. The way I mother is framed and influenced by my feminism.

The most lovely moment of my pregnancy was going to my midwife appointment with my husband and seeing the ultrasound. My heart broke with love at the thought that something inside of me would grow into a human being and we would be charged with raising it.

Then I thought about how awful this moment would be if I knew I could not carry this pregnancy to term, if getting pregnant would have threatened the welfare of my other children or cemented my relationship with my abuser. But thankfully none of that was my reality.

And at that moment, I felt how awesome pregnancy could be if wanted, and vowed that I would fight to ensure that women can choose when and if they were to become a parent.

When I started to think about raising a child, I not only thought about teaching them to read, write and play ball, but also how to live as a feminist. By this, I meant that I knew if I had a girl I would not pierce her ears to instill full body autonomy. Ironically, by the time my daughter was 10 she questioned this decision because she wished I had gotten it over with when she was an infant as is tradition in many Latino families.

My feminism fuels my mothering. And in turn my mothering has reinforced my feminism. The way I mother is framed and influenced by my feminism. From my daughters’ unpierced ears to responding to “you should get a gun!” compliments about her beauty with “she can take care of herself,” feminism is inherent in my mothering.

RELATED: Why I Didn't Pierce My Daughter's Ears

Photograph by Veronica I. Arreola

Through mothering a daughter who equally loves playing soccer and crafting her fashion sense I have corrected my feminism to not bash girly things or scoff at all things pink. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a complicated relationship with pink, but thanks to my sports-playing-glitter-wearing girl, we’re on better terms.

She taught me and my feminism that femininity is cool. What is not cool is when the world uses femininity as code for weak or dumb. I failed to learn that from my pile of feminist text books, but a spunky girl who kicked the hell out of my uterus got the message across. I’m a better feminist because of her and being a mom.

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