So last week I said I had read Laura Jean Baker's memoir The Motherhood Affidavits, and I didn't quite know how I felt about it.
That is not completely true. I know how I feel about it. What I don't know how to do is write about how I feel about it without being unkind, or too harsh.
I have this problem a lot.
Let's get the basic details out of the way. The book is a new memoir by a woman who lives in Oshkosh (WI), has five kids, and is married to a criminal defense attorney. Interspersed with her stories of family life and the oxytocin lift that being pregnant and having babies gave her (which is one reason she sought to have multiple kids), are stories of her husband's law practice and the types of drug, family abuse, theft, and animal cruelty (among others) charges from which he defends his clients.
It's an interesting book, and although I live in Wisconsin and am passably familiar with Oshkosh, it's always eye-opening to read what is all going on in what you might otherwise think are peaceful small towns. Baker also does a pretty good job of describing the chaos of pregnancy and family life, as well as the logistic challenges of packing a family into a small house (which is the biggest house they can afford).
So what's the problem?
SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT
Okay, if you missed that, please understand that if you want to read this memoir fresh, you should stop reading this review now, because I'm going to tell you about the last chapter.
In the last chapter Baker shares how she starts to realize that, for the sake of her health and the family's finances, it's probably time to stop having babies (after five). Then she further shares how they meant to get her husband a vasectomy, and just didn't get it done; so then she relied on the rhythm method (poorly; by not tracking her period and for having a weekend away with her husband and without her kids, in the middle of her fertile period) to not get pregnant; and she got pregnant. So then she had an abortion.
I was so sad to read a whole book that was weirdly affirming of life even in the depth of chaos and community crime, only to have the last chapter end with a death.
And don't tell me abortion isn't death for someone. I am too tired to have that fight; you know how I feel on this issue. I'm not dumb; I know the many reasons women (and men--abortion makes a lot of problems go away for men too, never forget) might need abortions, and I really do understand. But in this case? Just because a woman couldn't be bothered to figure out when her fertile period is or to ask her husband to wear a condom? Brother.
I'm really sorry it ruined the whole book for me. But it did. I'd be interested to hear what you think about it.