Today I celebrate the birth of my neice's first child: a boy with a gentle father who loves his wife and all children and shows it. A mother who makes choices of her own, shares some with her husband, compromises or gives in on others, and like all of us, deals with the unwelcome choices that life throws her way.
This couple is not perfect and they surely have had and will have significant disagreements, as all couples do.
At the DV shelter where I volunteer, we've had many newborn (under three months) babies in residence. We've even had one baby born (in a hospital) while his mother was in residence.
What we don't have, as far as I know, are babies and children born into a family like my neice's. We are more likely to have women whose choices are extremely limited by her abuser. Normal choices like how many children they'll have, how they'll spend their income (including hers if she works), how she dresses, where she goes, whom she talks to or turns to for support, how they discipline the children, what food she serves and eats, if she should stay with him or not--these are, according to the batterer, HIS choices, not hers.
The birth of a child always brings with it many different feelings, stresses, and responsibilities.
But birth should not bring fear about whether a woman can protect herself and her children from someone who offers only one choice: immediate, unquestioning compliance with his cruel, controlling, abusive behavior. Someone who doesn't care how this affects others, including his own or her children. Someone who doesn't deserve the freedom he withholds from the woman he says he loves.
Birth should not be prison.
Prison is for those who break the law--like the partners of emotionally or physically battered women.