Christa Parravani’s new memoir, Loved and Wanted: A Memoir of Choice, Children, and Womanhood, traces the story of an unexpected pregnancy. Like most women who seek abortions, Parravani is already a mother, and due to tight finances and home stress, she does not want to add another child to her family. But in her new home state of West Virginia, access to the procedure is severely limited. Had she stayed in California, undoubtedly her life would have been different.
As the pregnancy progresses, Parravani’s husband returns to California to provide additional financial support. Parravani is left alone with two young daughters in West Virginia, where she runs out of grocery money, crawls up and down the stairs of her rented home and hides her struggles from colleagues. Her job as an English professor, the only stable work the family has, is a financial lifeline amid a frightening sea of debt.
Ultimately, Parravani is interested in how individual women make reproductive choices in the face of complex geographical, medical and financial circumstances. In tangible and heartbreaking ways, she illustrates how each of these things impacts both her already born daughters and her soon-to-arrive son. In particular, the medical care she receives in West Virginia makes this reviewer cringe.
Parravani carefully situates her narrative in the context of reproductive journalism and research, such as the recent Turnaway study, which examined the effects of unintended pregnancy on women’s lives over 10 years. What emerges is not simply a portrait of Parravani’s difficult marriage, painful health issues and stressful financial burdens, but a complex picture of the unsayable circumstances that shape one woman’s relationship to her body, to her choice to have children or not, and to the cost of that decision. In saying the unsayable, Parravani is unflinching and brave, offering a sometimes brutal yet undeniably powerful testimony of the mundane and tragic conditions that influence many abortion-seeking women. Parravani does love and want her children, yet the world in which she lives makes it difficult to receive them with open arms without a high personal cost.