(Content Warning: Miscarriage and Abortion.)
I guess it’s kind-of obvious that I haven’t written much or posted any poetry for a while. I hesitate to get started on my next series of poems. They’re gritty and grief-filled and personal. Do I really want these to go public?
I come home feeling lonely and empty and sad. My kids are in the middle of a five-day visit with their father. My friends are going out to eat. But I’m poor and can’t afford to go out. So I came home to eat another bean-and-cheese quesadilla alone. And I feel so, so lonely tonight. It’s part of the single-mom thing: poverty and loneliness. And feeling like a pariah.
I do everything but write or open the mail-box these days. I don’t want to face what’s inside either space. And I don’t want to face what’s left in that thin little binder of 2017 poetry. Grief. Shame. Guilt. Loss. Poems about losing a baby, about miscarriage and abortion. I wrote these last summer about something, well, personal that kept haunting me. It’s a complicated, messy space. There’s so many tangled emotions. And they never really go away. I did a lot of writing about it, writing which will remain unpublished. And it helped. But feelings once felt cannot ever be unfelt, they either expand and soften our hearts or make us hard and brittle. And over and over I choose to be softened, expanded by life.
There is a particular grief from losing a child which only those who have experienced it can grasp. And that grief is further ensnared in shame when we also feel relief on top of the guilt. And that is the place I was. It is a long story, all the gory details. More than I can write at this time. There is still a part of me that misses her, even though it was much too soon to even know if it was a her. And another part of me that knows that it was for the best, that is relieved I do not have a third child to feed, to protect from a hideous world alone. Part of me is compassionate for my own self, for my body that was so sick and so stressed at the time. And part of me feels like I failed my child in the worst way possible.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to remove the years of paint that cover my pain. This was one of those times, one of those things that still feels fresh and raw because I just kept painting over it. But old wood has it’s own beauty.
One thing I’ve learned is that lots and lots of other people have similar stories. More than one out of four pregnancies ends in a spontaneous abortion and nearly one in three women have elective abortions. And the two are tightly tangled, like it or not. And so it is that I refuse to separate, to compartmentalize my experience or others’. And I rage against a world which attempts to criminalize people for any of this. Sometimes an abortion, whether spontaneous or medical or surgical is the most merciful option for all involved. And sometimes we still have lots and lots and lots of very personal feelings about the experience.
In the back of my mind are all the stories we tell each other only privately, quietly. Stories I’ve heard about horrifying abuse, about heart-breaking complications, about illnesses and genetic defects, about lives in danger from dozens of different causes. And yes, I sometimes do feel a deep shame that my body let my child down, that I just couldn’t do it, that I even felt relief when it was all over. And I also feel in my bones that so much of my shame comes from living in a world where my worth as a human gets reduced to my childbearing capacity, is defined by a culture where women are supposed to have total control over our bodies but are not (always) granted the capacity to make our own choices about our bodies or to inhabit and own our physical selves.
And so this is my introduction to my next little series of poems. Reader Beware. These are real and uncomfortable.
Poem 1: two broken hearts
Poem 2: a child with no name
Poem 3: poisoned
Poem 4: this habit
Poem 5: and her 99 trees