Tag Archives: miscarriage

Positives in miscarriage, abortion, and the continuity of reproductive experiences

27 May

[Trigger warning for abuse/abusive relationships and miscarriage experiences.]

I got out of an abusive relationship just in time to realize I was pregnant. Like over a month pregnant, with a fetus of a man who had slammed me against walls, told me I wouldn’t achieve my dreams, and belittled me until I was a shadow of who I’d been when I moved in with him.

I hated him for so many reasons, but the pregnancy was number 1. We slept together after I moved out; he finished and drove me to the airport. I cried the entire cross country plane ride.

I found out I was pregnant about five weeks later when I returned to our shared city. From the moment the Doctor told me I couldn’t stop throwing up–not from morning sickness, but from hate. I could not believe he would be my first pregnancy after he’d already taken so many firsts from me. I rocked myself in my apartment. I didn’t sleep until I was so exhausted from crying that I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. The world made no sense.

And then, a little more than two weeks later, I miscarried. I miscarried alone, laying on the stupid floor of my stupid studio.

I drank too much that summer to forget the images of my empty uterus, and the ultrasound tech saying my body had done a “very good job” expelling the fetus. I took pills to black out my impregnator’s face. I numbed myself with anything I could find in order to ignore what I knew he would have said if I told him: You are not even good enough to carry a baby.

The abusive relationship and miscarriage ruined me. I spent time with people who actively did not like me. I dropped out of school. I lost 30 pounds. I moved home. Looking in the mirror was impossible. I couldn’t stand myself; I believed so deeply in his degraded image of me.

Fast forward through rehab and therapy, and I was unintentionally pregnant again. I scheduled my abortion the day after I peed on a stick. I did not doubt myself or even think twice. My second pregnancy did not ruin me, but instead was a stark reminder of how far I’d come in loving myself. Choosing abortion meant I believed in my future as a Doctor. Choosing abortion meant I’d uninvested in my abuser’s degraded image of myself, which placed my highest achievements at being a wife and mother.

I do not for one minute “like” that either of the fetuses came into my life, but I am thankful for both the pregnancy experiences none the less. I am thankful for the miscarriage because I believe that out of a place of self hate, I would have chosen to keep the fetus. And I believe being a single mother of an abuser’s child would not have been conducive to my personal or professional success. I am also thankful for the miscarriage–in which I had no choice–because it was in part what allowed me to feel empowered by the ability to choose my abortion.

My experiences illustrates the perils of abusive relationships on reproductive health, and the heart break of a miscarriage. But they also illuminate the positives sometimes found in miscarriages, and the can-be positive impact of the continuity of reproductive events. I am stronger on the other end of these experiences, and though I would not wish abuse, miscarriage, or unwanted pregnancy on any one, I am so proud to be the person I am today, in part, because of them.

I think we sometime separate reproductive experiences into bad or good. But these experiences, for me, were a healthy mix of both. In accepting that reality, I am better able to accept myself, and the extreme complexity of reproductive health.

On Shame

3 Aug

A book I am currently reading – about which I will say very little, as the plan is to review it on my blog – features a character who donates her eggs, a process our very own Christie is currently undergoing. In the book, the character is acting out of financial desperation, and sees the process as a violation of her “purity”, and a deeply shameful way to make money.

I am reading this book and feeling absolutely flabbergasted. Call me naive, but I had no idea that people feel this way about egg donation. I can’t imagine it being something to feel ashamed about. The character feels that she is selling her body, and several times in the book there is an implied equivalency to sex work (which I also don’t think is shameful, but I recognize I’m not part of the majority on that one). Every time she mentioned her guilt, the gift of precious life that she was selling, the child that could have been hers, I wanted to reach into the book, take her by the shoulders and say, “You know that egg would have gone in the toilet otherwise, right?” I mean one of her main concerns seems to be that she is a virgin, and this is damaging her purity. But it’s like, if you’re a virgin, you’re not actively trying to get those eggs fertilized, so what’s the problem?

The whole experience of reading this book, while frustrating, is not entirely new to me. I am constantly flabbergasted by the things that women (myself included) find shameful or are expected to find shameful in Western culture. Sex work is a perfect example. I have a friend who is a sex worker – we are not super close, but we go out for dinner when we’re in each other’s cities, and we exchange the occasional email. When I reference her profession in conversation (usually to tell one of her hilarious/weird stories about ridiculous clients), I get more judgment and distaste than I ever did about working in abortion care. But it seems pretty obvious to me how they are connected. Women’s bodies are, after all, public property (didn’t you know?) and therefore it is acceptable for any perfect stranger to judge what you’re doing with yours.

Sometimes I find myself feeling ashamed about the most ridiculous things, and then I have to examine that shame and figure out where it comes from. Why should women be embarrassed to be sex workers? To have abortions? To have miscarriages, for crying out loud! To donate eggs? To shave/not shave their body/facial hair? To seek egg/sperm donors? To be/not be sexually active? To be queer? To masturbate? To suck dick/eat pussy/take it in the butt? To use birth control?

I mean, it’s not stuff you need to bring up apropos of nothing at the dinner table – in fact, you don’t have to bring it up at all if you don’t want to – but it just drives me crazy that we’re carrying all this guilt about stuff like this, and letting it take up so much of our time and energy. But we live in a culture that makes it sometimes quite dangerous for women NOT to be ashamed of these things. It’s easy for me to say, stop being ashamed of your egg donation. But when women risk more than judgment – when they risk being kicked out of their families, churches and/or communities for any of the above behavior – it’s not so simple. We need to change the culture, to make it safe.

I believe the way to do that is for those of us who can, who have the privilege of non-judgmental support networks, to make a conscious decision to stop feeling shame for the decisions we make about our bodies. One person at a time, let’s make it ok to take control over our bodies and our lives, let’s transform the culture into one that accepts a woman’s right to choose (and if you think I’m just talking about abortion, you haven’t been paying attention).

My own mother’s advice is not to fight feelings. When they show up, acknowledge them. “Hello little sadness,” she says. “Hello shame. What brings you here today?” There is no need to engage these feelings; you can decide on your own to feel or not feel that shame or that hurt. The important thing is, where does it come from? Is it even yours?

I don’t know about you folks, but I have enough of my own crap to deal with. I don’t need to be taking on the feelings other people have about my choices. So I reject them and get on with my life. At least I’m trying to. And I encourage you to try to, as well–because loving yourself is a revolutionary act. And revolutionary acts will change the world for the better.

Trying Not to Erase Grief: Miscarriage and Abortion

1 Jul

Over here at the AbortionGang we recently came across a tumblr post about the “baby vs. fetus” debate that ends with the following:

So while we are wont to scream so loudly that a fetus is not a baby and therefore it is not murder for the person carrying them to decide for themselves if they wish to continue to do so or not – and I agree with this – could we take a moment to realize that saying they are not babies also erases the experience of people who miscarry and are grieving over their loss(es)?

I think this is extremely important and something all feminists and pro-choicers should consider.

As the anti-choicers continue to propose and pass antichoice legislation, post racist, anti-choice billboards and try to send women to jail for having abortions, I believe the political pro-choice stance and the personal abortion stories are becoming more and more distant. Listening and considering the real lives of women who have abortions and women who deal with fetal loss will help us stay grounded against the insanity of the anti-choice position.

Legally, fetuses are not infants, are not considered persons, and thus, having an abortion is not murder. But we must remember, the personal is different from the legal. Pregnancy is different for every single woman- and one woman may experience multiple pregnancies in very different ways. A woman may consider her fetus to be ababy, or already a person, because she plans to carry to term. Another woman may consider her fetus to be a baby  even though she is planning to have an abortion. Those feelings and beliefs are normal, valid,  and should be perfectly acceptable.

Using the term “baby” doesn’t hurt the pro-choice position at all. If a woman believes that abortion is the best option for her baby, then we should support her in her choice.** It does us no good to get into a battle over the word (the same applies if she wants to carry her fetus to term).

On the other end of the spectrum are women who have lost pregnancies, both wanted and unwanted, planned and unplanned, through miscarriage. Just as with abortion, some women may feel relieved and think of the fetus as just a fetus. Other women may feel they lost a member of their family. None of these feelings hurt the pro-choice position, and all should be taken into consideration when we’re writing, blogging, speaking and protesting.

I always try to make an effort to let the woman in question decide what type of language will be used, and allow her feelings to control the situation instead of mine. For her, my opinion on the baby vs. fetus debate isn’t relevant. Making sure she feels loved and supported is most important.

**This does not only apply to women terminating wanted pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities.