Freedom

From the top of the ferris wheel of young love

You came to exist within me

Though I will never see your face or hear your heart beat

I carry you with me still

I had lofty goals of starting a family while starting a career

With less than 9 months to solve big problems, reality set in

I was privileged enough to have a job but not privileged enough to have maternity leave

I searched desperately for arms to hold you while I worked, considered everyone I knew, and found no one because everybody else was working too.

I am grateful for my freedom to choose what I do with my body

I take responsibility for my abortion but I must acknowledge the role that US healthcare un-system played in my decision

Why is it that so many nations have figured out how to provide years of parental leave, afford their citizens healthcare as a human right, give freedom to live without fear of financially devastating medical bills, yet we cling so bitterly to our ‘freedom’ that it poisons us to death

Our freedom is an illusion- the uneven distribution of privilege in America imprisons us in different ways while blinding us to each other’s struggles

Dear one, I blame myself for your abbreviated and hidden existence- I chose an unforgiving career with militant training and rigid requirements that didn’t allow space for the expanding curves of my female body

I felt trapped between the walls I planted myself between, I searched but I didn’t find room for you

I prioritized service to others so much that I had nothing left to give to you

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

Those words don’t come close to expressing the raw maternal emotions I feel for you, little one.

The air above my closed lips crushes me, impregnated with secrets

Even if I had managed to keep you, American freedoms might have killed you in your youth. We have racism and freedom for gun violence in this country, dear one, and you would have been born brown.

The lack of support for pregnant women and new mothers in the United States is barbaric.

Instead of taking away our constitutional right for abortion, give us a constitutional right for maternity leave.

Instead of the right to bear arms, I wish I had the right to hold you in my arms.

Labor Pains

Give birth to your best self, America

Painful, messy, terrifying, raw
The most beautiful transformation you’ll ever see
America, you’ve been gestating too long to stop now
Humanity is bursting from your loins, America
Born of the brutal rape of racism
Blood spills on the ground
Fertilizing the soil from which you spring forth
You cannot go back to the way you were, America
You can only keep pushing forward
I am learning to listen to my heart, America
Though the change may not be obvious to you yet
Subtle shifts below the surface move mountains, America
I change my thoughts to change my life
Though the echoes of your trauma are deafening
Though the jaws of your mental imprisonment clamp down hard around me
I no longer strive to be your wounded warrior
I am your healed child, here to show you how to heal yourself
Even though you broke my heart so early and often that you left me without a sense of self
Yet my heart kept on beating
And loving
That is how you heal
Keep on loving
Love yourself, love your life, love your fellow beings and the whole Earth as yourself
Forgive yourself and others
Be kind to all, for we are children on a difficult journey that wouldn’t be so damn difficult if we were kind to each other
Pay it forward and see what happens
Love and kindness and forgiveness is the way
America is having labor pains today
I welcome your birth America, your infinite potential
You suffered so much hate that you became a hater but it is finally time to love, America

Corona

I wear my crown of martyrdom

On the front lines, yet still at the back of the testing line- haven’t been tested

I think of you, virus, though you do not think of me

Coronavirus, on the news
Coronavirus, in my body
Is the aching in my muscles and bones your calling card?
You desire to enter my cells, virus, as much as I long to keep you out
Together, yet separately, we hunger
You want to pick my lock, use my typewriter to transcribe your RNA, then mail your enveloped self-promoting propaganda air mail special to Hadestown.
Don’t bring me down on the way, I pray
Not like this, not today
My heart breaks to think of those who have lost their lives to you, and those who needlessly will still
My head is intoxicated with fear
You always seem too near
Perhaps we Americans deserve the repercussions of our recklessness
Though it is the innocent who pay, as usual
Another day deep
I march on with trembling hands and heavy feet
Tracking invisible mud out of the wards and onto the street
Ashamed to stay in the job I was fixing to quit anyway,
Ashamed to leave now and abandon my post
The war is on, dwarfing the existential crisis of living the life I want versus fulfilling my societal obligation
I am among the minority who have a medical education
Only in following my heart can I grow up at last, no longer a slave to the judgements of others who do not bear my burden
My mind’s liberation opens up like a blue sky
Back to here and now, overcast again
In clinic and in the hospital
I struggle to bring my heart into the mundane and mission-impossible tasks which overflow from one day to the next
Virus, I gaze at your storm clouds accumulating on the horizon, and feel small
I see your silver lining, as I am well practiced in finding positivity amidst disaster
You are rich in potential
Look at the way you are uniting humanity, virus
People are taking care of themselves and each other like never before
Practicing presence in hospital hallways and supermarket aisles, smiling shyly at each other from behind our suffocating masks
We are finally being mindful of our precious resources, thinking globally and acting locally for sustainable solutions
We are cultivating more community and camaraderie than we could ever quantify
Teamwork and solidarity are weaving our spirits more closely together even as the physical distance between our bodies grows
I take a step back to take in the beauty of the tapestry you wove, virus
You bring opportunity for innovation and flexibility, you demand it
Many of us no longer take life for granted
We are cleaning our hands as often as we always should have
People are being prioritized over profits as we focus on what is essential
We settle in, acknowledging at last that we are in the same boat
Living in unspoken gratitude for each day of health
Please don’t rock my boat too much, virus
Though you are armed with cunning skills
And you may bring about more positive change still
I plan to ride out this storm, though land is not in sight
Virus, perhaps you could rest tonight?
Virus, my type II pneumocytes are mine, my lungs are a celebration of life and you are not invited
I wind-down after another day on the front lines,
I give thanks to those who are doing their part in time
To those in the comfort of your own homes,
Please stay where you are, be satisfied
Coronavirus, we will destroy you with patience and ingenuity, with solidarity and community, with soap and water, and with love for one another

Pain

Pain and addiction.

I walk the line between giving too much and giving too little.

Rarely do I get it right.

Rarely do I feel right with myself when I prescribe opioids.

Knowing what lies on the other side of pain relief, knowing the train wreck waiting at the end of the line, knowing the lifelong prison sentence that opioid dependence brings- held hostage in our own skin, til death do us part.

Too many loved ones have died too young from overdosing.

How can I justify prescribing a substance that could suddenly and unapologetically kill someone I’ve never met, somebody’s beloved son or daughter, a curious teen who wanted to feel comfortable in their changing body, experimenting at a party, sampling the medicine cabinet

I want to feel comfortable too.

You complain of pain that you’ve had for years and expect me to fix in an instant.

You say there is a national opioid epidemic, but that you are not a part of the problem.

You say that tylenol and ibuprofen don’t work on you. You say that you need at least Percocet.

You say that other people have been prescribed more for lesser reasons.

You become bitterly enraged if I hesitate, and sickly saccharine if I yield to your request.

You shout that I wasted your time if you don’t get what you want. It kills my spirit to prescribe you opioids, because opioids are, in my humble opinion, the worst medicine- the most risk for the least benefit. With opioids, there is no healing, only the creation of an unnecessary problem without a solution.

It makes me want to leave medicine when I prescribe the medicine you beg for. I’m not practicing medicine for my health, so if I’m not ultimately benefitting your health, then what the hell am I here for.

Can’t you feel my pain? I’m so damn uncomfortable in this drug-dealer role.

If we reserved opioid use for more select scenarios, like only metastatic cancer or the immediate post-operative period, perhaps opioid dependence would be prevented for many who have yet to be born.

However, there are more drug profits to make and more blood to spill before change will come.

The whole scene makes me ill.

If I wanted to deal drugs, I wouldn’t have put myself through the brutality of medical school and residency. I could’ve just dropped out of high school and saved myself a lot of hassle. That might sound cold, but my pain ignites my fire. You didn’t ask about my pain.

I don’t want to be part of this system because I feel like I’m doing more harm than good.

I’m trying to do right in a world of wrong.

I swallow my words until they explode in a song.

Nobody hears my melody because I work all day long.

Sing sweet nightingale.

American Abortion

America, America
Do you feel free?
I’ll tell you what freedom means to me
Freedom is the choice to do what I want with my body

America, America
I know you can relate
You too have suffered
Violations of late

America, you know the trauma of violence
Violence like my childhood
I survived it the best that I could
It wasn’t easy, America

Loud explosions of anger
Showered down upon my head

Hidden within the deep silence of neglect
I wished that I was dead

America, that upbringing
Taught me just one thing;
How to feel afraid
Long after the violence ceases to sting

America, I am still too afraid to say ‘no’
You can imagine how this created problems as I started to grow
I knew only how to please                                                      

So I had unwanted sex
That lead to unwanted pregnancy
That’s how that goes
When you don’t have birth control

America, you gave me hope
When I received health insurance even though I was poor
Insurance that would have covered my whole pregnancy and the birth of my baby
Who could ask for anything more?

But America, I didn’t want to be pregnant or have a child
After all, my own life is still quite wild
It seems an ill choice to bring a baby into this world
When my own ability to make ends meet has yet to unfurl

I thought that since my health insurance would’ve covered the pregnancy
Asking it to pay for an abortion would be a relief
A relief for my body, my future and a relief for the insurance company
Because an abortion costs a tiny fraction of the price of having a baby, and at a much smaller health risk than childbirth, America

But my insurance refused to cover even one penny of the fee
and the ‘Powers That Be’ maliciously made me suffer through bureaucracy;         waiting and watching a ridiculous video that delayed for more than a week
the medical treatment of which I was in desperate need

America, have you ever been pregnant when you didn’t want to be?
Have you ever felt so exhausted that you were incapacitated from doing anything?
Have you ever been nauseous all day and all night?
Have you ever had your sense of smell so heightened that you felt suffocated by the stink of misogynistic bullshit?

America, I begged and scraped to pay for my abortion
The abortion was painful and bloody and rushed
Just another American day

America, I think we need to have a heart-to-heart talk
Abortion saved my life
Thanks to my abortion, I am now free
I am free from an abusive relationship
I am free from a pregnancy that I didn’t want to keep
I am free from having a baby when I wasn’t ready

America, how could I not feel hurt by your bias?
You would have given me full support if I kept my pregnancy,
yet no support at all when I chose to end it                                     This made me feel like you did not respect my life, my body or my autonomy
It put me in dire financial straits                                             For which I am still washing the dishes
But I’m grateful that the choice was mine to make

America, I too have a dream
That one day
Women will have abortion services
Covered by their health insurance
As much as any other reproductive health care
America, we can do better

America, I want every woman to have
The right to decide what she wants to do with her body
Women are more than baby-growing machines to be controlled by others
Women are people too
And we have something to tell you:

Keep abortion legal
Keep abortion safe
Let women choose what to do with their bodies
Let Freedom Ring