Right the Ship

I write to you out of a sense of duty and love for my country. I am a physician who understands that denying women access to abortion results in death, injury, and disease from unsafe pregnancy termination. Forcing women to keep unwanted pregnancies also results in increased crime rates a generation later, as was noted by the national drop in crime after Roe v. Wade.

I am a concerned citizen appalled that women’s rights may regress back to a time when women were more overtly treated as second-class citizens. While some may think this goes without saying, women’s rights are human rights. The Supreme Court’s apparent reasoning behind repealing Roe is weak, and could easily lead to further measures of progress being lost. 

Beyond my qualifications as a physician and my insight as a born-and-raised American, I am adamant that abortion be kept legal due to my appreciation of the myriad reasons why women may seek to end pregnancy. As an adolescent I suffered both rape and impaired access to contraception. This is an all too common scenario that most victims never disclose due to stigma. 

As a young adult, I escaped from abusive relationships through abortion, for which I am eternally grateful. Being forced to wait at least three days after watching the pre-procedure video to receive the procedure as mandated by law was demeaning, however it was far more tolerable than complete denial of care. Abortion is exponentially safer than pregnancy and childbirth. 

I am now a mother with firsthand experience of the lasting and profound impact of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood on a woman’s health. I am able to provide for my family today because I had an abortion when my husband and I subsisted below the poverty line while I studied medicine. Our previous pregnancy resulted in persistent, severe illness which impaired my ability to safely care for my patients, and at the time we could not afford the cost of prenatal or child care on top of my husband’s burdensome student loan payments. Ending my previous pregnancy continues to have a lasting positive impact on our family. 

I beseech you to protect the rights of millions of Americans to maintain autonomy over our own bodies. While those in power may threaten our right to make decisions, we will continue to fight for each other and for our children. I write to you with my daughter by my side. I pray that she will grow up in a country where she has at least as much freedom to make the best choices for herself as her parents did. I am living proof that when our nation’s most economically vulnerable are let down by inadequate access to healthcare, childcare, contraception, and transportation, abortion is the final safety net that allows us to right the ship of our lives.

Raging

The Supreme Court has me raging today.

I feel fire in my veins, each heartbeat fans the flames.

Would you like a cup of tea? My blood is boiling, don’t want to waste it.

Like I didn’t want to waste my life by staying in injurious relationships that were slowly killing me so I pulled the plug and let unwanted pregnancies wash down the drain.

The body will choose survival over reproduction, every time.

My abortions provided instant relief for my body and brain, another chance at life, freed from shackles that no one saw but that would have destroyed me just the same.

Forced pregnancy is a grave injustice with adverse repercussions for the individual, families and society. Unsafe abortions are horrific, unnecessary and dangerous.

What is this nightmare I woke up to today?

I am burning with rage.

Blink

They say that you’ll grow up in the blink of an eye, that these precious moments will fly by.

They say that tomorrow you’ll start kindergarten, and next year you’ll graduate high school.

For now, you are still tiny and by my side.

I can hold you and gaze into your baby eyes.

I see eternity reflected back at me.

Your smile elicits bliss. I’ve never known a love like this.

My old friend, PTSD, brings traumatic memories.

I hope you don’t experience any of the horrors I have endured.

May you feel safe and supported.

If my love could protect you always, if my kisses made you bullet-proof…

Little one, you are teaching me how to love more deeply

I want to be present for you, bear witness to the miracle of your life

Yet my eyelids are heavy

Do I dare blink?

One Hungry Mama

One hungry mama searches for food to feed her llama

One hungry mama doesn’t want to stir up drama

One hungry mama is well acquainted with the inverse relationship between generosity and riches

One hungry mama provides an elite service for the rich, but without pay

Don’t they know that everyday I work without pay, I drain what I have saved?

They know that I have my first baby on the way, they comment on my belly sway

For all their learnedness, don’t they know how to treat a human decently?

For all their pretending to care, don’t they care at all?

Every lowly job I worked before this one paid me in some way, even when I was being trained

One hungry mama couldn’t help but wonder if she might get paid if she wasn’t pregnant, or if she were a man

Avoiding paying me while working just to avoid paying me while I’m on maternity leave is a double-dick move, she couldn’t help but feel

One hungry mama has needs that are real

I don’t need much, but I need something to keep my family financially afloat

My man works, but he doesn’t save or provide for his family

Money drains out of his hands faster than it comes in, that is the way it has always been- he gives hefty donations each week to the church and those who ask him for help

Yet when I ask him how our own family will survive, he simply says, ‘God will provide’

I love him anyway, as irate as it makes me to witness his lifelong commitment to impoverishing himself unnecessarily

One hungry mama doesn’t know what to do, torn between the ideal of the quality of work she wants to deliver and the real quantity of money she needs to feel respected and to survive in this modern life

One hungry mama has trouble sleeping at night

Pressure piles on her, she is fixing to pop

One hungry mama wonders when her hunger will stop

One hungry mama considers taking on another job, even though her time and energy it will rob, even though the work is taxing and without break

One hungry mama waits for the light of day

Mi Hija

My daughter

I don’t want you to suffer as much as I have suffered

I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made

There will come times that you will feel afraid, exhausted, irate or heartbroken

Though your heart may break, you are unbreakable

Human flesh is soft but your spirit is strong, stronger than you know in this moment

There will come times that you will be tested and you will challenge yourself

There will be times that you will have to forgive

Set yourself free from loathing

To love is to live

Don’t work too much

Allow time for yourself and those important to you

Mi hija

I loved you before you were born, and I will love you even after I die

I want you to live deeply, to know true love and friendship

I want you to feel safe and supported by life

You can accomplish what you set out to do

This is especially true because you are mi hija

I know well that you will suffer because of this life I gave you

You will feel pain, bleed, and at times perhaps wish that I hadn’t brought you into this world

Forgive me, mi hija

This Earth is so beautiful, I wanted to share it with you

In attempting to create a happy childhood for you, I wanted to correct the wrongs committed by my parents

I want to impart on the future what I learned from the past

I want to break the pattern of intergenerational trauma, to heal my heart and our family with the love I pour into you

Life is not easy, mi hija, but I hope you will find it is worth the struggle

I’ve loved you since before you came into my life, and I will love you long after I am gone from yours

I’ve been writing these words with my life for you, in hopes that the mistakes I’ve made will prevent unnecessary suffering in your life.

If our foremothers could have left us a message, I wonder if it would have sounded like this.

I’ve been waiting so long just to meet you, with too much patience and self-sacrifice.

Any attempt to put into words what I feel for you will fall short, but I must try anyway.

Even when it seems that your efforts are in vain, do the right thing anyway

The right thing is that which brings you peace inside

That inner stillness can be difficult to notice when life gets loud and the noisy justifications of the mind drown out the truth of the heart

The happiest people I know listen closely to that quietness and follow their bliss, which aligns with love

It takes practice and I am still learning

I hope you learn it too, so that your life is rich with joy

I want you to live deeply, to know that no matter what you dedicate your time to, you can find meaning in it

I want you to know true love and friendship, to know that life supports you and wants you to flourish

You can accomplish whatever you set out to do

In your life you will feel pain, fear, anxiety, disappointment, exhaustion, frustrated, irate, sad, humiliated and heartbroken. Life is inseparable from suffering; it is part of the gift.

Forgive me for those times, there is no forcefield of love I can put around you to protect you

Though your heart may break, you are unbreakable

Your human body is soft but your spirit is strong, stronger than you know.

Every moment is a gift, what you choose to do with that gift is up to you, beginning with your thoughts

If you think that you are never wrong, you are wrong

Don’t believe everything you think

If you are guessing what other people might be thinking, odds are you are far from accurate

If you find your mind worrying, let the worry go

Worrying robs peace from the present, and we can never get that moment back

Worry stems from fear- what are you afraid of? You are loved and worthy, little one.

Think before you speak

Never say anything about anyway, including yourself, that you would not want the whole world to hear

May you live your life in such a way that you have nothing to hide

I want you to be so grateful for your life that you forget to complain

May you use intention when deciding where to shine your attention

There will be times that you will have to forgive yourself and others to free yourself from resentment and move on to enjoy life to the fullest

To love is to live and human relationships will teach you have to love more completely, which isn’t always easy, but it helps you grow that you may live more completely

Don’t expect any one person to satisfy all your needs, nor expect yourself to satisfy the needs of any one person

Don’t work too much, allow time to honor yourself and the people you love

We may not have met yet, but I have a feeling you will have a great ability to love, forgive, learn, create

What you may not know is how much you will be able to do what you are afraid to do, to speak even when your voice shakes

Don’t let anyone steal your spirit

Not everything is known and you don’t have to know all that is known

Whenever you are not sure what to do, take a deep breath and remember that there is enough air for you to breathe, enough earth to hold and nourish you, enough time for you to live and enough space for you to run, dance and explore this world

I know you love adventure, but before you venture out ask yourself what you would want your daughter to do?

Do not compromise your safety to save a few minutes or a few dollars

The sooner you deflate your ego to a healthy size, the easier you will fit through doorways

Don’t believe any label others try to put on you

Life is too precious to spend time acting surprised that humans make mistakes, the value in it is to keep improving, learning, growing

Empathy and compassion are always possible

To take care of your body, treat it as if today is the only day you will have to honor it. This will lead to many days of beaming health.

You life is a story you write and I hope you have many fulfilling experiences to remember

I want you to know that you are loved your whole life through

Keep on shining

Irony

I usually doubt that I am using the term ‘ironic’ accurately, but I marvel at the irony of the humbling relationship between my uterus and the universe.

I thought my fertility was abundant until I aborted a pregnancy and have been unable to conceive subsequently.

I ended the pregnancy for many reasons, partly because I thought my resources were too scarce, and now I am spending mad cash buying baby shower gifts for friends.

It was easy to end a pregnancy that made me gravely ill, though maybe I would have felt better if I had hung on for a few more weeks.

As a medical resident, I thought my time was too limited to have a baby, and now I am working overtime because my female colleagues had theirs. My employer’s policy for maternity leave started one month before I would have been due, but who knew. Perhaps I take my job too seriously, even for a physician.

My uterus is dark and malleable and filled with iron-rich blood. My thoughts are bitter and molten as I reflect on the irony that the exact thing which I tried to avoid imposing on others- disrupting their work schedule- is precisely what has been inflicted on me.

I terminated my pregnancy partly because I wasn’t married at the time, then when I got married a year later my family refused to acknowledge my wedding anyway.

The lesson to not let anxiety run my life is hard won. I am anxiety incarnate, but I am more than that. Had I not let worries about time, money, or what my co-workers and family would think of me dictate my actions, maybe I’d have a child now.

I’d probably make the same decision again, but the taste of iron is strong.

Stay

When asked to do a favor

I interpret it as an order that my life depends on- I must complete the task, no matter how wretched or mammoth an imposition, in order to remain loved/liked/accepted/not rejected/safe/appreciated/valued

I bend over backwards to let others walk all over me

I ache to shake off these shackles

I stay without putting up a fight out of habit

Baby elephants get bigger everyday

Grow stronger than their chain, yet they stay

Energy-vultures rip out my exposed flesh

We are all living beings trying to survive- the difference between us is our intention

How to escape my newfound obligations

Thoughts of getting intimate with my kitchen knife

Seeking out a minor accident or mild poisoning

Aiming for that delicate balance between being injured or sick enough to get out of workhell, yet benign enough to survive without serious complications

I aborted my pregnancy in residency so that my colleagues wouldn’t have to pick up the slack for me

Now I shoulder their burdens while they are on maternity leave

I thought I was doing the thoughtful, responsible thing

Giving up my baby and my freedom especially stings

I draw on my zen training

Tell myself to let go of thoughts, breathe through it, this too shall pass

Lean into sacred lessons, stay calm and strong

Peace is every step- keep moving

What a beautiful challenge to remain enlightened as the shitstorm rages

I do it to myself; pile on crushing pressure without limit

I’m a pushover pushed over the edge

I’m a doormat covering a minefield

My eyes on the heavy boots dripping with desire to smear mud on me

I’m a danger to myself

Nobody is coming to intervene, especially since they are the beneficiaries of my sacrifice and service

Lord, take the wheel

I’m not even supposed to be here today

Yet I stay

I’m beginning to see the blurred lines between effort and non-effort

I’m beginning to trust that hurt can be healed

No pain lasts forever- lean in and breathe in to the sting

Just because I can be there doesn’t mean I have to be there to save the day everyday

The day will pass with or without me anyway

They call me an essential worker, but I am not any more essential than my colleagues, yet more is demanded of me

Ego, why don’t you take the week off? There will be less pain and tears if you do- I’ll book you a flight to someplace nice. If you decide to stay far away for awhile, that’d be ok too.

May my cortex override the stress reaction of my brain stem

May I shine love and forgiveness instead of loathing and fear

May I meet my persecutor with compassion and understanding

Despite all that I deny myself in staying, may I stay anyway, just for today

To strengthen my spirituality, like a pilgrimage to the present moment

May I hang on to the integrity of my soul like my life depends on it

Maybe it does

I settle in to discomfort

Trust my breath to get me through the day

Connection to spirit is just a breath away

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.

Night Shifting

3AM:

Holding space

Just in case

You smash your face

at 3AM

I put out fires before I retire

Night song:

The day team has gone home

The bustle has simmered down

We few listen to the nightengale’s song

The dinging of hospital monitor alarms, all night long

Pink unicorn:

On inpatient pediatrics

I practice break room snack tactics

My pillaging rewards me

With a pink unicorn paper plate

Strung out:

By the time I realized that my survival skill of being high strung was making me strung out

I was half-way through medical school

Too late

Free bird:

Graduating from medical school

Leaving the shelter of my alma mater’s bosom

Flying free as a bird

Right into the glass door of residency

Anxiety:

I recognize that just like me, she is riddled with anxiety

I wonder if she has ever told anyone

I wonder if I ever will

Baby:

Baby born to today

Mom and baby are ok

How amazing. Happiness abounds.

The End:

Only at the end

Do we see clearly

What was important

Swept:

Swept up in inspiration

I catch these words

Swirling around me like fall leaves

I wonder if I will get swept away with them

Chocolate or vanilla?

The age-old question

In my advanced years, I have come to appreciate vanilla

But I’d rather ride a chocolate c— any day

What I learned in my many travels:

When you reach the beach at the end of the earth, purchase the overpriced coconut you long to drink

The Choice:

Between being a mother or being a doctor, I chose to be a doctor, though it cost me my sons and/or daughters.

My first pregnancy I called Cosmo

I sent him back out to the cosmos

My second pregnancy I called Autumn

I let her go at the first winter’s snow

Nobody knew that her skin would have been auburn

My third pregnancy I called Aurora

I still roar with pain at the loss.

I hope she will rise again.

The Moon:

Even the moon has boundaries

For a few days each month, it exists only for itself

Driving home at the end of a night shift, a faded twinkle in my tired eyes.

On the other side of the highway, commuters struggle to swim upstream

I cruise along drinking in the sunset- everybody else’s sunrise

Body Betrayal

Why do I only get knocked up when I am not trying?

After three unplanned pregnancies too early in the relationship to realize that I didn’t want to be with the father long-term, before breaking under the pressure of our mental illnesses, I prematurely concluded that my fertility was abundant.

Three abortions later, I am happily married and trying to get pregnant, meanwhile my health insurance and job are due to expire in <9 months. I feel my desperation grow and my hope dwindle more with each passing moon cycle.

Must I be reckless, drunk and naked with a stranger in order to conceive?

Body, have mercy. I’m sorry I’ve put you through hell, faithful servant. Please forgive me.

I may strive for perfection, but I never reach it.

I abuse myself, even now. I take my health for granted, even now.

This is my unfiltered personal statement.

PTSD memories pushing through each moment

I hear the echo of my steps on city streets

Tasting the bitter fruits purchased from the tiny fortune I amassed as a professional rape victim

I don’t know what it feels like to be in your body, pro-lifers

But I respect your right to use your body the way you want to, and I only ask that you let me do the same

I may never get pregnant again, but even if my fertility is not as abundant as I once believed, the universe is abundant

But body, must I get intoxicated with a stranger in order to get pregnant, or can we conceive of a new way of conceiving- one centered in sobriety, safety and stability?