October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. When we, as feminists, talk about reproductive justice, it needs to include the full spectrum of pregnancy and birthing options. And miscarriage, although it happens in about 20% of pregnancies, is still largely veiled in silence and stigma.
First and foremost, it is crucial to honor the grief that expectant parents can experience when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage. And increasingly, as we see the criminalization of pregnancy and miscarriage across the country with the frightening anti-choice measures seeking to restrict abortion access by whatever means necessary, it becomes essential to bear witness to miscarriage as a component of reproductive justice.
I wrote this poem–Empty Fortune Cookie–nearly five years after I had a miscarriage. When I lost what was a very-wanted pregnancy, I grieved quietly, telling only a very small number of close friends and family. I was ashamed: self-blame is a frequent emotion in the aftermath of a miscarriage. Now, in the wake of anti-choice personhood measures that aim to grant personhood status to a fetus as early as conception, that shame that expectant parents experience around wanted-pregnancy loss is being exploited. The language of the law ominously pushes for the prosecution of miscarriage if it is (even arbitrarily) believed the pregnant person was in any way responsible for the miscarriage.
As a feminist, a reproductive justice advocate, and a mother, I want to hold myself accountable for not perpetuating shame around miscarriage. I wrote this poem for myself, as part of my healing from my own shame around miscarriage, but I also hoped that it would reach people who might feel inspired to find their own ways to break the silence and help end the stigma around what is, in reality, an incredibly common experience.
Empty Fortune Cookie
I wish I’d known how that Mother’s Day sex
Would end in miscarriage.
marking me for life like a bad tattoo
The manic flutter
From last week’s sonogram is gone.
The ultrasound technician asks if I want the photos,
Grainy and surreal. I take them from her cool hand
And tuck them in my book.
I need to call my mother.
The D&C is grisly; my uterus
ploughed and quarried, fresh soil for new seed
We drive into town; I don’t want to go home yet.
I am ravenous. Sushi. Beer. Soft cheese.
Forbidden in pregnancy,
I order them all.
A Magic 8 ball is on the bar.
I pick it up, watch the answers bump around in the blue ink
“TRY AGAIN LATER.”
I learn that the next baby you carry to term after a miscarriage is called
your “rainbow baby,” which strikes me as cloying.
But I cry anyway.
Storms and sun; these two little boys.
They are more than enough.
Rowdy miracles, turned all the way up,
Sugar and gristle
I keep those pictures
The ultrasound technician gave me
With their baby teeth.
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