20 February 2011
Post 330: Waiting for Daisy
Warning: I'm going to get fairly personal and graphic about a possible early term miscarriage.
There is a moment during Orenstein's third pregnancy where she says she feels a filament of life connecting to her child. When she loses the child she has to come to grips with the loss. One of the ways she does this is through the ritual of Mizuko kuyo, which is designed to offer comfort and repentance to those who have lost children under the age of seven or who have had miscarriages or abortions. She also talks about the disconnect between how women are supposed to react to their miscarriages versus general feeling of whether or not the fetus obtained personhood. I'll use her own words as they are more striking than my summary,
"All of this [attention and preparation for a child at such an early stage in pregnancy] encourages a mother-to-be to see the fetus as a person, at least in the psychological sense, at an ever-earlier stage. You tell friends, Names are bandied about. The baby feels real. Yet, if the pregnancy goes amiss, that personhood is abruptly revoked and you're supposed to act like nothing ever happened." Page 132.
Before about May 2009, I might not have understood these words. I would have understood that of course a miscarriage is a very unfortunate and heart-wrenching thing, especially when the child is wanted, but at five weeks? At five weeks it has barely even reached the size of a sesame seed. How can someone possibly feel emotional attachment to something that small and insignificant, something that is likely to miscarry on its own at this stage if there are any cellular issues? But I get it now, and I'm ready to talk about it.
Two years ago I was busy finishing up my second to last semester in graduate school. I was signing up for my last round of classes and working two part-time jobs in the university library. A month earlier I had skipped a period, which is highly unusual for me, and a month before that my boyfriend (soon to be fiance) and I had a condom failure. I did take the Plan B pill for the condom failure, and it is likely that it affected my cycle, but there is also the slight chance that I was pregnant. I remember finally getting my period after starting my first round of birth control pills (which were prescribed after two home pregnancy tests and bloodwork at the doctor's office just to be extra sure). The bleeding was much heavier than it had ever been since I was 14. During one of my work shifts I went to the restroom, felt some very painful cramping, and passed a ball of tissue that was about the size of a newborn kitten.
It was distressing. It was so distressing I did not allow myself to think that it might have been, could have been, a potential child. I couldn't do it, not for at least a year. And I had been frequently nauseous the previous week or so, but chalked it up to introducing new hormones into my body...along with one too many margaritas the one time I actually threw up. It still makes me sad to think that it might have been a child, even though two years later I am in no position to even take care of myself. I mourn the potential of that being, regardless of whether it even was a fetus or just something in my head. I did and do still have a psychological connection to that moment and that unknown being.
I still do not want a child in my life. I don't see myself as being a biological mother, although the idea has become less scary over the years. But I do still feel pain and conflict over what might have been. I don't regret the decision not to bring a child into the world, if a child it was, because I could not have provided the life it deserves no matter how much love I could give it. I do mourn that potential child in the way that I mourn the loss of any potential life, whether at the age of 99 or barely born. Death of any sort is a sad and troubling thing, and the death of an unborn child is always sad, even if it is sometimes necessary.
I am pro-choice. I don't know if I would ever take the steps to have an abortion, because I have not been in that situation myself. I do know that I want to have the option to make that choice. I might need to someday. There is no birth control method that is 100% effective, short of sterilization (which they won't do to most women who don't have children), so I need to know that I have the right to terminate a pregnancy should all attempts to prevent one fail. This does not mean that it will be an easy decision for me if it happens and I make that choice. But I know, no matter what I choose, I will always wonder if it was the right thing to do.
Great review over at Kirkus.
LibsNote: Copy checked out from the library.