People are encouraging me to reply to the latest volley from Stanek and her followers, but there’s really nothing for me to say. She’s decided to ignore many of the actual words on screen, and create new meanings for the words she does see in front of her. I don’t know how one rebuts claims that are obviously false, especially when the person making the claims proves your point for you. I didn’t embellish a thing and I never said I did. I’m not interested in blog wars with Stanek or her ilk so I’m going to keep leading my life. Hopefully she’ll find her way back to reality.
So, I’m looking at some of the comments and emails that are flooding my inbox demanding to know all the inner workings of my life when I had the abortion that saved my life. And I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but there seems to be an ongoing assumption that I had tons of family support, disposable income in abundance, and that my two kids were self sufficient. At the time my oldest was 8 and my youngest was 1 1/2. My friends are supportive, and one of them stepped in to take care of my kids that night but I’ve never had the kind of family of origin that will pitch in to help me (or each other) with more than the most basic things most of the time. It was better before my grandmother passed away, but she’s been gone a while now and without her we’re not a close family by any stretch of the imagination.
When I say my family will help, I’m mostly referring to my aunts or my husband’s family. My parents? They aren’t helpful. They got the phone call that I was in trouble while they were en route to St Louis for a televangelist’s convention. They suggested I call someone else to come get my kids, and then they continued their drive to St. Louis. I did get a phone call from my mother the night after the surgery. She was more concerned with me interrupting her weekend away than anything else as far as I could tell from the conversation. Admittedly I stopped listening after she launched into her latest version of ” This would be shocking, but this is the same woman that didn’t bother to name me and then got mad when I was 13 and filled out my own birth certificate with the name I’d been using at school instead of the moniker she’d always planned to saddle me with so I wasn’t shocked. It was the last straw for our already tenuous relationship, but that’s a story for another blog.
On the disposable income front…at that point we were a one income family and just barely getting by on that one income. It was cheaper for me to stay home with our two kids (childcare costs in Chicago are astronomical), but that also meant we had very little wiggle room financially. So, there was no question of my husband taking off work for weeks on end to allow me to stay in bed all day every day. And while his family will help to their best abilities, they have their own households to run and must go to their jobs too if they want to pay their bills. Same thing with our friends. I don’t know where people live that folks can just stop working and keep living, but I don’t live there.
Someone else asked why I didn’t take my kids with me to the hospital. Aside from not wanting to traumatize them, there was also the part where my oldest was at school. We lived close enough to his school that he could walk home, but having him come home to an empty house was not an option. Nor was waiting for him to get home since you know, I was bleeding profusely and all. My friend cleaned my blood off the walls and hid my sheets so that my son wouldn’t be scared. As for the demands that I have a c-section just in case a micro-preemie could have survived? You should go look at the survival rates for 20 week preemies again. Death wasn’t going to be averted, it was just a question of whether we both died. There seems to be this assumption that major surgery was a better idea than a less invasive procedure. Umm..no. The first thing discussed when I got to the hospital was the lack of viability for a child born at that point, then there was the part where I was in active labor & had no amniotic fluid when they did the ultrasound. But hey, go ahead and assume you know every detail of what was going on in my life so you can pass judgment on the decisions made by the person actually living it.
Lastly, no I wasn’t paid by Salon or anyone else to write that post. It’s not fiction, and the title of my blog isn’t an indication that my nonfiction should be taken with a grain of salt. It is an indication that I’m a published author of fiction and non fiction. The idea that this was a publicity stunt is laughable. I don’t know what planet some of the folks making that comment are on, but on no planet that I work on is having a blog post about a tragedy a way to boost attention for a closed company. Yes, I said closed. Verb Noire is defunct and has been for some time. My writing career has been developing for years and really, I know enough people to have a good chance at selling the book I’m working on.
Mind you, I wrote that post after an argument on Facebook with someone who insisted (as many people do) that abortion is not a medical procedure and that no one ever needs one. I posted it on my personal blogs & on a blog that I co write with several other angry black women. Most of my posts are made in a similar fashion. Most do not go particularly viral. This one has, and yes I did put myself out there when I agreed to let Salon re-post it. Not for an agenda, but simply to write what happened to me and talk about the fallacy in “No abortion is ever necessary” arguments. Did we file a lawsuit? No. I had a lot of other things to do (like mourn and heal) and the hospital staff that did eventually treat me encouraged me to go through internal channels so that patient care would be improved. I did that, and then for the sake of my sanity and my family I put away what happened to me and got on with the business of living my life.
Some say I should name and shame the doctor that refused to do the procedure. If I knew why he refused I might have done just that, but since I know that there are many possible reasons that he did not do it? I’ve left him to deal with the internal procedures in place. Same thing with the hospital where this happened. I could name it (funnily enough many people have correctly guessed and more than a few remember me naming it when it happened), but I didn’t write this post to shame the hospital any more than I wrote it to shame the doctor. Hard concept to grasp for some, but this post wasn’t about revenge or money. It was about me coming to terms with what happened and about my disdain for a particular pro-life argument. Believe it, don’t believe it. That’s up to you. My life will go on either way.
I’ve been spending so much time on non-fiction the last few days I haven’t worked on anything fun. The last few days haven’t inspired any fiction fit for public consumption, but today I saw this pic
It has my brain back on the Siren story (for those of you who don’t read me elsewhere I’ve been rewriting a novel I wrote some years back about Sirens), and may have finally resolved my question of how people can tell the Sirens aren’t human without having to rely on anything too cheesy like them sparkling or having unusually colored eyes or whatever else the Mary Sues are doing these days. Possibly they can draw so much attention simply by existing that it becomes obvious that they aren’t entirely human because of the way people react to them. Good idea? Bad idea? Something else entirely?
So, the pro-life backlash has begun. I thought I’d be sad, but I’m not. I’m pissed. Post my pics, dig around in my blogs to talk about me being a survivor (like that has a fucking thing to do with what happened that day), and try to dissect the details of my decision to stay alive? Okay motherfuckers. Okay. I’m not going to hide from you, or let you paint me as a villain. Propaganda games over terminology (Correct medical terms are hostile now? Really?) are old hat to me. I’m not a nice girl, and you’re about to see that.
I grew up in a family where colorism ruled. My hair was permed at 3 because it was too nappy according to whichever aunt was caring for me that day. The kitchen beautician that did it used a super perm and gave me 2nd & 3rd degree chemical burns. At 3. I wore a weave until my hair grew back, and had it pressed until I was a teen when I promptly started getting relaxers again. My brief moment of rebellion? Going natural for a few months after a bad relaxer experience that left me bleeding.
My grandmother used to tell me to pinch my nose so I could give myself the “right” nose shape since my nose was spread all over my face. My aunt scrubbed the black off my cousin J with Comet one day. Yeah, I said the black. Shockingly my cousin didn’t stay that funny shape of pinkish brown after her skin grew back. I was the light one for a while which just made things tenser between me & the other children. Light was right, especially with a narrow nose, and straight hair. We all knew the family standard of beauty and we adhered to it or suffered the scorn of our elders.
I remember my mother punishing me for some infraction by refusing to let me get my hair done. She was a cruel bitch on a good day, and no one intervened even if they saw her punch me, unless she went too far. Too far in our family = not getting my hair straightened. Then all hell broke loose until she started sending me to the shop every two weeks like everyone else in the family. I was in my 30’s before I was comfortable enough with my own hair to wear it natural, and there are still times when I contemplate a relaxer despite everything I know about them and about beauty aesthetics. But then I look at all the women in my family who are balding after years of getting monthly relaxers and I get over it. Nothing about this video shocks me, but then my bio family was full of colorstruck middle class black folks and this is what happens when they pass on the cultural ingrained racism that passes for truth in their reality.
So, there’s this lawmaker out of Kansas who has lots to say about abortion. He’s currently best known for saying that women should plan ahead in case of rape and not expect their regular insurance to cover an abortion if they want one after being assaulted. And we could spend a lot of time going around about the flaws in his logic, or even hashing out when life begins, but really this post isn’t about any of that. This post is about the idea that anyone besides the pregnant woman should get a vote in what she does with her body after finding out about a pregnancy. For a host of reasons we as a society seem incapable of accepting bodily autonomy in women. This is reflected in the existence of street harassment, rape culture, and the million efforts to dictate whether or not women can control their own reproductive health. This attitude that women are shirking responsibility by opting out of having unwanted children has always boggled my mind.
But then I’m a mom, and I would never want my kids to grow up an unwanted child like I did. I love my kids more than I could ever explain & I do my best to give them the childhood I never had. Because I love them I had an abortion at 20 weeks. It was my 5th pregnancy (I had two miscarriages while I was trying to conceive my sons), and as it turned out my last. It was troubled from the start, I didn’t experience any of the normal indicators of pregnancy, so I found out when I was already 10 weeks along. No missed periods, in fact I was seeing an OB/GYN who specializes in treating fibroids and endometriosis in part because of the increased heaviness of my cycle. When we found out (that standard pregnancy test before surgery is necessary after all) I talked it out with my husband and we debated aborting (I got as far as the clinic), before ultimately deciding that we would try to make it work. My doctor advised me right off the bat that she wasn’t certain of a good outcome and that my pregnancy would be very high risk. I did exactly what she said in terms of taking it easy, because I wanted to give that child the best possible chance. But the intermittent bleeding wouldn’t stop and I knew that there was a high chance that I would not be able to carry to term.
I was taking an afternoon nap when the hemorrhaging started. Laying in bed with my toddler napping in his room, and waking up to find blood gushing up my body is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The placental abruption that my doctor had listed as a possibility was happening and I was going to have to do my best to take care of both of us. Mind you, my husband was at work and my not quite 2 year old sure couldn’t dial 911 for me so I had to make it to the phone & make arrangements for the sleeping toddler as well as his older brother before I could leave the house. I’ll spare you the gory details of my personal splatter flick, but suffice to say by the time I got to the hospital I probably needed a transfusion.
We all knew the pregnancy wasn’t viable, couldn’t be viable with the amount of blood I was losing, but it still took them hours to do anything, because the doctor on call didn’t do abortions. At all. Ever. No one on call that night did them in fact. A very kind nurse risked her job to call a doctor from the Reproductive Health Clinic who was not on call, and asked her to come in to save my life. Fortunately she was home, and even more fortunately she was able to get there relatively quickly. But by the time she got there I was in bad shape. Blood loss had rendered me borderline incoherent, an incredibly ignorant batch of students were fascinated by my case and more interested in studying me than treating me (one had the audacity to show me the ultrasound of our dying child while asking me if it was a planned pregnancy), and then there was the fact that I was on the L & D floor listening to other women have healthy babies while I bled out and the baby I had been trying to save died in my womb.
When the other doctor got there she had me moved to a different wing, got me painkillers (we were many hours into my hospital stay, and no one had bothered to give me anything for the pain despite my screams every time they decided to push on my abdomen or examine me for student edification), and then after checking my labs told us that I would need two bags of blood before she could do anything. Her team (a cadre of students who should all go on to run their own clinics) took turns coming in to check on me and my husband. They all kept assuring me that soon it would be over, and I would feel much better. My husband had to sign the consent for surgery (there was no question of me being competent enough to make decisions), and they took me away along with a third bag of blood to be administered during surgery.
What I didn’t know until much later was that the doctor took my husband aside while they were taking me back. She promised him she would do her best to save me, and then she warned him about the distinct possibility that she would fail. See, that doctor who didn’t do abortions was supposed to have contacted her (or someone else) immediately. He didn’t. His students didn’t either. Because I was their case and they weren’t done with me yet. Or something. Ostensibly there was a communication breakdown and they thought she had been notified, but given the talk about writing a paper on me that I do remember happening over my head? I doubt it. I don’t know if his objections were religious or not, all I know is that when a bleeding woman was brought to him for treatment he refused to do the only thing that could stop the bleeding. Because he didn’t do abortions. Ever.
My two kids at home were going to lose their mother because someone decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that wasn’t going to survive any way. Mind you, my husband told them exactly what my regular doctor had said, and the ER doctor had already warned us what would need to happen. But, none of that mattered in the face of this idea that no one needs an abortion. You don’t know what a woman who decides to abort needs, and you shouldn’t need to know in order to trust her to make the best decision for herself. I don’t care why a woman aborts, all I care is that she has access to safe affordable healthcare. I don’t regret my abortion, and I will never extrapolate my situation to mean that the only time other women should abort is when their life is at stake. Why? Well after the news hit my family that I’d aborted I got a phone call from a cousin who felt the need to tell me that I was wrong to have interfered with God’s plan. In that moment I understood that the kind of people who will judge a woman’s reproductive choices are the kind of people that I don’t want to be.
1. Don’t derail a discussion. Even if it makes you personally uncomfortable to discuss X issue…it’s really not about you or your comfort. It’s about X issue, and you are absolutely free to not engage rather than try to keep other people from continuing their conversation.
2. Do read links/books referenced in discussions. Again, even if the things being said make you uncomfortable, part of being a good ally is not looking for someone to provide a 101 class midstream. Do your own heavy lifting.
3. Don’t expect your feelings to be a priority in a discussion about X issue. Oftentimes people get off onto the tone argument because their feelings are hurt by the way a message was delivered. If you stand on someone’s foot and they tell you to get off? The correct response is not “Ask nicely” when you were in the wrong in the first place.
4. Do shut up and listen. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of listening to the people actually living X experience. There is nothing more obnoxious than someone (however well intentioned) coming into the spaces of a marginalized group and insisting that they absolutely have the solution even though they’ve never had X experience. You can certainly make suggestions, but don’t be surprised if those ideas aren’t well received because you’ve got the wrong end of the stick somewhere.
5. Don’t play Oppression Olympics. Really, if you’re in the middle of a conversation about racism? Now is not the time to talk about how hard it is to be a white woman and deal with sexism. Being oppressed in one area does not mean you have no privilege in another area. Terms like intersectionality and kyriarchy exist for a reason. Also…that’s derailing. Stop it.
6. Do check your privilege. It’s hard and often unpleasant, but it’s really necessary. And you’re going to get things wrong. Because no one is perfect. But part of being an ally is being willing to hear that you’re doing it wrong.
7. Don’t expect a pass into safe spaces because you call yourself an ally. You’re not entitled to access as a result of not being an asshole. Sometimes it just isn’t going to be about you or what you think you should happen. Your privilege didn’t fall away when you became an ally, and there are intra-community conversations that need to take place away from the gaze of the privileged.
8. Do be willing to stand up to bigots. Even if all you do is tell a friend that the thing they just said about X marginalized group is unacceptable, you’re doing some of the actual work of being an ally.
9. Don’t treat people like accessories or game tokens. Really, you get no cool points for having a diverse group of friends. Especially when you try to use that as license to act like an asshole.
10. Do keep trying. Fighting bigotry is a war, not a battle and it’s generational. So, keep your goals realistic, your spirits up (taking a break to recoup emotional, financial, physical reserves is a-okay), and your heart in the right place. Eventually we’ll get it right.