Whose uterus is it? A poem and a polemic

Flipping, squirming, hiccuping being inside
me
my
belly moves, bulges, requires
tables to be shifted
my
body to be shifted
my
gait and stride and way
I
move through the world
to be shifted
to make room, one day, for
not-me

*****

Whose uterus is it?

Increasingly, it seems, not the person in whose body it resides, not when US states have to debate — though most aren’t even doing that — whether to compensate women they insulted and forcibly sterilized, when pregnant athletes are banned from sports, when, not long-ago but right now, women face murder charges for pregnancy or neonatal losses, when women are being stripped of rights and social supports and we can’t even get the powers that be to acknowledge this systematic attack.

There are two unique genetic signatures here in this chair, but only one body. Two heartbeats, but one flesh that interacts with the world. The person-ification of the parasite within me, the extent to which I am I-and-other, is for me to decide — not strangers who wish to rub my belly, not family who speak of “our baby”, not governments who would criminalize my choices not for their effect on my fellow citizens but for perceived damage to the flesh-in-and-of-my-flesh.

I am not heartless, not lacking in sentimentality, not ignorant of the profundity of the person-creation that is procreation, of the of-me-but-not-me-ness of the being within me. But as long as it is within me, sustained by me, symbiotic with me as no other stage of existence can be; as long as this is so, no one has the right to dictate or regulate my rights, my choices, my self as though it is not my body who will bear those burdens.

Because, whatever you may say, it is my uterus.

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8 Responses to Whose uterus is it? A poem and a polemic

  1. Thank you for this post. I love the eloquent way you express your views. I think that the post is timely having just read that Ohio are unconstitutionally banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected (ugh).

    Reading about these things makes me sad for the women of the US. However its getting that way in the
    UK now. It’s now illegal here for abortion providers to offer abortion counselling. Women will need to seek it elsewhere. We all know that the majority of ‘crisis pregnancy’ support are religious/anti-choice.
    It’s scary that this is 2011 and women (even in so called progressive 1st world nations) still have to fight and jump through government hoops for full reproductive autonomy.
    Sorry for hijacking your comments, this subject vexes me hugely. Rant over.

  2. Beautiful poem.

    Agreeing with your thoughts. Well said.

  3. I agree. If you want to help the babies in those uteri then support women and mothers. Respect their rights. Trust that women make smart choices when they have access to good information. Give them good information.

    And stand back and let her make choices.

  4. It’s really very telling (and scary in consequences) how abortion exceptions for the mother’s* health have been targeted really strongly this year in particular in the U.S. Pro-death–sorry, “pro-life”–campaigners are explicitly saying that the fetus’s life is worth more than the mother’s, and nonsensically defining life from the moment of conception – apparently that nine months of hard work is irrelevant. When will these fetus Americans start paying taxes, that’s what I want to know…

    * most of the time.

  5. scholasticamamam

    This poem is so wonderful and so much how I felt as a pregnant person. The me-not-me-ness of the whole endeavor is so profound. For months I called myself “the pod” and worked my head around forming another person with and within my person. For the first time, I understood the Judeo-Christian god’s “before you were born i knew you” line and I struggled for a while with my pro-choice stance as a person who so wanted and worried for the person she was forming. By the end of the pregnancy, I came to terms with my beliefs in a way I didn’t think possible before – because I had a girl-child and I was now a Mama. These two things are so poignantly displayed in your poem – my body created her body – we were one and now two. I _made_ her and now she makes herself. It is my job to defend her rights to make herself whatever she wants, without the interference of others, dictating her choices, forcing her self into their terms of personhood. And, as I repeatedly have said, I am her Mama and I decide what to put into or keep out of her Sphere of Growing Self while giving her the choice and responsibility to make and accept those choices. One of those choices I demand for her is the choice of her body – from the simple how it dresses to the more complicated who gets to touch it. Before the child, I believed in my right to my body and for my right to make choices for it, and I believed in it for other persons as well. Now after the child, I am vehement about this belief – I will do my damndest to keep her choices open. Thank you for you poignant words – they meant a lot to me.

  6. I am a practicing Roman Catholic and this post made me smile. I don’t agree with everything in it, but you said something that I think it’s crucial for people who claim to be pro-life to understand. In their zeal to pump out as many kids as they can, they have in essence demeaned the lives they are trying to save and the mothers that nurture them. When women are forced to carry pregnancies to term, this can as be traumatizing as forcing them to abort and this emotional burden can prevent them from being the mothers they want to be. It burdens their children too. Pregnancy has complications that can damage the health and lives of mothers and babies and this will interfere with a woman’s ability to parent as well.

    Women will have abortions whether they are legal or not. Whether I agree with their decision or not, I understand 100% why women seek out abortions and women who suffer through unsafe abortions are worthy of dignity, mercy, and autonomy. I’m appalled, really, at the way so many anti-abortion activists treat women as collateral damage and suggest that these women actually deserve these fates! If we make abortion illegal, we don’t necessarily see a decrease in abortions or a greater respect for life, but we will see an awful lot of women standing trial for murder for falling down the stairs.

    I would like to add to your solutions to the problem, as it were. In additional to social support for mothers, fathers, and the childless relatives to assist in child care, I would like to see the stigma of adoption erased and for birth mothers and adoptees to be treated in a more equitable manner. We also need to teach young girls (and boys!) that it is not the job of women to put out. Women all too often think that her self-worth lies in the ability to please men sexually and to reproduce and in poorer communities, she does not have other options for fulfillment or advancement. Of course, women can still choose to be sexually active and to be mothers regardless of income or age, but this should not be their only option nor should it be an expectation.

    I hope this does not offend anyone, but this subject has been on my mind a lot lately and I’m glad to have read this. Thanks.

  7. Yes. And it doesn’t become LESS your uterus simply because you eagerly desire to have a baby. The fact that you choose to undergo pregnancy willingly has no bearing on whether or not your body is public property.

  8. I love this, Arwyn. A whole lot. Thanks for putting it so beautifully. It’s hard for many to imagine that a pregnant woman can remain *gasp* pro-choice. But I guess that’s the problem when people equate pro-choice with pro-abortion, forgetting that choosing to carry a particular pregnancy to term is an equally valid choice, if the woman so chooses to make it. But as Amber state above, that choice does not the change the fact that you are YOU and should retain control of your own person.

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