My pillow was filled with sweat, when I jumped up and searched my bed, empty, there was nothing there but sheets, and the empty sound of the morning. Where had she gone? I retraced my steps the night before but could only remember her passing between my fathers hands. Me holding her, close, and warm, until we fell asleep. Our breaths as one, I fell asleep gazing at her smooth skin, thinking she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen.
I nearly stood up to run out of the room and find her, when in a single stretch forward, I realized it had all been a dream. My arms were empty. Empty all night. There was no one there. I hadn’t seen my father since the last holiday. I was alone. This wasn’t news, but I panicked, and laid back down, closed my eyes, and fought to enter the dream again. But it was too late. I was awake, there was no girl child, my arms were empty, like my womb, empty.
Never before had I felt so incomplete.
I haven’t read any of the social commentary about the billboard that sang the words:
“The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb,” but its message was splattered across my email in-box with angry letters from many activists I know throughout the city. Only last Friday was my in-box gifted a listserv email, prompting me to make a donation to Planned Parenthood for their current fight to receive public funding, as programs are about to be cut, millions about to lose service. I remember rushing the arrow on my screen to quickly close the window before I forgot the depleting funds in my own checking account, trying not to fall for the multi-racial smiling faces that line their ad campaign. “You will not be bought” I chanted to myself.
And now, a black female child is splattered across a Soho street, above her face reads in bold white letters IS IN THE WOMB, and I can’t help but find that this message is overwhelmingly targeted towards me; I couldn’t close this inbox window.
My mind immediately traveled from that Soho billboard, over the bridge, to Court Street, downtown Brooklyn, where a single young woman sits, hunched over and in deep thought, inside of a Planned Parenthood waiting room, in a hospital gown, awaiting her turn to have a translucent tube suctioning the linings from the inside of her womb to the outside of her body -what comes out looks like the bag of flesh from skinning a raw chicken in the sink before a family gathering.
Is there really danger in this place? Inside of the nest egg of her body, she has already made a million choices, this girl. And the sound of the suction, in the next room, clearing the path, allowing for a world of potential, that suctioning sound, emptying, still makes the burdening cry of death. This girl is the face that I saw when I looked hard at my email, and saw this child whose hair stood upright, whose dress was pink, who would grow up to be a good heterosexual citizen one day, if only she were alive, and I thought, is there really danger in this place?
It’s been 12 years since my abortion.
And it makes me crazy to remember me, that girl, on court street, hunched over, inside of a Planned Parenthood facility, happy that it would be over, when it was over. Not knowing that even today, it is still not over, this WOMB, this face, this emptying.
Yesterday, my period came early. I woke leaking blood from my womb.
Off-setting my moon-cycle calendar, the 1st of January, the 1st of February, and now, the 23rd of February (it must be the new sobriety taking me off schedule) I had to make an emergency trip to a Duane Reade checkout line after work, deciding which brand of Always pads I had to purchase.
Always wanting to (purchase) StayFree, but remaining an Always girl for Life.
Now the yellow pack, Regular, because even on day one, the flow is light, my aging emptiness is waring my blood thin.
The hardest thing for me about turning 30, aging, is the ticking time bomb that is my womb. It has been agreed that this place is a dangerous place. But I say my WOMB is dangerous because it is a ticking time bomb about to explode, not because I pulled a life out of it. My WOMB has been through the kind of trauma that only men could bestow. Perhaps the pro-lifers who’s organization is conveniently called, Life Always, should have a new ad, and it should be called:
“The most dangerous place for an African American IS IN YOUR MIND.” with a Pro-lifer’s picture on it.
I’m 28, and every day I wake and am more frightened that I have lost my chance to give birth.
Just two nights ago, I spoke on the phone for three hours with a 31-year-old lesbian, who has opted out of childbirth, but still interested in raising children. Like a man, she has time, not really worried about the condition of her womb. I wonder if her womb ticks, and tocks like mine, grumbling in its own hollow. Her wholeness and stability made me yearn for an end to this question of procreation. I wanted to stop torturing myself, this race
-wearing my womb thin,
-without a penis,
-wanting a child.
I asked her, unless I am raped, will I ever become pregnant.
Yes, this is the extent to which my womb is exploding. I told her that I just needed to decide, I needed to choose.
But what is choice in this life of mine, anyhow?
What of us who want to bear a child, still feeling so so young, and unprepared, still. In the past 12 years, I can account for education, travel, wild experiences, some meaningful connections, and other ways of living that lead me to embrace a yuppie-NYer existence, but was my life ever really worth it, the expulsion of my child? I do ask myself this, every month, for seven days, when streaming blood.
Yet, I can’t have a child alone. I refuse.
As a single dyke, I often consider what it takes to be a girlfriend, before I consider what it takes to be a mother. Who has time to love another woman, and be loved, and have a career, and be healthy, and vulnerable, and write, and manage non-profit projects, and produce feminist theater, and interview lesbians about their Saturn, and present at conferences, and go to poetry workshops, and join committees, and edit an anthology… How could I not be single, and still, how could the very center of me still feel so empty?
Not in a dream, but in real life, my dad told me once,
You’ll never be ready, there will never be a right time.
And I protested. If I were talking to him now, I’d protest again. I’d say, Daddy, I’m scared. And my WOMB is about to explode!
And he’d likely say to me now, what he said to me then,
Time is a lie. Before you know it, you’ll turn around and your oldest daughter will be telling you she wants a baby.
While cradling a small spirit in his hands, his smile said,
I can still remember holding you, in my palm.
You were so little.