SWING AT YOUR OWN RISK & other feelings

This morning I made several stops–the library, thrift stores, 2nd hand stores–dropping off items my rapidly growing toddler no longer needs. It’s March & difficult to be in this month without thinking of the twins that spontaneously aborted themselves from my body 26 years ago. For years, after the miscarriage, I used the technical terms that the doctor’s used with me: spontaneous abortion, S & C (Suction & Curettage). I was 20 years old when my mother looked me in the face, told me my dad had been dreaming of fish again, a whale this time, told me that I was pregnant. The youngest of her children, I wanted to deflect, to not have to deal with my mother realizing that her baby girl was having sex; I wanted to stall for time, to not have to deal with the fact that whenever my dad dreamed of fish, one of us daughters was pregnant, time to think about irony, how my boyfriend and I had spent nearly a year having unprotected sex and now that we were using condoms and I was on birth control pills, that I, according to my mom’s dream analysis, was pregnant. Mostly, I didn’t want to think about what it would mean for me, a 20-year old achiever, the first in my entire line to likely graduate college, to be pregnant with her 19-year old boyfriend who was already someone’s father.

A dreamer with a serious practical nature, I made two appointments: one at the planned parenthood clinic, where I could ponder an abortion while waiting for pregnancy test results, and one at my mom’s gynecologist, where I could ponder life as a mother while waiting for a second result from a pregnancy test. My boyfriend accompanied me on both trips, talking both times about how happy he was, how he wanted me to meet his daughter’s mother, what a lovely, large happy family we would be. I was thinking of how I would explain to my friends that my sorta kinda cousin and I were expecting a child together, how I was going to explain to my high school best friend that that guy she met at graduation, the one I said was my cousin, the one whose smile stopped her in her track, whose presence had her so nervous that she asked me to ask him to go out with her, that guy, that’s the guy I was now pregnant with. Planned parenthood confirmed it. At my mother’s gynecologist, I told the doctor all about how me and this guy, my boyfriend, had met when we were just kids, how he’d flirted and my mom said it was okay for him to have our number, how we discovered pretty quickly that we were sorta kinda cousins, how we lost touch for years, how we ran into each other at graduation, exchanged numbers, went on a long walk, in which I talked up my best friend, in which he stopped me and said “I didn’t come here for her, though” and we kissed and have been kissing and then some since. The doctor said that was all very sweet and that we needed to not do missionary style sex anymore because his penis was knocking into my cervix and causing swelling and my boyfriend was hopping around and I thought he needed to pee but really he just couldn’t hold his tongue anymore. He proposed. In the gynecologist’s office, while I was half naked and my mother’s doctor was there, he proposed and the nurse came in and told us that we were, in fact, pregnant.

A few months later, my obstetrician told me that the baby was spontaneously aborting and that we needed to make an appointment to extract it. At the hospital, after the S & C, the doctor who was not my regular doctor told me I must have had twins, there was twice the amount of tissue there should have been at 20 weeks. It was October. I’d unenrolled from one college and enrolled in the college in my home city, the city that nearly my entire family lived in, the city that I changed my aspirations to mere accomplishments. I wouldn’t be lawyer or a photojournalist or a doctor after all. I’d be a nurse. I wasn’t going to be free, I was going to be a wife. I was going to be a wife and a mother and a step-mother. I was going to be a nurse because nursing school was only 5 years and by the time I was out of nursing school, my child would be in first-grade and my boyfriend could then go to college and accomplish something. And by the time the child was 18, I could go back to college and be an achiever again. I had it all figured out. The child was due in March. We learned of the pregnancy in June. By September, everything was falling apart again. The doctor was telling me that something was not right with the pregnancy. He couldn’t see the baby even with a vaginal probe. He sent me for an ultrasound then 24-hours of blood tests then he finally told us: the baby is spontaneously aborting, he said, we have to extract it, he said, you don’t want this to turn into a full miscarriage, he said.

I never wanted to be pregnant at 20 but I’d given in to it. Being pregnant. Becoming a mom. After the S & C, the stand-in doctor told me I must have an under-developed cervix, that a spontaneous abortion at my age was unusual. I was stuck in the word “twins”. My father’s father was a twin and we’d all been wondering who would have the twins. If the fetus was not one but two, it was me, and I’d let my family down again. First I got pregnant at 20, gave up my scholarship, came home, then I couldn’t even properly stay pregnant with the first twins in two generations. March was waiting for me, poking at me, taunting me, throwing pictures of a swollen fire-red underdeveloped cervix in my face. Every March for 20 years, I mourned those fetuses, grieved that disappointment, cursed the month and everything it stood for, found others who had losses in March–grandmothers, fathers, mothers. March was a month of taking.

One March, not too long ago, the pull was so intense, it made its way into April, where I nearly ended myself. For decades, I thought of the phrase “spontaneous abortion” and tried to make light of it. Wrote poems about it, learned to feel proud of my fetuses for deciding, for themselves, that they didn’t want this world.

Who would they be, though. I wonder so often. & sometimes I’m so happy that they ended themselves as they were making themselves, that they missed this ever erupting world. I’m happy that I don’t have to give them the black talk, the please don’t get killed by the police talk, the of course you will be overlooked/underappreciated/undervalued talk, the you don’t have to be strong all of the time black people have weaknesses too talk, and on and on. And of course, had they chosen to carry on, to stay with me, I wouldn’t have made my way to poetry, I wouldn’t have ended up in this city I despise, I wouldn’t have met this child who I get to parent. I wouldn’t have this book to share with you.

It’s March. And I miss them. I never met them. I always wanted them. They would be 26 years old and I know nothing about them. I refuse to imagine who they would be now, these fetuses that chose to not enter this world. They deserve their own tales, their own imagined futures. And my face or their dad’s face, they would have had one damned dazzling smile. And March would have to just fuck off.