Radical Doula

Rise Up & Repeal ~ Edited by Sarah Brazil & Sarah Bernstein, Sad Press 25 May 2019

*Content note: Abortion Experience*

My poem in this anthology enacts an uneasy tension between speech & silence around abortion – and it’s exactly this uneasy tension that’s left me silent about its publication for too long. Until Saturday, publication day, I didn’t even believe it was a good piece of writing and resisted reading it so as not to mortify myself with awkward embarrassment. I’ve known the publication date for months, and planned to write something promoting the book and the people whose work and words became embedded in the fabric of my text. Yet I was afraid of not doing justice to the anthology or those people.

It was a birth I probably wished I could have aborted.

Yet here it is.

Saturday 25th May, publication day, I was at a workshop facilitated by a friend, breathing into my womb & healing the hurt caused by the abortion I had nearly four years ago. A few days earlier we’d been talking and I’d realised that I’d shut myself off since then, not only from my womb but also – on a very subtle and unconscious level, from my partner too. It was a lack of trust on an energetic level. Not that I blamed him for the abortion, or that I thought it was the wrong decision. I maintain that it was absolutely the right choice for me, my body and my future, and I have nothing but gratitude for the right to be able to make and enact that choice for myself. But these things are complex and they leave subtle emotional scars whatever the circumstances.

I feel better prepared than many women for this. I underwent the surgery consciously with only a local anaesthetic, so as to be fully aware of what was happening to my body ~ to feel the pain & the trauma while it was happening, rather than bury it deeply in my subconscious, embedded in my cells. But it gets in anyway.

I had a supportive network of friends and family to hold me through the process, who did so unconditionally, regardless of whether they agreed with what I was doing or would ever contemplate doing the same themselves. I am forever grateful for the love and support I received at that time.

***

The anthology, which began as a moment of triumph and cautious celebration, now also feels like a moment of protest ~ with women’s bodies and our rights to choose what we do with them coming under increasing attack from those who would keep us tethered as baby-makers to increase the population for the cause of patriarchy. But we’re not going back in that box.

***

My poem arises in part from my journalling at the time of my abortion. Yet it is open to many voices and visions. And I want to acknowledge some of those voices here, bringing attention to the work of these amazing women in the world.

First is Miriam Zoila Pérez, known as The Radical Doula, whose work as a doula includes social activism for Reproductive Justice around intersectional issues of gender, race, sexuality and class.  Pérez’s practice encompasses the work of a ‘full-spectrum doula’ – a doula who will assist a person throughout the full spectrum of pregnancy issues and outcomes, including voluntary or necessary abortion.  

The poem is named ‘Radical Doula’ in honour of Pérez, and was written with the intention of performing a ritual/role/service as a ‘long-distance doula’ for the birthing of conscious and supported abortion practices in Ireland following the vote to Repeal the 8thAmendment in 2018.

Embedded in the poem is research into the (racist and misogynist) medical history of gynaecology in America, by Deirdre Cooper Owens.

The Doula Project of New York City and the DIY Doula Zine, as well as Offbeatdoula.com, are also valuable sources of information and tips for self-care around abortion experiences.

***

And after having said all that, which is still really nothing at all, I have decided to let the poem speak for herself.

Rise Up & Repeal is published by Sad Press. It includes words by Sara Crangle, So Mayer, Holly Pester, Frances Presley, Sophie Seita & Jasmine Brady, and many more. Proceeds from sales will go to the Abortion Support Network.

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