Sometimes, it's just a cigar

This is our truth, tell us yours

L’etranger

 

“Maman used to say that you can always find something to be happy about.”
Albert Camus, The Stranger

Content notes for abortion, pregnancy, miscarriage, blood, childbirth

The first time (that I know of) that I miscarried, I was inappropriately enough walking home from a National Childbirth Trust Christmas party. I have to include the caveat because I have a genetic disorder which means I only have a 50/50 chance of any pregnancy developing past the first 12 weeks. Before I actually experienced pregnancy its highly likely that some particularly heavy periods were in fact very early miscarriages, thats simply statistically likely.

This time I knew though, I knew what sore nipples and sickness indicated. I also knew that the pain, just like period pain did not bode well. By the time I walked home, through dark terraced streets, Christmas trees twinkling in every window, I could feel the blood. I knew I could not be more than 8 weeks, and I dislike hospitals, so I simply told my partner, washed, and went to bed. By the morning I was no longer pregnant. There was some sadness, not a mourning, having held my own child in my arms, and whispered with awe “is he really mine” I could not claim an emotional attachment to what resembled a heavy period. Instead the sadness was at a potential loss, for I hoped at some time to have another baby, and realising this was not to be the month is its own form of grief. (I do not wish to police here those who do mourn a miscarriage as a death, nothing in this world is more personal than grief).

The last time that I miscarried that second much wished for baby had arrived, lisped their first words, had their first day at school, moved into the world as a human in their own right.Which of course every baby is from the first breath they take, as a screaming ball of red and white, blood and venix, raging against their existence. I had started to rediscover who I was, escaping from the yummy mummy hell and opening my eyes to wider horizons. My period being a few days late did not worry me, I was never that regular. A week and I started to worry, more than a week and aching breasts and late, 3 am thoughts started to intrude.

I knew what it was to carry a child, to feel its first kick, to nurse it from my own body, to feel the agony and the ecstasy of childbirth. Another child at this time was however a terrifying thought, just as I was finding out who I might be. It’s probably worth explaining here I do not think I could ever have an abortion, even whilst I will fight with my last breath for the right of other people to have an abortion, for any reason they see fit.

Then, I woke up one morning, bleeding, cramping, and I was so pleased.

I was miscarrying, and I was relieved, more than relieved, I was happy. Not dancing from the rooftops, but filled with a sense of relief that I was not pregnant. I made an appointment to get a coil fitted the next day.

I have been prompted to write such a personal post by the conviction of a woman in Northern Ireland for taking pills which induced a miscarriage (illegal in both mainland and NI, although many people are unaware of that fact). As @flyingteacosy brilliantly explores here, she was reported to the police because her housemates felt that she did not show the required amount of remorse for someone who had just been handed their life back.

Wider than someones personal views on the morality of abortion, and linking to so much of the criticism of sex work is the idea that when someone does not share our feelings then their feelings are wrong. Nothing is policed so much as what women (cis or trans) chose to do with their bodies. If you become pregnant you are assumed to feel a set range of emotions, go through a certain, predetermined path, with stops at joy, blooming, maternal love and contentment at your lot. We are all still expected to be Mary, bowing our heads with acquiesce at the news we are pregnant, empty vessels without agency, filled by the will of another. In the moment of having wombs we cease to be anything but vessels for those wombs, subsumed within them. As such anything but acquiescence is seen as morally wrong, criminal even.

Just as someone saying they personally could not sell sex bears no relevance in the debate around sex workers rights, one persons reaction to an abortion, or a miscarriage, has no bearing on how another should behave. As @stavvers writes here, in attempting to defend themselves the housemates suggest the fallibility of memory, and of witness statements. Its therefore not even possible to know how the young woman who has been prosecuted did react, all we know is that her reaction did not fit that model of Mary, unthinking, complete obedience to the dictates of others around what she should feel when her womb was filled.

One of the defences of the housemate has been that they were not anti abortion, they apparently support it in cases of rape. Yet apparently they expect a survivor to mourn if their body expels the product of rape, to grieve over the physical evidence of their violation. If a rapist ejaculates inside a victim do they also expect them to wait patiently to see if inpregnation occurs, with the blankness of a womb vessel simply waiting to be called into existence?

The title of this piece comes from a novel by Camus, in which the protagonist is executed for murder because he is judged not to mourn correctly over the death of his mother. Those around him each project their own ideas about grief, unable to accept that how I feel is not a universal rule, does not indicate how others should feel. In fact when it comes to feelings should is the most useless word, feelings simply are, concrete facts which exist, reguardless of shoulds.

The 21st century reboot of L’etranger features not goal keeper but a young woman bleeding, and making the mistake of turning for support to those who she hoped might see that her pain came not from the blood.

The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.      Albert Camus

 

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4 comments on “L’etranger

  1. dwpandme (@dwpandme)
    April 8, 2016

    I may not have a well-developed psychological sense of self but as a male, I’ve never had my notion of what constitutes the physically me challenged. My skin is the uncontested boundary that defines internal/external and is ultimately the extent of what I can claim to be my property with natural right to defend. For that reason I don’t have much confidence in my understanding of the nature of the relationship that might develop with a slowly forming internal identity and therefore don’t feel qualified to make moral judgements about abortion. For most things that’s not the case and it takes constant effort not to slip into a naive realism that undervalues the experience of others and assumes ones own experience to constitute an objective reality. One thing I don’t understand though in the abortion debate is why people seem unable to conclude that yes it is the tragic destruction of a person, a magical new life with unknown potential while at the same time it is completely inappropriate to legislate against it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jemima2016
      April 8, 2016

      Thanks for taking the time for such a thoughtful response. To be honest I dont think you have to be male to think that we can never truly know how another experiences something, and so we must proceed with care, especially when it comes to legislation based on what is in essence our moral response to an action.

      Like

  2. dwpandme (@dwpandme)
    April 8, 2016

    I see your point. I’ve never considered legislation being based on my response to anything other than the box I tick on polling day. In trying to establish where moral responsibility for evil really rests I tend to draw a simplistic distinction between the active agent of oppression and the passive party who fails to act against the oppressor. This is only partly because it makes life simpler for me, it’s also because I am suspicious of the seductive nature of the comfort offered by alliances and the danger of distorting reality so that beliefs can be justified in order to maintain a coherent but ossified political identity. I’m aware that activist types probably view me with contempt but it also suits me in that I tend to feel like I’m from another planet anyway most of the time..

    Like

  3. Pingback: Just tell the truth | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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This entry was posted on April 8, 2016 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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