Zoe’s Law: devaluing early pregnancy loss

As I stumbled into the emergency room my stomach was cramping and I could barely walk. The pain came on suddenly and despite my protests, my partner had insisted that I come. I was in denial but I could hardly speak when the nurse asked me if I was pregnant. “I could be,” I said; “we are trying.” In my heart I had known I was pregnant for a couple of days. I hadn’t wanted to do a test because I thought it may be too soon and we may be disappointed for nothing. The nurse’s face became very serious and I was wheeled in. After drugs, tests and ultrasounds, I was told that I was pregnant and transferred to our city’s women’s hospital. More drugs, more ultrasounds, more tests. I could not understand the debates that were happening around me. I asked questions but through the drugs I barely understood the answers until I met the surgeon. She simply stated “your foetus is dead.” Then the forms, the informed consent and the talk about how I may lose any chance of naturally conceiving more children and as my partner and I have a biological child there would be no government assistance for IVF.

 

After hours of tests  was wheeled into surgery. When I woke my denial was over and I realised I no longer had the pregnancy I wanted so much. I was devastated and I wanted to go sleep, to escape, to curl up into the blackness of my sadness and disappear. I did not want to hear the chatter of the nurses in recovery, I did not even want to hear them telling me to breathe. I felt the nurse shaking me and I muttered “I could not keep him safe, all I had to do was keep him safe.” The shaking got harder as the nurse said, “This is not your fault.” My mind flicked to my son and I took a deep breath. After a while the alarms went quite. This happened twice more before I was wheeled back to the ward and I saw my partner again. I can never truly convey the level of sadness I felt over the next few days.

 

My mum flew in to support me. Beautiful generous people tried to help. Some stayed away thinking that my family needed space. Some visited saying what they could to try to make it ok. However, in this moment some repeated the platitudes that it was “ok,” I “could have another baby” and that “at least I didn’t have time to bond.” This was a planned and wanted pregnancy. From the moment my partner and I had begun trying to conceive I had changed my diet, I had begun to open boxes of clothes I had stored away from my son and I began to imagine myself with a new baby, possibly a girl but my instinct told me that we would have a little boy.

 

As a law student and a prochoice mother I have always been sceptical of foetal personhood laws. I have been sceptical on their impact on child birth choices, abortion rights and the treatment of pregnant women with addiction. Intellectually I completely understandthe arguments of Catherine Henry and the NSW Bar Association about the consequences of creating this category of ‘person’. However, a year after hearing those terrible words, I sat in my car transfixed bythe words of that Brodie Donegan had written about the trauma of her loss. The heartbreak of those few days after we had been told flooded back and as my kids slept in the back of the car I quietly cried. As I listened more closely I became more uncomfortable and it’s a discomfort that has only grown since.

 

In an attempt not to undermine women’s right to choose, the bill named “Zoe’s law” limits its scope to only applying to pregnancies that are more than 20 weeks in gestation. This will enshrine in law one of the most hurtful myths that early pregnancy loss is an ‘easier’ loss. It is not easier to lose a pregnancy early; a wanted pregnancy is never easy to lose.  I know that this is not the intention of Brodie Donegan but it is the effect this law would have. 20 weeks is an arbitrary cut-off point. Is the loss of a pregnancy at 20 weeks more hurtful, more terrible or more criminal than one at 19 weeks? I say no. Pregnancy loss at all stages must be treated equally and respectfully by the law. Instead of an arbitrary date or weight of a foetus we must judge the crime that is committed and weigh sentence considerations to reflect this. There will never be a long enough sentence to heal the trauma of a family that loses a wanted pregnancy through a crime. But no mother will accept that her pregnancy loss hurts less because her pregnancy had not reached an arbitrary date. If this law passes it will send the message to women who have lost a pregnancy at under 20 week gestation that the criminal justice system does not take their loss as seriously.

 

When my partner and I presented to hospital for routine follow up they told me that the test results were not showing what they had expected. I was once again sent for internal ultrasounds with doctors and sonographers gathered around debating. I was told that my pregnancy hormone had not dropped as expected and that they feared my pregnancy had “attached outside my uterus” but they couldn’t confirm it. They sent me away and I returned two days later for the same tests. Only to be sent away grieving and scared I would need more surgery. This process was repeated. After two weeks a consultant explained to me that my original diagnosis was incorrect. I had not lost an 8 weeks old foetus due to ectopic pregnancy but I had other complications. My pregnancy was in fact very early and had held on through the pressure of the internal bleeding and the surgery. The obstetrician was kind and respectful of the trauma I experienced. He said if I did not want to continue with the pregnancy he understood. But this was the pregnancy I wanted and I knew this would be the person who would complete our family.

 

The next few months were an emotional rollercoaster and I struggled to believe I was truly pregnant. The confidence I had with my first pregnancy that things were ok was gone. Small changes and problems sent me crying to the midwife believing I was again going to be told I had lost him. My son was born in July 2013 with the help of the Community Midwifery Program at King Edward Memorial Hospital. I am more cautious and more scared for him than I ever was for his brother. Sometimes at night when I am feeding, I think back and cry.

 

I lived with the ‘reality’ of early pregnancy loss for two weeks and it has changed me forever. I cannot imagine living with this reality for the rest of my life. I cannot imagine the anger and hurt felt by a family whose pregnancy was ended by a criminal act. But I ask politicians not to make laws that value one pregnancy over another. Do not make laws that make the violent end of one pregnancy more criminal than another. I ask that everyone does not devalue early pregnancy loss. Do not devalue early pregnancy loss. Do not pass this law.

 

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So to Mia Freedman I give you a picture of this mothers arse.

Recently Mia Freedman wrote this blog railing against Kim Kardashian. While I by no means hold Kim up as a demonstration of feminism I think that Mia Freedman has this wrong, very wrong. From the title ‘Are you a mother or a porn star?’ which degrades the ability of women who work in the porn industry to be effective parents, Freedman projects some extremely backward views on motherhood, sexuality and body image. 

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The core assumption that Freedman makes in this blog is that women must fit into a mould of personality and behaviour to be effective parents. Freedman’s condemning of this photo taken by Kardashian refuses to take into account the person that Kardashian was before becoming a mother. I have zero no doubt that Kardashian would have taken the same selfie to promote herself and her brand before becoming a parent. Through the promotion of her personal brand Kim is now worth $40 million dollars and her reality television show is gaining her $80 000 per episode. This business model of self-promotion including sexuality has been Kardashian’s core business since she was a teenager. 

While Kardashian’s business model does nothing for feminism nor is it responsible for women’s oppression or the over sexualisation of women. In a bizarre and far-reaching leap Freedman attempts to link Kim’s selfie to the overly sexualised make over of an animated children’s character. What Kardashian was not doing was giving a beloved children’s character a sexualised make over. She was a woman who as presenting herself in a sexual fashion that is all.  In fact the only link that Kardashian has to children is the fact that she is herself a mother.

Freedman’s insistence that somehow motherhood should change the way that Kardashian presents herself sends a powerful message to mothers like myself. The message that it sends says not only will your behaviour be policed as a woman but it will also be policed as a mother. As a mother you are responsible not only for they way that you present yourself but that you ‘owe’ others with your physical appearance. As a mother in my bikini I am not responsible for The Little Mermaid.

Scratching the issue further Freedman says that Kardashian should ‘do better’ for her daughter. For most of us the cult of motherhood dictates that we should be kind, lovely and beautiful but asexual. The idea of our own mothers having and owning sexuality especially aggressive sexuality is ‘revolting’.  Why should Kardashian’s sexuality change after children? It shouldn’t and it certainly shouldn’t because Mia Freedman says so.

To make this condemnation of Kardashian even more bizarre Freedman’s ‘mamamia’ blog published a defence of another mothers photo. This photo and the text placed on it send a very different message to mothers about body image and motherhood.

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Had the picture remain on its own, well it would have been a picture of Maria Kang, physically fit mother of three, but it didn’t the text “What’s your excuse?” challenges the reader. It challenges me as a mother of two to look at my body and ‘make excuses’ for not having a similar body. I don’t need excuses for not having Kang’s body, I have my own, every mother has her own. I have my own healthy beautiful body that looks nothing like Maria Kang’s. The image tells us nothing about Maria’s health only that she lives up to a body image that ‘fitsperation’ deems as beautiful.

The image was not particularly shock, even if it is in its own way offensive, but the response published on Freedman’s mamamia was down right horrible. Di Westaway, the CEO of Wild Women On Top – Trek Training For Adventure, writes the response and it takes us to a place that blames women’s lack of exercise for PND. Westerway’s anecdote about a friend who ‘cured’ herself of depression by walking is just ridiculous. What we know is that for some people exercise can relieve stress. This is great but exercise does not cure depression. We know that exercise can provide a pleasurable activity for some one who is depressed. This is also great but again I state EXERCISE DOES NOT CURE DEPRESSION and anecdotes do not make science. For most people with post natal depression the illness will eventually pass but this does not mean it is ‘cured’ by an activity that a person is doing the most of at the time. In fact for some women engaging in excessive exercise can be a symptom of depression. A quick call to people like ‘beyond blue’ by either Freedman or Westaway could have confirmed this.

The thing I do agree with Freedman on is that, “Kim is the canary down the mineshaft. Kim is simply a magnified reflection of society.” What Freedman’s feminism is telling me is that as a mother a sexualised body is not acceptable. However the presentation of Kang’s body as something to aspire to is never questioned. In fact it is further held up as desirable as Freedman allows Westaway to link not only the physical health that is implied by the picture but also mental health. Kang’s image of herself as a mother as well as a ‘beautiful body’ is ok but Kardashian’s image of herself as a mother as well as sexual is offensive. 

In truth Freedman’s motherhood concept is just as restrictive and twisted as any other artificial as any other. So to Mia Freedman I give you a picture of this mothers arse.   

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