The Other Day I Peed on a Stick
and when I peed on the stick I knew my blood was like poison.
When I turned 18, I had just started my medication, I peed on a stick, called a number
from the phone book to see if I could afford an abortion without anyone knowing.
It was a pro-life group with a deceptive name, the woman begging me to keep the baby.
So I told my mother. The doctor she took me to stuck his head in the room, said “Congratulations, you’re pregnant.” Shut the door. The woman who filled out my outtake form rattled on about her midwife. Her face changed. “You’re happy about this, right?”
She slowly drew hearts around her midwife’s name.
I wished those hearts could work some sort of magic —
make my blood less like the poison I was just beginning to know.
My mother’s aunt died of a back alley abortion. My mother wrote a poem about it called, “Floating,” because as she bleeds to death she is floating above the pain. Or maybe it was the ether that killed her. All sorts of things could kill you from an abortion back then.
At 22 my mother’s future mother-in-law said, “I can get you an abortion, but you have to say you’re crazy.” But my mother wanted him. In fact, my mother has wanted every pregnancy, especially the miscarriage. She has his mobile hanging above her bed.
A group of tiny ceramic bears in bowties that clink sweetly, quietly.
The other day I peed on a stick and when I peed on the stick
I knew my blood was like poison, but without my medication, I’ll go crazy.
I’ll never be the girl in the movie who throws up, pees on a stick, then says,
honey? I’m pregnant! And runs to her lover. Buys bitty shoes. Buys bitty hats.
I’ll never read aloud to my belly, then deny doing such a silly thing.
I won’t look into a tiny face and see a glimmer of me, of my mother, of my husband.
I won’t be looking at someone I will love forever. Someone to give the world to.
Someone for whom I’d make sure the world was something to fall in love with.
Trump is the President-elect. I peed on a stick and when I peed on the stick I knew
my blood was like poison and I’d spare a child all sorts of deformity, sickness.
I waited the two minutes you have to wait, wondering, what if he changes everything?
What if someday I can’t get an abortion, my blood like poison?
Will we use the phrase “back alley,” keep notes for other women of doctors who perform
the operation? Could I become a story my nephews tell? Another aunt with a tragic end? Will I float above the pain? Right out of the world I’d try to make magical for my child
if my blood was nothing, wasn’t anything like poison.
Rae Rose is a California poet and essayist whose work has been published in Cicada Magazine, Lilith Magazine and The Paterson Review, among other literary journals. Her book, Bipolar Disorder for Beginners is an account, in poetry and prose, of her struggles with that disease. Marge Piercy characterizes it as “powerful and emotionally charged.” Rae earned her MFA from Goddard College and is a poetry editor for Writers Resist.
Reading recommendation: Bipolar Disorder for Beginners by Rae Rose.