When I Was 10

Girl #1 - Me
The day the bleeding started
I was almost 11.

I was at a swim meet
with other 4th, 5th and 6th grade girls.
I wasn't very fast; I never won,
but I loved the coolness
and the blueness 
of the Olympic-sized pool.
The change of density from
moving through air to
moving through water,
the change in gravity and
how light and buoyant I felt.

I pulled myself up and out 
at the shallow end after the relay.
I did the breast stroke.
Water trickled down my face,
my arms, my back, my legs.
I draped my towel
over my shoulders
and pulled off my cap.
A teammate's mother
pulled the towel off my shoulders
and wrapped it around my torso.
She gently led me to the ladies' room.
"You're bleeding," she said softly
pulling the towel away from me
and pointing to the white-tiled floor.
A little puddle of blood
was gathering between my feet,
from the rivulet that had started
between my legs
and ran down my inner thighs.

Later that night
Mom congratulated me on
"becoming a woman."
It seemed ridiculous to me
that my small body
was now a woman's. 
I knew what she meant though.
She'd told me about periods,
how babies were made.
It was something to be celebrated,
this miracle that was my body. 

Girl #2 - Her
When I was 10 we lived in Ohio.
Momma says my bleeding started
earlier than most,
as if it was my fault, 
as if it was a curse.
That's what she called it,
"The Curse."
She didn't say much more about it,
but what she did say
taught me to hate it.

And then this man did that awful thing to me.
A stranger.
It hurt.
And weeks later
when I should have bled,
I didn't.

And now they say that if
I don't get to Indiana
a full, live baby
is going to come out of me.
"Babies having babies," my Momma says.
She looks scared,
but I'm not sure if
she's scared for me
or scared for her.
It's like I did something wrong
when I know I didn't. 

All the grownups talk real quiet now,
always whispering around me.
That's when you know
something bad's going down.

My body is not my friend.

Girl #3 - Someone You Know
My parents just started letting me
cross the street by myself.
I'm too young to babysit my baby brother,
even though I can feed him 
and change his diaper. 
I like pretending I'm 
his mother. 
My older sister - she's 13 -
says next year
they're going to take the girls
into a separate assembly
and teach us about our bodies.
She says blood is going to come 
out from between my legs.
She exaggerates all the time,
and loves freaking me out. 
She says it's so that
my body can make a baby.
I'm just a kid!
Kids don't have babies!
Do they?

The story of the 10-year old girl in Ohio who was impregnated by her rapist and had to travel to Indiana to get a legal abortion made my blood boil. I tried to remember my 10-year old self. I tried to imagine being this little girl, a scared, pregnant, rape survivor. I tried to wrap my brain around what the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision will impose upon all the pregnant bodies in this country where abortion is now illegal. The unfathomable, horrific stories are just beginning.

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