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.
Celenia, Thank you for this touching and very necessary three-part essay. I hope it has very wide circulation.
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