Lost Freedom

Small American flag in the ground surrounded by red mulch

It feels strange to celebrate freedom in the United States a mere 10 days after women were stripped of their rights to bodily autonomy. In fact, it’s hard to think of anything else. In addition to concerns for the reproductive freedom of my children, I’m worried — like many people — about what will be targeted next. Democracy seems very fragile at this point.

I’ve been in a daze since the Supreme Court running in Dobbs vs Jackson was announced. It was only yesterday that I realized that I was feeling more than simply “out of sorts.” I have been sleeping more and feel lethargic during the day. I startle awake during the night from obscure nightmares that I cannot remember and then am unable to fall back asleep.

Ger commented to me yesterday that I looked tired. I am tired. Between disturbed sleep and the emotional weight of fearing for the future, I’m exhausted.

I’ve felt this way before, after Nelle and Iris died. The days were so heavy and I didn’t know what to do next. I would look around and think, “How can other people keep going while I’m stuck in this place — feeling my loss so intensely?” Back then, writing was a form of escape for me. And now I struggle to find words each day.

I also had space to grieve, because people understood my loss. It was tangible and linear: I lost my babies. The loss of a human right doesn’t directly thread itself between a rogue court ruling and my day-to-day life. But that doesn’t mean that the loss isn’t profound.

I remember feeling quite comatose after the 2016 election. I happened to be enrolled in a grief writing course at the time, ten months after Iris died. Grief, anger, and disbelief became intermingled. But the feelings I had after the election results were also hypothetical. I was very concerned about what would happen to the country next, but the impact wasn’t immediate.

The past ten days have forced me to relive some of my own pregnancy experiences. I replay the moments in my mind, wondering how different the outcomes would have been if my access to care had been limited. I’ve written before about facing pregnancy-related decisions.

And some details I’ve kept private. In the past, it was because I feared judgment. The experiences were painful enough without inviting commentary from other people. But now, I’m defiant. My choices were mine — for any reason, and without any government interference or religious indignation. I don’t share more because it invites a hierarchy of Acceptable Reasons.

In my support group for pregnancy loss, we always say, “No one is entitled to your story.”

Since I recognized the slump I’m in, I’m doing the best I can to pull myself forward — while also fully recognizing that anxiety and depression are physiological responses. Yesterday, I went for a long walk with my 12-year-old son. That time in the sun was good for me.

And on this “Independence Day” I’m going to be at home, surrounded only by my family. We had bigger plans but cancelled them due to a recent run-in Ger had with poison ivy. I’m somewhat relieved that we don’t have to be around people. Though it would have been a distraction, there also would have been a cloud hanging over the gathering.

Better to cook hot dogs and let the kids run through the sprinkler and not be forced to put on a smile.

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