Trigger warning: abortion, stillbirth
I was 25 weeks pregnant when, during a routine visit, a physician placed her hand on my shoulder and told me that she had noticed a significant series of birth defects on the ultrasound photos of my daughter. At my anatomy scan five weeks prior, a different doctor erroneously told me everything was perfect.
We had managed to get five heartbreakingly naïve and yet joyful weeks of knowing we had a daughter on the way – enough time to build a nursery, buy a wardrobe, send out baby shower invitations. This was the moment – on that table, in that medical office — my world came crashing down for the first time. You see, I live in Florida, where the cut off for a safe and legal abortion is 24 weeks, regardless of physician error; where any measure of empathy or compassion do not matter as much as arbitrary cut off dates set by old white men with no medical backgrounds who arrogantly and wrongfully believe that they care about my much wanted and loved daughter as much as I – her mother.
As my own physical health was not technically in direct jeopardy due to the pregnancy, there was nothing my doctors – the ones with the medical knowledge and training — could do to let my daughter go in peace. The weeks that followed felt like drowning in the vast ocean – like treading water while my muscles ached and sharks bit chunks of flesh from my body little by little. Most days, even all these years later, I am amazed that I survived. The bruises still ache, usually when I am least expecting them to.
From the gut-wrenching diagnosis day where my daughter was deemed incompatible with life, through the fight for my own existence – autonomy itself was asking too much — and into the day she would be born blue-lipped and quiet into the night – on our wedding anniversary, of all days — catapulting me into a world of grief that never would feel completely normal to navigate, I existed with an unquenchable anger. I was told by well-intentioned relatives and friends that it was not the time to be political, because I was grieving. They reciprocated my rage with silence.
The thing is, it was absolutely was time to be political.
Years later, a gunman would enter the halls of my former high school and open fire. He would steal children, spouses, parents, educators. The city of Parkland met the bloodshed with revolt. Grieving, broken, mourning and mad as hell, we followed our youth as they took to the streets to desperately and angrily plea for their own lives. Again. More begging the so-called adults in charge to please spare lives, to please prioritize public safety for once. Still, the pro-life party clutched their precious guns with a loving reassurance and hurriedly let us know that it, too, was not the time to be political.
But it still was.
And it is the time to be political every time someone new becomes a hashtag on Twitter – a price to seemingly pay for purely Existing While Black. Or when calls for equality and justice are met with a doubling down of police violence. Or when white men wielding assault rifles storm State Capitol buildings shouting demands of reckless entitlement and America calls it freedom. It is the time to be political when the ICU capacity continues to dwindle while the death toll here in Florida rises. When teachers are hysterical over choosing between their careers and their lives. When the leaders in charge hold firm to their ignorant, anti-science beliefs and a loyalty to a political party that prides itself on a belief of a supposed right to life they’ve yet to actually execute.
A healthy, beautiful nine-year-old child died here in Florida from coronavirus. She is not the first child to die from the virus here in Florida, but she is the latest casualty from a virus that our Governor insists doesn’t really impact children. For some reason, though, that Governor who also ran on a platform heavy on promises to make good on this alleged commitment to a right to life fell silent on this news. Fret not, as he managed to still sneak in the signing of a dangerous abortion bill, as actual children and human beings fall dead around him, so I suppose he still gets to wear his pro-life badge proudly. Priorities and all.
I want to tell you, quickly, about the day I met my husband. (Bear with me here.) I was fifteen years old and he was sixteen years old, and it was the first day of school at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Two punk rock kids crossed each other’s path before the bell and stared at each other for a solid thirty seconds before continuing the walk to their respective first period classes. It sounds absolutely silly – almost as silly as the Sid Vicious-esque padlock necklace I wore each day – but I declared to my best friend that I would marry that boy in the Lars Frederickson and the Bastards shirt one day. I didn’t know his name at the time, but I was sure of it. She laughed then – how often had I made that same statement when meeting a boy, especially one who played in a local band? – but she would inevitably tell that story during her Maid of Honor speech at our wedding.
My husband is diabetic. I know what that means for his chances at surviving coronavirus, because doctors have told us — and I try to walk the ever-so fine line between soul-sucking pessimism and a cautious reality in order to survive each day amidst a global pandemic that has rendered us unable to leave the house, at least not safely, since March. At 34, I don’t really remember a life without him in it, but each news story or medical update has me too close to imagining having to navigate one in the future.
I’ve pleaded with enough Republican lawmakers in my lifetime — for the ability to have some autonomy over my own body, for reproductive justices and freedoms for all, for common sense gun legislation to maybe aid in our children not being gunned down in their classrooms, even for a mere shred of compassion — than I ever imagined I would as a young child who was fed the fallacies that this was a country of freedoms, of justice, of liberties.
It is not, and that is why it is time to be political.
I do not want to lose another child. I cannot live through losing another child, which I realize is one of those slightly irrational wildcard statements to make because life doesn’t exactly give us a choice. A local mother here in Broward County is grieving as she lost two of her children to the virus, one right after the other. Certainly, life didn’t give her a choice. Each day that passes by that the Governor refuses to issue a mask mandate or do, well, anything to prevent the slow of this virus is another reason that he is complicit in these deaths and all others that have occurred and will inevitably occur as he fumbles his pathetic attempt at leadership.
I do not want my children to live through losing a parent — or both of their parents – due to an epic mishandling of a global pandemic with a level of severity that is being hailed, somehow, as a matter of opinion. “Do what you are comfortable with,” say people who seem to believe a highly contagious and deadly virus cares what you’re comfortable with – and why is anyone comfortable with willingly exposing themselves or their families to a potentially lethal virus, anyway? That’s right: matter of opinion. The American way – shrugging off any scientific research in favor of opinion and the fallacy of freedom.
My husband and I made a will back in March, meticulously choosing “replacement parents” for our children in the event of our demise, and I sat with the peace of that decision being made for a good ten minutes before I decided to make one final request in the event that I lose my life to coronavirus: I want you to politicize my death.
Please, do not let anyone say that there should just be a time to grieve. That our family needs privacy. That my children do not want their mothers name paraded around like a weapon wielded by the left – they do, as I raised them to be activists and use their voices to advocate for righteousness and the seemingly impossible concept of true justice. Please, do not let the differing beliefs of any estranged family members use my name as rightwing fodder or try to suffocate the flames of rage with a blanket of Now Is Not The Time To Be Political.
It is. You know the whole “die mad about it” thing? If I die of this virus, I assure you, I have died mad about it. I’ve taken that literally. I’ve carried with me my anger, rage and bitterness to the very end and now I’m passing the torch. Tag, you’re it.
Please politicize my death by reminding Governor DeSantis that recently, when Florida broke its death toll record for days in a row, he had yet to enforce a mandatory mask mandate. Please remind him that he has lied on press briefings on the regular – most notoriously about the impacts of this virus on children – without a single pause. Please remind him that he, Cruella DeVos and the maniacal clown who occupies the White House are fighting tirelessly to put children and their teachers into school buildings during a pandemic. This means they are not committed to saving lives, but only to ending them. One by one. Without a shred of second thought. The jig is up on the pro-life façade, my friends.
Please politicize my death by reminding Governor DeSantis that he said – out loud – “I think we are on the right course” the day that Florida hit 400,000 cases. Let him know that my children needed me, and he took me from them to appease his leader. He won’t care, of course. He hasn’t cared about a single one of the 6,000+ who have died in the state he voluntarily ran to represent. My family didn’t vote for him, of course, but how many of those 6,000+ did? Over six thousand Floridians have died on his watch as he sits at pointless roundtables and mutters vapid platitudes to the news cameras, as if we are supposed to be reassured by his empty promises and proverbial “there there” headpats. As if within moments, anything he says isn’t immediately discredited by an actual medical professional.
We could have had an entirely different outcome, which those of us quarantined at home long for as we watch the news reports from other countries where competent leadership and a belief in science has managed to save countless lives and has allowed life to slip back into some semblance of normalcy. It certainly isn’t just me who has cried real tears wishing Jacinda Arden could reach through the television and save us all, one by one, right?
Alas, we are stuck in the land of freedom, opportunities and – saying this part with honesty instead of through gritted teeth — blatant narcissism. We are but states left to our Governors to decide how we fare, or how many loved ones we lose, or if our children will be marched into classrooms like lambs to the slaughter. This works out better for some of us than others. Some of us, like myself, have the extreme disadvantage of being governed by a man who has opted for denial in lieu of science. Who cares how many bodies are piled into refrigerated trucks so long as he gets praise from a man who can drink a glass of water with one hand and walk down a ramp, am I right? I often wonder if he washes the blood from his hands every night before he says his prayers and kisses his children goodnight. Maybe he doesn’t even bother.
As a state, we are screwed. At minimum, we lose a year. At most, we lose our families, friends and our lives. As a nation, we are simply being led into despair by a total jackass who wonders, out loud, during a televised tantrum, why nobody likes him.
157,000 dead Americans – and counting. And that is only a sliver as to why.