CW: miscarriage, bleeding, rape
Hard as I try, it’s difficult to rewatch David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor without smelling blood.
It’s not his fault. But in a bid to restore a sense of normalcy to the fact that I was miscarrying and just realized I’d been pregnant because of the miscarriage itself, I threw on The Doctor for familiar noise. It happened to be Ten’s era.
Close contenders for comfort media were The Thick of It, The Twilight Zone, and Sunset Boulevard. I like seeing Julius Nicholson squirm. Wickwire providing unwitting astronauts with “eternifying fluid” intrigues me. And Norma Desmond is always a good distraction.
Unfortunately for Ten—though it could have been wild-eyed Norma, Wickwire maintaining order, or Julius and his by-appointment biscuits—I was staggering in and out of my room to pay visits to the toilet, trying not to bleed on my clothes or stationary objects.
Nobody really talks about it. I still don’t really talk about it. I’d no idea how much blood can be involved. So there’s a cold, iron scent that still weaves through Ten’s words. It’s uncanny. Time hasn’t changed it. A nearly tactile thread that reassures, it happened, it happened, it happened.
In a way I’ve yet to discover through other outlets, performance and film help me make sense of life. Something about associating The Doctor, a cosmic being responsible for both mass killings and mass rescues, with bleeding (and a transition from one state to another) was apt. And at the time, I’d been wavering between disavowal and depression. Miscarrying solidified the reality that my brain was diligently trying to shield me from. It was good to embrace, in the end.
Life, as it turned out, hadn’t been kind. Not that day and decidedly not a few weeks before. I’m sure we all remember Todd Akin, the Congressman who had asinine things to say about “legitimate rape” and the unlikelihood that it could result in pregnancy.
The Doctor may seem like a strange entrée into the draconian landscape of current abortion restrictions in Georgia, Alabama, and now, Missouri. But the conversation has grown to include (or returned to including) those who have miscarried with calls to consider it a crime. It’s all on my mind. I’m not ashamed of miscarrying. If I hadn’t, I would’ve had an abortion.
Miscarrying solidified the reality that my brain was diligently trying to shield me from.
Many years later, I am happily considering children. None of this is about shame or fear—though we should be speaking about the weaponization of shame and fear as a means of control. I need to underscore how visceral the experience was, because that tends to get lost in the politicization of a common bodily process. It isn’t generally something you can control. (And if you want to induce one, that shouldn’t be a crime, either.) Many pregnancies end in miscarriage, with the number being higher for very early incidents.
I’m not referring to pain when I write “visceral,” though there was plenty. I’m talking about how, despite political and religious rhetoric that ignores the literal experiences of miscarrying and abortion—in favor of humanizing a fetus—there is such physicality to the processes.
How one feels emotionally during these events is a separate, subjective issue. I’ve known people who were overjoyed after abortions; I’ve known people who were upset; I’ve known people who didn’t care one way or the other. I don’t know anyone who regretted it. Miscarriage can be heartbreaking to some. A relief to others.
Yet nobody should need an extenuating circumstance to have a medical procedure, just as nobody should be shamed for miscarrying as though it’s some sort of Calvinist punishment.
If there’s one thing that I want my anger—I’m not surprised we’re here because we never left; I’m just livid—to offer this discourse, it’s this: we have to acknowledge how, in actuality, both miscarriage and abortion affirm life in its myriad complexities. Banning, restricting, or criminalizing abortion more than it already has been, and officially expanding definitions of “crime” to include both miscarriage and performing safe abortions, will mean a drastic decrease in the quality of life for many people.
we have to acknowledge how, in actuality, both miscarriage and abortion affirm life in its myriad complexities
Being able to choose when you have a child—or indeed, whether you want to—is not a frivolity or a sin. Sometimes, it’s a compassionate use of higher reasoning. Other times, it’s a decision made instinctively or desperately. Neither is better than the other, but they whisper: life is messy. Life doesn’t conform to a grid. (Life can be bloody, but blood is powerful.) Importantly, life is for people who are already here.
Miscarrying echoes this affirmation, too. The echo just takes slightly different forms. If you’re grieving a life that you wanted to nurture, for example, you are living and honoring your feelings —as excruciating as they might be. I was floating above circumstances I neither expected nor wanted. It was freeing. And for the first time in weeks, I felt less catatonic. More connected to my body. Within it rather than observing it.
I’m not afraid of recalling that freedom as pseudo-synesthesia when I revisit certain episodes of Doctor Who.
I fear the cost of abstracting these experiences much more.
Featured image by Gemma Evans via Unsplash
The Norwich Radical is non-profit and run by volunteers. All funds raised help cover the maintenance costs of our website, as well as contributing towards future projects and events. Please consider making a small contribution to fund a better media future.