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Spilt milk 10,000 miles away

My name is Nicole. I’m a scientist and a mother, but underneath all of that I am a woman. Not only this but like all women I have faced significant adversity because of my gender. I have stood in front of a man clutching my abdomen explaining I am bleeding heavily, at a hospital where I was told to ‘rough it’ because the then law made it illegal to transport me or for me to use public spaces or restrooms. As if a dog on heat, I have walked out of a hospital, walked 1.5km to my car in agony bleeding through my pants and squatted on the side of the road, hands resting on dried eucalyptus leaves, as the product of conception violently ejected itself from my body.

Upon making a complaint about this injustice, I have been told by the director (a man) of a hospital, that despite blood work indicating I was pregnant, I wasn’t bleeding enough and couldn’t have been having a miscarriage – because I didn’t bleed on cue. I have been ignored in both my professional and in public life, harassed, assaulted, and objectified and raped. All because of my biology. I have missed work, opportunities and taken countless sick days. All of this, simply for having a uterus, an organ that the opposite sex (men) don’t have. And before I even used her (my uterus) to the full extent of the activities she is capable of, I knew inequality in the deepest part of my soul. This is because I am a woman. This is what it means to be a woman even in my own country, Australia.

I have lived through all of that despite that abortion is now legal in every state and territory in my country. All of that, and I can still swallow and say what happened to me really could be much worse. For you see, I am absurdly privileged, I could have been charged with murder for miscarrying or forced to carry a pregnancy I didn’t want, to full term. Maybe it’s because I am now a mother and I know the challenges that carrying a (wanted) human to full term can bring, but I’ve never felt such despair and hopelessness as I do right now. But this is not because I feel my country (with all of its flaws) is somehow awash with even half of the worlds injustices towards women, but because an array of vast immeasurable and inconceivable inequality has suddenly struck my sisters in the United States – more than I ever thought possible or ever imagined could be thrown into reverse. For the last week, I have been lost for words. I want to tell you about the moment I finally found them.

My hands grip the pump, as I read about their stories. My eye’s glaze as I feel each click of the suction emptying my heavy, engorged breasts. I’m away from my 8 month old daughter and I’m collecting what would be her next feed. I make too much milk, a curse that I have learned to appreciate and accept by sharing my milk with others. My hands shake under the vibrations of the pump as I scroll through the newsfeed. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, I’ve been searching for the right emotions. One of my best friends lives in the US and in fact many people I care about live in the US, intricately connected through our neurodiversity and or because we are likeminded. I try to gather my thoughts but still can’t find the words to bring them to life. A whole range of thoughts and feelings escape me, but I know one things for sure, I feel white hot guilt. I have never been more glad that I am not a US citizen.

Trying to make sense of it all, I finished pumping my milk and wander into my kitchen in a daze. Clasping the milk in one hand and reading stories of the US injustice in another, my hand suddenly slips and 160 ml of milk tuples onto the floor. I stop in silence as I watch it helplessly fall. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, unless of course it’s breastmilk and everybody knows that. Except, I didn’t cry because I know there is plenty more where it came from, my freezer is stacked sky high, in fact there’s 20 more litres of it neatly sandwiched in the freezer, taking up an entire freezer drawer. It was too poetic for words. So as the milk toppled off the bench onto the kitchen floor, I did not cry – I screamed. I stand and stare at it, a thick white puddle, but I’m enraged like I’ve never been before. I screamed because not a moment later it hit me all once-everything that I had been feeling. There on the floor in a thick white puddle was…my privilege. It was my privilege staring back at me from the milk soaked tiled floor. My cold ugly, white, brazened-Aussie (imperfect) yet universally sound-healthcare soaked privilege, on display for all. In perfect poetry I stood in my kitchen and screamed -160ml of milk 10,000 miles away from any injustice mothers face in the US today.

10,000 miles away, splattered on the floor, was a full meal for a baby the same age as mine. A full meal for a baby in a formula shortage, whose mother was unable to breastfeed, can’t access breastmilk and is also pregnant right now. A mother who already can barely afford to feed their current child and who will be forced – due to Roe v. Wade – to bring another one into the world. 10,000 miles away from any danger, a milk bottle pooling on the floor, in a place where spilt milk and unwanted pregnancies are two problems that for me can equally be solved. Right then and there was the ugly injustice of it all because no matter what I did, no matter how hard I screamed, I would never be able to share such rights that are so blatantly, unapologetically and rightfully mine.

My name is Nicole and whilst all of my pregnancies have been wanted, I have held the hands and felt the silence that an unwanted pregnancy can bring. These hands have guided and supported others who felt that it wasn’t the right time. These hands, the same hands (and feet) that pressed on the cold hard ground as a wanted pregnancy violently exited my uterus, have walked into a clinic, without being harassed and patiently waited as hard and easy decisions were safely and autonomously made. These hands have also guided as I typed from afar support for some of my US friends. In a heartbeat (a real heartbeat) if I ever found myself in a situation with a pregnancy I didn’t want, I would do the same. Without question if I ever found myself in a situation with a pregnancy that should not be, I would do the same. My name is Nicole and I love someone who has had an abortion, in fact many people that I love have had an abortion.

I have never felt such despair for women as I do right now, as those with a uterus have suddenly found their body is not their own. My heart, my mind, and my soul is bleeding from places I never knew before. Every inch of my body feels unhinged and desperate. I feel suffocated, distilled and broken, not because I am lost but because we are all so broken together. So broken because your rights are broken, so broken because your rights we lost. Without your rights, without the rights of all women, without equal rights for all, my rights and progress, mean nothing. Without your rights, my rights are milk soaked gluttony and a selfish affair.

I wish there was something I could say, I wish there was something I could do. I feel utterly useless, utterly helpless, and yet all I can do is stand on the side line with my milk soaked privileged stare. At the very least please know that your sisters in Australia will never stop listening to you, our ears and hearts are always open. We would stop at nothing to help you, in any way we can – however and where-ever possible; we will stop at nothing to see that the choice is yours, and if that’s not enough we will move the continents to get to you, and bring you safely to our arms. With all of our hearts, we are here for you and with all of our souls we will unapologetically bleed with you.

 

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5 comments

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  1. Roswell

    Just wow, Nicole. That blew me away.

  2. Keitha Granville

    tears sobbing heartbreak

    Women all over the world could read these words and KNOW all of those feelings.
    Women all over the world feel your pain, their pain, every woman’s pain.
    No man will EVER know or understand. Most of the conflicts in the world right now are caused by MEN fighting other MEN, seeking the power of other MEN. Most women wouldn’t waste their time on such pointless ‘bigger dick’ fights. We are too busy feeding our children.
    That is our collective power, and that is why we women are united in a way men can NEVER understand. If we could harness that collective power worldwide, men would have zero chance.
    We must continue to fight, everywhere, every battle, for every woman.
    Most of all we must continue to love.

  3. Anne Naomi Byam

    A decisive and powerful writing … thank you. I can only hope many many people see this and respond positively.

    The overturning of the Roe vs Wade justice is barely believable, yet it has happened. It is the dark ages revisited. Women are again publicly burned … It puts the U.S. in the unenviable position of being likened to a few Middle Eastern countries we all know about.

    Despite 3 of the judges appointed being women, it comes down to the fact that support from Congress ( as I understand it ), showed a decidedly distinct division between men and women, the majority votes for upholding the overturning of this decades old judicial finding, were from men.

    So men through this kind of despicable occurrence, might be persuaded to think they can rule over womens lives even more than they have in the past, and recent past. I believe a fairly high % of men do think that, whether they act upon it or not, but unfortunately for decades / centuries we as women have tolerated it. Have learned to put up with it. THAT is our bad.

    But NO MORE. I so hope that a huge and loud outcry in the U.S. will evolve from this issue, and that somehow common sense will prevail and make what is a most difficult decision for most women to make, a private matter for herself and her doctors, without legal interference or implication. And I trust that a bigger % of men will join the outcry … it is time they did, and I think the kinder and more considerate men indeed will. I would love to be surprised if a bigger % of general male population, comes forward in support, than I think might.

    p.s. ( By the way, I am not a misandrist ! ).

  4. wam

    I remember reading about a women travelling the riverland road who suffered a god’s abortion. She neither received medical help nor any understanding from the police nor from hospital staff. It was an horrendous account of trauma.
    The religious nutters involved in overturning wade/roe have an agenda akin to Nicole’s words ” I could have been charged with murder”. A miscarriage will result in the women being arrested and having to prove it was god not her actions that was the cause. An action ranges from a drink, exercise, lifting, climbing, driving, riding and anything the sick minds of MANY religious conservatives, but nowhere near all, men and their women can conjure. ps Keitha men can never ‘know’ but we can have enough compassion and empathy to understand, I have long been writing of the green, white and purple move for women. Usually to derision and now it is a pride symbol. What do you suggest for a rally call?

  5. Terence Mills

    A powerful article, Nicole.

    Sadly the US Supreme Court dealt with black-letter law and not the reality and daily experiences of women.

    The question they were asked was ‘Is abortion a constitutional right ?’ The answer they delivered was ‘No, not under the U.S. Constitution’.

    In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade (1973), which guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion. This now places the US in precisely the situation that prevails in Australia : abortion is not a constitutional guarantee (we don’t have a Bill of Rights in Australia) and thus the responsibility and oversight reverts to the states

    It has taken a long and tortuous time in Australia to finally decriminalise abortion in all states and territories : Abortion has now been fully decriminalised in all jurisdictions, starting with Western Australia in 1998 and lastly, and finally, in South Australia in 2022.

    The Australian state laws are far from uniform but at least we only have a handful of states to legislate whereas in the US it’s more like herding cats !

    The law is like a pantomime horse controlled by two ‘men’ pulling in opposite directions : we need more women and mothers on the bench !

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