Bread and roses, bread and roses

I want to tell a story I don’t tell often.

I’ve done everything from assisting with pap smears, on-site project management for new health facilities, providing emotional support during pregnancy loss, one-on-one education and emotional processing through pregnancy options, and – abortion care. This is where I began, and it’s where my heart laid a foundation of compassion toward womxn, and trusting what they say about themselves.

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One Wednesday night, I held a woman’s hand, as I often did. I held her hand and guided her through her procedure. Her heart was breaking, as well as relief flooding over her. (Sometimes the truth is messy. It’s not straightforward.) She looked at me, with tears in her eyes, and said,

“I will never forget your face.”

and I said:

“I will never forget yours.”

And I haven’t. It’s been about 5 years. Due to lack of grant funding, my position at my last project management site ended, and I found myself, for the first time, in a surprising place.

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An open space. What now? Where do I go next? What are my values, and how do I serve my community from them?

I keep remembering her face, but almost more vividly, our hands clasped together. The need for a tangible comfort and support circles back to me, again and again. In all the work I do within reproductive health, I ask – how can we make this better? How can we make this more comfortable, more accessible? Are we thinking creatively about meeting all needs?

When I sent a goodbye letter to my colleagues once my tenure ended, I ended it with this poem:

“As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,

A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,

Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,

For the people hear us singing: Bread and Roses! Bread and Roses!

 

As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,

For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;

Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.

 

As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead

Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread.

Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.

Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.

 

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;

Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses.”

Hearts starve as well as bodies, bread and roses, bread and roses.

This is how I approach the work and care that I give. It is not enough to survive – we all deserve to thrive. Every person, through any pregnancy experience – childbirth, post-partum and the fourth trimester, IVF and LGBTQ family planning, abortion, and miscarriage management – are among the spectrum of pregnancy experiences that deserve support. And for me – I’m here to bring the roses.

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