Poetry, Magic and Motherhood

The Hexing Circle: International Poetry Magic

There’s no denying the current global pandemic caused by Covid-19 has been a real buzzkill. We’ve been trapped indoors, unable to socialise with our closest friends and family for months, to travel outside of our local communities, or even to spend time outdoors without restriction.

As a new mother, this time has been particularly challenging for me – I faced the second and third trimesters of my pregnancy in isolation, unable to seek support from those I was so desperate to spend time with – my mother, my sisters, my best friends. When my son was born, we had to make the decision not to allow even my husband’s parents to hold him, and it still saddens me that no one outside of our immediate circle has been able to cuddle and enjoy him as he reaches three months old.

For pregnant women and new mothers in the UK, Covid-19 has been doubly difficult, and the guidelines and regulations, although supposedly designed to protect us, seem unjust. While groups can freely meet in bars and restaurants, and are in fact actively encouraged to do so for the sake of ‘the economy,’ pregnant women are still having to attend ultrasound scans alone, potentially to learn that their baby is suffering from complications, or even that their baby has no heartbeat. They are forced to labour alone on antenatal wards with no birthing partners at their sides. Those same birthing partners could, however, be downing a pint at the local, amongst hoards of other people.

When my son was born 4 weeks early, I spent a night alone in hospital, labouring slowly and steadily throughout, trying to focus on positive affirmations and stave off any fear about being alone and delivering a premature baby. All this in an unfamiliar hospital an hour away from home, and without any of my birth plans in place, due to being pre-term. The next day, once my waters had fully broken, I was left to labour alone for hours before my husband was allowed to join me and offer any support or comfort.

A few complications related to his preterm birth meant my son had to stay in SCBU for a week, while I stayed on the postnatal ward. This meant a week in hospital with no visitors – no family, no friends, and no one allowed to meet my son. My husband was able to see him in SCBU, but only by himself – we couldn’t be on the ward at the same time, couldn’t bond with our baby together, couldn’t support each other in a difficult and frightening time while our tiny baby was hooked up to machines and tube fed. A handful of times, we coordinated meeting briefly in the corridors in what felt like a throwback to our school days. I feel I should say that the staff at the hospital were caring, compassionate and wonderful throughout. Still, there are no routine health visitor visits, no postnatal check-ups to ensure everything is okay physically and mentally and no baby groups or social opportunities.

Llew at 3 months old

Whilst I fully understand that the restrictions are in place to protect us all, I am troubled that, once again, women at their most vulnerable hour are bearing the brunt of governmental decisions which are at best careless, and at worst spiteful, selfish and misogynistic. This is just my recent experience – there are so many thousands more, and millions that extend far beyond Covid and beyond the UK and the USA.

In January 2017, the US administration re-introduced a Republican policy that blocks Government funding to non-US organisations that perform abortion with their own funding. Since its introduction, the Global Gag Rule has put millions of women’s lives at risk, particularly poorer women, and counterintuitively resulted in a higher number of abortions, as well as an increase in dangerous and deadly procedures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women in the United States are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes, something Serena Williams recently spoke about.

Just last year in Alabama, Marshae Jones was indicted for manslaughter after losing a pregnancy having been shot in the abdomen while her shooter remained free.

In El Salvador, women who suffer the tragedy of miscarriage and stillbirth still face prison sentences on charges of murder.

While we’ve come a long way, there is still so much wrong.

On November 1st, I will be joining five magical poets – Zoë Brigley, Ruth Awad, Saschar Akhta, Melissa Studdard and Christina Thatcher – for a pre-election poetry event. Although I’ve missed live events, a positive to come from the pandemic has been the necessity to hold events online, which has facilitated more international poetry circles and book launches, and meant that attendees and contributors can tune in from anywhere. It’s also meant I’ve been able to keep in touch with the poetry community, despite being at home with a highly demanding baby!

Ahead of the 2020 US election, we’ll be channelling our poetic powers against misogyny, against a government that fears feminine power and works constantly to thwart female bodily autonomy, and against the policing of reproductive rights.

There are so many more issues than this, of course, and so much more to be concerned about, including racism, LGBTQ+ rights, transphobia, austerity and countless others.

Both US and UK governments in their current forms are corrupt, patriarchal and dangerous.

If you feel you need a little power and levity during the election period, join our Hexing Circle – email thompson.3022@osu.edu for the Zoom link.

#ButNotMaternity

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