The Sign I Carry

Photo: (CC): andres musta

On Saturday, this 50-year-old will don a pink pussyhat and tuck poster board under my arm, then hop the bus to downtown Seattle, joining tens of thousands at the Women’s March in my city, while hundreds of thousands march in Washington, D.C., and other cities around the country. Now I need to figure out a slogan for my sign. Why do I march?

I march for my 33-year-old self, the woman who in the summer of 1999 discovered at seven months along, she carried a baby with a fatal birth defect.

The genetic counselor at Evergreen Hospital, said, “Trisomy 13 babies don’t live long. He will be severely developmentally disabled. He will never walk, talk or feed himself.”

If I wanted to investigate ending the pregnancy, I could take my case to the hospital ethics board. I gave birth to Max a month later. He lived 4–1/2 days.

I march for women like me. I march for Max and for Jack, my son born one year later.

I march for my 36-year-old self, the woman who in the fall of 2002 was six months pregnant with a girl. The baby’s movements slowed and the ultrasound showed a tumor in her chest. The doctor said my baby most likely wouldn’t survive the weekend. I had a couple of options. He could induce now, while she was still alive. Or I could wait until she died in my womb, then induce. “Take some time this weekend to think about what you want to do and call us when you’ve decided,” he said. Either choice meant I wouldn’t be pregnant much longer.

I went home and made arrangements. By Saturday, the baby’s movements were fewer and fewer, just a barely-registered thump every now and then. Sunday afternoon, it felt like a log was floating in my uterus. But I knew it wasn’t a log. It was my baby. Monday morning, I checked into a labor and delivery room with a view of Husky Football Stadium. The technician performed one last ultrasound that confirmed there was no heartbeat. My daughter had died. Her birth date and death date would be one and the same.

I march for women like me. I march for all young women. I march for my daughter.

I march, too, for my mother, who lives with cancer, and who, like her mother and like me, was diagnosed in her 40s.

I march for people with health problems. I march for people with pre-existing conditions.

I march for my brother who had schizophrenia, who survived to 42 years of age thanks to government disability checks and healthcare. My brother, who would now be mocked by those in power.

I march for those who are differently-abled.

I march for LGBTQ loved ones.

I march for Muslim Americans.

I march for refugees.

I march for immigrants.

I march for my Jamaican-American brother-in-law and my nieces and nephews.

I march for my elderly parents who benefit from social security and government healthcare.

I march for journalists.

I march for our democracy.

I march for free speech and peaceful assembly.

I march for agnostics like me and other non-Christians.

I march for freedom of religion.

I march for our Constitution.

I march for love of country.

And, yes, I march for that twenty-two-year-old woman so sure a man knew what to do, so sure a man should lead, so sure a man should be entrusted with her wellbeing that she didn’t ask him to wear a condom.

I march for women like me. I march for you.

Now it’s clear which words belong on my sign:

HANDS OFF

HUMAN RIGHTS

What’s on your sign? Why do you march?

This was originally published at The Huffington Post.