Cover Photo: This isn’t the authenticity you’re looking for by Emily Zero

This isn’t the authenticity you’re looking for

I'm told that my authenticity is unsettling. The words aren’t nice and they don’t look nice even if you put them in an artistically sloppy cursive font over a background of pastel succulents.

This isn’t the authenticity you’re looking for

I want this post to be authentic, people write to start their Facebook (Fecesbook, my mind helpfully autocorrects) post where they announce with glee their pregnancy. Sometimes they mention that they realize that others (not themselves, is strongly implied) struggle to become pregnant, and that they want those people (again, only other people are unable to become enceinte the instant they decide they want to) to know how #blessed they feel that God has given them this gift, and that they are sure those people will be similarly gifted…later.

The long string of comments are only always congratulatory. Some people congratulate them on their pregnancy; many people call them “mama” or “mom”. A few more perspicacious readers will congratulate them on their sensitivity, their authenticity.

Nobody dares comment who disagrees. Nobody dares comment whose authenticity looks anything but identical.

What is my authenticity? You don’t want it. You might think you do but once you read it your face will twist into an expression somewhere between pity and disgust. You’ll rationalize it to yourself by reminding yourself that my brain doesn’t work the way yours does; I lack empathy. No human would authentically feel the way I do.

I had a miscarriage at almost 9 weeks of pregnancy. I almost bled to death in the first-floor bathroom of my in-law’s house, and it was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I lost about 2 pints of blood. I’m a scientist and I measure things. Even while fuzzily conscious as my body mutilated itself to expel a disturbingly large mass of dead tissue, I was measuring things. Those giant, 24-hour pads that all the websites say to go to the hospital if you fill one in less than 20 minutes? I was filling one about every 10 minutes for the two hours bookending the “active labor” component of this event, and during the active part, I lost far more blood.

I decided at some point that I would rather bleed out in that bathroom than have my extremely religious, anti-choice in-laws know what was happening to me. When it was mostly over and I was shaking and pale and the exhaustion was starting to catch up with me, a sister-in-law who I risked telling because I was pretty sure she wouldn’t rat me out wrapped me up in a sleeping bag and gave me a litre of lemon water to drink.

It would help slow the bleeding, she said. I was pretty sure that was homeopathic nonsense but also pretty sure I was at least slightly dehydrated, so I drank it and slept for the next 8 hours.

My authenticity looks like waffling for almost five weeks after I found out I was pregnant over whether or not to get an abortion, weighing the fact that I would rather be dead than be a mother against the fact that I didn’t have my own car, had no job, and lived with my husband and anti-choice extremist parents.

My authenticity is the decision I eventually came to, that I did not know for sure that my parents were not being literal when they told five-year-old me that they would beat the tar out of me if I ever grew up and got an abortion, but that if I managed to survive carrying the fetus to term, I could leave my husband and his child and start my life over.

My authenticity looks like waking up new year’s eve in a pool of blood inside a sleeping bag on a floor strewn with dried dog poop, sopping it up with toilet paper, then going back to sleep, only to wake up a few hours later in a larger pool of blood when the miscarriage started to swing into high gear.

My authenticity is the relief I felt, lying in a bathtub shaking and shivering and in pain as I realized that I wasn’t going to be forced to be a parent.

Fecesbook doesn’t want this kind of authenticity. I'm told that my authenticity is unsettling. The words aren’t nice and they don’t look nice even if you put them in an artistically sloppy cursive font over a background of pastel succulents. It only wants the brand of authenticity that conforms to what other people want, that snaps into place with one thousand other matching puzzle pieces.

Fecesbook, and the authentic people writing their authentic posts, don’t want any authenticity that is different than theirs. This authenticity communicates best through quotes from Star Wars and The Office; it can’t make eye contact with your sunny kind of authenticity.

This kind of authenticity is darker. “I had a miscarriage two years ago, but it’s all ok now, everything uh…got out,” is the wrong answer to that question on a doctor’s medical history form; there is the face contorting again into something beyond pity and disgust. Presenting the facts without emotion is not authentic; in failing to look appropriately lachrymose, I come off as fake. Nowhere is the possibility that a baby might not be the best thing for someone like me; that’s not an idea that their authentic minds can hold.

This isn’t the authenticity you’re looking for. This is something more complicated, something that might be outside of your capability to understand.

I like the irony that I, robot-like, lacking in empathy, have lived an experience that you, brimming with empathy for your fellow humans, find unfathomable. That’s authentic to me.

Emily Zero is a scientist and fanfiction writer