Poetry by Rachel Galvin

Art by Dara Cerv / @dara.cerv.on.paper



Well No One Ever Said Breeding Was Easy

              A Braided Abecedarian
Attempted for years to have a child 
gave up, adopted a child, got pregnant   
             Zipping your lips is what they call it  
             when you pretend it doesn’t hurt 
Budgeted for four rounds of IVF 
had three miscarriages, one healthy baby  
             You should just adopt, people said 
Ceased taking depression meds  
to do fertility treatments and grew suicidal  
             X-rays are what they call it when they squirt you full  
             of iodine to check your tubes 
Delivered a stillborn baby, then miscarried 
             Wage gap is what they call it when women make 77 cents  
             for every dollar earned by men  
Eclampsia is what they call the seizures  
that land her in the hospital in her 8th month  
             Visa officers block pregnant women at the border  
             for fear of what they call anchor babies   
Froze six embryos just in case 
then got pregnant by accident  
             Uterine cancer is what they call it  
             when you’re exposed to toxic chemical waste   
Geriatric mother is what they call you  
when you are pregnant over 35 
             Transvaginal probes are what they put inside you  
             when you seek an abortion in 20 states 
Had an abortion, had an abortion, had a miscarriage 

             Senile vaginitis is what they call it
             when you’re in menopause
I lost at least one book, maybe one and a half 
to raising my kids, she said 
             Ran a marathon while bleeding freely 
             blood staining her leggings 
Just got home from the hospital with her newborn  
when her wife left her 
             Quit her job, dropped off each kid  
             with a different relative, and drove away	
Kept trying, kept trying, kept trying, kept trying 
kept trying, kept trying, kept trying 
             Pregnancy wastage is what they wrote on her chart 
             meaning her baby was stillborn   
Laughed out loud when she discovered she was pregnant at fifty 
             Other women were her main source of information  
             about what to do   
Married for fifteen years and can’t convince her husband  
to have a child 
             Not expecting her period, she wadded up toilet paper  
             in her panties but still bled through her pants  
Never wanted to have kids and she’s now stepmother to three 
             Mother made her sleep in the cow shed until her period was over 
Ovaries were hyperstimulated by IVF drugs  
and she gained 15 pounds in a week 
             Luxury items are how tampons and pads are classified  
             for taxes in 33 states  
Pretended everything was just swell  
as she miscarried during a job interview 
             Keeps quiet when people call him the mother  
             even though he birthed their baby after transitioning 
Questioned her choice to have a child aloud  
and to strangers in bars for years  
             Jails and prisons in the U.S. force women to work 21 hours  
             for a box of pads, 27 hours for a box of tampons 
Resolved to have a baby on her own  
and met a new partner while seven months pregnant 
             Incompetent cervix or inadequate pelvis  
             is what they called it 
Suffered through the loss of one twin in utero 
the second lived in the ICU for a year 
             Hostile uterus is what they call it  
             when your body blocks sperm like a champ 
Told no one she was pregnant, not even her partner 
until the abortion was over 
             Good news, it hurts like hell, but I swear  
             you won’t even remember it later  
Used a donated egg and smiles every time someone says her son looks like her 
             Fair practice is what they call it when she doesn’t get promoted  
             because they think she might have another child  
Vacuuming the eggs out of her ovaries hurt more than expected 
waking after the retrieval 
             Exhausted by people mistaking her for the nanny  
             because she and her son don’t have the same skin color 
Why don’t you just adopt? people asked 
             Decided to give up her newborn for adoption  
             because she wanted to finish high school 
X-rays of her fallopian tubes hurt more than expected 
returning to work after the procedure 
             C-sections mean the doctor gets paid more 
             and he’s done in an hour 
You should think about just adopting 
people advised 
             Bought food but no tampons this month  
             because she was too broke 
Zygotes are overrated 
says her friend with no kids 
             Adoption isn’t an option, she can’t opt to adopt  
             because she’s broke, too broke


Rachel Galvin’s books include Elevated Threat Level, a finalist for the National Poetry Series, and Pulleys & Locomotion. She is the translator of Raymond Queneau’s Hitting the Streets, which won the 2014 Scott Moncrieff Prize, and co-translator of Decals: Complete Early Poetry by Oliverio Girondo, a finalist for the 2019 National Translation Award. Her work appears in Best American Experimental Writing 2020, Best American Poetry 2020, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Fence, Gulf Coast, McSweeney’s, The Nation, The New Yorker, PN Review, and Poetry. She teaches at the University of Chicago.