Poem: Thoughts on Risk

Two years ago, I read Sheila Kitzinger’s book Homebirth. In doing so, I was struck anew how much I love her writing (I quote her often!). It is so lyrical and vibrant and really gets to the heart. I also deeply identify with it. I want to share a poem (not by her) that was in the book in the section about assessing risk and statistics and homebirth and is it really safe, etc. I feel like sharing it today (something that is difficult for me about pregnancy after loss is feeling more “at risk” about pregnancy than I have ever felt before—you know the quote, “birth is as safe as life gets” often said so blithely, has a different impact when you’ve been part of the statistics instead of “escaping” them. I still think the quote is true, but it is NOT a “light” quote!) :

Thoughts on “risk”
by Judith Dickson Luce (in Homebirth by Sheila Kitzinger)

word so small
born a verb
an “action word”

as I learned in 4th grade
I risk
you risk
she risks
even a noun something
I take
you take
she takes

in philosophy a description of what life is
with its own rewards:
I love and risk loss and pain
I try and risk failure
I trust and risk betrayal
I live and risk death
but we’ve moved so far beyond philosophy
to insurance–for anything and everything
to machines
to technology and control
(no daring)

and computers spit out the risk we are “at”
before we breathe
before we take a first step
that might lead us to fall
and the computers and the statisticians tell us
it is healthier and safer
and wiser not to take risks
since we are “at risk”
and they can reduce risk
and with it our capacity
for living
and touching
and caring
it’s safer that way
neater and more efficient
and definitely more sterile
and what more can we ask of life?
Commentary by Tom Luce: “It’s very risky to be born since very few people who are born avoid dying (though many avoid living). If you are born there is a high statistical risk you might die.” 😉

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