Content Warning—miscarriage, childbirth I wake up to a uterus on the pillow next to mine. It looks vaguely like the image I saw on the pamphlet when I was browsing for birth control. I close my eyes again. The dull,…
I once read that a woman’s body knows when it is of “child-bearing age.” And sometimes, it punishes a childless woman with more painful period cramps. Sometimes, it might be due to stress; sometimes, just a visceral reaction to the news.
Usually, I start my stories from a single image. A vegetarian not belonging at a pig roast. A uterus that has detached itself from a woman’s body. If the image feels compelling, I start from there and try to add some characters and spin a plot around it.
When I started writing this story, I just wanted to explore the relationship between a woman and her uterus. It was going to be a flash fiction piece about a woman whose uterus had somehow detached itself from her body. She now had to process how she felt about not having a uterus anymore. But when I got to that part, I was stuck. I couldn’t come up with a reasonable ending to the story. I didn’t know how to take the story forward. Usually, when I felt this way, I leaned even more into magical realism and surrealism to tell the story. But this time, this approach felt inauthentic.
I began to journal around that time. As I wrote about this story and my own feelings, I realized things were never simple. The protagonist could feel both guilty and relieved. The realization that she no longer had the option of having a baby, even if she wanted to someday, complicated everything. I realized I was processing my own rage at what was happening around me and the lingering internal conflict as I acknowledged my bodily autonomy. I had to explore this intimate and personal space before taking another step forward.
It became clear that I was focusing on the wrong things. The visuals that stayed with me—the detached uterus, the pig roast—were never the point. The ideas of who belongs in motherhood, who’s allowed to have children, and who’s ready for it financially, emotionally, and physically made their way into the narrative. I needed to identify these central themes and what they truly meant to me in order to finish telling this story.
NEERU NAGARAJAN is an Indian Tamil writer. Her fiction has appeared in The Maine Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Stonecoast Review, GASHER, and elsewhere. She’s @poonaikaari on Twitter.