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HOW I BLEED by Kathi Valeii

(Trigger warning: This poem is the voice of a reproductive justice and birth advocate as she expresses trauma that results from the many ways women work against each other in our culture, such as by perpetuating negative birthing experiences, bullying one another, etc.) 

I wrote this piece during some painful reflection about female relationships in my life…

Relationships that have eluded me my entire life. Relationships that I'm just beginning to dip my toes into in my middle-age. 

Women are mysterious and beautiful and powerful and scary. Our culture has taught us to distance ourselves from one another, taught us to mis-trust one another. What a de-volution from the times when we bled together.

How I Bleed

I have been afraid of you all of my life.
All of you.
Even You, the one with a goddess heart, big and deep and gushing with life.
The one who says,
“all of the women I love know how to bleed with me.”

Especially you.
You scare me the most.

You have touched something that I can't find.
A thing unnamable, unreachable, indiscernible to me.
You illuminate my insecurities, you expose the frailty and failures of Women.

Women who are dominated by masculine motivators with fake, feminine veneer.
Women who distinguish themselves by which ones of us they are not.
Women who don't know who they collectively are.

How can we possibly bleed together?

You, who cut me while I gave birth.
You, who grabbed my baby and yelled how selfish and stupid I was.
I can still feel that puncture wound deep in my chest.

I bled alone that day;
from every orifice, I bled.

You, who said I used the “wrong” voice; the not-Your-voice.
How my thousands of hours of work were churned through the meat grinder of your mouth,
drizzled with syrupy sweetness.
As though candy-coating them would entice me; make me want to lick them, believe them.
How the mess of it clung to my hands, sticky and gross, as I turned the doorknob to leave.

This is how I bleed.

The time you slashed me with your words then went bat-shit crazy when we talked about it.
Right after our kids' play date.
Right after we drank tea; made awkward conversation.
I readied myself for a weekend away, the sharpness of your words slicing my yoni,
ensuring I would bleed again.

I gushed by myself on the porch swing that day.

You, who took my words to publicly mock me.
Your foot-to-the-throat, “Say Uncle, Bitch,” until I erased my graffiti and walked away.
I erased your face, and others, too
while I bled
and bled
and bled.


On the plane ride, my cup fills and overflows.
I sit alone in the bathroom of that bumpy jet, consider my options.
We like to say that men are messy.
But women are messy as shit.
I will sit in a room full of women.
Women who will make me cry.
In empathic solidarity. And in exclusion.
I will hang my head. Bury my face. I will run to my room.
I will hide.

No woman knows how to bleed with me.

I bleed alone.

I bleed for us all.
Artwork by James Ryven Valeii the author's partner

Kathi Valeii is a reproductive justice and birth advocate living in Kalamazoo, MI. She writes about gender-based oppression as it pertains to the full spectrum of reproductive health issues at her blog, Birth Anarchy, here. She has been published in numerous online and print publications. Kathi has been called “a true artist,” and “one of the brightest minds in this movement.” Poetry has been a form of self-soothing ever since she tumbled into it with trepidation following her divorce. She is the mother to three children. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.  

~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please click here for submission guidelines. I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~


  1. Thank you for expressing this heartbreak. We can be so cruel to one another. Sharing this is a step towards sisterhood. Thank you for all the powerful work you do!

  2. Thank you, Anna. Writing this felt like a soul-bleed. I want to keep tip toe-ing toward that sisterhood. For sure.


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