Megan Hofmann and Miranda Colbert’s Final Take-Home Exam

Miranda Colbert and Megan Hofmann

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384 Section 1

08 December 2021

Word Count: 1045

When it comes to healthcare, many persons with disabilities face discrimination and hatered. They are often seen as a burden or not worth the time, effort, and financial resources to take care of. These misconceptions often lead to harm and injustice as well as prevent people with disabilities from receiving proper treatment within the medical field. For example, pregnant women with disabilities are less likely to get a pap smear or a mammogram compared to an able-bodied person. The constant fallacies have caused persons with disabilities to speak up about their experiences and how they face mistreatment. Rebecca Foust’s poem, Apologies to my OB-GYN and Craig Romkema’s poem, Perspectives depict ways in which individuals with disabilities face discrimination within the medical profession, showcasing varying issues in the healthcare field and their negative impacts on people with disabilities.

In Rebecca Foust’s poem Apologies to my OB-GYN, Foust critiques the medical field and how the profession handles persons with disabilities. In this specific poem, the poetic speaker talks about the birth of her premature son and the way he was taken care of by the nurses in the hospital. The speaker’s sarcastic tone is evident in the line, “Sorry we were such pains in your ass / asking you to answer our night calls like that.” The line itself seems to have a hidden message underneath it as if to sarcastically apologize for making the nurses do their own job. This can also be seen in the lines, “Sorry that my boy birthed himself / too early… / with his two pounds, two ounces.” From the beginning of her son’s birth the nurses see him as a burden. She claims that her son “took up so much room,” which contradicts her next line explaining how small he was. In the line, “skewed bell-curve predictions / into one long, straight line;” She talks about how her son ignored the normal patterns, causing more trouble to the nurses. Foust uses this line as an example of how people that work in the medical field claim that persons with disabilities have a lower life expectancy than others. The line implies that because her son is disabled, the nurses do not deem his life as important as able-bodied individuals because of his life expectancy as a disabiled baby, that because he is disabled he is not a priority. This treatment infuriates the mother because not only is that boy her son, but another living human being and he deserves the same treatment as an able-bodied person. In the end of the poem, Foust writes, “blue wingbeat / pulse fluttering his left temple—there, / there again. Just like it did then.” She uses this line as an ending to prove to the nurses and doctors that her son was alive and well, despite the poor treatment he receives from the hospital. The speaker is using her son as an example for many surviving disabled people to show that they deserve to be treated fairly and correctly. 

When discussing persons with disabilities, one of the main issues is lack of communication. No matter how close an able-bodied person is to being disabled it is impossible for them to know the whole story of what it is actually like. Because the narrator of this poem is the mother of a disablied child, it is difficult to get the child’s point of view. This poem is not told by the son, therefore robs him of his right to explain to the readers how he felt about the nurses. Was he angry or upset? All the reader can conclude is that the mother herself felt infuriated and sarcastic. Towards the end of the poem, the narrator uses the lines, “…He spent / today saving hopeless-case nymph moths / …/ at a time…” While the action itself is seen as sweet in the mother’s eyes it still raises the question of why. There was also another line that read, “and that he did everything so backwards: / lost weight, gained fluid / blew up like a human balloon / then shriveled.” Much like the narrator’s own son, persons with disabilities can be compared to a baby in this case. They are both seen as helpless in the eyes of not only the medical field but by able-bodied persons. Without the son’s point of view the reader can only assume everything the mother said is the whole truth. 

Another poem that highlights discrimination, specifically in healthcare, is Craig Romkema’s, Perspectives. The poetic speaker claims, “From the beginnings of my differentness, I remember / Doctors, students, therapists / Measuring my head / The tightness of my muscles / The tracking of my eyes / The dysfunctions of my stomach” (Romkema). By stating, “From the beginnings of my differentness” the poetic speaker reflects on how society labels autistic individuals as being different from able-bodied humans, indicating that he/she has known from the start of their existence that they do not fit the mold of what society and the medical field considers “normal.” The lines evaluate varying side effects that a person with autism might have, treating the body as oddity rather than a functioning human life.

Finally, the poetic speaker continues the poem by expressing frustration at discriminating labels assigned by individuals in the medical field. The poem states, “Others not acknowledging I understood every word / they said / So freely did they label me retarded. / Or some other variant, / Equally untrue. / (Romkema). Here, the speaker addresses faults within the medical field where people with autism are given derogatory names because of medical professionals being ignorant of the individual and how they function. The poetic speaker is directly challenging the medical field, claiming that they (the autistic individual), understands the labels being given to them and that the labels are untrue. 

Both Rebecca Foust’s and Craig Romkema’s poems address troubling aspects in how the medical field approaches people with disabilities. Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities face unequal or reluctant treatment while also dealing with discriminatory language relating to their disability. The pair of poems challenge the reader to view these acts as unjust, hopefully altering the way in which individuals and society as a whole approaches the aspect of disability within the medical profession.

WORKS CITED

Foust, Rebecca. “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” Fishouse, Fishouse Poems , 28 June 2018, http://www.fishousepoems.org/apologies-to-my-ob-gyn/. 

Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives.” Microsoft Word, http://dislitfall21.chris-foss.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Kenny-Fries-%E2%80%9CExcavation%E2%80%9D.pdf. 

I pledge -Miranda Colbert and Megan Hofmann 

America, Human Rights, and the Unheard Voice

Tristan Barber – Section 02 – Final Paper

06 Dec. 2021

America, Human Rights, and the Unheard Voice

History is not an ally to the underprivileged and marginalized. To some, it may appear that society is slowly—ever so slowly—moving towards progress. This is simply not true. The year is 2021, and the United States Supreme Court is hearing a case that may overturn Roe v. Wade, a historic victory for women’s rights and bodily autonomy made nearly 50 years ago. As one of the oldest and most important cases in living memory (over 40 years older than Obergefell v. Hodges which granted same-sex marriage), Roe v. Wade was seen as a strong decision with a half-century of precedent protecting it. Now, yet again, arguments are being made that mothers should be considered to have failed their “personal responsibilities”, and this impacts neurodivergent families even more than the normative alternative. The poems “Apologies to my OB-GYN” and “Perspectives”, written by Rebecca Foust and Craig Romkema respectively, highlight the struggles of neurodivergent peoples and their parents. Both medical/financial and social pressures create an undue hardship on these marginalized groups, and through this cultural violence, voices are silenced. Through these lenses, one can come to respect the disasters coming in the current legal and market environment.

We will start our exploration with “Apologies to my OB-GYN”, a poem following a mother and her experiences with a modern medical system. The mother has a particularly troubled birth, with a child requiring more care than would be considered normal. Described as “pains in your ass”, the mother sarcastically apologizes for the trouble the parents and child caused the system (Foust 2). While the child lives, saving similar “hopeless-case nymph moths”, the scars inflicted upon them by the system is there in the “skyrocketed premiums” and the insurance “weigh[ing] the costs in [their] cost-benefit analyses, skew[ing] bell-curve predictions into one long, straight line” (Foust 3-4). While the child saves moths and the parents dote over their child, the “care” they received was all but, serving only to render them down to charts and graphs, treating them as a source of capital rather than as human beings. This diametrically opposed position—of human versus capital—ensures that marginalized groups, especially neuro-atypicals, are dehumanized and perpetually silenced. With the fault being on the parents for having such a so-called troublesome child, the system can enjoy the fruits of their labor unburdened by human responsibility. Indeed, childbirth and raising is an extreme task, and in America, an extremely expensive one. In a for-profit market system where ASD children cost $1.4 million, and $2.4 million if the child has an intellectual disability (Taylor), one can see the results of healthcare-as-a-product—lives rendered down to profits and the bottom line. Where is the voice? How can one speak out for their own rights, for the rights of those under their care, when the cost of existing encroaches, consumes several, severalfold the cost of living?

This cultural violence is not only financial. “Perspectives” follows the perspective of a child with nonverbal autism as they observe the system operating around them. From the very beginning with the mention of “‘refrigerator mothers'”, we can find the lines of blame being drawn (Romkema 1). Refrigerator mothers refer to the idea that parents, particularly mothers, caused autism through their cold and distant behavior towards their children. While this belief has been proven to be false, the effects are still seen. Parents (again, primarily mothers) are seen as perpetrators of a sort of disease, that children on the spectrum are only drains on a capitalist system and that the parents are at fault. This can be further seen in the “measuring” of the narrator’s “head” (Ramkama 2), referring to another pseudoscience: phrenology. While often seen in respect to racism, this measuring of the skull was used to diagnose mental illnesses as well—eugenics in its most physical form. Beyond the medical and social implications of history, the narrator spoke to the direct violence, “So freely did they label me retarded”, meanwhile their parents told them that “they knew [they were] there / Inside” (Ramkama 3). Again, the so-called experts considered the child as a burden, a weakness, as othered and voiceless—as always voiceless, despite the evidence to the contrary. 

None of this is new. These poems offer a glimpse into the lived experiences of those on the spectrum and parents who care for them alike, and while laws may appear to improve the lives of such individuals (or, rather, slows the backslide of quality of life), it wasn’t always this way, and it won’t necessarily continue being this way. Persecution against those with disabilities is as ingrained in American history and law as slavery is. Indeed, it is a living memory—where slavery still remains in the prison system, persecution didn’t end with the American Disabilities Act of 1990, and the atrocities committed with the “Ugly Laws” only ended directly in 1974 (NCLD 16). This cultural violence simply changed form, from direct law to indirect, with financial burden and social stigma and blame. These laws were fought for, and these laws are never safe from being overturned. Roe v. Wade proves this.

The arguments against Roe v. Wade are often moralizing. They claim that life begins at conception, that the rights of the unborn override the rights of the mother. However, regardless of one’s opinion on this debate, it remains apparent that the attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade without first approaching the economic and humanitarian problems for the already born displays, if we are being charitable, a profound lack of perspective. How can one argue these beliefs in good conscience while not solving the inherent cultural violence inflicted upon mothers, fathers, and their children? It appears that the rights of the unborn, those that have no inner consciousness providing them the ability to speak, the voice of this group outweighs the voice of those who can—and must—be heard.

If capitalism as a system must exist, and, perhaps, there may be some strong arguments in the affirmative, it must also exist for the benefit of all peoples. With a hardly-regulated market, a system designed to benefit those with voices and to silence all others, designed to lay blame on mothers and not on itself, neurodivergent minds are pushed to the threshold between the void and unhappiness. That is to say, the choice is often between death after life or poverty with little hope to improve one’s station—that is no choice at all.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” ~Tristan A. Barber

Word Count: ~1172

Works Cited

“Disability History Timeline – Ncld-Youth.info.” National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2007, http://www.ncld-youth.info/Downloads/disability_history_timeline.pdf. 

Foust, Rebecca. “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” Fishouse, 28 June 2018, http://www.fishousepoems.org/apologies-to-my-ob-gyn/. 

Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives.” 

Taylor, Chris. “Coping with the High Costs of Raising an Autistic Child.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 24 June 2014, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-health-autism/coping-with-the-high-costs-of-raising-an-autistic-child-idUSKBN0EZ1A220140624. 

Katy Rose Price’s Final Exam Essay

Literary Analysis of “Apologies to my OB-GYN” by Rebecca Foust

Word Count: 1044

Most often, birth is seen as a transcendent experience, the creation of new life and that life coming into the world for the very first time. Poems concerning birth often focus on themes surrounding joy, creation, beginnings, nurturing, or innocence. However, Rebecca Foust confronts those themes to depict the harsh realities of navigating the fear, uncertainty, and of having a child that was born premature and with health problems. In her poem, “Apologies to my OB-GYN,” Foust challenges the medical industry and beliefs held about whose life is valued and worth saving to demonstrate the inherent worth in each life.

“Apologies to my OB-GYN” has four stanzas, each consisting of six lines. A stanza with six lines is known as a sexain and doesn’t necessarily rhyme, as is seen in this poem. Foust employs anaphora in this piece to emphasize and illustrate her point with the repetition of the word “sorry” at the beginning of the first three stanzas, as well as at the beginning of the last line of the third stanza. Anaphora is a rhetorical device that consists of repeating a word or sequence of words at the beginnings of nearby clauses, thus creating emphasis on a certain word or idea.

Her use of anaphora calls the reader back to the word “apologies” in the title, leading the reader to believe that this poem would be atoning or asking forgiveness for something. However, it accentuates the irony of the poem, as Foust is not asking for forgiveness or lenience, but is calling out her doctors, physicians, and the medical industry for their treatment of her and her son. For instance, in the first four lines, “Sorry that my boy birthed himself / too early, took up so much room / in your prenatal nursery / with his two pounds, two ounces,” she calls attention to the ridiculousness of placing the responsibility of her son’s premature birth on him when his birth was uncontrollable and not determined by any specific person. Furthermore, she highlights the absurdity of deciding whether or not to save his life based on space concerns when her son weighed as much as a pineapple.

The use of anaphora can further be seen in this poem through the juxtaposition of the first three stanzas and the fourth stanza. The first three stanzas contain the use of the word “sorry” and communicate much of the emotion and rage that the author is feeling towards the people and industry that debated on the value of her son’s life. By switching abruptly from that emotion to the image of her child saving “nymph moths / trapped in the porchlight,” the reader can get a sense of the beauty of the child and his selflessness in trying to save little creatures that most people wouldn’t give a second thought. Additionally, one could assume that his empathetic and giving nature stems from his struggle and determination to live, despite the “prognoses” and “predictions” that counted against him. The beauty and value that he has now, as a child whose fate isn’t being debated, is the same as the beauty and value he had as that two-pound premature infant. This can be exemplified through the last three lines of the poem, “…blue wingbeat / pulse fluttering his left temple—there, / there again. Just like it did then.” In these three lines, one of the main themes of the poem is communicated—his life, like every life, had inherent beauty and importance from the moment he was born.

The ironic tone of “Apologies to my OB-GYN” is evident throughout the piece. In the first and second stanzas, the speaker shows her anger, frustration, and rage with her doctor and the medical industry through the irrational image of her premature infant showing his gratefulness for the doctors deciding to save his life (rather than casting it aside) by cooperating with the nurses. She further develops the irony of the poem in the third stanza, in which she “apologizes” for her child, through him receiving adequate care and living, “skyrocketed premiums, weighted the costs / in your cost-benefit analyses, / skewed bell-curve predictions / into one long, straight line.” In this stanza, Foust is criticizing both her doctor and the medical industry that values money and profits above human life. Rather than being joyful and grateful that their patient lived, the doctors and administrators were only concerned with how his long-term, expensive care impacted their costs and profits. By apologizing for how “he took so much of your time / being so determined to live…” Foust is highlighting the rage she feels toward her doctor and the industry, as well as the way she was treated during such a scary, frightening, and nerve-wracking time in her life.

In Foust’s poem, she employs the primary technique of anaphora to emphasize the ironic nature of her poem. She communicates the rage she feels toward the disregard of her son’s life by doctors and the medical industry through the repetition of the word “sorry” and the idea that her son living was an inconvenience to her doctor. Through this poem, Foust offers other people who may be experiencing something similar a voice and empathy for their emotions and frustrations. By juxtaposing her rage with the beauty of her son, both at his birth and as a healthy child, she communicates the theme of the poem, that people have inherent worth, beauty, and significance. Furthermore, she critiques the medical industry and its role in deciding whose life is worth saving and whose life is worth discarding.

Thus, a connection can be made between her poem and disability, as disabled lives are often seen as less than or undervalued. In the medical industry, disability can be seen as something that needs to be “fixed” or “cured,” rather than as an aspect of a person that should be accepted and appreciated. By calling attention to the importance placed by doctors and the medical industry on costs and profits, Foust demonstrates that disabled people are seen as less worthy of life because they may require more care and medical assistance than a non-disabled person. This belief is dispelled in her poem, as she demonstrates that every person is worthy of respect and has inherent value.

“I hereby pledge upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” -Katy Rose Price