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When Amanda Knox was wrongfully convicted of killing her roommate by an Italian court, she faced not just the loss of her freedom but also that of her childbearing years. Here, she sheds light on this punishment that outlasts a sentence and uniquely affects women.
I was glowing when I walked into that eight-week ultrasound appointment. My husband and I had conceived quickly, after two months of trying. After all the things that had gone wrong in my life, finally, something was going just right. And then I saw the look on the technician’s face, an empty look that couldn’t help reflecting the emptiness inside me. There was no heartbeat.
I passed the miscarriage over two days, shaking with pain, my teeth chattering, each clump of blood in the toilet a repeated question: Was that my baby? It was far more emotionally and physically painful than I expected, in part because I was completely unprepared. From what I’d gathered from high school sex ed and popular culture, pregnancy was a given, and miscarriage―well, no one talked about it.
In the aftermath, we tried again, and the months went by with negative tests. I started to worry that something deeper was wrong. But it wasn’t the first time I’d been faced with the specter of infertility.
My first infertility crisis occurred when I was sentenced to 26 years in prison for a murder I didn’t commit. I had been on trial for two years before that verdict was handed down, and until then, I’d naively assumed that the truth couldn’t help but win out, that this was all a misunderstanding.
That guilty verdict shook the foundations of my world. I realized the truth could be overpowered by a false but captivating story, and while I continued to fight for my innocence, appealing my conviction, I no longer had faith that my innocence guaranteed my freedom. I adjusted to a new and sad reality; I started to plan for life that involved 26 years behind bars. From a young age, I’d always imagined myself as a mother. Having children wasn’t even a question. Now I was facing the prospect of being released back into free society at age 46. It wasn’t just my freedom that had been stolen from me; motherhood had been stolen from me. I thought of my own mom, a schoolteacher whose greatest wish for me was that I grow up to be kind. She had poured all her love into me. And I wanted to be just like her. Now where would I pour my own love? Not into a daughter of my own but into the void of my empty future. I didn’t cry. But I did imagine all the ways I might kill myself in that prison cell.
“It wasn’t just my freedom that had been stolen from me; motherhood had been stolen from me.”
“Women can lose their most productive years when sentenced to overly long and punitive sentences.”
“‘They stole years of our young lives. There’s no telling what kind of family I could have had.’”