Birthwork

~ for my Zachary Otis ~

You and I worked together
so hard and for so long
for your arrival
But it was the first time
for both of us
and we never did get it
quite right.
When you sounded the alarm
(that plummet in the rapid
fluttering of your heartbeat,
enough to make my own heart stop.)
I had already agreed, my body
stopped opening, starting to close
back up around your little tiny
perfect head.
And the midwife, the blessed midwife,
said your birth would be surgical,
and I answered for us both
knowing we had no other choice:
We’d worked as hard as we could.

And so the gentle, quiet, lovely birth
I had dreamed of and imagined for months
turned.

Your birth was bright lights,
gloved hands, shiny cold metal instruments.
And the time between our first separation—
when you were twisted and turned and pulled
from my belly—
and our first touch, soft baby cheek
to my cold shivering cheek, was longer
than the four days of labor, the ten months
of pregnancy, the six excruciating months
when I was trying and hoping for your conception.

But your little elfin face dimmed the bright lights
(or maybe it was the tears in my eyes)
and warmed the cold, sterile operating room.
And though I couldn’t hold you, I saw you:
The most beautiful, most perfect
little being, proclaiming your own protest
of this entry.

You wore your birth journey like a badge
of courage on your forehead—just as I
had 31 years earlier.
And I knew you were already learning from me—
learning to wear your struggles with pride.

 

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