The Loss of You

 
Watching your mother hold you, rock you, soothe you. Passing you off in the middle of the night. Competing for who can change a diaper the most efficiently, who can snap onesies faster, who can stuff squirming arms into little sleeves.

Mother-baby yoga, and mother-baby pilates, and daycare, and all the friends we would have made.

Shared school vacations with your cousin A, the same age as you. Evening conversations with my sister, commiserating and complaining about the cousins’ nth grade teachers.

Being bossed around by S, the oldest cousin on that side. Maybe she would direct you in plays. Maybe she would make you chase her around the house and then slip out the front door and laugh as you kept running in circles, looking for her. Maybe she would teach you to ride her balance bike. The rules of helmet safety. Call you a little kid.

Thanksgiving at the beach, watching you eat sand. Being the oldest cousin on that side.

Showing you off at my 10th college reunion, and your mother’s 10th college reunion. Sharing stories of new motherhood with old friends.

Swapping birth stories. Hours of labor, minutes spent pushing, number of stitches. Delivery room battles, hollering, the funniest thing we said to our spouses in the throes of labor pain.

Maternity leave skype-while-nursing with R and her baby. Hikes with T and her baby. Comparing feeding habits, sleep habits, growth, hair, weight, every day with A at school.

My coworkers saying, “I told you so,” when they found out you were a boy.

Showing pictures of you to my class.

Telling my students how much hair you were born with, when your cousins were bald. That’s genetics, I teach. That’s your DNA, that code we’ve been talking about.

The birth we had planned. Waterbirth. Unmedicated. Uninduced. Your mother and me and our doula and my sister and C. Focused, deliberate, one contraction at a time. All the breathing I practiced. Changing positions. Easing you down the birth canal. I would look at your head crowning in the mirror. Touch you. Maybe your mother would catch you as I pushed.

Taking you to the park by our house. Pushing your stroller as the redbuds pop and the forsythia tickles my nose. Counting daffodils.

The woman with a baby down the street who was supposed to be my friend. I pass her house every day. I’ve never met her.

Walks up to Beef Burger to buy softserve ice cream the way my family used to walk us to Zesto’s for a dip cone. We would walk home, licking, dripping, sticky.

Holding you. Kissing your cheeks. Uncurling your thin fingers.

© Burning Eye

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Every Morning

a love poem for Joseph…

 

I sang to you every morning.

 

I

rubbed circles of lotion into my belly,

caressed my belly,

held it,

hugged it,

rested my hands on it,

gazed at it,

watched my profile in the mirror

growing.

 

I showed you off even though you weren’t even born.

 

I

fed you

cheese quesadillas,

keifer,

yogurt,

ice cream,

peanut butter and jelly,

Philly cheese steaks,

rotisserie chickens and

potatoes—

mashed potatoes,

baked potatoes,

roasted potatoes.

 

I measured you against a list of fruits and vegetables of increasing size.

 

I

talked to you

in Spanish,

hugged you,

held you,

poked you,

pressed your

bottom or

feet or

head,

waited for you to

kick and

wiggle and

turn and

try to escape from my belly,

pushing out sideways up near my ribs.

 

I cradled you in one arm at night as I fell asleep.

 

And I sang to you every morning.

 

© Burning Eye

Waiting

Waiting for labor to begin.

 

The hours of intake, paperwork, bloodwork, nurses and midwife and doctor in and out.

 

Questions asked, answers recorded, medications tallied.

 

My body readied:

veins pinched,

hand pierced,

saline lock inserted.

Cervix checked, measured, discussed.

Ripener placed.

Contractions monitored, green line spooled across a slowly ticking black screen.

 

I marked time with vitals:

the crinkle of the blood pressure cuff, the beep of the thermometer.

 

Faced with a whole night of this, seconds magnified to hours, minutes stretched long and dark and gaping.

 

Control—

my body,

my labor,

my baby, life, future

—taken from me.

 

Absolute defeat.

 

 

 

Now,

 

waiting

 

for a chance at new life

 

 

 

Still, the midwife tells me not to track

body temperature,

discharge,

changes in the cervix,

not to look for patterns where they can’t be found.

 

My only course of action taken from me,

another defeat.

 

Three cycles. She ticks off:

February

March

April.

Assuming February, optimistic that this will be the month I bleed. But I am still waiting.

 

Time opens its dark maw.

Months as years.

I mark its passing in the drops of milk I find on each nursing pad,

hoping for one less tomorrow,

hoping for blood in my underwear instead.

 

I hold on to April.

Clutched in this dark winter, I wait for spring.

 

© Burning Eye

And Still They Weep

My breasts are stones.

I lie in the bath and they
do not move,
do not give way gently, flattening out,
nipples soft puddles

They are all stiff, tender bruise.

They press heavy into my armpits
into my soft belly
as if trying to take the place of what was there
before.

I ache.
I cannot even lift a shirt from the laundry.
I clench fistfuls of socks,
crumple forward

Tiny drops bead on my nipples
fall like tears
My life—
all I was meant to give—
slides down my belly
drips onto the floor.

I thought they would give me medication to dry up my milk
to spare me this
one
more
pain

But there is no magic prescription.
Just motrin
and ice
and binding
and cabbage leaves.

I pull them from the head, freeze them.
They cup my breasts,
press the pattern of ribs and veins into my flesh,
slowly cook from my heat

I reek of cabbage
and for days
I cannot wash the smell out of my bras.

Between cabbage applications
we tie bags of frozen peas to my breasts

I wrap my arms around them
embrace them
invite the coldness deeper

Each day the swelling lessens,
and the icing, and binding, and cabbage leaves.
Stone melts back to flesh.
But still my nipples burn in turns,
a searing, scraping,
a sharp intake of breath,
clenched hands.

And still they weep.

© Burning Eye

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I could marvel at my belly,

its squishiness,

the way I would have marveled at your toes

 

their impossible smallness.

 

I could marvel

at the way I can lie on my back now,

pull my knees up to my chest—

How I can see the freckle on my lower abdomen for

the first time since

my belly swelled with life—

 

Maybe you would have had a freckle, too,

that grows with you

the way my niece’s does,

a size bigger for each pair of shoes

she outgrows.

 

But I do not marvel.

 

I smooth my hands over my body

wanting to nurture you

wanting to hold you

and I cry

 

© Burning Eye

The Things I’m Made Of

Porcelain. Gypsum. A book of mica. Those sugar crystals you grow in elementary science on a fuzzy piece of yarn. A thin sheet of seasalt, water evaporated. The slow seeping drip of water in a limestone cave, and the fragile tiers of rimstone bubbling out of a hot spring. These are the things I am made of.

© Burning Eye