I remember this body

I remember this body.

 

The sudden softness of belly skin,

a tender curling inwards

over fresh emptiness.

 

A disbelief.

 

The rib cage spread wide,

trying to remember how to

settle

and close.

 

A lightness.

 

I remember this freckle,

hidden for months

under my roundness.

And the slight brown curve of the linea nigra.

 

These breasts, heavy with milk.

 

In labor I cried.

I want both my babies.

I want to birth both my babies.

 

But I had already birthed you.

 

Mothered my emptiness.

 

This body—

stretched,

worn,

but strong—

has birthed both our babies.

 

The linea nigra fades.

I have new scars now,

red stria

clawing the soft curve of my belly.

 

This body,

once hollowed by death,

These arms,

aching with your absence,

These breasts,

heavy with milk

 

nourish a new life.

 

 

© Burning Eye

Waiting, me desespero

me desespero—I despair

I spend hours on the internet, tugging at my lifelines. I check my email, waiting for the latest letter from one of the babylost mamas I have been writing with. I check the babylost blogs, waiting for a new post. I read the forums, trying to recognize myself in the aches and pains and hopes and joys of these other parents.

My heart breaks over and over for their stories and my own. I wait for the time when each break hurts a little less.

* * *

The waiting started six months ago. A bed, a tan wall, a spider in the corner by the ceiling. Waiting to feel our baby move.

Moments stretched long and gaping in my heart:

Waiting for a heartbeat.

Waiting for the world to just come and crush me and finish it.

Waiting for dawn.

Waiting for labor.

Waiting for the burn and ache of birth.

Waiting to see him. Waiting for them to take him away.

Waiting to be discharged from the hospital.

Waiting for my milk to come in. Waiting, waiting, waiting for it to dry up.

Waiting for my belly to deflate, the bleeding to stop, my muscles to tighten, my body to heal.

Waiting for my period. Reciting the names of my hormones in every possible order, trying to guess which one is surging: estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing, prolactin, follicle-stimulating.

Waiting for this migraine to go away.

Waiting as anxiety to creeps in and slowly tightens its claw around my throat.

* * *

I am waiting to feel God.

I used to be able summon God’s presence and lean back into the arms of God whenever I needed to. My sister says she admires me for my close relationship to God, and I feel like a phony. I am not close to God. God does not feel nearby.

I try to find God in other people. In the sympathy cards and emails. In the kindness of my coworkers. In the incredible unconditional love I feel from A. I sit on my stool and try to pray and the whole time our cat Isabel is bumping into my knees and my open palms, purring and rubbing herself all over me. Maybe our cats are God, A and I joke.

A wise friend tells me that whenever we think we have comprehended God, something happens to show us that we haven’t, and we have to widen our concept of God. We get stuck in thinking God is this or God is that, when God is so much more than we can conceive of.

God and I are playing Blind Man’s Bluff. I am the Blind Man, and I’m standing very still. I’m waiting for God to come closer, to feel the passing stir of air before I reach out and grab hold and cry out in triumph.

* * *

I wait, too, for the words to seep into my veins and creep down to my fingertips. I wait for the dusty charcoal lines and figures and shadows to order themselves behind my eyes. Sometimes, now, the images are in color.

Hope is a color.

* * *

I paint another stormy Frida sky.

I am sitting and writing in my journal, writing about this waiting, when I see the sky of my limbo, dark clouds blowing swiftly across a vast, empty plain. Dark above, dark below. I lie at the left side of the painting, on the horizon, resting my head on my outstretched arm. But I am not resting. My eyes are open. My fingers clawed into the hard, black ground. I press the weight of my legs into my toes, which are tucked under, as if ready to spring up and take off running.

This is what I would like to do. Run blindly into the flat and infinite right side of the canvas. See what is there just out of the frame. My body itches. A deep throb settles into my calves. Sitting still too long, my hips and my forearms and my fingers fall asleep, numb and needling until I shift position.

But there is nowhere to go. The future does not exist yet, no matter how hard I will it here more quickly.

I am a failure at one-day-at-a-time. All I want is for this day to end, and the next, and the next, until there is magically, miraculously, a baby growing in my womb again. And then, once I know it is there, fast forward through the terror of pregnancy until that baby is born safe and alive in my arms.

The thought of being able to try again gives me hope and makes me tremble with fear. My soul splits and half is giddy and half is knocked low, weighing me down. My attention darts back and forth between them until I am exhausted and confused.

The waiting has a purpose now, but purpose doesn’t come with control. I am at the whim of the thermometer and cervical mucus and pink lines and FedEx and plane travel.

There is absolutely nothing else I can do except wait.

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© 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