Becoming a Mother

Instead of writing my birth story, I did something a little different. The poem is very, very rough, but here you go.

My large abdomen squeezed tightly
from just below my chest down to my pelvis
like a hand wringing a swollen kitchen towel.

It was early in the morning
and I could hear Jeff breathing next to me,
soft and constant.

These contractions were normal.
I was very used to them, actually.
I checked the time out of habit,
Not expecting anything.

I learned to wash laundry by hand
during my brief time in Paraguay.
A sopping wet t-shirt was shoved into a bucket
of water again and again,
then a bar of laundry soap scrubbed
unforgiving
on the offending piece of cloth.

It was dumped again into the bucket.
Some people did it differently, but one thing was always the same—
Tiny tan hands twisted the t-shirt tightly,
Released, twisted, folded, twisted,
Released, twisted, folded, twisted.
Water pouring from the shirt;
Suds peeking from their hiding places within the fabric.

Release, twist, fold, twist.
It happened again.
Look at the clock.
Ten minutes.

Release, twist, fold, twist.

Jeff’s breathing, soft and constant.
Chest falls up and down.

Release, twist, fold twist.
Clock check.
Ten minutes.
In and out, soft and constant,

Release, twist, fold, twist.

Clenching, breathing,
Clock, ten.

How often does a baby come on his due date?
The statistics couldn’t be in my favor.
Release, twist, fold, twist.

The folding was rigorous.
Breathing in, filling the stomach with air
Like a balloon, a very large balloon.

Ten minutes more.
Jeff’s breathing, soft and constant.
Release, twist, fold, and twist.

My heart beat faster
with increasing pain
And rising hopes.

Release, twist, fold, and twist.
Clock check.
Eight minutes.

December twentieth,
the entire day was mangled
by the twisting.

One o’clock.

Release, twist, fold, and twist.
Clock check.
Two minutes.

Release, twist, fold, and twist.
Clock check.
Two minutes.

Faded and wrinkled,
I was wrung beyond wringing.

Still longer,
tighter,
twistier.

Then, as I crawled into bed,
hoping to relax with my sixties friend
(Dick Van Dyke, of course),

Pop.
Ever so soft, ever so slight.

Was it?
It couldn’t be.
Yes.
My water.

Release, twist, fold, and twist.
Clock check.
Two minutes.

The same two minutes.
Every two minutes
for nearly five hours
but now it was different.
The next four hours are lost
to a contorted oblivion
of rushing, pain, and shrieking.

I was twisted now with little relief,
this time by the strongest woman of Paraguay.
Ramona, a large black woman,
who would not allow one corner of cloth
to escape the wringing.
Her large, rough hands twisting and mangling,
introducing fiery water to finish the purging.

Twist, fold, twist.
Barely a release.
Time to give in.
Time to release for good.

Twist, fold, twist, push.
Clock check.
Had it already been twenty minutes?

Twist, fold, twist, push.

Twist, fold, twist, push.
And, at first without even a realization,
it ended.

The twisting, folding, and twisted ended.
My wrinkled, swollen abdomen was lonely again,
but my arms were not.

A blue creature wrinkled his eyebrows
at me,
his legs curled tightly to his chest.

The twisting and pulling was over.

The laundry was done,
hung out to dry,
pulled in the wind,
abdomen stretched,
sun starching and warming.

A tiny cry reminded me
where the warmth was coming from.

Skin to skin,
chest to chest,
My little boy, husband, and me.

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