young motherhood – poems

Initiation

She was born on a Tuesday
and developed a fever after birth
antibiotics, tests, precaution, policy

I was sent home without her

every three hours I feed her, with
the exception of two nightly feedings
between midnight and six a.m.

I am here to breastfeed, offer
nourishment. It is all I can give her now.
There is a rocking chair in the storage room

I feed her there, by the small window
and hold her for as long as they let me
the nurses seem to understand, allow me

time to just be with her. I sing and read
and talk to her. She sleeps, sometimes for
hours, in the curve of my arm

across the hall, in the hospital nursery
I hear the endless wall of babies crying
always, even when I go to sleep

their echoes become my nightmares
the crib is empty next to our bed
the pain is tangible, I feel wounded

you are a mother now, they said.

*

Compass

No one tells you what its like
to become a mother.

They don’t tell you the truth
about labor, how birth

enlightens, and how true it is
nothing will ever be the same

Between The Woman’s Room
and Good Housekeeping,

I am reconciling feminism
and motherhood, wondering

how I find myself in these roles
mother, wife, woman.

I am defining my evolution
with a broad compass, I navigate

with flawed accoutrement, touch
and sound, head and heart.

*

how things are broken

He slams the door behind him
shaking the window pane, the wall

shudders at his anger, I whisper
to the baby it’s okay, it’s okay

I rock her slowly, offer her my
breast – she rests, she sleeps

I am grateful. I kiss and hold her
gently lay her in the crib

the silence of the room is deafening
I don’t cry. I hardly make a sound.

There are no victories here.
We don’t know how to fight.

I throw words, terse and careful
and he walks out, leaving me alone.

I sit at the table and turn on the light
a warm glow I once called antique

like the pages of an old book
with that familiar damp smell

I look out the window and am faced
with autumn darkness

the black of night before the leaves
begin to fall and the weather turns

Colder.

*

Light

My days are filled with fragile joy
time is passing by so quickly

I spend time with the children, we
play and I read to them, coordinate

breakfast and lunch, bring one child
to preschool, give the other her nap

hold them, kiss them, watch them
grow in this new environment

this small space I call my own
in the afternoon, light refracts through

the high window, throwing rainbows
on the walls and I am always in awe

at their delight. We have settled in
to a sense of quietness, a sense of peace

and in these moments I am certain
everything will be okay.

*

Healing

The children are sleeping, in a wave
of exhaustion, the scent of sickness
still upon them, the baby
cried and cried until I held her
against my breast and she
finally gave into sleep, rosebud mouth
open, cries still sobbing through her
as if it were involuntary
I laid her in bed and held her tiny body
against the length of my torso
I put my ear to her chest and listened
to her heartbeat, so close to me
through the small frame
of bone, the soft surface of skin.

I heard her heart beat loud and strong
and remembered our doctor’s visits
when she was still in the womb, we
would always begin by baring my
stomach, rubbing the cool, clear gel
white noise of the machine and then
the microphone making its way across
my body, looking for that unmistakable
noise, the faint sound of her fetal heart
and how it never failed
to bring tears to my eyes, each time
I was overcome with it
now she sleeps, nearing one year
outside the womb, she is still becoming
and I hope she can grow strong
in this fragile space, my life.

*

 

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