I am teaching our Writing Class for the first quarter of the Indie Birth Midwifery School! While most of the 10 weeks is being spent on strengthening their more academic writing, we started the quarter off with more creative writing assignments. Here are a few of the poems that students submitted as assignments. I asked them to incorporate the five (or six) senses into their work, and to delve into a topic/moment/scene related to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding or midwifery more generally. I really loved what they each came up with – some joyful, some darker themed, some sweet, some sad. *Hopefully I will be adding more soon, just waiting on some final drafts!
By Eirinn Stanley
A counter as high as my neck
A woman in a ridged cubicle
Her machine clicks, her eyes on her screen
“Find a seat please.” I scour the room
The rail under the dingy seat pushes me back
Chemicals from the polyester rise to my nose
I can’t breathe.
My cantaloupe breasts and belly protrude
The weaselly man in the corner appraises me
My baby jerks, my arms fold around her
I look away.
A bandaged sore in the seat on my right
Coughing and green mucus to my left
Germs climbing down the back of my tongue
I shrink back.
Fluorescent lights ache at the back of my eyes
Fish swim around, around, in their bright glass box
Sweat prickles and slides in my armpits
I wait and wait.
“Eirinn?” Dr Copeland will see you now.”
(He will? Even though I am only a first name?)
The nurse turns her back and stalks away
A deserted green room without windows
Pap stirrups erect on the table
A comfortable chair for the doctor
A stool for me.
The grumpy nurse knocks and doesn’t wait
“Let’s do your weight and urine.”
(Should I pee before or after you weigh me?)
But her face does not ask for a joke
I am silent.
My belly hangs down as I pee on my hands
The scale clanks and groans when I step on it
(Why is the scale in the wide open hallway?!)
I ease off it.
I sit in the sterile room again
A chart of colon diseases stares at me
My tummy churns up and flips over
I shut my eyes.
I wait . . . . .
I wait . . .
I open my eyes, hot and blurry
To a poster of a doctor holding a newborn
Are those grateful tears on the mother’s cheeks?!?!
by Tina Fulton
She longed for something, fevered for someone.
She knew a soul was waiting.
She heard it call, the time had come,
no more room left for debating.
She told her man, he held her tight
he had wished for this day, the day she might
choose him for the honor, the chance to be father,
to love one another, to call out together,
call this tiny spark home
to live in their love.
The simple deed done,
the waiting begun
will it catch?
will she fall?
will the egg hatch?
Will the sacred spark call
her womb home for a time
and live in her love?
Her moon never rose, no blood soaked clothes.
One month, then two, her secret grew. She knew,
knew it was true.
Hands on her belly, his knees like jelly, he prayed.
Gave thanks to the gods as the spark took hold. Pure gold.
Waiting, waiting, as the days tick by
Suddenly, finally! a sign so sweet,
a stuttering, fluttering, was that hands or feet?
Whispers of movement so slight at first.
The truth grows bigger, she’s over the worst.
Now undeniable, now understandable.
Hands on her belly, his knees like jelly,
he knows now, she shows now
it’s there now, it cares now
to live in their love.
Growing, showing, stretching,
fetching looks and glances she dances through days,
dreams through nights, flights of fancy
fighting fears and winning, heads spinning
in wonder they wander together, biding time
The time slows, the spark grows
bigger and stronger, no longer fitting
she feels close to splitting.
She hears the last call, time to surrender it all
Hands on her belly, his knees like jelly
he stands witness to greatness,
he kisses her brow, tastes the salt of her effort,
her strength, the length
of her journey unknown she walks,
over the coals she walks, back and forth she walks,
the pains roll on, waters spring clear, ancient scent in the air
her tides roll on,
her time has come.
No turning back she stands, she fights,
she roars her might, she squats, no thoughts,
she opens, roars more,
she catches fire, she burns,
the spark turned flesh
slips fresh from within, without fear,
she opens her eyes
to see her prize has come home
to live in their love.
Celestial Full Moon
by Valerie Weisner
In a sea of fantastic ecstatic energy
I awoke startled, surrounded by torrents of passionate waves,
Tossed about with involuntary movement, feeling like a galley slave.
Through my tempestuous body they rolled, uncontrolled and private.
Spontaneous pleasure as I was pushed onward toward each cresting summit,
Not understanding how to behave-
What to gather from this hidden pleasure- oh to be brave!
I noticed outside, the Celestial Full Moon,
An impending full eclipse taking place soon.
Another surge, I accepted willingly, how else could I be?
Driving me uncontrolled toward a blissful crest,
My mind confused, I failed to seek comfort
From the tender guidance of my beloved.
I gathered my wits, helpless to accept grounding,
Utterly unsure of what could be happening;
As the intensity mounted I quickly surrendered-
Another swell carried me instantly hastening
To another wild zenith, ensuring my christening.
Wafting and tasting of lusty warm sweat
Intellectually, can’t fully comprehend
Feeling driven by that glorious Celestial Full Moon,
I’ll never forget the adventure overtaking me, forever secure in my mind,
My Celestial baby preparing to be born soon, in her own time.
Impelled to squat, my water broke;
It gushed and flooded while the fresh sweet aroma
surrounded my unspoken aura, my essence, an offering.
Conscious of baby rapidly descending
As each wave unstoppable, eagerly impending
Brought a flood of euphoric feelings:
Quietly questioning how this could occur at birth-
Shouldn’t there be pain with each rising force?
My others were different, more arduously intense of course.
Why is there pleasure and uncontrolled bliss?
Is it that vibrant Celestial Full Moon with progressing impending full eclipse so soon
Driving this birth with untamed and welcomed joyous power?
I moved to the bed where I tried to relax,
For in this very hour
The midwife had yet to arrive- only thirty minutes had passed.
Releasing my wavering reliance on her
Trusting my body in the most profound surge
I reached down just as my baby emerged
Feeling her soft hair in privacy down there
Wet and creamy and juicy and warm, I can only stare-
As she slipped out of my body
I heard her first breath,
Then a lusty cry as she laid on my bare chest.
Fragrant and warm and slippery and sweet,
We gazed upon each other- the first time we meet.
Enjoying the miracle as that marvelous eclipse peaked,
That Celestial Full Moon with wonderment galore
Stealing my speech,
Trusting birth, forevermore.
Lets Go Eat After This
by Carly Baker
An icy breeze rushed up the skirt of my gown as the orderly pushed the operating rooms door open with my gurney. We halt in the middle of the cold room next to a stainless steel table. My ankles are grabbed, then my shoulders. Two men lift me onto the operating table like a comatose dog at the vet while they discuss where to eat later. When they leave, my arms cover with goosebumps as I lay and wait.
They return with nurses and anesthesiologists who quickly surround me. I am chastised for shivering too much and handed a blanket. “We can’t put the epidural in with you shivering like that!” a female nurse says cheerfully, yet forced. I hug her while a male nurse behind me lifts my gown up to my neck. My baby jumps inside me and I scream when he injects the needle in his chosen spot. I felt every drop, like lava, empty in between my vertebrae. “Lets go eat after this!” the male nurse says. My stomach growls in envy-I had been fasting for 12 hours. I am laid down before the room is emptied again. I wait and shiver until more people come back, this time half a dozen at least. The last person to enter is the senior OB/GYN of the practice. “Let’s get that baby out!” he says brightly.
I wait and shiver as they prepare for surgery. IV’s are inserted and monitors clamped on me as they debate about restaurants above me. As time goes on I start to wonder why I can still feel their hands as they continue to prepare. I asked why I can still feel and I am reassured the epidural will work eventually. I wait-still shivering-until they hang the divider between me and my stomach. I can no longer see anything except the bright lights above me. I repeat that I can still feel. This time, I get no reply other than a sharp pinch. I yelp and then hear one of the doctors groan. They continue the Great Restaurant Debate of 2012 and ignore me. My belly and legs are pinched a couple more times, with increasing severity. I tell them every time that I still feel and every time I am ignored. I plead with them not to cut yet, positive they will just do it anyway. They continue to discuss lunch plans.
I started to taste and smell copper. My mind was reeling with the possibility of a drug free cesarean, so I could not process what this meant. I continued to beg the doctors to stop until I woke up in a hospital bed. I am alone except for a strange nurse holding a baby. She hurriedly hands me my daughter and a bottle and simply says, “Here, feed her.” She then disappeared, probably off to dinner plans.
by Julie Nitz
In an old bathroom with 1970’s yellow linoleum she sits staring across at the shower curtain thinking, “I’m going to be okay. But if not, I’m too weak to care.” Never ending fluid pouring from her body pierces the lonely silence. Turning her head, she peers beyond her snoring husband’s body to find the glowing red digits projecting the time at her. It’s been hours of this now. How much longer can it go on?
Bitter emotions roll down in salty tears. Beyond the toilet seat she studies the water to see if any of the splashes mean the worst is over. Finally, the streaming fluid has tapered. She grabs the last of the sanitary pads, tears the obnoxiously crinkling wrapper off, placing it into her underwear that have been sitting patiently at her ankles. Before she can get them up over her anemic body warm, bright red blood trickles down one thigh.
She squats down to examine the contents of the bowl, blood mixed with toilet water assaults her senses. Nothing can be made of the gelatinous blobs looking up at her. It seems sad and irreverent to have to flush the remains of what once was the hope of joy and laughter into a dank, rotting septic tank.