A poem about motherhood.
Even on my fourth child, the tsunami of the postpartum period can sweep one away. It takes time to bond and heal after a birth. My newborn son occupies a space at once huge and tiny, in both the physical and psychological senses, in our family dynamic.
Welcoming a new baby is a joyous but difficult time. And even when you expect the hardships, they can crush you. My toddler is breaking my heart in the most predictable ways as he grapples with the addition of a little brother.
This poem is an effort to cope with some of these feelings. I hope you enjoy it.
Postpartum, Week One Week one. We walk down to the school, you, our sweet boy, and me, pushing the new stroller and new baby, too, still a passive object to be trundled and bundled about, delivered in delivery, received in receiving blankets. Baby is a closed red face lost in the carriage, overloaded with blankets that’ll do no good when the rain starts. Our boy’s cheeks are still the color of watermelon flesh fresh from a crying jag. I am sore and you are shell-shocked, and we both look more like our mothers than a week ago or ever before. It feels like a fight no one initiated. It rumbles under the surface, this postpartum subduction, and we walk at the toddler’s pace in lieu of evacuation. So we walk encumbered with help from the new older brother pushing the wheels over his own clapping feet, and I feel the shake of weeping shivering again in the bolts of my shoulders. I’m trying not to rattle apart and you’re trying not to watch. At the portico of the school, gated and chained where once the kids would rivulet in, I rest on the steps and you take the older one up to get away from my magma. Jolly voiced, you tease out squeals from our boy née baby. Happiness is a rubber ball darting pell-mell over broken bricks. I lean against dissolving marble under planters of abandoned pansies and nod with the feinting lion heads of white irises, fierce and tissue thin, like us. The volcanic heat in my throat at the sound of our boy would vaporize us all. What have we done to him? His eyes bore at new depths. His blinks slow. But it happens to us all. He is so small. I breathe in the corn syrup flower garden and listen to your father-son sounds. This is happiness. Is this not bliss? His clap-slapping plastic shoes reverberate in the stone arches. It is a proclamation of innocence, his lonely play sounds, a primary-colored gumball happiness candy-coating something else for which he has no word. I watch the baby sleep or skin-sense the world, close-eyed, open-eared, hush-gasping at the air as he does on our walks. Betrayal? Is the word abandonment? Oh, our sweetest boy. It is week one of a considerably more crowded life. I inspect the petaled edge of a cloud bank moving in sun-sharpened and dark overhead. It is the size of my ash cloud. The eruption of a volcano is a necessary part of world building. It happens on other planets, not only ours. Not only ours, my loves. It happens to us all. I watch you throw the ball again, your voice affecting glee incongruent with your posture. Your hands become your mother’s hands, loose muscled, rubbing at your mother’s fatigue and my eyes fill with my mother’s tears.
This poem will be among a future collection of poems. If you enjoyed it, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing one of my new collections in paperback or Kindle format. You can find them all on my Amazon author page.
Thank you, always, for reading.