Postpartum, Week One

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.
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.


The Giving Take

A poem about breastfeeding.

Five days ago, I gave birth. Great intimacy follows the birth of a baby. Much time is spent establishing a bond of closeness and breastfeeding regularity. The bodies of mother and child must find a new synchronization.

This poem – the first I’ve written since welcoming my new son into the world – is about that physical, emotional, and instinctual effort.

The Giving Take
Bessie, Bossie, Bonnie Blue,
Fussy, Flossie, Fannie Sue,
I see you through the doily leaves
along your mossy clean-picked path
up around the hill to home.
See me here?
I walk below
beside the road
with baby wrapped against my chest
so taut, my breasts,
impacted from the milk
his drowsy mouth neglects.
Barnyard-bound, you low and file,
udders swinging overfull.
I am going that way, too,
to see your farmer’s wife,
the closest nurse
and kindly mother hand
who may offer her advice.
I see your utters clear from here,
freckle-specked from last night’s rain
pinkly tender glossy fresh
mud-pocked from your stamping field,
where wet-petaled kissing pasture flowers
tease and tickle memories of calves
and make you dumb with longing.
You’ll beat me rounding high up there,
and by the time I reach the gate
your morning march will beckon them
into their clean-kept yard
and they will take my presence
I hope,
and help me not to ask for help.
Fussy, I watch you stop to nip at buds
and dutchmen’s breeches in the trim
and Bossie butts you as she ought –
     move, move on
     sweet sleep-warm friends,
     our farmer father keeper love
     is booting up to milk us clean –
you listen to your older sister now.
She walks in back not because
you know the way back better but
to keep you true to line.
I hear your cello-talk,
rich and to yourselves,
stirring interest from baby now
to wake and take a nipping sip
between my undone buttons
and though I wince
I wince with gratitude
in my skin
hot to the touch
and pulsing thin,
that this resolves itself by way
of precious open baby mouth
and sudden suckles
to now commence.
The slightest nuzzle stirs
within these tight-topped breasts
desire for the giving take
you, too, body habit-instinct seek
within your cat-thronged barn,
the selfish suction pull relief
taking what must be given.
I know you now
you poor dear cows,
for now I know myself –
I falter-waver in the road,
halt midstride, and must decide
to turn around or go –
for with a latch
the urgent urge compressing me
proceeds along its inner paths
with centrifugal pull,
oh, please,
and works into my baby’s mouth.
Bessie, Bossie, Bonnie Blue,
Fussy, Flossie, Fannie Sue,
rounding down now out of sight,
see me here? But no.
You go on lowing,
absorbed in barn-bound thought,
distressed without a language for it.
I hear you go
sound-lost into the hillside pour,
last night’s rain still marbling round,
trickling, rolling, letting down
inside the porous limestone maze
to spill, artesian, out at last
a million milky mountain pearls
in giving, endless spray.

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.