As a writer and mother who can no longer have any more, it is my deep grieving responsibility to tell stories. Since the moment I saw the double lines on a pregnancy stick, I’ve encountered incredible women who have pressed on through heartbreaking circumstances. I am every, and all, and none of these women. This is a tribute to you – brave daughters of God. Though this piece is fiction, your tangible tears have never gone unnoticed.
I contort my body to make it look like you’re sticking out more. Jutting my pelvis forward and taking huge breaths, I hope seasoned passersby ask if you’re in there, and I will sheepishly allow the corners of my lips to curl and say “why yes” while feigning shock. I pretend my pants are getting too tight by wearing a pair of American Eagle jeans from college underneath a bell-shaped blouse. It’s a Tuesday, and right on schedule my phone pings with a notification from a lady with a tight and shiny face about what growth stages you are going through. My face crinkles when I open the app because the picture makes you look more like a silkworm than a succulent dumpling. In my dreams, I don’t picture you a hairless wrinkled old man in an oversized onesie. I turn it off in hopes in a few weeks you will look more like us, if you’re still with us. You will be. Just the thought of your sister presses bags of sand on my chest makes it hard to inhale. I have to convince myself sometimes that you’re not in her spot. You’re not in the place where she sat, then fell dead in a crimson clot. I’m your mommy too.
My hands wave over my belly, waxing on and waxing off body butter like a Thanksgiving turkey as a prayer against purple lightning bolts. This is what people say to do, and I’ve never been this far along so I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, but your da da says your exit route is paved with plum colored directions. This may be shocking, but Mommy hasn’t seen her hoo-ha in months, so we will have to trust him. You should know this by now with all the hip-hop versions of nursery rhymes you don’t know yet coming through on 101.1 Womb, but your da da is a goof. We finished your room with a brown eight dollar lamp from Walmart to match the two plush monkeys we ordered online which arrived in a gray airmail envelope from some province in China. One of the monkeys had a pink bow, but don’t worry, Mommy took that one and put it in her closet.
9 days after
This is not how it was supposed to be. Everything from my ribs down still burns when I pee. I use all of my extra strength to avoid the grotesque reflection of a deflated balloon in the mirror when I step out of the shower. It’s 6:12 AM, and I want you to stop needing me every few hours. I know you cannot survive without me, but I can’t be the only one you need right now. Just please, let me be human. I’m tired too. Why can’t I see beauty in your eyes? All the stories of love at first sight filled me with anticipation, but all I can see is your sister who didn’t make it. Why didn’t she make it? I know there is no one to blame, but the truth is, is I don’t know how to be your mommy. People say this is all natural, but as I settle back into bed and you curl your lips around my tender breast all I am feeding you are tears. I’m sorry I can’t be stronger for you. I’m sorry it wasn’t love at first sight. But I’ve never done this before, and a big part of me is so mad because I thought I was meant to do this before you. You’ve finally stop trying to drink from me, and I know you’re only trying to live. But so am I.
9 weeks after
We are finally in routine, and I don’t feel like a complete failure. It’s 3:17 AM, and I already have the bottle ready for you as you make small whimpers from your corner of the room. Clicking on the bathroom light, I navigate the diaper and wipes in the sliver of light and pray for urine. Thank God. You’re still sleep-drunk as we snuggle, and I hide my failure in the darkness by placing your cheek against my warm empty breast and place the clear nipple into your searching mouth. As my eyes adjust to the haze of light, I run my hand over your dark auburn hairs. These are Mommy’s soft straight strands. Your da da didn’t give you his coarse ebony locks. There goes your two customary bubble burps before your last sip. As you finish, I wipe your tiny Cupid’s bow with my thumb and watch as you slowly fall asleep. Before I turn off the light, I see you for the first time. I grab your fingers and toes and cup your cheek and curl you towards me. Mommy made these hands, and Mommy made these toes, and Mommy made these eyes, and Mommy made this mouth. The tide of emotions crash into me, beating against the regret and guilt, and breaking up all the stories they told me. My pillow smells like you, distinct and undeniable, of cotton, milk, and pink lotion.
I would know you anywhere.