Rebecca K. Reynolds

Honest Company for the Journey

In Labor

Your dad was reading the Count of Monte Cristo when I went into labor, so he brought it along with him, and we finished those last two chapters in the hospital.

My belly grew hard and round to purge you;
those crescendos (hallelujah!) of sharp seizings,
those trumpet blasts of focus
which call a young woman to man up
and face the love arriving to undo her.

I did not scream
when the technician stuck a needle in my spine six times
trying to find a gap and laughing because I was a tricky one.

The cramps left in a hot, sweet rush,
and then everything was quiet and easy.

I thought it would hurt more than it did,
but I found a loophole;
my moment of perfect agony
never came.

Oh, a first baby moves from a flutter to a kick,
to a charging coal train.
He becomes iron gears and fire,
angular and defiant,
stretching a pretty, soft, flat belly
into some alien form,
into a circus oddity.
I became a two-headed chicken.

There is a moment every young mother
stops to look at all she has done
and sees that a decision was made for her.
She didn't know, see?

That there is no easy way
to ever become not pregnant again,
no backspace,
no exit ramp.

We stand there with our bare, sweet, unlined faces
looking into a mirror
and see that we have been overtaken.
We see that life will take its tearing and its cutting
out of our blood and our water.

And it seems impossible
that we have become a mother by such comedy.

The secret of our kind
is that two kids roll in the sheets,
and then a woman's lungs become the lungs of another.

We are commandeered,
transformed into nursers,
and determiners of destiny.
We become the archetype,
the mountain,
the boulder,
the sea,
and the moon.

They handed him to me,
nine pounds five --
no, I'm wrong --
nine thousand pounds,
and I could not breathe
because of his fingers.

He stretched them out into the wide world
bold red and perfect,
little knuckle divots betraying him,
for he declared himself an ox,
and Samson.
But I sanitized the shopping cart, nonetheless.

And now all these years have gone
so I labor again.
Oh, these hot waves of fear!
The water and the blood!

Last night he called six hours away,
sopping wet from riding a bike in the rain
in the dark.
No helmet.

He was trying to sneak in to a concert,
so happy,
so free,
so dangerous.

But I wrote and said,
"Get a taxi. I'll pay."
"Don't ride with a freak.
The world is full of freaks! Don't forget!"
"I love you."

And here the seizing comes,
the labor pains,
Oh! The labor pains!

I remember how this goes,
though this time I am brought to my knees
without anesthesia.

- - -
Art: "Mathilde Holding a Baby Who Reaches Out to the Right" by Mary Cassatt