Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I need to tell this story because I need to write it down and look at it. It has itself rewritten my body, the mark of the surgeon forever a part of me now and so in order to stop late night images I have to do something else with it.

After three months of bed rest my water broke at 1:00 in the morning on Easter Sunday. While little bunnies were depositing candy and eggs in country corners I was loading myself into the car, deeply relieved, incredibly excited, mightily anxious and just thrilled that the nightmare of my pregnancy would soon be over and the baby would finally be here.

Things went strange pretty quickly. I progressed to 8 cm in an hour. And then Willa’s heart rate slowed, and slowed more. There wasn’t time to wait out the extra 2 cm and so I was hurled through the hallways of our small maternity department and into the OR for the c-section.

While the gurney was breaking through the doors I remember thinking, I can still feel these contractions. I told the anesthesiologist. When they made the first incision I looked at him and said, “I felt that.” He said, “Does it feel like pressure or like burning?” “Burning” I said. His face was partially obscured by the mask but I saw he blanched. I saw his eyes. I knew then that I was in trouble.

Throughout what followed I remember trying not to scream. I did not want to frighten Willa in her first moments in the world. They strapped down my arms and my legs flailed. I yelled because I could not control it. The pain was beyond all reckoning. I felt every moment of my daughter being taken out of me.

Through the viscera, the rank fear and the straining for a hand to hold (my husband had not been allowed in the room, he was outside closed doors listening to what was happening) I still waited for the cry. I needed to know she was ok and that cry was going to tell me all I needed to know. She cried, she howled. I passed out.

So now I carry this mark. It pulls the skin slightly in this funny way, not very noticeable but to me it’s a sentence with a strange new punctuation, something invented to suit a new purpose, a mark that rewrites all meaning. I look at it everyday and remember how it got there. It makes things clear for me. All that came before its presence no longer exists. Life began at that mark. In fact life was taken from underneath it, and lived, and sits on my lap and howls still but with new vigor, new purpose. We all have new purpose.

It reminds me too that we can survive anything, we can take it, we can walk through fires and though we may bear the scars ever afterwards, they only add to our story. They write wonderful new chapters. These are titles to poems of daily life. Willa is my poem and the mark that marks her entrance to this world and the terrible experience it was only reminds me of the strength I have to continue. We all of us. All of us. This is the strength of motherhood, of parenting interesting babies and singular lives. We are simultaneously both: alone in our unique circumstances and just like everyone else in what we have the capacity to endure.

Since Willa arrived I have met wonderful mothers. Women who walk through fires everyday that so many of us could not imagine and what you will continually hear from them is this, “I’m just like you.” And so we must support each other, for our sameness, our differences and the ways in which little marks mean big things. We all have a story to tell.


Chrystal said...

I, again, am so impressed by your writing.

What an experience. You're one tough mama.

Little Terry said...

You are a beautiful writer. Thanks for sharing, not just your experience, but your trust in the rest of us.

Jen said...

This is a very moving post. I am especially drawn to that last paragraph, about how we're all in this together, no matter our experiences. Really wonderful.

invisiblecities said...

Ladies, you are exactly who I'm talking about. Thank you so much for your comments, I always appreciate them. xx

Anonymous said...

Here is another beautiful family:


Krista said...

One of my best friends posted a link to your latest, devastating post. I am not a mom--want to be some day--but am quite invested in the lives of my many friends with their lovely children. I say this as a disclaimer because I can't, on any level--aside from the fact that I am a woman who some day wants to be a mother--even pretend to be able to relate to any part of what you're going through.

So I read you post (3-15) while making pdfs in the digital studio at NYU's library, and cried. And now I can't stop reading, from the beginning. My heart is with you. And,
aside from the story itself, you are a beautiful writer (and I'm quite discriminating.) Thank you for sharing this with us.