Birth/Bereft

4 years ago on a Thanksgiving I was in a hospital, eating the hospital pumpkin pie and the hospital turkey, my water broken, waiting for the son who would, around 4 am the following morning, finally make his first appearance as a separate entity, no longer tied to me by cord, the hard wedge of his body startling me as he turned circles below my ribcage.

He sounded like a goose, honking as he was handed to me. Still covered in blood, and yet the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, even then a poem I knew I’d never have the right words for. And if I loved him, the living child, more than I might have if there had never been a lost one, well, I didn’t have any way of knowing for sure. But I did know then—and I do know now—that this child would make me into the best version of myself—for him I’d do better, for him I’d demand better, for him I’d say no to people who’d see him as an obstacle to creating a connection with me, something that had to be worked around.

That Thanksgiving it was both birth and bereft—for months I had been two people, and now I was only one, the shape of my stomach only suggestion—like the universe, mostly empty of matter. It was both birth and bereft—from that moment forward he would always be moving further away, the way that children inevitably do as they age, a satellite slipped from its orbit, drifting into the unknown expanse of space.

4 years later I stand in front of a mirror, trace the lines on my stomach with a finger, as though I’ve rivers carved into my skin. They are my marks, they are my son’s, but they are also his father’s. And so I don’t know how to explain these marks to another man someday, how to say that his father’s death birthed me once again into oneness, only now I am the one that is drifting. How to say these are my tributaries, my canyons, my gullies, as if I were a whole earth rendered into smaller flesh, how to say I only want a man to hold me as if he were holding the world.

4 years later I trace these lines and then I cover them, with fabric, with music, with books read, with words I write, wanting it to be just enough to be my own universe, and not someone else’s.

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