March 21, 2017

Michelle Bitting

LABOR AND DELIVERY

She leads me down a corridor—an older woman in green pajamas, away from the slick tile and smart upholstery of the waiting area, towards the “fully licensed operating room” hiding on the other side. I’ve been longing to see it, the same way when I was a young girl I’d watch Whatever Happened To Baby Jane even though I wasn’t supposed to, fascinated by the freakish characters and their secret lives. We step into a changing room with lockers and a gurney. She hands me booties, a shower cap, and a paper gown, asks me if I’m warm enough, and then leaves so I can change. I strip to my waist and wrap the flimsy tunic around my middle, pissed I have to expose so much when it’s just my fucking nose that needs fixing. This pre-cancer shit I’m told only a plastic surgeon can handle, due to the delicate angle on the bridge of my nose. She knocks, and I follow her down another hall, another set of doors that open into a much larger room with hospital beds and monitors lined up on one side. I flash on the last time I was in a hospital: seven and a half months ago when my baby girl was born, when I spent a night and a day in labor and delivery, working every ounce of me to push a bright ball through the narrow slit between my legs, as if her exit could ever keep away the disease, the terminal nature of loving, whose cells would only multiply over time and eventually divide us, like walls, without our even knowing it was happening.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001

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Michelle Bitting: “Most of my early poems were about motherhood and dealing with my brother’s death. The psychological compression of suddenly being ‘confined’ with a baby triggered a survival-instinct need to write, I mean, it really was a lightening to the skull kind of phenomenon. The release and freedom and wisdom that I gleaned through the journey inside made life bearable, and miraculously, my little world of triumphs and trials became relevant to more than just me.” (website)