LIKE WAVING GOODBYE
On our last Valentine’s Day
as a free couple, we each had a half glass
of wine with crab legs, then watched porn
and made love as loudly as we could.
Then we packed the hospital bag—
checked the car seat clasps one more time,
and went through the list: diapers, pillow, nipple cream, socks.
The night before, I had bought myself a diamond ring, my first line of credit.
I wanted a ring on my finger to tell the story I didn’t have,
so the nurses wouldn’t ask questions or so it would look a certain way
to our families when they arrived. Like they’d think this teen mom maybe
had her shit together, because she had a tall man and a promise of family.
And at dinner, while the crabs cracked, and we looked nervously
around the restaurant for judgment and then back at my full belly,
I showed him the ring I had bought myself, already on my finger, wiggled it up
and down, and I told him that if he wanted, he could tell people he gave it to me.
He kept on cracking, darting his eyes, sipping his chowder, and later in the
delivery room with eight hours of nothing but a Pitocin drip, I was only at a
four, and he kept asking me to hurry,
I need a smoke. I had planned to go natural, but my body was slow and
holding back. So I told him to
go—have a cigarette, and while he was gone, I let go of being natural.
Then I asked the nurse for drugs, and once the needle stuck my spine,
I laughed for ten minutes straight in hysteric relief. I tried to wiggle my toes
like waving goodbye, and I couldn’t, and I laughed harder until I fell asleep.
And eight hours later, I awoke and half my body was unnumbed—
the needle, crooked, or maybe it was my spine, and I could only lift one leg a
nd not the other,
and the cramp of my heaving belly waved through me like electricity, my body
I didn’t have the build-up. My eyes had been closed, I couldn’t remember
in the book. But prepared or not, she was coming.
And then they said I had to push. And there was no time. And I could feel it all:
my daughter’s dome, her hair, my heavy legs, and the body ripping,
my attention splitting—he was gone. And I wondered what had made me
want to feel all this
in the first place. They asked me to wait for the doctor. But I told them
hell no, I was ready,
and of course, no one believed me, but I could feel the right side of myself heaving, helping
my daughter arrive. When I looped my elbows with my knees,
I knew my own power, and I knew it was happening in that moment,
no matter what. It was me and her, together
emerging, and in a single push, I felt myself open—
if only just halfway.
from Rattle #68, Summer 2020
Megan Alyse: “At age nineteen, on Valentine’s Day, I went into labor. The day itself was ironic for a kid whose worst fear was not loving her baby. Each year at that time, I circle back to the complexity surrounding her arrival, both medically and emotionally. On her ninth birthday, I decided to write the story of us: a love poem turned on its ear. I read the poem to my daughter this year who asked, ‘Who ever buys themselves diamonds?’ And I told her, ‘People who don’t understand worth quite yet.’ This one’s for you Penny Layne. Thanks for teaching this dumb, nihilistic kid how to love and bloom.” ( web)