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Afterbirth
by Meredith Winn

Homebirth. Hemorrhage. Horizontal Bed rest. I respect gravity now and its ability to shift loose organs tucked safely into stretched out muscles.

My husband opens all the windows and lets the house breathe. He is thankful when his mom arrives, and later that day when my parents' plane lands. Help is on the way. Help washing diapers. Help with all tedious details of life after birth. We weren't expecting me to be flat on my back. We are naive. I only know one truth in this instant: there's nothing more humbling than a bedpan. Especially after giving birth.

I have no idea what I look like and I don't even care. I know that I am very very pale. I know that I am very very weak. I know that I despise this pink plastic bedpan. "Please help me walk to the bathroom." I'm broken. I'm a mother.

My hips are loose. My legs don't work on their own. I feel like I'm a stranger in my once familiar body. My beautiful shiny round belly has been replaced with rising dough. It's so soft as it drapes and hangs above my belly button.

I put one hand on each of his shoulders and we walk impossibly slow with bare feet. A single file procession to the bathroom. It's only ten feet away from the bed, but it takes us two excruciating minutes to get there. I never expected to be so weak.

I'm still wearing my black tank top smeared with creamy vernix. I feel like a little kid, needing help with everything. Birth was my strongest moment, my most intuitive twenty hours. But the days that follow are my ultimate weakest. I'd love to take a bath, to piece myself back together. I get so lightheaded while standing that there's this real fear of me passing out in the shower. I'm stubborn and sad. The shower curtain is open to his help and water splashes onto the floor, dripping off my elbows. His shirt and shoes are wet. The water turns red from dried blood washing off my body. Down the drain it goes, becoming a memory of the passing.

He sits in the rocking chair beside me as I lay nursing our son on the bed. We talk about the birth. I tell him everything I remember. It sounds strange to hear me talk about it, like a dream that lingers into daylight. I tell him the pleading I made when my lips were blue and my baby was screaming.

This will be the only baby for us. I have to be present to raise him up. Life feels too precious. I saw it teetering on the edge, while I lay on the floor in a puddle of bloody chux pads. After birth, I was in between life and death. Waiting in the wings, naive and happy. My wailing newborn in my arms. Death looked down at me from its perch on the living room ceiling. Death watched the minute hand of the ticking clock. Seven minutes to bleed out.

Birth is a door that can swing either way. Give or take.

I remember writing down my fears. A ritual in letting them float away from me on the Colorado River. It was a day of sunshine after many months of flooding rains. My fears filled the front and back of two college lined loose-leaf pages. I wrote in crooked cursive. I was nervously pregnant. I wrote the truth that no one would see. The river bled that ink into its waters. The current carried those truths away from me.

I had no fear of death. I was later humbled. After birth, I learned that it's not the dying I fear. It's the missing.

Meredith Winn is a writer, photographer, and stay at home mother. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two year old son, River. Her writing has been published in HipMama, Motherverse Magazine, and the upcoming Alternative Birth Anthology. Day by day, she inches closer to publishing her book.

feature added on 2007-12-08 :: ::

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