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After Birth

The midwife tells my daughter to send me home. Mothers can slow down labor. I toss and turn all night, imagine the flowing cloud of my daughter's long hair drenched in light, her body sweating in the grip of a larger force. After her partner's phone call confirming a safe delivery, announcing a baby girl, I lie awake next to the lightly sleeping grandfather. Only with the greatest restraint can I keep myself from bursting in on the exhausted new family at dawn with a teapot, muffins, flowers. Eight hours after the birth, cued by a second call, we follow the new baby's father through their living room past the birthing pool filled with yellowing water. A narrow passage leads us to the bedroom where mother and child are propped up on the high, white bed. The mother smiles at us briefly, her hair a flowing mantle over a smaller, darker head resting in the blanket in her arms. Next to them an orange Tupperware tub holds the placenta, draped in a cloth diaper. I fill my eyes with the child, suckling in a heartbeat rhythm, marvel at the blue and white cord, decorated at intervals with black oval beads. The next day the cord has already dried, beads and all, to a dark reddish brown. The child opens her eyes as I awkwardly juggle her with her placenta tub, release her mother for a few minutes of rest. When she cries for the breast, my daughter and I awkwardly exchange child and placenta, still joined by the fragile cord that shrivels as it waits for an answering release.

Lovely images--so evocative. The last sentence is stunning.
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