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.
Ann Hostetler is the author of a volume of poetry, Empty Room with Light (Pandora Press 2002), which was a finalist for the Arlin G. Meyer Award in 2005, and the editor of A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (Iowa 2003). Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals including The American Scholar, Mid-America Poetry Review, The Cream City Review, and online in the Valparaiso Poetry Review, Dreamseeker Magazine, and Mennonite Life. Her poems also appear in the anthologies Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets (SUNY Press 2010), Tongue Screws and Testimonies (Herald Press 2010), Common Wealth (PSU Press 2005), and Are You Experienced? (Iowa 2003). She is the mother of four and grandmother of two. She lives in Goshen, Indiana, where she is professor of English at Goshen College and serves as the web editor of the Center for Mennonite Writing Journal.
More from Ann Hostetler