You are under a crush of ice
a sheet of pain over the water of your body
your hands pressed against it, looking up
through that glassy ceiling of agony
to everyone looking down at you. Yes
their hands are pressed to the ice, trying
to hold your own, but they are breathing
air, and you, you are looking for the next breathing
hole, the place where you can rise for a moment, catch
a breath before that ice presses down again.
This is day three. You sit in the bed, pushing,
you sit in the bath, pushing, you get out to let
the midwife massage your cervix, pushing.
She breaks your waters, that pillow
between you and more pain, that cradle for your
daughter’s head that you’ve protected for months
now and you’re pushing again willing with every
muscle for the word progress. That’s the only word
that matters now. Not, do it for your baby
(fuck you!) not visualize your baby just please
look at me, look at my face, and tell me:
you’re making progress.
You feel a tender hand on your face, rise above
the waters for a moment and there is a doctor
pushing the hair out of your eyes with such
sweetness you begin to weep. This woman
touching you. She is here. She pulls
you out from beneath the ice.
Needles in your spine, an operating table
a tent to block your body from yourself—
the litany of nightmares you have worked
so hard to avoid, and none of it matters.
She is taking your hand, pulling you out
and as you rise you remember: Hazel.
That sweet name is sugar
melting on your tongue and you take in
great breaths of air, grateful
to be back in your body again.
Kiss your daughter says the doctor
and there she is: bloody, beautiful.
The doctor wipes off a spot
for you to kiss but you don’t care
you want to inhale her whole
and you press your face
to hers, breathe her in
You touch her hair, thick as the midwife
had promised it was, connecting
that womb life with this person
next to you, whole and beautiful.
Finally, Hazel. Finally, you.
Floating, for a while, before
all the complicated emotions
come back: the regrets, the rage,
the joy, and everyone else’s
feelings which just don’t matter.
This is about you and Hazel
stepping out of that dark lake
stepping onto the shore,
learning how to breathe.