“THIS IS MY BODY” • POEMS BY POSTPARTUM MOTHERS • #3

These are my breasts. They swell and empty like creatures of the tidal pools, except this is the freak show circus of the sea mirrored back to me. For the colors and patterns of my breasts would be garishly yellow and red and polka-dotted. Their bulge is an ideal mast for the moumou, for a pliant drapery. They are both floppy-goofy and stoney-stalwart. I touch them like a regularly worn fanny pack, testing the weight of their contents — is the trail mix sufficient for the hike? I was afraid of the swell before pregnancy and I do not love the way they add to my girth, my matron presence, but still there is some pleasure or freedom in this highest clown version. I take them out with stealth ease in public now. They have not been drained entirely of sexual stimulation, even if this is occasionally only awkwardly induced by my sucking child and less frequently by the contact of my lover, who navigates them delicately, most likely out of respect for my mysterious sensations.

Photo courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/elliana_allon/

 

These are my shoulders. They carry it all, the baby girl, the breasts, the tired and slumping torso below. The right shoulder was a burping benchpress for a while. When I take time to do any form of exercise, I sense that all of the emotion is stored in the muscles that anchor the scapula. The roll of a small ball in the blades, or a twisting stretch against the floor can make me cry, a cry of ache and awe at once.

Photo courtesy of www.instagram.com/ellianagilbertphotography/

This is my skin. I finally know it as the organ it is. It contains the breadth of a year, four seasons in orchestration at once, covering a globe of polar shifts, winter one place and summer another. It absorbs and rejects. It harbors humid fats in one area while weathering to thin leather in another. Little islands emerge and retract. I look at it next to the brand new flesh of my baby that it is in constant contact with. I see myself a stranger in this relation, but a well worn and ancient guidepost this young traveler has happened upon. And even while slowed down in comparison to the lightning cellular regeneration of a baby, this skin reminds me of the capacity for healing.

This is my belly. Shame puddle. The part I try to ignore and hide. I’ve even couched it in the middle of these paragraphs. It was so pleasurable to have it unapologetically, purposefully pronounced with pregnancy. Now it’s just back to a useless abundance of flesh and reminder of bad habits that bear indication of other things I am probably ignoring in my life. Can I find pleasure in its soft warmth and reserves of energy?

Photo courtesy of @ellianagilbertphotography

Photo courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/ellianagilbertphotography/

This is my chocha. It laughs, it howls, it throws its head back while blazing saddles into the sunset horizon leaving all the motherfuckers behind. The ring of fire was real and the scar tissue holds the burn burn burn memory like an anthem. The lip of a cauldron for the witches brew. It’s frightened and courageous, curiously listening for the rapture. In reality it is rather unattended to, but these are the confidences I keep for it. I saw a tag at Echo Park Lake, one word of bouncy painted script, “mompussy” and had an unexpected sensation of pride and pleasure at this provocation.

These are my psoa, the counterpart to the shoulders. They are an overtired cranky child that need a long bath and a nap. They get all gummed up in the stagnant machinery and are then forced into action with long childbearing walks and quick stabs at exercise. Continually straining across my groin and inner thigh, they beg for more tenderness and support.

These are my feet. Their delicate parts are off balance and scattered across this grounding landscape in miniature. They are the workers that have no recourse to emote and have resigned to a laborious life lead with aches. They find themselves in overarched awkward and likely unnecessary positions to support various activities with the child. They wonder if they ever might enjoy running in solitude again for just a brief moment.

These are my arms, the carefree and steady manipulators of the moment. They are full of productivity and love, lifting, carrying, and gently placing a small body that becomes less and less helpless everyday. The dance between these arms and this baby body defy gravity. We could move together through outer space or the quiet depths of the ocean.

~Brigid
Shared with permission

~This poem is part of a series of poems written by new mothers as part of a postpartum group/mothers’ circle facilitated by Britta Bushnell. The assignment was for each new mother to introduce their bodies to themselves and the group through poetry. Mothers were given the following instructions:

“Spend some time getting to know your new mother’s body. Pay attention to your body and how it has changed. Then, write a poem about it in the following format:
This is my (body part) it (what it does for you now as a parent/mother/woman).
Or…These are my ______, they______. (for plural parts like eyes, ears, hands, etc.)
Include your reproductive/sexual parts (breasts, belly, and vagina/yoni/your word choice) and a few others as well. Identify at least 8 body parts. New parents have limited time and adding something to your already busy schedule might make you grimace. Please try it! It’s a POWERFUL process.”

A new poem will be shared each Saturday morning for the next few months. If you would like to write and submit a poem to be shared, please contact Britta.

About the author: Dr. Britta Bushnell is a writer, teacher, storyteller, and mentor who blends her eclectic training, years of experience, and areas of study into a unique offering for individuals, couples, professionals, and groups. Britta is currently deep at work writing her forthcoming book, Transformed by Birth: Illuminating cultural ideals to enhance the experience of childbirth.

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