It’s been exactly a week since I passed. An opaque surgical-green veil divided my body into two unequal parts—a conscious torso, with arms outstretched and clamped, a blood pressure-monitoring device firmly attached to my right arm, my left, Relatively less weighted, and an anesthetic lower body.
Last Thursday morning, before leaving for our hospital, my partner, who had always been attentive to beauty, invited me to step onto his balcony and look up at the pre-sky. We saw Venus in all its radiant glory, and a crescent moon. On our way to the hospital we amused ourselves to see everyone dressed in carnival costumes for their regular routine, a reminder that it was ‘Fuck Thursday’. I once again heard of Miss Hills to Zion, as a portal to what it means to accept motherhood, as a way of answering a call, and celebrating a love poem from mother to child. Gives thanks to his progeny for choosing his womb through which to enter this world.
The final grace I needed to make the surgical transition from pregnant to postpartum finally entered the room. My partner was wearing scrubs and he sat beside me and looked so closely into my eyes that I could see myself reflected in his lens, reminding me the first time that I had actually found myself through his gaze. ‘saw.
Behind the scenes a team of surgeons took over their positions. At every level, I was spoken to with sympathy. I was told about the physical sensations I would and would not feel. A tingling heat will grip my legs from down my spine to my toes and while I am free of pain, I will still ‘feel’ the movements being performed. I did the breathing exercises I was training myself to trust for such a moment, and allowed myself to completely surrender to my partner’s reassuring presence and pros. It would be around 9.25 in the morning when suddenly I felt a weight lifting from the center of my body. We heard our baby’s first cry together, the most exciting voice ever.
Soon he was brought before the screen so that I could turn my head to the right and see him. The first voices he’d heard would be multilingual—surgeons in both German and Italian marveled at how much hair he had on his head, my partner and I speaking English. He was brought towards us and I got to spend some time stroking his cheeks on my cheeks. My partner stayed with him in another room until the surgeon could perform the more complicated part of the operation, returning all my organs to their proper places. I found a place to fixate, a clock on the wall, and suddenly found I couldn’t stop smiling.
I don’t think I’ve ever known such happiness. Even though I had expected a mix of relief and joy, the final feeling was so much more prominent, so much more intoxicating. The baby we conceived together, that I nursed so hard in my womb for 39 weeks, was finally a sovereign being. My body was suddenly postpartum.
Six hours later I was grateful to be able to stand, to detach the catheter, and to walk, no matter how painful it was. One of the challenges of the next four days spent in the hospital was taking care of our baby while taking care of the body after the operation. I found within myself a store of strength I didn’t know I had, as if I was building muscle the whole time. I don’t know where I got my stamina, especially as I slowly entered a state of sleep deprivation, as a variety of hormones were triggered and I was feeling more vulnerable than ever to emotions, And yet was able to center myself, holding my body and my existence with both patience and kindness. I faced hunger like I had never imagined, so fierce and vast. The aspects of delivering baby care I was most apprehensive about—specifically changing diapers and cleaning up the meconium—were happy to perform. I was unexpectedly excited by all of this and continue to do so, and even when intense exhaustion strikes, I am amazed by my patience, by my ability to love.
The last seven days have not been as smooth as I would have liked them to be. We struggled twice to achieve a 20 percent weight loss and I have to admit that my body is still struggling to produce milk after a C-section. But I am learning to be patient and to take joy in every drop that I am able to secrete. When I look at my postpartum body in the mirror, I feel blessed.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Roslyn D’Mello is a distinguished art critic and author of A Handbook for My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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