Just Like a Woman
When I gave birth to Julia, I thought I knew what it would be like, this whole mother thing. But I didn't. I was like a baby myself, struggling to understand how to hold her tiny little body and how to place her oh so delicate mouth so that it would latch onto my breast. The whole process was frustrating, with nurses coming in and out of my room to check this and that. Part of me wanted to scream, "Help! Take her away, I . . . was wrong. Someone else should be doing this!"
When my doctor came in that first night, I asked her what to do. She said in a very simple and calm voice, "Sing." Oh. I could do that.
It was midnight, the halls were dim and quiet and the only words that would form themselves across my lips were, "Nobody feels any pain," an old Dylan song, "tonight, as I stand inside the rain . . ." and I kept going until all the milk was gone and her soft feathery eyelids closed down upon flushed pink cheeks. That's when my whole life changed. It wasn't the victory of labor that brought me past one part of my life into another, it was the knowledge that I could really be a mother, my secret most intimate desire.
I don't think I really understood what it was to be a human or a woman until that night. And I am still so damaged from my former life—it's next to impossible for me to allow another person to get close to me. But I guess none of that matters now. Not really.