Variations on a Birth
by Sarah Bain

I. Imagined

This one is easy,
the imagined one; it turns
out the way I want it to as if
I were in control,
deciding how you would arrive.

It would be all champagne
and celebration knowing how
well the first two turned out.

Can you imagine this one with
me? I'm the one who's always
enjoyed birth. The one who's always
had an easy time of it.

At home, in a birthing tub with
the midwife arriving just
in time to catch
the baby.
here she

comes all quiet and ready
to nurse. Nothing like those babies
on television
red and cranky.

This one I imagine faster than
the first or second one. Will
my water break early
like it did before?
How easy to think about
me pushing and
you slipping out into the
water like S didóresting first on my tummy
then finding your way to my breast.

There is nothing better in life,
that first cry a baby makes, the eyes
barely open and rolling
around like they aren't quite
sure how to work yet.

There is nothing better
than this imagined birth
knowing now full well
the outcome.

II. Real

Not at all like I imagined
having done this twice before.

Who knew this time
that when I pushed you out
your heart would have
beating two days
before, that your skin
would be peeling
away from what was
left of you.

There were no smiles,
no celebration,
only our silent tears and your
silent entrance into the
worldóthe one you've already left.
For where?

I count as I push
One, two, three,
four, five
and hold.
I try to hold you inside
while the doctor shouts to push
you out. I'm not listening anymore.
I can plug my ears without
fingers just by thinking
about you.

Doesn't she know once I push
you out that you're gone?
that I have nothing left
to hold on to except
this empty shell.

Author Biography
I am a writer and a mother of three children, Carver, Sophia and beloved daughter and much-anticipated sister, Grace, who was stillborn on June 1, 2003. New Beginnings: A La Leche League Breastfeeding Journal , as well as a an essay in The Philosophical Mother, June 2004. I can be reached at

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