Each time gets you instant skinny. As soon as the kid slips out. Okay, maybe not exactly “slips.” More like twenty-two hours of show-off stoic teeth-clenching stuffed-down guttural silent wailing, spring-loaded contorted spasming and twisted viscera vice-gripped wrenching, on all fours, crouching, bucking, crouching, bucking, butt-up then flipping, or being flipped, waxed pussy exposed to probing perineum massaging fingers stretching skin not meant to be stretched so thin it rips…. No! No! No! No! I changed my mind. Too late, can’t go back, can’t stop now. No epidurals for you. Just fifteen milligrams of morphine that do nothing. NOTHING. Get it out of me! They won’t let you push. Not now, just rest, just wait. The calm between storms. Worse than the searing stabs of pain is waiting for it to attack again. You’re doing great. Take a break, have a rest.… YOU HAVE TO SHIT IT OUT NOW! Why won’t the let you? Jerking, kicking, flailing, an animal eviscerated from the inside out, sinewed innards ripped apart like string cheese. You clutch Naomi Wolff’s Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood so hard it drips ink onto crumpled sheets, scream accusations during the exorcism to nurses checking vitals. Your husband’s face so close you could bite it off as he mansplains Lamaze-class breathing techniques. FUCK him and anyone else in the room not being ripped right now from sphincter to urethra by a live basketball trying to drive itself through a pinhole. He orders in Thai food and watches a crime show while you “rest.” Then, finally, spun on your side, legs held up and out, one final UGHHH …. Easy. And you are skinny again. Or, at least not pregnant. Instant relief. You can breathe all the way. Your body torn, pulled inside out, is yours again. The infant placed upon your chest, slimed-alive pygmy alien crawls blind-eyed to the nipple and suckles.
You can see your feet and roll on your stomach again. And the boobs, a puberty you never had, big and hard, so full and round they look fake, Instagramable tits producing life juice, immunity superfood full of nutrients. And you thought pregnancy gave you boobs? These are another category, cups so full they shoot way up the alphabet. For the first time in your life, you have a chest that sticks out, more proud and womanly than ever been before.
Then the shitting starts. The first day out for a walk, alone with your precious angel perfect infant snug-wrapped close against your body, swaddled in the all-natural fiber baby wrap, imbuing you with a preternatural youthful beauty, though yours was a geriatric pregnancy. You wear white slip-on sneakers, the denim maxi-skirt from a French designer bought on sale at a boutique you permit yourself to browse in only once every two years, if that. The air as alive as you and your newborn. A bright calm clean day bears witness as you mother life upon your very being when your body decides to go rogue, and your anus explodes, a poop right there on the street. Your butthole expels a warm soft-serve you feel ooze down your thighs. You want to run the block and a half home but must keep the legs closed, fast walk in urgent tiny Geisha steps. Squeeze sphincter, squeeze sphincter, hold it, hold it… Almost home, your body relaxes before you are ready; something opens, dribbles out a warm splurt again. You all but throw your precious days-old cargo onto the bed, work fast to extricate yourself from the muslin cloth and leap onto the toilet. With speed and care you pull the postpartum mesh underwear down and out, so as to not spread the excrement even more, a move you will come to perfect in years to come when changing infants and toddlers in the same predicament. An expert in the tender cleaning of messes.
A. Cabrera’s creative nonfiction and fiction have appeared in The New Guard, Brain,Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Best Travelers’ Tales 2021 Anthology, Deronda, Anti-Heroin Chic, and other journals. Their work has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and adapted for stage by the Bay Area Word for Word Theater Company.