Harper's Arrival

Today I drove a couple to the hospital.
I ran out of their building, jumped into my car, did a U-turn,
saw her kneeling on the stairs as if in deep prayer
her husband's body draped over her in protection.

Watch the bumps
30 minutes of head in the pillow
head on his lap
loving words
low moaning
legs braced for the curves in the road.

Water - I need water.
You're doing it.
You're amazing.

He calls out our progress
We're at Boundary
We've passed Knight Street
We're almost at Cambie
We're on Oak.

Press the button to obtain a ticket.

We park
One contraction
Two contractions
Back out of the car

Fully dilated

We wrestle angels

On my way to see a client the other day, I drove past the beach, and watched the sailboarders fly through the October waves. Last night, the image returned as I listened to Michael Symmons Roberts on the radio, reading from his own poem about observing sailboarders:

"These men wrestle angels. Each now sits on / an enormous wing waiting for the winds to rise"

For me, it always comes back to labour. For, in labour, we wrestle angels. We struggle to blend reality with expectation. We skim the ecstatic knife edge between pleasure and pain. We emerge, changed utterly.

Thanks to Deb, Elaine, Sheena and Betty - the four midwives who helped me wrestle the angels

After Zoe's Birth

during the birth
my hands are the hands of all women
smoothing the lines between past
and future

the women are with us

after the birth
we hear the midwife
snap clean sheets
see her climb up
onto the high bed
to smooth the corners

you climb up
babe in arms
and we slip silently through the door
between life and death
to join all the mothers under the moon

...the way some collect spoons

After the Birth

in her mind
she goes over and over the details,
how, close to the end,
she could no longer stand
the sound of her husband's breathing,
the pain
and the need to keep pushing
long after the baby was out
and the midwife gone

months later,
she still wants her husband
in bed late at night
to tell her once again what happened
but he is tired of broken sleep
and the crying babe
so she turns to other women
and collects birthing stories
the way some collect spoons

I'm home from a birth that spanned the night. Driving through the dark, I saw the husband turn left on yellow, wheels spinning ahead of me. She walked through the shushing doors and slowly lowered her body to the floor. - Are you feeling pressure? She nods. Husband with tears in eyes. Woman low moaning, rocking , swaying, hand tracing circles in the air. Ready to push so soon. In her own room now, windows open to the dark night. Birds singing at 2am. Such power. Then blocked by the power. Moving sitting, kneeling, no use, can't push, squatting, no good, standing, pushing in the chest. I shake her hips and she surrenders to the deep power and slides the baby down, body opening, and out into her arms. Dad streaming tears. Mum laughing laughing laughing... "Sophia!"