And So Begins, in Slow Motion, the Care of Him by Sara Michas-Martin

baby hand on a parent's thumb

Love set you going like a fat gold watch

—Sylvia Plath

 

After all that measured breath and surge, the hours of nothing, then something, then more terrible pause, and finally, prolapsed cord/emergency—he is ferried, out of the fluid-filled clutch, stern and perfect, to the other side.

Those first days, what makes me subterranean is more than fatigue and strained muscle. Flashed between sleep, his gaze pulls me down and under. I keep my voice low, his neck seems more fragile than the stem of a flower. In a dream I find myself wearing oversized shoes, shuffling around the source of a great light, my face warmed by it and weary also of its proximity.

Holding his head in my palm, his fluff and shock of black hair, I shift and struggle to sit up. I gather him awkwardly, fumbling with my hospital gown. The nurse makes a show of her arms to demonstrate the correct position. Once latched, his fists, the size of large seeds, start to unfurl.

I lay him down as if he is made of music in a world infected by silence. I untuck the felty corner of his swaddle, exposing a barrel chest rising more quietly than the clap of moth wings. I unwrap his skinny bowed legs. His toes like small beads on the end of a spoon. I lift the right tab of the diaper slowly, then the left, dampening the Velcro sound. I pull the front down, then with one hand, I hold his ankles together—where did I learn this?—and lift him slightly to pull the diaper out with the other.

The afternoon mimics the night. The night a disfigured portrait of the day. Gratefully morning comes, but the visible sky and migrating clouds, thin and wispy, don’t seem to match. The child eats. The child sleeps or does not sleep. Red numbers slip from the clock. The child eats. The child empties. Empties again. Once the wheel begins to roll forward there is no pause in the cycle, only slight variations to the course. This is my job, to stand by. To fill with milk. Ready to bound, ready to sway.

 

Sara Michas Martin Sara Michas-Martin is the author of Gray Matter, winner of the Poets Out Loud Prize and nominated for the Colorado Book Award. She is a recipient of a Wallace Stegner fellowship, a nonfiction grant from the Barbara Demming Memorial Fund, as well as fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Bread Loaf and Squaw Valley Writers’ conferences. Her essays and poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, The Believer, Best New Poets, Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Threepenny Review and elsewhere. More at saramichasmartin.com.

 

STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/cchow3

  2 comments for “And So Begins, in Slow Motion, the Care of Him by Sara Michas-Martin

  1. Remarkable writing from a gifted author. When I first read the title of Sara’s essay, I thought it would be about a woman caring for her aging husband. How interesting to me still to read portions of it from that perspective. My beloved will be 81 soon and doesn’t need care like an infant. Quite the contrary. He still runs, lifts weights, walks the woods with me. But constancy and my nearness, now more than ever. A gift, really, but I sense the shadow.

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