Never will it be so easy, my sister
said, to calm your child down. She comes bringing
my son to me. I am bleary tired.
It is the first few days, when you sink
or tread water—perfectly flanged lips, just
like Dr. Sears says, he made swallowing
sounds—pulling it out of me—and then milk
in his belly, passed out. I was afraid
to move, he nursed constantly when he
was awake. My husband’s mother came
to visit the first few weeks after his birth.
Mira, she told her sister, rummaging
around in the refrigerator for
the two ounces of milk pumped after I fed
him, Tia shook her head. Both of them clucked
their tongues, Que Flaquito she whispered
to my husband. She’s starving my baby!
my mother-in-law wanted to feed
baby formula from a bottle. Not
enough, not enough my breast pump said.
Too exhausted to explain the benefits—
and how I knew that he would be my only
after the death of his sister at thirty-
six weeks when I wept in the bathtub
and my breasts sprayed in sympathy. I knew
that there would not be another and so
I took him strapped to my chest nursing
all the while to walk the pier just us two.
Now, you wake up in a swamp of sweat. It only happens near the heart,
your beaded sweat could make a necklace. The sweaty curls at on the back
of your neck could launch a thousand ships. Your entire torso
becomes slick every night, doesn’t matter what you have
or haven’t eaten, doesn’t matter if you’ve done yoga or taken a shower
before bed, you wake up crabby, your T-shirt dripping, and change,
twice a night. Maybe the husband has left the bed because you snore, so
you roll on to his side. You sleep in comfort for a time, but then it
starts again. You sleep in a puddle, a stream, Lake Michigan. Did everybody
know except you? Your doctor laughed when you told her that you soaked
the sheets every night. Oh, that. Yes. It’s all part of the change.
Your aunt set out an Our Bodies Ourselves book when you visited
the Bethesda family twice a year, but Dad said it was sin to know
your bodies. The book said masturbation and held forth no shame.
You didn’t know the term, perimenopause. You were shielded
from the knowledge of how your body was going to change. You thought
that period was blue because Florence Henderson soaked an Always pad
with blue liquid in her commercials and when you finally got your period,
asked yourself what the frick is this? (You would have never said fuck
in those days.) Did they talk about these symptoms in the sex ed classes?
The ones that your parents refused to let you go to? You wake up drenched
and change T-shirts and another and another and the sheets are soaked through.
You don’t change them every time, you just pull back the covers and let the fan
have at it because you will only sweat in the clean sheets. Is that horrible? You
can’t change the sheets and risk your back and so you have to rely on your son
who’s sixteen and a love and he will be glad to do it if asked but look these sheets
have just been changed, and already a wet indentation, a drenched pillowcase.
Anna Abraham Gasaway (She/Her) is a stroke-surviving, disabled writer that has been published or has upcoming work in the Los Angeles Review, Literary Mama, Corporeal, The San Diego Poetry Annual and others. She reads for Poetry International at San Diego State University, where she recently received her MFA with an emphasis on Poetry. She can be found on Twitter @Yawp97.