A Memoir Excerpt in Artifacts and Erasure
HOLDING (Part I: NICU)
I don’t know how to ask my mother what is a reminder of birth. Thinking cracked bluebird shells, agitated tufts of nest, these are not my shapes. The shapes we leave behind even in the beginning. If I were to have a child, I would want to give her words for destruction and protect her from them. Afraid to tell her my shapes are plastic molded to a body determined to twist.
Mother is pregnant with you when she pets a string ray for the first time. She focuses on how soft it is, telling me the contrast between their tender skin and eager mouths. It feels like a suction cup, she says, like they’re looking for food. I wonder if holding a newborn child is something like this, all soft skin and eager mouth. My mother says that none of the men touring the stingray bay wanted to pet the sting rays, unsure of what to do with something that flips, folds, clings. Mother said we were daring, you and her, even from the start.
Mother found out she was pregnant with me on the day Discovery 19 launches into orbit. The first flight of a female shuttle pilot. When Discovery passed the Russian space station, an astronaut replied, “We are one. We are human.”
Born at 24 weeks gestation, 16 weeks premature, I weigh 1 pound 12 ounces. Mother describes me as a baby bird she can fit in the palm of her hand. I am hospitalized for 112 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She washes her hands for two minutes before she can hold me. Every hand soap she purchases now smells like apples and cinnamon or lavender and linen. Standard Dial soap makes her nauseated. My mother washes and washes.
**To read the entire work in full, please consider purchasing Issue 70 of Hayden's Ferry Review.**
Thinking cracked bluebird shells, agitated tufts of nest, these are not my shapes. The shapes we leave behind even in the beginning.