What it was like

I read the books and faithfully did
the breathing exercises, memorizing
a different rhythm of hold-and-release
to counter anticipated waves of pain.

But when the sheet beneath me swelled
with damp, and the smell of something
like the sea woke me at dawn,
I did not immediately connect it

to what happens when the body
begins to enter labor. So I rose
in the dark and groped in the kitchen
for a bucket and the handle of the mop,

wanting only to make sure I could dry
the embarrassing pools I’d left
behind in my wake. That’s how
they found me, worrying

about the floor, worrying
about what I thought to be my
incontinence— just as my first
child made her way into the world.

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