I lost my voice for poetry around the birth of my first child, but after baby number 3’s unassisted homebirth, I tried my hand at birth poetry. I labored at a movie theater and then in bed until 3:30, when I climbed into the birth tub. 10 pound Isaac was born at 4:45, not quite a water birth — after his head came, it was as if he didn’t want to leave the water, and the pause felt like forever to his father, so I stood to birth the rest of him above the water. Which is funny, because my fifth baby, 10.5 pound Xavier, followed the same pattern with his birth (story here). Anyway — today, my boy is 12, and he is still a relaxed, casual mover — the same baby who offered me the fastest, easiest, most pleasant labor of the five, and seldom in a hurry to be anywhere.

Emerging: Isaac’s Birth

It was still

in the hour before dawn

but for the rippling of water

around my shoulders

the chanting from the radio

pulsing, throbbing,


had become quiet

but I did not notice.

The urgent pressing

in my womb

dimmed the Christmas lights

in the window, quieted

the high, thin scent

of clary sage oil

I filled my lungs

as I felt you dive

toward the warm water

I filled my lungs

and touched the silk

of your wet curls

filled my lungs

and stroked your cheek

as you paused between worlds.

I filled my lungs,

willing your shoulders into

the warm water

and your father worried

over your long and stubborn rest

so I stood

to raise your head

above the pool. You sang

a tiny gasp between

my thighs

You filled your lungs

or so it seemed

before casually