Six days of waiting
The floors were mopped, the freezer stocked with frozen prepped meals to make the postpartum period easier. I soaked menstrual pads in witch hazel and lavender oil and froze them, too. Time had also frozen, along with the sidewalk. It was supposed to reach -7 on her due date tomorrow night. I wanted to labor in a snowstorm, I wanted a fascinating story. I wanted it to happen already.
Pain is strength, I would tell myself to tell myself when the time came. Preparation is the key to a successful birth (marriage, life) and my to-do list was crossed off a week ago.
Six days of waiting: timing every movement to the shudder of the candle wick, the waning moon growing outside but meaning nothing magical. I wished I believed in the spiritual realm, but all I can claim is superstition.
Ritual is a form of control. Meditation and muscle contractions. I was not scared. I took a bath every day like my mother said to. I was pushed out of her with ease; she does not have a reliable memory. There were things I wanted to tell her when I was born, but I didn’t have the words yet. I wonder if my daughter can find them in my womb.
She is comfortable in the dark. I folded all of the cloth diapers and set aside the outfit to dress her in on the way home from the hospital that matches her father’s. She does not belong to me, nor time. A resurrected morning and waves of impatience will bring her earth side. Where I can no longer keep her safe, or warm. Where from the moment of her first breath, she is no longer mine. The tree outside has also lost its leaves in last week’s snow storm, but the snow never stuck.
My mother lies about my complicated birth. She doesn’t remember the truths in her past lives. She doesn’t understand the strength in pain.
After tomorrow, everything will be different. We can recall where we came from, but not how it felt while we were there.
Six days of waiting: I fear she will be born on Christmas. She wants her own day. She’s crossed all her requests off a list I dreamed of when I fell asleep in the bathtub. The water is never as warm as it seems, I warn her. But she knows this already. She lets me count to four three times in a panicked pattern; she reminds me how powerless I have already become. How mothers are the slaves of circumstance, rudderless in an endeavor guided only by love. Let go, she reminds me.
The snow started to fall a day early.
Born and raised in Southern California, Erica Hoffmeister earned her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University’s dual degree program in 2015. She has work published or forthcoming in So To Speak, Split Lip Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, Shark Reef, and Literary Mama, among others. She was also a runner-up for the Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize in 2016, and received an honorable mention for the Lorian Hemingway Award for Short Fiction in 2014. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and daughter, Scout Séverine, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually misses home—wherever that feels like at the time.