Birthing Twins by Joanna Kadish
Having a C-section unmoored me, sent me reeling. Weakened by the physical necessities of birth, the raw, barbaric blood and ooze, the hurt where the staples nailed my stomach together, I found it physically difficult to care for my newborn twins, although I did what I had to do.
I shudder at the memory of the continual excreting and urinating of those early days, the needy helplessness, the double imagery of two little heads hanging from bony blue-veined bodies that had to be held gently; baby eyes glazed and unfocused, skulls soft and undeveloped; the dried, brackish looking fragments of umbilical cords pressed against tiny belly buttons that literally made me wince as I carefully cleaned around, but did not disturb, them.
The worst was the continual, non-stop crying. They were born premature, a month early, so their sucking reflex never developed and they needed to eat all the time. That’s when my marriage suffered some cracks. I had done and said hurtful things back then, things I’d like to take back. I blanched at the memory. Uppermost in my mind is the time we sat together nursing the babies at 3 a.m. and I said to him, “I’d have been happy with just one.”
He looked at me like I was the weakest thing. Hurtful words were exchanged, something from me about him having no empathy, and him calling me a terrible mom. No help for that now. Nothing I could take back, nothing he could forget. His attitude toward me changed after that–a subtle shift, barely decipherable in a look or a gesture, nothing I could pin down–visible nonetheless.
I had no help, other than his mother, who had stayed with us for that first month, but had been more of a hindrance than a help. Feeding time was the worst. Feeding them at the same time took the skills of a juggler and fortitude of a saint. Multiply that by two dozen feedings a day and it becomes apparent how quickly my life turned into an exorable march of Kafkaesque incidents revolving around the feeding and cleaning of my new charges that didn’t end until they could hold a cup, a year and a half later. Their father never understood the strain I went through.
Steve had gained forty pounds, too, when I was pregnant, but then I removed all treats from our cupboards until we lost most of it. But he still has the vestiges of a tire remaining, like a pimple that won’t go away, and I’m telling you this more years later than I care to count, a decade at least. And now I have these big, boisterous boys who tear around the house, spilling sticky cereal and marshmallows that get caught in the carpet. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry.
Like Joan Rivers says, “Can we talk?”
And yes, they’re extraordinarily handsome and a pleasure to gaze upon, thanks for asking. They’re everything to me. So I asked them in my sweetest voice to cool it with the cereal and to help me clean it up, then I bent over and scraped the sticky mess out of the carpet, vowing to myself never to have Lucky Charms in the house again, not until they’re much, much older and wiser.
Joanna Kadish received her MFA in creative writing earlier this year from Bennington College in Vermont. Since then, her fiction has been published in a handful of literary magazines, including Cultured Vultures and Citron Review. These days, she’s busy polishing a book-length manuscript and making comfort food for her always hungry family.
Photograph in banner cited from Brent Theodore Peiser
Edited by Literary Orphans