Poems for the Empty Womb in my Future

January 29, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Tomorrow I will be 26 weeks, right on the cusp of the third trimester. Yesterday I realized that, if this baby comes at 38 weeks like my last one, I only have twelve weeks left to prepare. I also realized that those fleeting weeks are all the time I have left to cradle this baby within my body, to fulfill all of my child’s needs effortlessly, to feel his tiny body slide and turn and nudge, to have a oneness with another soul unlike anything else on earth. This could very well be the last time. The thought fills me with both a sense of closure and gratitude as well as a crushing, devastating grief.

Six years ago, we published¬†The Gift of Giving Life. One of the stories we included was from a woman born in the mid-fifties, during the nightmarish “twilight sleep” era. She watched birth transform over the decades. Her mother was a nurse, and she became a nurse herself, spending years attending women in childbirth as well as birthing her own babies. I’ve always loved this passage from her story:

I had the privilege of bearing nine children, which to many seems like a lot. But to me that is only a few precious times to experience such a glorious thing as birth. If a person likes to ski, it would not seem excessive to ski a dozen or more times in their life. Most women are able to experience birth just a very few times; all the more reason to be careful about creating the best birth possible (Velinda Mitchell, p. 46).

To some (including myself) six children seems like a lot. ¬†Many women are never afforded the opportunity to bear even one child, let alone several of them. I should be grateful, and I am. Each of my pregnancies and births has been beautiful and miraculous in its own way. But now, with this possibly-last child, every nudge and kick is a reminder to cherish each moment. Every time I walk past a mirror, I savor the curvy reminder that I get to carry another child, and I savor the possibly-last time my having such a large mid-section will likely be considered beautiful… ha.

My 23-week Belly Pic

For 14+ years, my world has been immersed in pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, babywearing, and raising my children. Within a few years I will wean my last baby. I will move toward menopause. I will watch my babies have babies of their own. What will it do to me to lose the things that have consumed me for so long? My dad was a teacher and trainer for decades. Now he’s struggling deeply to find his place and his value without those roles. I imagine I will feel some of the same disorientation as I walk into the next phase of my life.

When I was a teenager, struggling to navigate the adolescent transition to adulthood, my friend Emma and I frequently spent our free periods sitting together in the school courtyards discussing topics and ideas others seemed little interested in. We often walked the woods near her house, talking and taking-in the beauty around us. Emma wrote powerful poetry. Her words were always so meticulously selected, every line and letter oozing with significance. It was from Emma that I learned the healing power of a poem. Soon I was writing my own and sharing them with her under the shade of the New England forests. Sometimes a poem is the only way to say what needs to be said to set your heart right.

Writing these little poems eased my ache today.


By Lani Axman

I draw out my breath,
Singing the last line of an exquisite tune
With words my tongue can scarcely speak,
The final bars looming near.
Six times full and emptied,
Will I gasp for a child
As my lungs for the inhale,
Aching to breathe again?


Fruitless Tree
By Lani Axman

A withered lemon tree stands
Outside my bedroom window.
She has no leaves, no fruit.
At one time, before we came,
She was sublime,
Full and gorgeous,
The next-door neighbor tells me.
I can taste her
Bittersweet fruits
In my mind, and
Smell the intoxicating
Scent of their
Tiny heads
Once cradled in her arms.
She is now barren,
But I cannot bear
To rip her from the earth
Where she gave life
Again and again and again.