The sun has just come up, 34 weeks

so I’m in bed reading a news article
about problems with the supply chain —
why Americans have to suffer
inconvenient waits for gaming
consoles, Cheerios and hot tub parts.
Something about shipping
containers and coronavirus.
No end in sight.
I might deliver this baby in a birthing center.
Not because of supply issues but because hospitals
cost so much: because even though it’s not in the headlines
what’s considered good health insurance still asks
Americans to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege
of having a child under supervision of medical care.
At the birth center, they don’t offer anesthetics.
Very un-American. My mother balks.
This isn’t about being a hero.
I agree, but with anger.
My acupuncturist friend asks if I take
medication for headaches. We’re trying to determine
my tolerance for pain.
I tell her I don’t get headaches but prefer to feel
my period cramps when they’re bad.
The internet says I should plunge my hand
into a bucket of ice water and see how long I can last
without taking it out.
This sounds like a torture
I don’t need to make mine.
In the mail, black bands arrive:
strips of thick fabric with Velcro to support
my belly, ease what the midwife calls round
ligament pain—pressure on my unsettled
pelvic parts. I still can’t give a great
definition of the cervix.
A person who delivers in a birthing center
should probably know more about the cervix.
The belly band doesn’t help.
A friend asks if I’m reading a ton
about childbirth and I tell her not really,
I’m instead trying to finish Jonathan Franzen’s new novel
not because it’s that good and in spite of feeling some shame
around reading the quasi-cancelled guy but because there’s something
comforting in those broken family stories that are far enough
from mine to provide pleasant diversion.
I don’t want an epidural because I want to feel the baby
transition out of me. I want to numb myself
from only certain kinds of boredom and pain.

***

Elizabeth Tannen is a writer, organizer and educator based in Minneapolis. Her poems and essays have appeared in a range of publications including Copper Nickel, Front Porch, PANK, Southern Humanities Review, the Rumpus, Salon and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of New Mexico and has been awarded several residencies including from Kimmel Harding Nelson and the Wurlitzer Foundation. Her manuscript, Notes on Distance, was one of five finalists for Milkweed’s Lindquist and Vennum prize in 2018.

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