Amaya
by Liz Collins

[Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 99, Autumn 2011.]

STILLBIRTH SERIES: Despite the conscious efforts of parents and care providers, some healthy pregnancies don’t turn out the way we expect they will. In this special series on stillbirths in Midwifery Today Issue 99, Tara Shah takes you on the emotional journey of her healthy pregnancy gone tragically wrong. Midwives Tammi L. McKinley and Bonnie Gruenberg offer practical tools and resources to support midwives attending a stillbirth, and Liz Collins reflects on the touching beauty of all births in her poem, “Amaya.”

Four women
waiting together
as women have always waited
outside of time
Four heartbeats
where five might
have been
Your mother
wailed
gasped
sharp rhythmic breaths
But you were silent
Empty seconds
Incomprehensible minutes
Sluggishly pass.
Sobered
We try to prepare
Each other, try to prepare
Your mother
But your birth
Is unknowable. So we simply
Wait.
Limp, grey
baby, born
into my pale, wavering hands.
Still
you fell from your mother’s glorious body
onto the white sheets below. Blood red
umbilical cord, wound around
shocking
in its vibrant color

Your absence, Amaya, was unbearable.
Do you know
What your mother did next?
She lifted
You to her breast
Smiling
And with a deep joy
She called you by your name
She admired your silky red hair
Creamy skin
Dark lips
Proud, she exclaimed out loud
how beautiful
you were
And I sobbed
My voice rang
Strangely in my ears
And tears blurred my vision
How foolish of me to think
that I could be present
but remain untouched

Liz Collins, CPM, is a homebirth midwife, herbalist and writer. She practices in New Jersey and Connecticut and remains in awe of women, babies and birth.


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