Carrie Etter's 'Birthmother's Handbook'

The Birthmother’s Handbook
Choose another name for yourself, another city.
Prepare for the nuisance of the body,
a variegated allotment of pain and difficulty
that presages old age.
Rub your hands over your distending belly,
but not like a brass lamp, not like a crystal ball.
Rub as though you are polishing silverware,
its fine contours requiring slow work.
Listen to the doctor’s requirements as a midwife.
Insist that no drugs be given during labor
so that pain might induce anger.
Curse the fetus from your womb.
Mark time’s progress, the approaching end.
But above all, don’t sing to him.
Don’t name him. 
Never let him become someone you could lose.

*American expatriate Carrie Etter has published two collections, The Tethers (Seren, 2009) and Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011), and reviews contemporary poetry for The Guardian. She blogs at

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