I knew my time was coming because of the pulse of hormones inducing a wall of nausea. The birth itself was easy, seismic, painless, a great letting go. I had moved to squat over a bath mat since I didn’t want to get blood on the linen of a bed not my own. I guided the baby’s head gently onto the mat, the rest of the body followed, bloodless but damp. I wiped dry the limbs, poking out of the pink and orange and black checked flannel pyjamas she was born in, by folding over a corner of the toweling bath mat.
Her hair was silky and golden and curly, her eyes blue. She was definitely a girl, but I lowered the waistband of the pyjama trousers just to check. The tops of her legs fitted into circular holes in her hips like those of a jointed doll. She opened her mouth and it was full of teeth, but teeth which did not grow out of the correct part of the gums. The lining of her cheeks too was unusual, not smooth crenellated as though formed from tiny, unevenly laid bricks of flesh. I held her to my breast fearfully, expecting biting and pain, but she latched on quickly and fed eagerly, first one side then the other.
I had been alone during the birth – the two women who had been with me had left. I was concerned that there was no sign of the afterbirth so I left the cabin to find them. The baby, I now noticed, had an over-prominent forehead. When I put her down on the wooden deck she stood up and tottered a few steps forward.
“I think,” I confided in a low voice so the baby wouldn’t hear me to one of the women in white, “she must have a developmental disorder.” But I did not want to know what it might be called or how it might progress or what its prognosis was. I was filled with love for my child.
I forgot to mention the placenta. But afterwards I stopped worrying about its non-appearance. Perhaps that which had nourished my child was now, secretly, hidden, nourishing me.