my birth, the moon, & my (heavily sedated) mother

on my 27th birthday, my mom called me to tell me about the night i was born; this is that. my mom was frustrated because i wouldn’t leave her womb. she said i was determined to be born on the first of the month. as she waddled to the car, scooting carefully over the chicago ice in february, she made my dad stop and hold her. she said “look at the moon.” it was full and she said this convinced her that “everything would be okay.”

plot twist: everything was not okay at all! i was born and because babies usually begin crying upon being ejected from the womb into the world, she freaked out when she heard nothing. she kept repeating, “why can’t i hear the baby? what’s wrong with my baby?” it took a few minutes before i let out my first cry. the nurses said when my eyes opened i was just silent, checkin’ out my new digs. i’ve always loved that part–i came out and all i felt the need to do was blink a “what’s up?”

truth be told, i was a fat ass baby. if you’ve ever seen my mom, she can only be described as a “cute lil’ thing.” they put me in her tiny arms for a whole ten seconds before she went into shock. they gave her some variation of sedatives and she slept an entire 24 hours. when she woke up she momentarily FORGOT SHE HAD GIVEN BIRTH. upon remembering, she got out of bed, took out the IVs, and walked to the nursery (y’know, back in the day, all the babies chilled out together in a room. i don’t know why this happened. it was the 90’s.) she knocked on the window and startled the nurse, who had been changing a diaper. my mom thought “i think she’s changing my baby’s diaper,” but she couldn’t really remember what i looked like because she’d barely glanced at my face.

she went in and said “i think that’s my baby?” the nurse checked her wristband and confirmed it was i, 24 hours in and poopin’ up a storm. the nurse said, “she’s gunna be a good baby. i always know the good babies. they’re the ones who make the appreciative noises when you change their diapers.” my mom was like “chill, can i have my baby now?”

she took me back to her room and pulled off my little hat and gasped. because my older sister had such dark features at birth, she couldn’t comprehend where my very red tufted hair had come from. she felt so bad about sleeping through the first day of my life she kept repeating, “hi, i’m your mom. it’s me. your mother. i’m your mom.” she thought, “wow, this baby is really checking me out.” apparently i was baby-equivalent of hard glaring my mom for an inordinate amount of time in a way that said “yo, tbh, where tf have you been?” then i started sucking my thumb, which i would continue to do for roughly the next 16 years.

anyway, that’s the whole story. here’s to all the good things i’ve done in 27 years of life, and here’s to everything else i’m going to do. but here’s to you, mom, for being the type of person who–despite being actively in labor–stopped to look at a full moon.



dee mcelhattan is a poet from the west side of chicago. she is a graduate student & an aquarius. she teaches a composition class centering around narratives of resistance/ reclamation at the university of kansas. her work has been published by internet poetry, voicemail poems, aegir, and bluestockings among others. dee’s poetry revolves around femininity and power–sometimes drug-induced, sometimes angry, but always sincere and overly-sentimental. you can find her on facebook @ dee mac, where she adds friends with reckless abandon.