Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Seamstress

My doula journey takes me into people's homes and hearts. I am sometimes a receptacle for their smoldering anger or deep despair. I am always honored to help a woman along her path to peace and understanding. Birth trauma occurs when our hopes and dreams go awry. The wounds are deep if we felt unsupported at the moment our plans splintered into a million pieces of sharp glass raining down on us, and the grief process long. This poem is for all the seamstresses out there. The cesarean epidemic has infected our hospitals like a disease causing a disproportionate number of our mothers to begin motherhood disheartened, disillusioned and disattached from their selves. They are all seamstresses.

The Seamstress

We sat amongst her disillusionment and despair
piecing together the scattered remnants of her destroyed dreams.
The disarray of her disappointment spread around us
disconnecting her from the fabric of her life.

We sat disentangling the threads of her distrust and disbelief
from the dishonesty of those she thought had cared;
vainly trying to dispel her disenchantment.

The disjointed story spilled from her wounded heart
discouraged tears distorting the lines of her face.
The silver needle plunging in and out
as she desperately tried to repair the damage.

Together we examined the jagged edges of their handiwork
searching for patterns and matching the pieces.
How had this disaster happened;
this horrendous disruption to her plans?
Had she lost all of her abilities of discernment?

__ __ __ __ __ __

Carefully they stitched the edges of her womb together.
Her birth desires disintegrating around her
she lay in disembodied disgrace upon the cold metal of the steel table
discarded, dismissed and dispossessed.

Disheveled and disoriented she lay upon the gurney.
Could they not see the gaping wound they left upon her heart
her life blood disgorging onto the sterile white sheets?

Gathering together the fraying edges of her heart
she pressed discomfort, anger and disloyalty to her breast
bravely trying to staunch the unending flow.

__ __ __ __ __ __

Dislodged from all her instincts
her disordered mind distorting her visions for those first precious days of life.
Distraught she began incessantly working
the needle flashing in and out
feverishly sewing together the crazy quilt of her life.

Would she forever be at a disadvantage
disqualified for motherhood by her disfigurement?
Was there no way to close this wound that would not stop leaking
to rid herself of this terrible disease?

__ __ __ __ __ __

We sat discussing, sharing and disclosing
patching over the disharmony of her soul.
Disengaging from blame or guilt
we discovered a mother willing to sacrifice her body and her dreams.

# # # # # # # # # #

I became fascinated with the word and syllable 'dis' as I thought about this piece. First because of the dis-ease women feel with their bodies and their mothering abilities after a traumatic birth. Secondly because feeling they were dissed during the process is a large component of their grief. Third the syllable 'dis' turns a positive into a negative which is what they feel happened to their birth experience.

When I researched the meaning of dis this is what I discovered:

The Many Meanings of Dis

Pronunciation: dēs,
1. lady; woman.
2. Female deity; especially one promoting fertility.

Pronunciation: dis, Slang
1. To show disrespect for; affront.
2. To disparage; belittle.

Pronunciation: dis, Classic Myth
1. A god of the underworld.

As a Latin prefix
1. meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,”
2. having a negative, or reversing force when used as an English formative
Example: to change ability to disability; or affirming to disaffirming

I was stunned to learn Dis was both a female fertility deity and a god of the underworld. Now I see my seamstress as wrestling with these opposing gods; trapped in the depths of the underworld; struggling to sew her way back up to the light.


  1. Birth Story Wrkshop via facebook:
    Your poem is beautiful. How lucky that mom was to have you to listen and help her process her birth story. I believe every mother, especially those subjected to c-section assault, should have the opportunity to tell their story. Thanks for passing this on.

  2. Sorry this is a long post, but this is the first time I've ever admitted these feelings really. I had to have a c-section back in March when our daughter was born. It really was a medical necessity because I had gestational diabetes and my blood pressure was very high. I didn't (and still don't) have a problem with having the c-section, I would do anything to make sure she is safe and if my body was potentially hazardous to her, I wanted her safe.

    But, on the other hand, the thing that still makes my heart ache and leaves a big emptiness is the fact that since her blood sugar was extremely low, I saw her for a few seconds, got a couple pics with her and my husband and then she was taken to the special care nursery for the next 2 days. I never got the chance to have that quiet post partum bonding time I had been so hoping for. She was born in the evening so after my surgery and recovery they put me in the room for the night with a blood pressure monitor and inflatable "boots" to help the swelling in my feet. A nurse checked me frequently and I got no sleep. I was all alone in that dark room (hubby had to work that night) and all I could think about was whether my baby was ok.

    No one told me that I was allowed (and encouraged) to go to the nursery, so I never asked about it and missed yet more time as the next day went on. After I learned that I could go to see her, I had my husband bundle me up in the wheelchair and we wheeled all through the hospital to that nursery so I could finally hold my baby almost 24 hours after she had been born. After that we went up as often as we could. It took her a couple of tries, but once she got the hang of breastfeeding and her blood sugar was stable, she was finally allowed into our room.

    That first night I was finally able to sleep with her in my arms was the most amazing feeling. It seemed that she was ok in the "little plastic baby box" until she came to our room and I started holding her. Since then she has not wanted me very far away and sleeps most soundly when I am holding her.

    Thank you for sharing your poem :-)