Looking for poems about birth.
March 24, 2015 1:25 PM   Subscribe

After many years of ambivalence, two years of infertility, some surgeries, some IVF, and 9 months of actual pregnancy, I am about to have a BABY. Due to placenta previa, it will be a scheduled c-section, which is great because most likely me and baby will end up alive! But sad because I'd hoped for a natural childbirth to balance out the scientific conception. My hospital does "gentle" c-sections, so I'm allowed to do immediate skin-to-skin, play music in the operating room, and even "read a poem or a story."

That was my midwife's suggestion, and I'll admit I found it hokey. But as the date nears, I'm thinking, eh...maybe that would be awesome? SO I TURN TO YOU. Give me your favorite poems about motherhood/fatherhood/babyhood/bloodbaths/etc.
posted by apostrophe to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We used this poem on a birth announcement: A Valley Like This by William Stafford.
posted by Malla at 1:43 PM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm a really big fan of "Oh, the places you'll go."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:44 PM on March 24, 2015

From a comment about "being a good enough mother" in my previous persona, this passage from The Prophet:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Congratulations! You'll be great.
posted by St. Hubbins at 2:02 PM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

This book "Welcome, Little Baby" is very sweet.

Welcome to our world, little baby.
We've been waiting for you.

You're very small.

and all you want is to eat
to sleep
and to feel warm

You will grow and grow
and find the world around you

You'll see it
You'll smell it, and feel it too

You'll hear sounds
you never heard before

You'll learn to walk, to run, to talk, to read

You'll discover things you didn't know
when you were born

Welcome to our world, little baby.

posted by slightlybewildered at 2:03 PM on March 24, 2015

Congratulations, mommy! Before I had Kinetic #2, I saw this video where the mom said, "Happy Birthday" to the newborn, and I thought it was a sweet idea.

And then after I had her I held her and said, "Happy Birthday," and NO LIE, I always felt weird that I used someone else's welcome to the world idea.

22 years later, I think about it sometimes and feel dopey for doing it.

So I guess my advice is, if something feels hokey, stick with that feeling.
posted by kinetic at 2:06 PM on March 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

Infant Joy.
posted by amtho at 2:09 PM on March 24, 2015

A Hundred Years From Now by David Shumate is a bit of an odd one, but I find it surprisingly moving.

A love poem about chance and family, Alive Together by Liesel Mueller

It's only an excerpt, but Kimberly Gray once wrote that "Happiness is when everything inside you goes out and comes back in, newly."

Sharon Olds has a lot of really wonderful poems about motherhood, though the ones I know of aren't birth-specific; you may want to look into her some more.

The world is a meaningless place, and we are weird, replicating mammals on its surface, yet the whole purpose of the universe since it began was, in a way, to produce this baby, who is the tiny end point of a funnel that goes back to the beginning of time, a singularity that history was pointing toward from the start. That history didn't know that it was pointing toward Olivia--and, of course, toward Salome over in the other corner of the nursery and little François just arrived, not to mention Max and Otto and possibly even Moe, just now checking in at Mount Sinai--doesn't change the fact that it was. We didn't know we were pointing to her either, until she got here. The universe doesn't need a purpose if life goes on. You sink back and hear the nurse cooing in French to the mother and child ("Ah, calme-toi, ma biche, ma biche," she says. "Be calm, my doe, my doe," but which one is she talking to?) and feel as completely useless as any other male animal after a birth and, at the same time, somehow serenely powerful, beyond care or criticism, since you have taken part in the only really majestic choice we get to make in life, which is to continue it.
---Adam Gopnik
posted by you're a kitty! at 2:53 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sing your baby a lullaby someone you loved sang to you as a bairn. Singing is how you'll calm your baby and yourself in long tired nights and how your child can be comforted as a toddler, child, adult.

Sing. It's beginning as you mean to go on. Sing.
posted by taff at 3:52 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

From the Lovingkindness Survival Kit, by Suzette Haden Elgin (rest in peace):
Welcome, Child; you are a part of this Earth.
You are cradled in blue oceans;
you are bathed in golden light;
you are wrapped in green grasses;
you are made shining by the stars.
Welcome, Child.

The redwood is your friend,
and the Joshua Tree;
the fern is your companion,
and the wild berry garland.

There will be rain for you, hushing;
and thunder for you, roaring;
and lightning for you, dancing;
and all this perfect world for you,
Welcome, Child.

(Note: If the plants and trees named are not suitable for the situation, use those you find around you or those dearest to you.)
There's also the Buddhist metta (lovingkindness) chant, which has been translated into various phrasings — I like this version:
May you be happy, peaceful and light
May you be safe from injury
May you be free from anger and fear, afflictions and anxiety
May you look upon yourself with understanding and love
May you touch the seeds of joy in you
May you learn to recognize the source of delusion in you
posted by Lexica at 6:39 PM on March 24, 2015

Sylvia Plath's You're has always delighted me in its sweet animalistic affection:

Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools’ Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.

(Poetry Foundation has a birth collection)
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:57 PM on March 24, 2015

These are so lovely! I can imagine sharing some of these with my son now, a few years past his birth.

You might also consider - and hold space for - the idea that this experience will be utterly unlike anything you've ever experienced before, and that it's hard to plan out what emotion and sentiment you'll want to express in that moment. I found myself wholly wordless in the joy of meeting my child; had someone tried to hand me a poem in that moment I might have looked at them like they'd handed me a carrot or a spatula or a shoe. But maybe that's just me - I hope you have a wonderful experience meeting and raising your child!
posted by judith at 7:41 PM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Listen to Judith. Music, yes. But leave space for the spontaneous, for enjoying the moment.

I was present for the third of my wife's Cs, and though we had a pretty surgical time (medical issues), we didn't need anything more than seeing and holding our new daughter. She turned 30 the other day, and I still have clear memories of that birth experience.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:50 AM on March 25, 2015

There have been a number of poetry anthologies you might find helpful:
The Virago Book of Birth Poetry, In the Gold of Flesh: Poems of Birth and Motherhood, from the Women's Press, and Cradle and All: Women Writers on Pregnancy and Birth as well as the earlier Naked Astronaut form Faber & Faber (though apparently the majority of the named poets in the latter were men!).
posted by tallus at 9:18 AM on March 25, 2015

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