When it finally happened, when the girl broke free, pushed out, doctor elbow deep in me, massaging a weeping uterus—it would be weeks later between diaper changes, a hardened umbilicus fell. Listless from lack of sleep I missed its leap, sixty centimeters of legacy cut to a stump, this physical keep— my body’s ancestral store, snipped, shuttered, lost. By the second child, a boy, I knew. He would be the last. So I kept a bloodshot eye on the striated yellow hardening knot, this sieve, this tether, triad of blood vessels. How crucial this lifeline from fetus to placenta to me, how essential I was each breath, each bite, until I was not.
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