The day after it happened
you walked up the steps
holding onto the short rail.
You told me you were a big girl.
You could “do it yourself!”
You did not ask can you hold me?
That night you were determined
to use the chopsticks and eat ramen “by yourself!”
But at some point,
you tire of the struggle –
careful coordinated dance of utensil and food,
you ask me can you feed me?
I take the chopsticks you hand me,
nimble fingers doing the work
to grasp food.
A mess of noodles held between two sticks –
you lean forward
with eager mouth and slurp. And I feed you.
That night as you rock in my lap,
in the space between asleep and awake,
you nuzzle and look up
with eyes that ask can you feed me?
But last night was the last night.
You take your little hand
and rest it on my breast,
wiggling your way into my shirt. And I hold you.
In my room, I stand and study
my reflection in the mirror.
I lift my hand
and my fingers perform the familiar compression.
A few drops of milk remain.
What is this quiet ache?
What is my body now?
This feels like one more step towards
Can you feed me.
Raeshell Sweeting (she/her) is a poet, writer and breast cancer surgeon whose work has appeared in Intima, the Mothers in Medicine blog and book and Doximity. Her writing draws heavily from her experience with motherhood in the context of grief and medicine. Her clinical work focuses on breast cancer care, women’s health, health care disparities and health equity. She lives in Nashville with her husband and two incredible daughters.