Elizabeth Harrop – Instead being human is you

Profile Elizabeth Harrop - Instead being human is you Live Encounters Poetry April 2016

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Instead being human is you – Elizabeth Harrop

Elizabeth is a freelance writer, poet and artist specialising in human rights advocacy, with a particular interest in the rights of women and children who has worked for many international organisations including Amnesty International and UNICEF, and has worked in a number of countries, where she has spoken with the victims of human trafficking. The subjects Elizabeth has worked and written on include inter-country adoption; legal reform; maternal and infant health; the sexualisation of children; and war propaganda.


Instead being human is you

After seven weeks, you announced your presence through headaches and nausea
But I didn’t hear you
A double blue line told me what you couldn’t
“I’m here, I’m on my way!”

The sickness continued until week thirteen
I felt so ill, I could not connect to you
I feared a miscarriage
So left you as an unacknowledged whisper

Slowly, I embraced your coming
As I walked the dogs for miles, did yoga to keep us fit
Browsed second hand shops for pristine newborn clothes
My thoughts were always with you

Yet you remained abstract
Like pastel smudges on smooth white paper
I squinted, but could not make out your form
I knew I must love you, but could not feel or touch it

I feared I’d be a bad mother
That the world was too dreadful a place for you
I sat alone at Lyttelton farmers’ market, full of worry
A busker finished her coffee, picked up her guitar

It was then I heard you speak to me
Telling me it would be OK
“I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
“How wonderful life is while you’re in the world”

Forty one weeks
Doctors feared you were distressed
Gave me drugs to kick-start my idling body
Charging me with an intense and fiery agony

I refused an epidural
My gift to you
So you could enter this world in nature’s embrace
My whole world changed that moment

12.49am, 24 November 2007
You expelled yourself from my body
I laughed and laughed
Contorted in pain just moments before, I was free

I saw you wriggle, writhe and cry, your eyes bright
They laid your perfect little body on my breast
Porcelain pink and slippery, painted in the colours of birth
A mass of brown hair on your damp little head

In that moment of our meeting, I felt the release of you
The release of everything that had gone before
I was changed forever
Into something better

I shall never again see being human
As merely a pitiful lurch from one struggle to the next
As a hopeless, hapless fight
Against the tragedies our species plays out

Instead being human is being you Poppy
The most perfect little creature
Determination, peace and fire
Etched into your freshly carved face

In the days that follow I stare at you for hours
I watch your sleeping form
Your small round belly rising
Falling with each hushed breath

I watch for every grimace, every twitch
For every whimper, stretch and yawn
Your fingers, arms and legs furling and unfurling
In tranquil yogic stretches

Each day I watch you grow
The most trivial changes rise like monoliths
Your thighs grow chubby from my milk, your grip becomes tighter
Your smile moves from a reflex into something I imagine is more purposeful

Now, you are just two weeks old
Your hunched little body rests under my chin
You look like an acorn
All round and neat and full of new life

The rhythms we share
Of feeding and sleeping
Our tears when we don’t get it right
Have become my new tiny everything

I am so full of love and awe for you
My life has shrunk
To just our two heartbeats
Yet my heart could house the world.

Elizabeth and Poppy
Elizabeth and Poppy

© Elizabeth Harrop

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