Vox Populi

A curated webspace for Poetry, Politics, and Nature. Over 16,000 daily subscribers. Over 7,000 archived posts.

Wendy Mnookin: NICU


Why is this night different

Why is this night different

from all other nights? Wine

and matza and now our children

tossing in their childhood beds, dreams

tumbling between then and now,

their children trundled into bunks,

loveys clutched tight. Three a.m.,

our daughter at our bed

and I’m instantly awake.

Stumbling on her words

she tells me Laura is in labor

too early. I’ll drive you, I say,

already pulling on jeans.

You can’t, she says, you’re too upset.


On the way

We can’t stay at the first

hospital, the baby will need

neo-natal intensive care.

They must go by ambulance,

snaking along the river into Boston,

I must follow in the car.

The river, intermittently lit

as I round curves, seems murky,

intent. And also giddy

with anticipation, almost

unable to hold back

a white-capped splash of laughter.

In the room

I make myself small

and quiet, let them take over

space and time. The doctors,

one by one, bring information,

so much information.

Laura refuses the fetal monitor

that would tie her to the bed

and the doctor loses patience,

tells her all the worst that could happen.

They stand there, holding each other.

Her contractions slow.

And then I offer up

stories, remember when we did

this, remember that, and the boundary

waters, and the campsite with the three men

who were welcoming in a threatening

kind of way? Crone that I am,

witch, fairy, sorcerer, mother,

and her contractions start again.

When the time comes

There will be commotion

The baby will be whisked away

It can’t be helped

Be prepared

And then

into the momentary


the doctor says


He says Laura

Reach out your arms

Here is your daughter


She’s so big

my daughter and I say to each other

as we hurry by the side of the cart

to the elevator. We are spilling over

with relief, already proud

that she has defied expectation.

She must be five pounds, we say.

The nurse looks at us.

About three, I’d guess.


I hold her, skin

to skin, her naked body

against my naked chest.

I breathe deeply, steadying

my heartbeat, her clock,

her comfort.

Child, open your eyes.

Soon, please, open your eyes.

Week five

My daughter says

the dog isn’t getting enough exercise.

Lucy says

the snacks in the break room are yummy.

Lucy says

having a sister is fun, when will she talk?

My neighbor says

here’s a casserole.

The doctor says

any day now.

Copyright 2017 Wendy Mnookin

Wendy Mnookin’s recent books include Dinner with Emerson (Tiger Bark).


2 comments on “Wendy Mnookin: NICU

  1. Emma Stamas
    June 16, 2019

    Those beautiful poems bring back such memories. We were so lucky to be in Boston that day, to be able to hug Laura and express our love and gratitude and relief. Then hold tiney April and slowly watch her grow and thrive, to enjoy Lucy,too, and to get to know your family.
    It was a wonderful time. We experienced only a few hours of worry and fear that things might not go so well. Then it was pure joy to see April grow and finally come home.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on June 10, 2017 by in Health and Nutrition, Poetry and tagged , , , , .

Enter your email address to follow Vox Populi and receive new posts by email.

Join 16,092 other subscribers

Blog Stats

  • 4,683,906 hits


%d bloggers like this: