Maria Hummel’s short story “No Others Before Me” appeared in NER 31.2:
Laura’s labor was long and difficult, not because it was hard to squeeze the villagers out, but because several of them tried to climb back in. After their town finally collapsed into a mud of placental fluid around them, they sat in the muck, rubbing their skinny arms. They submitted to being prodded by the doctors and lay listlessly on the mattress while Laura and I cooed at them.
“Give them as much body contact as possible,” advised the nurse. So we spread them out like Christmas ornaments all over Laura’s naked belly and thighs. They curled. They sighed. Then finally one fellow reared his head and pronounced his new world cold and inhospitable. He told the others that they were being punished for exploiting their paradise in the womb.
“It’s okay, little guy,” Laura said, in a voice I had never heard before. It was gentle and singsong and full of authority. She guided the man toward her breasts. “It’s okay.
After a good feed, he revised his opinion and called out to his brethren about a land of milk and honey. Laura pulled the others to her and they waited their turn in a cranky huddle.
“See?” she said to me, her eyes glistening with tears.
I nodded. I saw. They needed her. All that tugging and sucking. All those itty-bitty sounds. This was what my beautiful wife had wanted: to be everything to them. And my job was to make it possible for her.
I drove them home in three car-seats, each with eight snug pockets where the villagers rode and tossed their arms at their mama.[read more]