Columns > Published on May 27th, 2022

Song of My Postpartum Self: A Letter to Walt Whitman

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Dear Walt Whitman–

My daughter is four months old, an earth-dwelling Capricorn with stars in her eyes. She was born on the January wolf moon during a blizzard, the world dressed white, dusted with snow and small pellets of ice. We didn’t meet when she was lifted out of me, her small body trembling, reaching, searching for my voice. 

My husband held her first.

I bled in an operating room for 90 minutes, my arms and legs strapped down, drugs pumping through my veins. I became fire, my body feral, the fluorescent light a faux sunrise, its teeth wet with blood. I crept through the hospital halls of my mind, fighting, begging while they cut and ripped, stitched and removed. I am the memory of old wounds, my body a history of scars.  

You were right about life, about death, about how we circle and ebb, flow through time leaving our imprint, infusing our energy with the soul of the land...

She didn’t open her eyes until I did, kept them shut like a locked door, our union the key, the byline to nature’s unspoken spell. Her eyes were like two oceans, dark blue, infinite. I cried as I swam in them, her small hand holding mine.

In that moment, I contained multitudes

Maiden to mother, the memory of her cry, the softness of her stare, I became large with love, with grace, the smell of jasmine and lotus hanging in the air, a flower crown for a small queen. We slept in beds with stiff blankets, in gowns locked with red blossoms, the tubes in my arms, the compression braces on my legs a reminder of the things my body survived, the war that we fought. 

For nature can be savage, a landscape of beauty born out of pain, her heartbeat a hummingbird’s to a stagnant pond, my blood pressure a hurricane, a storm cloud circling, threatening. For a while, we drifted in darkness, her whisper the prayer I screamed before the walls caved in, before her face was replaced by static. 

I wish I could show you that moment, the second I knew her life was more important than mine. I became blessed with the sound of daughter, her footprints the only path that mattered, garden or grave I would watch her, hold her, the beauty of her breath the only song that mattered. 

Yet, here, now, there is laughter, light. 

A fawn finding its legs, she explores the world with wonder, a traveler, a witch. She is magic and sunshine, a butterfly’s kiss, the honey dripping from the comb, and I hold her like a gift, her smile a hundred thousand poems, each one sweeter, more beautiful than the last.

I say this because you were right about life, about death, about how we circle and ebb, flow through time leaving our imprint, infusing our energy with the soul of the land, the performance of spirit transcending, dancing, our immortality ensconced in the homes we create, the people who we love. I didn’t understand that until I held her, fragile as she was, this treasure I unearthed from the sacredness of myself, and for the first time in my life, I felt whole, complete. 

Like I finally wrote the book I’ve spent my life trying to write.  

Get Song of Myself at Bookshop or Amazon 

About the author

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous venues such as Weird Tales, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year's Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and most recently, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog at stephaniewytovich.blogspot and on twitter @SWytovich. 

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