Bron Bateman is a poet and academic from Western Australia. She has had her work published, and has performed, in Australia, the UK and the US. She is the recipient of the Bobbie Cullen Memorial Prize, and The Winter Poetry Prize from Columbia University. Her work is centred on the female body and its erotic/corporeal experiences. She lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her partner and two youngest daughters.
At twenty, I have: my first child,
Bruising, soft and black as summer plums,
From the base of my belly to the middle of my thighs,
and a second-degree burn inside my vagina.
The speculum sits too long in hot water.
The doctor says sorry.
The person who tops me is also my friend.
We talk for hours before
he touches me for the first time.
I tell him what I like;
where I learnt about silence and
the inadequacy of words;
and about what it is my body can do.
At twenty-two, my second episiotomy
—a lateral cut,
made without anaesthetic into the perineum,
to facilitate the delivery of my
is stitched too tight.
I will tear a little, and bleed,
every time I have sex,
for the next five years, even
after cortisone injections into the wall of my vagina, and an offer
—from the same doctor who got it wrong in the first place—
to recut and restitch me.
I will learn to forgo the pleasures of spontaneous sex and of being on top.
What I feel with him, often, isn’t pain. It’s intense sensation.
At twenty-three, the family doctor will press too hard
on my cramping belly,
while his other hand is deep inside my cunt.
He’ll chat about his adult son, as he pulls out his forearm,
wrist, hand, red and shiny as plastic.
Either my blood, or my baby’s.
Never mind, he’ll say, his back to me, they’re a dime a dozen.
This is my first.
I am twenty-four. My son is 3 months old, and dead.
Three more babies, blood transfusions antepartum
and postpartum haemorrhages a second-degree tear twins
lost at three months of pregnancy secondary infections
waking up after corrective surgery with a torn perineum
from being fucked too hard by an obstetrician with a speculum.
Not to labour the point. But while I was unconscious.
At thirty-one, miscarriage.
Thirty-three. Another miscarriage.
A final fling at thirty-five. A break from study.
My last child.
I cede so he can take. He cedes. I choose to yield.
You’re all fine with this, right?
Pain, blood, needles, cutting, anaesthetic, being held in place, held still
with velcro and metal, with drugs, by doctors and nurses;
once by an anaesthetist, because the epidural didn’t take,
and being confined to a bed
by drips and IV lines, by DVTs and temporary paralysis.
I tell him: tie me up all you like. I’m still a feminist.