In the middle of a blistering June, I sat sandwiched on a bench with forty other mostly white American middle and high schoolers in the belly of the largest enclosed tropical botanical garden in southern China. Although the greenery surrounding us was very much real, the giant “tree” that made up the walls of our dining space was fake, carefully molded to look like the bark of a real hundred foot tree. Chinese caterers bustled around us, talking to each other in rapid Cantonese while they pulled white box after white box of prepackaged lunch out from large plastic trash bags.
Your mother has been repeating the story of your natural birth to you for years. The most important details: she kept perming her hair after her water broke because she didn’t want to disturb the doc’s 4th of July. You were a n-a-t-u-r-a-l birth, because holding you > pain. And she couldn’t be bothered with all that hollering during labor like women she’d encountered while working rotations in the hospital as a student. Maybe you entered the world via a mechanical, silent birth. You can’t imagine your mother wincing in pain, as even that acknowledgement would be too emotional. The act of opening her legs for your exit—forget about it.
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