100 Razor Blades


Anna Carson DeWitt

----------In Mocho Arriba, Doña Maira spreads out
her tools: a boiled razorblade, a length of string—
these are for the cord—and pair of latex gloves
scrubbed in the pila. The health workers told her,
don’t reuse the blades. She’s used this one three times.
Understand:
----------They give Doña Maira 100 razorblades and
tell her to cut the cord with nothing else. She knows
about germs and HIV. She knows about rust the
way she knows chewing carrot leaves will stop my
headache. But if she delivers 200 babies a year?
----------The midwife in the documentary calls birth
magic: It used to take care of itself, but now we ruin it
with science.
An anthropologist would say, she thinks
the blades themselves are magic.

----------Don’t talk to me about science when a
baby’s perfect head breaks through like a whale at
the surface. Don’t talk to me about magic when a
baby goes grey, system grocked by tetanus, straight
shot from the rusty blade to the umbilical vein to
the heart.
----------I’m not telling it right. Listen. Doña Maira
showed me the birthing room in her house. The
stethoscope hung on a nail. The flour scale. The
stripped bed by an open window. On the wall ahead,
a print of Jesus, crowned in light, descending to
touch his mother’s face. Their first night alive, they sleep
here,
she said. And if they want to look out the window,
they can see the world. And if they want to face forward, they
can see the truth
.