“”English 1302December 3, 2003The bond between a mother and her child is one that cannot be severed. From the moment that the child is conceived, and the mother begins tocarry the baby, there is a special bond. During the course of nine monthswhich the mother carries the child in her womb, the child is completelydependent on her. There is nothing that anyone can say or do that can takethis away.
In Anne Sexton’s, “Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward”, Sextonwrites of a woman who has given birth, and is now having to give her childup for adoption. The mother speaks to her newborn child about her beingseparated from the baby, and the emotions that follow. Sexton’s workexplains the emotional roller coaster that a mother can experience whenbeing separated from her child. The Mother speaks to the newborn as she is becoming familiar withhim/her. She realizes that in a short amount of time the baby will nolonger be hers.
Sexton has written this work in the first person point ofview. This is made apparent when the poem begins when the mother isspeaking to her child by using the word “child” in the first stanza. Thispoem follows no set rhyme scheme and is written in open form. In the firststanza, Sexton is describing the child by using similes. “Lie, fisted likea snail”, (Sexton 3) she is describing her child as she shares the bond ofbreastfeeding her child.
“Your lips are animals”, (Sexton 4) describes thechild’s hunger, and how the baby latches to the mother’s breast. Shespeaks of having to give up her child and the bond that will soon bebroken. There is no worse feeling than having a child, and on the birthcertificate having to put nothing where the father’s name belongs. Peopletend to form their own conclusions, and in some cases, a mother can donothing about this. As the mother continues to ponder the loss that she isenduring; “The doctor’s are enamel,” (Sexton 17).
This describes thestiff, cold attitude that the doctors have towards the mother. They haveno answers about the child’s father, and are left to assume the worst;”going the way men go, and leave you full of child,” (Sexton 19-20). Doctor’s require pertinent information concerning the child’s father when achild is born. This information is for medical purposes, records, etc. The mother continues to keep this answer to herself, and the doctors areforced to leave the information blank.
Sexton refers to a father who isvery unstable, and is not sure what he requires out of life; she describeshim as; “Some pendulum soul,” (Sexton 20). Mother speaks to her child as she is lying in waiting for her child tobe taken from her arms; “Yours is the only face that I recognize. “, (Sexton29). The mother feels very alone, and her child is all that she knows. Imagery is used when the mother says; “you drink my answers in,” (Sexton30).
The reader can visualize the child staring at his/her mother with”blue stones”, as the baby listens intently to everything that is beingsaid. Although the baby does not know, much less understand what is beingsaid, the mother has no one else, and turns to her child for comfort. One of the more powerful similes; “My arms fit you like a sleeve”,(Sexton 42-43) describes how she feels that she and the child belongtogether. She knows that she does not want to let the child go, althoughshe also knows that she must do what is best for the child.
The motherbegins to regret not telling the doctors the name of the father; “It is youmy silence harms”, (Sexton 48) yet she still tells the doctors; “Name offather – none”, (Sexton 52). Sexton describes the feelings that a motherexperiences when she is forced to give up her child. Whether it is adecision that she has made for herself or for the child’s sake, it is oneof the hardest that she will ever have to make. She knows that she willhurt only her child from the decision that she has made to keep thefather’s name a secret; yet she is torn between what is right, and what shefeels that she must do.
She chooses to remain silent. In the closing stanza, the feelings that the mother has right beforeher child is taken, are described. She has now prepared herself to giveher child up. She has said and done all that she can, and knows that sheis loosing everything and giving up her life; “There is nothing more that Ican say or lose,” (Sexton 54-55). As her child is being torn from her, sheavoids the child’s stare; “I tighten to refuse your owling eyes”, (Sexton58-59).
She knows that in a matter of seconds, the child that she oncecarried will no longer be hers. She also knows that there is nothing thatcan break the bond that she has made with this child. “Go child, who is mysin and nothing more”, (Sexton 65) and the child is taken form her. This work uses several metaphors and similes to convey the messagethat Sexton is trying to get across. Sexton wants her readers to feel theloss that the mother has gone through. The general subject of this poem isadoption, and Sexton does a very good job portraying this.
Sexton uses avery heartbreaking tone in this work, with the use of metaphors and similesto strengthen the emotions of love that are also portrayed in this poem. “A small knuckle on my white bed”, (Sexton 3) “the animal of your lips”,(Sexton 32) “they are blue stones, they begin to outgrow their moss”,(Sexton 34-36) “the wild bee farms of your nerves”, (Sexton 44-45) and”your owling eyes”, (Sexton 58). Sexton uses these metaphors to describethe newborn child and the mother’s feelings toward the baby. Sexton haswritten this poem with the understanding of the bond that a mother andchild share. The relationship between a mother and child is veryunpredictable, yet, there is nothing that can come between the ties thatbond them together.