Alien in my Arms by Sue Stern

I was a novice when you were born

and you, an alien in my arms.

You cried at me and I was terrified.

Then came the night when you stood

upright on my knee, refusing to suck

and screaming with such ferocity.

Again and again you rejected my breast

Until I laid you on white

flannelette and you slept.

It’s you, they said at the clinic,

an anxious mum – we learned

abruptly that it was you.


Cerebral palsy, the doctor said,

profoundly handicapped.

Keep her until she’s two,

then send her to a Steiner School.

I learned to scrape up food

your tongue thrust out and flick it back,

to hold you in my newly-muscled arm

as the startle reflex jolted you away.

I worked to find the child you might have been,

placing your hands on bricks, banging tins

with sticks, feeling the shape of wooden balls,

crawling around the floor together.


We talked and talked although

you’d never say a word.

You discovered Bournvita

and grandmas, shouted and laughed for Daddy.

A pouty lip meant, I don’t like

that person and usually, you were right.

Your all-embracing smile charmed the world.

You became my heart, my breath,

my moment-by-moment thought.

I grew with you, I became yours.