“Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward”


English 1302


December 3, 2003


The 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 to carry the baby, there is a special bond. During the course of nine months which the mother carries the child in her womb, the child is completely dependent on her. There is nothing that anyone can say or do that can take this away. In Anne Sexton’s, “Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward”, Sexton writes of a woman who has given birth, and is now having to give her child up for adoption. The mother speaks to her newborn child about her being separated from the baby, and the emotions that follow. Sexton’s work explains the emotional roller coaster that a mother can experience when being separated from her child.


The Mother speaks to the newborn as she is becoming familiar with him/her. She realizes that in a short amount of time the baby will no longer be hers. Sexton has written this work in the first person point of view. This is made apparent when the poem begins when the mother is speaking to her child by using the word “child” in the first stanza. This poem follows no set rhyme scheme and is written in open form. In the first stanza, Sexton is describing the child by using similes. “Lie, fisted like a snail”, (Sexton 3) she is describing her child as she shares the bond of breastfeeding her child. “Your lips are animals”, (Sexton 4) describes the child’s hunger, and how the baby latches to the mother’s breast. She speaks of having to give up her child and the bond that will soon be broken.


There is no worse feeling than having a child, and on the birth certificate having to put nothing where the father’s name belongs. People tend to form their own conclusions, and in some cases, a mother can do nothing about this. As the mother continues to ponder the loss that she is enduring; “The doctor’s are enamel,” (Sexton 17). This describes the stiff, cold attitude that the doctors have towards the mother. They have no 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 a child is born. This information is for medical purposes, records, etc. The mother continues to keep this answer to herself, and the doctors are forced to leave the information blank. Sexton refers to a father who is very unstable, and is not sure what he requires out of life; she describes him as; “Some pendulum soul,” (Sexton 20).


Mother speaks to her child as she is lying in waiting for her child to be taken from her arms; “Yours is the only face that I recognize.”, (Sexton 29). 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,” (Sexton 30). The reader can visualize the child staring at his/her mother with “blue stones”, as the baby listens intently to everything that is being said. Although the baby does not know, much less understand what is being said, 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 belong together. She knows that she does not want to let the child go, although she also knows that she must do what is best for the child. The mother begins to regret not telling the doctors the name of the father; “It is you my silence harms”, (Sexton 48) yet she still tells the doctors; “Name of father – none”, (Sexton 52). Sexton describes the feelings that a mother experiences when she is forced to give up her child. Whether it is a decision that she has made for herself or for the child’s sake, it is one of the hardest that she will ever have to make. She