The Horny Donkey

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The Horny Donkey

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a cinematic sex scene with your parents or seen a Great Dane’s penis, you might be able to appreciate the following story.

My mother had always dreamt of going to Ireland, and after working there for several years, I decided to surprise her with a plane ticket to Dublin. And of course, like any other circus act, you can’t just have one member traveling solo; you have to bring the whole family. The arrangement was that I would spend all of May excavating at the Blackfriary, and then in June, would meet up with my family for two weeks. In retrospect, it was a risky decision. I was trusting three people who had never travelled internationally before to drive 200 miles, take two planes, and somehow end up on the other side of the Atlantic. This riskiness was exacerbated by my mother’s struggles with punctuality.

My mother is a wonderful person, and I love her very dearly. That said, that woman cannot be on time for anything. Anything. The other night she was thirty-five minutes late for our Skype call, and she didn’t even have to leave her house. So really, when my family arrived in Dublin on time, all three of them alive and well with no obvious signs of a struggle, I was quite impressed.

It turns out that what had happened, Internet, for this miraculous feat to have occurred was that my sister did use force on my mother, and the only reason there was no sign of a struggle was because the poor woman didn’t even have a chance to fight back. Having driven to Cleveland the night before and therefore being ten minutes from the airport the morning of the flight, my family of course arrived at the airport forty-five minutes later than planned. Arriving at the airport late for an international flight is an abhorrently stupid thing to do because it takes at least two flights, and if you miss the first leg, you certainly aren’t making the second, and then you might try to get a different flight, but the change fee’s the same price as the original ticket, and then I’ve wasted $1200 on your sorry ass because you don’t know what a clock is. The only people who are allowed to be late in airports without offering a kidney or a child virgin as penance are pilots and flight attendants, and if you don’t believe me, read the fine print the next time you book a flight with Delta.

It was looking like my circus family was going to miss their flight from Cleveland to Chicago. My mother, who had recently had stents put near her heart, was running through the terminal as fast as a cardiac patient could, her broken arm flailing about in its sling. My sister, realizing that this was not an efficient means of travel, disappeared momentarily, re-emerging from a corridor with a wheelchair. Still running, she ordered our mother to “get in” and without waiting for her response, shoved her into the wheelchair. My sister then sprinted through the terminal pushing our mother, who at this point was laughing like an institutionalized manic dolphin, my brother jogging along beside the pair, making it to the gate just as they were preparing to close the cabin doors.

That was the flight from Cleveland to Chicago. For the flight from Chicago to Dublin, I had had two options that would not bankrupt me when booking the flight. The first was a layover of an hour and ten minutes. There was no way on God’s green earth that I was going to trust my family to make a flight with a layover lasting seventy minutes. The second was a layover lasting six hours. Obviously I arranged for the six-hour layover.

I will be the first to admit that a six-hour layover is not an ideal experience. You have to look around for restaurants with available seating, walking around in circles like a squirrel that’s forgotten where he’s hidden his nuts, sniffing the air wearily for something edible. Then when you finally do find somewhere to sit and eat, you have to keep ordering food and drinks, because the wait staff keep asking if there’s anything else they can get you, and you get the sense they want you to leave so they can get fresh meat at the table because you know that they’re only getting paid $2 an hour and need the tips but you’ve been traveling all day and don’t know where your gate is yet and now you’re drunk on overpriced wine. I get it. My mother was not about to have her Irish experience ruined by such airport hassle. An attractive, single brunette whose children had all but left the nest, my mother knows how to turn her flirt on, and that’s how she ended up in the private airline club sipping cocktails with a businessman for six hours.

We stayed in Trim, County Meath, in the Boyne Valley. Normally there isn’t much to do in Trim, and there hasn’t been since AD 1300, but fortunately the Hay Making Festival coincided with my family’s visit. It’s not important for the purpose of this story to go into detail about what exactly the Hay Making Festival is, but suffice it to say that it’s sort like what would happen if everyone at a small Midwestern American fair dressed up in medieval costumes and wasn’t fat, and the only food was ice cream.

One of the highlights of the Hay Making Festival is the donkey race. I don’t know why people are racing donkeys because the donkey has never struck me as a particularly speedy animal, but that’s what’s happening. Each donkey is given an eight or nine-year-old human child, and each child is given a helmet. The race marshals are teenage boys, whose job it is to rouse the crowd and to ensure that all donkeys follow the code of conduct throughout the one lap course.

My job, as it would turn out, would be marginally better than the race marshals’. My mother, in addition to being remarkably short for an adult, has a visual impairment. Consequently, sometimes things need to be described to her, and I will find myself narrating real life like a ride along Morgan Freeman, but white and with a much less attractive voice.

The children sat atop their donkeys at the starting line, staring intensely at the head race marshal, waiting nervously for him to shoot the gun. As it went off, four of the five donkeys and their children ambled from the start. The fifth stood still.

“There’s still one donkey at the starting line,” I told my mom.

The marshal took the reins and began to lead the donkey and its child onto the course. As the donkey came more fully into view, the reason for his delay became clear. The crowd gasped and then burst into a collective fit of laughter.

“Oh my God.”

“What?”

People of the Internet, I don’t know if you’ve ever had to discuss the sexual functions of a donkey with your parents before, but that’s what happened.

Straight faced, I turned to my mother, looked her dead in the eyes, and said, “The donkey at the starting line can’t run because he’s got a boner and he’s being driven by what appears to be a seven-year-old girl.”

I have a pretty limited exposure to penises, and even less exposure to non-human penises. When I was a girl, my aunt had a dog called Pugsey who would get off whenever I pet him behind the ears, but I didn’t know what that pink thing sticking out was. I thought back to Pugsey and wondered if the little girl on the donkey knew what an erection was or if she was scared because the inside of her donkey was now on the outside.

The race marshal managed to get the donkey halfway around the track when the donkey stopped again, crippled by the massive slimy tail hanging between its legs like a kid in gym class getting hit with sudden onset puberty.

“The donkey’s penis is almost on the ground,” I informed my mother. Everyone was now watching the Horny Donkey and his child, and nobody was paying attention to the other contestants.

Suddenly, the crowd let out a collective groan.

“The referee is now kicking the donkey’s penis. He is trying to reinsert the donkey’s penis using his foot.”

Eventually, the donkey was led to the finish line, his erection half the size of the original showing, and praises were sung all around for the little girl who had endured the humiliation of having a testosterone fueled sex machine for a pet.

And that is the story of the Horny Donkey.

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Once Upon a Delta

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Mental health has never been a strong point of mine.

In undergrad I used to fantasize about going to prison because I enjoy firm mattresses, you don’t have to pick out your own clothes, and they give you books.

Sometimes I think a stay in a drug rehab clinic would be a nice vacation, but my only addictions are knitting and downloading sheet music, and those aren’t covered by Obamacare.

I’m twenty-four-years-old but own a stack of coloring books.

I have an irrational fear of vomiting.

The rest you can ask my psychiatrist about. Actually, you can’t, because HIPPA’s a thing.

You can see that mental health isn’t my forte. But it wasn’t until today that I realized that I am literally clinically insane, where the definition of insanity is completing the same action over and over again with the expectation of a different result.

Today I booked a Delta flight.

Now, there is nothing inherently “insane” about booking a flight with Delta. The insanity comes with booking a Delta flight after being warned of others’ experiences, experiencing a Hell-flight for yourself, and then expecting the next time to be different.

Having been warned of Delta’s reputation for Hell-flights, I take full responsibility for my experience. The flight was affordable, and I figured that as long as the plane didn’t crash or disappear over the Indian Ocean, I could handle whatever Delta threw at me. After all, it wasn’t Malaysian Airlines, and unless Long Island chose to secede, the odds of flying over a war zone were pretty slim.

I haven’t underestimated my coping abilities so severely since freshman year when I ate that calzone before running a half marathon.

My flight was scheduled for 6:00AM. Not trusting myself to wake up on time, I decided to stay overnight at the airport, which of course required first that I actually get to the airport.

I have vestibular migraine disorder, which means that I am extremely susceptible to motion sickness. So much so that I have to take ridiculous amounts of medication to ride in a moving vehicle. Otherwise my brain thinks that it’s having a stroke, the world is ending, and the Second Coming is upon us.

Naturally, I took a bus to the airport, without any medication, after not having been on a bus or in a car for five months, in West Yorkshire, where there are hills.

If you’re from central Ohio, you of course do not know how to drive up a hill, or probably, even what a hill looks like. To drive up a hill, you cannot drive straight up the hill. You have to drive all around the hill in all sorts of crazy twists and turns while the driver taps his foot on the brake, presumably to some sort of imaginary dubstep.

By the time the bus arrived at the airport, my arms and legs were shaking uncontrollably from my brain going off the fritz, and I was trying desperately not to throw up. But having tackled the most nauseating part of the journey, I figured it couldn’t get any worse.

The first two flights went as planned, and when I arrived in Detroit, I was eager to get home to Columbus. Not only was I excited to see my friends and family, whom I hadn’t seen since I left for the field in July, but I was definitely looking forward to going to bed. I had stayed up all night in the airport, and then for the duration of the flight (I never have been able to sleep on planes, and besides, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was on T.V., how could anyone sleep?).

News of the first delay came at about 3:00PM. Now, a good rule of thumb for flying planes is to make sure you have people there to fly them. But of course, things happen, people run late, and the crew wasn’t there yet.

News of the second delay came at about 4:00PM, after an hour of being told that we’d be boarding in “about ten minutes.” The problem this time? A mechanical malfunction.

Ok, fair enough. I’d rather mechanical problems be discovered before we’re seven miles above the Earth.

But then it took another half hour to decide if they could fix the problem, or if they should just get a new plane altogether. When it was decided that they could fix it, the problem, which was a parking brake malfunction, was repaired, and we were permitted to board.

After we were finally on the plane, we were informed of the third delay. This time, the crew could not find the paperwork stating that the brake had been repaired. Turns out you’re not legally permitted to fly without said paperwork.

Once they finally found the paperwork and it was signed by all the relevant parties, we thought we were on our way.

Nope.

They were waiting on one more passenger, and then we could pull away from the gate.

I am generally not a violent person, but when that passenger arrived on the plane, hair dishevelled, bags open and everywhere , I wanted to shove her boarding pass up her nose holes. Oh, and you get one carry-on bag, lady, just like everyone else. ONE.

We still weren’t moving. Why weren’t we moving?

The pilot came over the PA and announced another delay. There was too much fuel on the plane, and it was too heavy to fly. We had to wait for the defueling truck.

I pulled out my cell phone and sent my brother a text message. He was supposed to be picking me up from the Columbus airport, and our plane was supposed to have arrived already.

He texted me back to say that there was a miscommunication, and Delta was reporting that we had already landed.

Not quite.

Then the pilot came over the PA again. The defueling truck had arrived, but it was broken and was defueling more slowly than it should be, but we should be off the ground in half an hour.

I was hungry, and tired and wanted to cry. It felt like I hadn’t slept in ages.

Then I felt bad for wanting to cry. Some people never get to go on an airplane at all, and at least I’ve been on enough of them to know this is not ideal.

I was beginning to wonder if the plane was even going to fly, or if we were all going to die in a giant fire-ball.

I prayed a Hail Mary just in case.

Somehow, by the grace of God, or presumably because more competent people got on the plane and took over, we eventually took off an arrived safely at Port Columbus International.

The airport was all but deserted by the time our plane arrived. I hurried down to baggage claim, where my sister hugged me and lifted me off my feet.

Getting carried away in the excitement of being reunited with my family, I hardly noticed the distress of the other passengers, at first.

But then I was informed that somehow, despite the four-hour delay, Delta had failed to get the checked bags onto the plane, and our luggage was still in Detroit.

“Well,” I said, lying down on the airport floor in resignation. “At least the plane didn’t crash.”

Condemned to spend the evening in my sister’s underwear and pajamas, I vowed to stay up and wait for my bags, but having been stretched to the limits of my patience, I fell asleep on the couch, and didn’t even hear my phone ring at 2:00AM when Delta called to tell me my bags were delayed…

Turkey Basters and Infanticide Part III

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We Catholics are an odd lot of people.

For one, we sing songs in a language we can’t understand. A renegade priest could declare that Pater noster qui es in coelis actually means “Nancy Pelosi fisted a donkey” and the only reason some of us would know that it doesn’t is because Nancy and Pater, for the most part, have different letters.

Every Sunday loads of us get together for an hour-long celebration of magic cannibalism. Of course, it’s only proper to participate if you’ve confessed to a mysterious figure behind a screen that you masturbated to your daughter’s One Direction calendar while she was at school, and no Father, you won’t do it again, can you go to the magic cannibalism festival now? Finally, we think that the only way to get a baby into Heaven is to hand it over to an old man so that he can dip its head into a pool of water and fecal matter. Presumably this is okay because infants spend much of their time covered in fecal matter anyway, though usually not on their heads.

In fact, it was only recently that Catholic babies were allowed into Heaven at all. If they died in infancy, many of them were sentenced to Purgatory, because they were tainted with both Original Sin, and the sin of their very conception. After all, you need to have sex to make a baby, and sex is dirty. That’s why all those Catholic husbands are in the confessionals on Saturdays explaining what really happened to that One Direction calendar. Why do you think they have to sell so many of them?

For much of Irish history, Irish children who died in infancy were not able to be buried in the same cemeteries as those who had lived to be baptized. That’s not to say they weren’t cared for though, because they clearly were. Many of these children were buried in cemeteries, or on the outskirts of cemeteries, that had gone into official disuse. Technically it wasn’t a church cemetery, but the ground had still been consecrated, possibly providing the infants at least with an easier time in Purgatory. There are loads of examples of these sites all over Ireland, and the Blackfriary is one such example. Buried at various locations around the cemetery, but largely above the pre-existing monastic context, are dozens of infants. It seems that these children were too young to be baptized when they died, and by burying them on sacred ground, their parents or caregivers were doing their best to ensure them a fulfilling afterlife. Interestingly, even while caregivers were burying their children in sacred spaces, infanticide was not uncommon, and the two were not mutually exclusive. That is, you could kill your child and still bury it in consecrated ground.

During the 2013 field season at the Blackfriary, a group of students excavated the skeletal remains of a newborn baby. It’s always a time-consuming processing to excavate a burial, and it’s particularly difficult when it’s an infant. The bones are tiny and difficult to identify, and they can only be excavated properly under ideal weather conditions. But eventually, the form of the baby began to appear from the soil as they exposed its tiny arms and legs, and finally, its little head. The skeleton was almost completely intact, but the side of the cranium was completely shattered. Nested inside its little head was a small lead sphere about two centimeters in diameter, perfectly situated in the center of the mass of shattered bone. The baby who had been buried with monks had been shot in the head.

Honest Anatomy Lesson 2

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God invented carpals just to make anthropologists sad, and this is true even if you don’t believe in God.

Luckily for the one single person who actually enjoyed reading the first Honest Anatomy lesson and then requested a second, I have a convoluted way of understanding the carpals that I’m going to share with you. Unfortunately for that person, I haven’t yet entirely mastered the muscles of the hand, so this is going to be mostly a lesson in osteology. After all, does anyone really know the muscles? The carpal tunnel is for anthropologists what the tunnel of light is for dying hospital patients, only instead of a choir of angels greeting us at the end, we are welcomed only by darkness and an overwhelming sense of despair.

Let’s begin. It is crucial that you start with the lunate for this lesson, or else nothing will make sense. Notice that the lunate has a crescent shape, much like a crescent moon. In fact, that’s where the lunate gets its name. The lunate has to articulate with the radius because the sun radiates light toward the moon. It articulates laterally.

The scaphoid also articulates with the radius. This makes sense. Think of the scaphoid as a magnifying glass. The radius is the sun. What do you use to incinerate ants in sunlight? A magnifying glass. Thus, the scaphoid has to articulate with the radius. The scaphoid also articulates with the lunate because in this story, Galileo’s telescope is broken, so he has to use a stupid ass magnifying glass. The magnifying glass isn’t working, so he keeps trying to get closer and closer to the moon (lunate) to see it better, until he is finally touching it. Thus, the lunate articulates with the scaphoid.

The capitate also articulates with the lunate. Many people like to think of the capitate as Darth Vader because the articular surface for the third metacarpal looks like the base of his helmet. For the purposes of this story, Darth Vader has a vacation home on the moon, which is why the capitate articulates with the lunate. The capitate also articulates with the third metacarpal, which is the only one of the metacarpals to have a styloid process. Metacarpal is abbreviated as “MC,” which brings to mind “MC Hammer.” Now, Darth Vader wasn’t allowed to be openly gay on the Death Star, but when he’s on the moon (lunate), he resumes a casual sexual relationship with MC Hammer (MC III). To spell it out, you know that the styloid process of the third metacarpal articulates with the distal portion of the capitate because it’s MC Hammer sticking his, erm, styloid process in Darth Vader’s undercarriage.

When Darth Vader (capitate) goes to his vacation home on the moon (lunate) he sometimes likes to wear cowboy boots. Which carpal looks like a boot? The trapezoid! That’s why the trapezoid and capitate articulate. The trapezoid also articulates with the trapezium because the trapezium is saddle-shaped, and obviously you need cowboy boots to ride anything with a saddle. The saddle-shaped articular facet on the trapezium articulates with the saddle-shaped facet on the first metacarpal.

Then we have the triquetral and pisiform. This one is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. Triquetral has the letters “que” in it, which happen to be the first three letters in the word “queso.” Queso is made from milk and cheese, which come from cows. Cows pee A LOT. Like, gallons. That’s why the triquetral and pisiform articulate. The triquetral also articulates with the lunate because in the nursery rhyme, the cow jumped over the moon.

Finally, we have the hamate. The hamate is a pig, first because it has the word ham in it, and second because it has a little pig ear. Or a butcher hook, whatever comes to mind. The hamate articulates with the lunate because when the cow (triquetral) jumped over the moon, she got lonely and called up the pig (hamate). The hamate also articulates with the fifth metacarpal because the fifth metacarpal is a tiny bitch and needs to eat more animal protein.

Honest Anatomy Lesson 1

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(I’m taking a break from infanticide because school).

The quadriceps femoris muscle group is made up of the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, intermedialius, and lateralis. Rectus femoris comes from the anterior inferior iliac spine, and the others come from the femur. All of them come together in a polygamous hippie marriage via the patellar ligament and attach on the tibial tuberosity. These polygamous hippies are extensors. They are useful for when you need to extend your knee to kick a real hippie.

The hamstrings are made up of biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendonosus, all of which begin at the ischial tuberosity, except for the short head of biceps femoris because he’s a fucking asshole. Come on, biceps femoris. Are you two muscles or are you one? Or are you some sort of freaky two-headed Forbidden Forest guard? Figure yourself out. Anyway, semimembranosus attaches at the posterior-proximal medial tibia, in an area aptly named “groove for the semimembranosus.” The semitendonosus attaches at some vague point on the posterior proximal tibia just south of the tibial plateau. If you can find where it attaches, you win science.

At their attachments points, both heads of the biceps femoris finally reconcile their freaky half-twin dual-head issues and come together on the fibular head. The hamstrings are antagonists to the quads. They can extend, but their main function is flexion. This is useful when running away after kicking the aforementioned hippie.

The Sartorius is a really long muscle that runs from the anterior superior iliac spine down to the medial side of the tibial anterior crest. It flexes the leg, but more importantly, when you sit cross-legged, it’s the muscle that shows on the inside of your thighs and can make you feel in shape when you haven’t been on a proper run in months.

Gastrocnemius is the muscle that shapes the femoral condyles. The lateral head attaches at the lateral femoral condyle and lateral epicondyle just above the insertion for popliteus, and the medial head attaches at the medial femoral condyle. The two heads come together in holy matrimony via the Achilles tendon. The job of gastrocnemius is to flex the foot and also to sound like some disgusting stomach aliment.

Turkey Basters and Infanticide (Part II)

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(Sorry this is going to be in several small parts because time management isn’t a thing anymore.)

Like the six-month-old whose head had been glued back together, the sub-adult I have been assigned for the semester’s skeletal report has a habit of messing with my mothering instincts.

The remains are from a Medieval English cemetery and are largely intact, save for the cranium, which, quite frankly, looks like it was shattered in some sort of Acme-style explosion. Disarticulated and sorted neatly into their labeled plastic bags, the remains look like any other skeleton. But when I lay out all the tiny unfused bones, the skeleton became a child, estimated to be about five-years-old at time of death. It still had all of its baby teeth. As I completed the skeletal inventory, my lonely uterus and its instincts started talking over the logic of my aspiring-scientist brain. The lab is dark at night; were medieval children afraid of the dark? Where are its mother and father? Were they excavated too? Shouldn’t the child at least be in a box with its mother?

Suddenly I was gripped by an overwhelming desire to scoop the child up in my arms and take it away from its plastic bags and cardboard box and bubble wrap. I wanted to hold the child and let it know I cared for it, but I could only hold it one bone at a time.

How brave you must have been, to face death at only five-years-old. People more than ten times your age are terrified to die, but here you are.

When I finished the skeletal inventory, I gently placed the bones back into the plastic bags, the bags into the cardboard box, and the box back onto the shelf.

The benefit of working alone in the lab is that you can apologize to the skeletons when you leave, and nobody will judge you for it, unless of course you confess to this bizarre habit on a blog, which fortunately is only read by about twenty people. When I placed the box back on its shelf, I whispered an apology to the child because, after all, I had just spent the last hour poking and prodding at its remains, and now I was going to leave it in an unlit lab in a box without its mother without even knowing if medieval children were afraid of the dark.

Turkey Basters and Infanticide (Part I)

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One of the defining characteristics of my generation is that on average, the age of reproduction is increasing. Many of us are waiting to have children, if we intend on having them at all. Now there are a number of reasons for this, other than questioning if it’s really safe to push something the size of a spaghetti squash out of your vagina. For one, millennials make up the most educated generation in American history. We’re spending more time earning college and graduate degrees than any generation before us. That shit takes time. The average age of a college graduate in the U.S. is twenty-four. If you go for a doctorate, you can expect to finish when you’re about thirty-years-old.

Second, children are expensive. They need to eat, wear clothes, and go to school. How can I think of saving for another person’s college fund when I’m still can’t fathom how I’m going to pay back my student loans?

Finally, who is supposed to help you make the child? It’s hard enough for you to finish school and achieve something resembling financial stability, but then to find a second person that’s done the same? That’s like scratching off two winning lottery cards while bumping into Miley Cyrus in a 7/11 during a tornado in January.

For some women, this isn’t a problem. They don’t want children, and that’s fine. What you do or don’t do with your body is nobody’s business, and the ability to procreate shouldn’t define you if you aren’t into that.

But I am not one of those women.

My uterus is a lonely place. It is not now, nor has it ever been, a member of the Pregnancy Party.

Logically, this is fine. I’m only twenty-four.

BUT IT’S SO LONELY.

There are a lot of things about being a woman that suck. People cat call you, throw things at your head, and touch you in airport terminals. But the one part about being a woman that I like is that I am biologically equipped with everything I need to produce, carry, and feed a child. I let this, in part, define my womanhood because the ability to lactate is pretty fucking cool.

The problem with allowing my gender identity to be partly defined by procreation is that it’s unachievable, at least for the foreseeable future. Like many millennials, I haven’t finished school, I don’t have any money, I don’t know where I’m going to live, and the only people who have offered to help me make babies are creepy toothless men in airports. To cope, I’ve started coming up with alternative plans. How hard can it be to stuff some junk in a turkey baster and shove it up there?

As a student in an osteology program of millennials, I rarely get to interact with children. In fact, to be brutally honest, all of my interaction is with dead children.

There are certain rules for holding skulls in our lab. You must hold them with two hands, away from your body, over a bubble-wrapped table.

I am a terrible anthropologist. Last week when examining infant crania, I found this skull-holding procedure to be torture for my empty uterus.

The offending cranium was from a six-month-old child. Most of its cranial vault was unfused and had been glued together. The orbits, or the space for the eyes, were disproportionately large, like in a living baby. The parietals, or the bones at the top-sides of the head were rounded, again like in a living baby. None of the teeth had erupted.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but I gently brought the cranium to my chest and cradled the head in my elbow, my left hand securing it in place. I looked around to make sure my advisor wasn’t around, and once I had made sure she was across the room, I stroked the baby’s face.

Because that’s how a baby should be held, even a dead one.