Swimming

10.16.2019

Last summer the BBC kept reporting updates that came to my news feed daily about a mother orca who was seen carrying her dead calf through the water off the coast of Vancouver Island. She was spotted just after my first miscarriage. I processed my loss as she did. I followed along. The behavior isn’t unheard of in killer whales, but observers seemed to agree that this particular mother set a record in her grief. She carried her decaying calf for 16 days before she finally let its body sink into the sea.

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Months later I found myself standing in my bathroom with my sister’s arms around me the night before a D&C. She had to lean forward to hold me, her belly swollen with a lively little girl, three weeks away from birth. “What are you feeling?” she asked me.

I cried out in anguish as if I’d been shot — no, please. Not feeling. Anything but feeling. — My face contorted and I lulled myself back into numb control with slow, quivering breaths.

“I feel like there’s a dead baby inside me,” I said. “I need it to be out.”

I thought about that mother whale again months later as I drove with Trent along the coast toward Maui Memorial Hospital, bleeding too much for anything to be ok, feeling an odd kind of relief that at least the worry was over this time. The sun was soft and bright and I watched the water from the passenger’s seat, wondering how I would tell Scout and Finn that another baby was gone, searching the horizon for hints of an orca, a breach, a sign. I didn’t see one.

I have two, beautiful children—children I conceived, carried and birthed with relative ease. And with both of them, I felt the magic of the process. I felt joy and fulfillment in growing them inside me, feeling their movement, their weight. I reveled in them being part of me.

I wanted the chance to bask in it all one last time, to soak in the experience of growing one life inside another. And here I am, nearing the end of a healthy pregnancy with a viable baby readying herself for birth. But I haven’t reveled in anything this time. There are moments I’ve felt robbed of those feelings and moments I’ve felt ashamed of their absence. But rarely have there been moments when I have, as I used to, felt awe.

I’m a different person than I was. I can’t recreate anything. I can’t go back. I can’t erase the blunt, desperate urgency I once felt to have closure any more than I can erase the frantic need I once felt to cling to what might have been.

But I can, at the very least, give this baby what I am now more ready to give her — her own life. I am less enamored with her life inside mine, both in the womb and beyond it, and more impatient and curious to see where she will swim. I am antsy this time to let her be her own person, not an extension of me, not my creation. Death has taught me this. It’s opened by eyes to a reality I’m sure was always there — that these children pass through me much more than they are created by me. I control so much less than I knew. They are not my masterpieces. However amazing they might be, they are barely mine at all. Which is just as well. I have waters to swim too.

1 comment :

  • Crystalee

    Mmm. One of your best, Sam. So sorry for your losses, friend. Looking forward to seeing you with this new girl. And yes, I agree that we’re oh-so-mortal. Creating eyes and ears is so beyond our abilities. But what a privilege to be a carrier for these little people. You are wonderful.

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