Literary Reflections is pleased to announce that, beginning this month, we’ll be selecting one writing prompt response each month to feature as a short on our blog. Check out our section for more information on how to be considered for future Selected Shorts.
In February’s prompt, we asked readers to “Write about something from the natural world that functions as a metaphor for your experience of motherhood.”
Jennifer Gifford wrote,
“One September morning the newspaper warned that a bear cub had been hit on the interstate and the mother bear was likely to pace there looking for her baby. Reading this at seventeen weeks pregnant with my first baby, I wept at the notion. A week later, my own baby was dead.
Nights passed and spring came. Before my baby’s death I might have said that mothering and spring – growing things – have much in common. Reap what you sow, nurture, feed, pay attention…and they will grow. Now I understand the metaphor differently. Throw some geraniums in the window box and walk away. Mow over the chives and hack back the roses. They’ll grow or die whether I love them or hate them, despite my efforts to care for them or ignore them or kill them. Fertilizer, water, talking to them; it’s not that it doesn’t matter what I do. Matter cannot be destroyed, it just changes shape, right? There are forces bigger than me that take care of things, or don’t. My baby was starving and suffocating in my womb, ready to die but nature wouldn’t let her yet. I terminated my pregnancy and sent her ashes to grow into space. My first act of motherhood was to send us face down into raw dirt, suffocated by violent animal grief.
So that spring my garden grew despite my rage. I glared at the petunias and denied them water, yet if they wilted, I wilted in response, wounded by their inability to survive my abuse. My penance was dizzy weeding, newly pregnant again, blood pumping furiously, trying to make the bending and brooding look “normal” – everything’s ok, just taking care of my garden!
Years later I watched a television show about polar bears while my babies slept in their beds. A baby bear swam with her mama through stormy cold ocean, both of them tossed awkwardly in the waves. The narrator gravely explained the purpose of their treacherous journey, and then showed a dead polar cub washed up on the shore. Why didn’t she just sink? Where was her mama? Naturally, the next scene was of a healthy pair, mother and baby, resting in the sun, waiting expectantly.”
By Jennifer Gifford, jgifford8 at yahoo dot com