I have had this blog sitting in the back of my brain for the past week. Originally the title “In the Belly of the Whale” came to me as I was sitting in the bath on my birthday. I don’t know if the reference was inspired by the sight of my naked self or if it came from my son bounding into the bathroom, telling me to close my eyes so that he could present me with my gift. There was something in the excitement on his face that made a voice in my head whisper, “Day by day you are being transformed from something wooden into something real by your children.”
After the bath, I waddled out into the kitchen and declared to my husband, “I am a real mom!”
A statement that may seem obvious but for me the process of motherhood has been a slow softening of the hard, splintered parts of myself, the way I have been untangling the invisible strings that conducted me through the world. As I sit here typing, Joaquin flips around inside of me and I pause, waiting for the next movement. My favorite part of being pregnant is feeling my child shift inside of me. Sometimes it feels like free-falling, as if there is a space inside of my body where a new world exists. I rest with my hand on my belly, waiting for the kicks, the flutters. Even on my third child, it is hard to grasp that there is a small human being fully formed inside of me.
I am so curious to meet this little boy. His presence has spread through my body a lulling calm, something I didn’t experience in my previous pregnancies. Dan and I have reflected on where we were at when I was pregnant with Sol, what our dreams were when I was pregnant with Zaviera. Their personalities, in one way or another, echo the themes of those stages in our lives. They were forming us as we were forming them.
With this final pregnancy I am moving at a different speed than I expected. Day by day, I find myself stopping my old tangled ways and softening. I am not telling myself bullying lies nearly as much as I used to. I worry less about whether or not I will succeed at the goals set before me, and more about whether or not the fulfillment of those goals will bring more spirit to the heart of my family. In writing this novel, in finishing this thesis, will I emerge a better human being?
So when I think of the belly of the whale and the tasks ahead of me, I find myself shifting from Pinocchio to that scene in Finding Nemo, when the whale tells Dory and Marlin to let go so that they can be flushed out to sea. These days I find myself often swimming along like Dory. Happily, hormonally, absent-minded, chanting “Just keep swimming, swimming…uh wait…where am I?” And then every few days I have a Marlin-style freak out, worrying that I am growing lazy, that I will get nothing done, that if I am not tightly wound and trying to figure things out, if I trust the whale and “let go”, I will get eaten. I will never find the thing I have lost.
When that part of my mind cries out with all of Marlin’s anxiety: “How do you know that nothing bad won’t happen?”
I pause for a moment, feeling the rushing unknown pulling me downwards. Joaquin flips inside of me. Sol begins to tell me a story. Zaviera dances through the room. My husband strokes a strand of hair out of my eyes.
And like Dory, I answer, “I don’t.”
And then I let go.