Posted by: alegra22 | August 27, 2009

In the Belly of the Whale

Pinocchio by Julia Valeeva

Pinocchio by Julia Valeeva

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.



  1. Damn. This made me cry. As I am wont to do when I am reading what you fling out into this crazy world, or whenever I am privy to those Marlin/Dory thoughts swirling around in the ocean of your mind.

    I can’t wait to meet this little boy either. It will be awesome when he finally glides into shore, riding in on calmer waves than you expected.

    • You are ever-tolerant of my Dory-Marlin split and I deeply appreciate that my psm.
      I am getting really excited to meet this little man too.
      I want to say so much more but my brain has followed suit with your declaration of flatlining.

  2. I honestly don’t know how to explain the way I feel each time I read one of your blogs anymore, Alegra, but believe me… it’s all good. Wow. Joaquin will soon be here! Yay.

    Will you write my entry for A Day On The Planet? 🙂

    • What is this ‘Day on the Planet’ that you speak of? I think I might have seen a post by Maggie?
      And thank you Hezz…I almost didn’t post this blog because the editor in my head was yawning and saying, “blah, blah, blah…same old, same old.” But I tossed that demon a cookie, hit post, and strode away from the computer before I could get neurotic on myself. Getting your comment made it all worth it.

  3. A wonderful post! I think of all the blogs I read yours is the most beautiful literary one I have found. I love reading your writing.

    • Thank you so much Kimberly! I am glad you found me. I have to warn you I have my deeply irreverent and downright un-poetic moments with my blogs…such as when I go psychotic on ants.

  4. You have a lovely way with words… too sweet.

  5. Nothing makes my day like the flow of your words. We have to talk on the phone one day so I can hear them in your voice!

    • I am shocking on the phone…plus it might ruin my blogs for you. Just in the last year I have had three sales reps call up my house and when I answered the phone they asked, ‘Can we speak to your mother please?’

  6. Beautiful. I too love your blog so much. It completes something in me. Great analogies, wonderful writing. You have a great life.

    • I am so glad you come over and read…it feels like another way of keeping our life-conversations going. I can’t wait until your parenthood stories begin to come out!

  7. Wonderfully said, BUT what did Sol get you? 😉

    • He got me candles and these oils/sticks things that make the house smell good…he might be making a statement ;o)
      like, “Mom, you need to be aroma-therapized”

  8. Agreed – very beautiful! I love how every step you take is an adventure, and how every piece helps unfold the tangle of life. Tho, I’m with Dan – I wanna know what Sol got you.

    I’m a bit flat-line today, but sending you many dancing-(but-not-too-hard)-in-the-tummy hugsies

    • :o) I miss you my friend

  9. Alegra, tears are falling onto my milk- wet shirt in this middle of the night while I pump milk for my sweet baby (emptying the other side that she fell asleep before taking…). Some of you passages just crack me open inside, just like that, and all at once some great flood comes pouring out… You have such a gift my friend, one that goes far beyond the superficial, the surface, to actually leave me different than when I first came…one that changes me from someplace so deep inside, and it is always so unexpected, so surprising. Your ability to get out of your own way, while being ever-so honest about your own humaness, is infinitely humbling. The depth that rises out from out to touch and transform is startling… I love you, my friend. Please continue to share with us your rich journies, for the world–and we–are better for it…

    • Awww Heather! I adore you.

  10. Funny, I was thinking of you the other day as the Velveteen Rabbit and how this pregnancy is ushering you into finally accepting unconditonally, your maternal side. Yes, you are a Real Mom. And I loved the bits about Sol bringing you gifts and Zaviera dancing through the house as a kind of background for it all. I think that your family works as an organism. You are all connected by this amazingly alive love for each other that makes it possible for the organism to grow and blossom into fruition. The blog was gorgeous!

    • I have had the Velveteen Rabbit on the brain big time. In fact, every time Zaviera thrusts herself upon my body and then melts into me, I think of her as an already worn-in by affection, stunningly REAL little bunny. I was also thinking about how each pregnancy has made me feel a little more Velveteeny – a little less shiny, a little more love-worn and comfortable in my own skin.
      I love you very much Mama

  11. I don’t know if there’s anything I can add to all the kindness above, but I just wanted to say Hi!

    I will, however, say that whenever I read a comment posted by Mama it’s pretty clear where all your wonderful came from.

    • Your ears must have been burning because Tomi and I were mourning your absence yesterday! We miss you Mr. Pete. Would love to hear how things are going. And I think you would love my mom, let’s just say, she could have held her own around the table in Chicago that night ;o)

  12. So beautiful. 🙂 Thank you for this.
    I can’t believe’s like you’re in my head. I’ve even, many times aloud, had discussions on my warring inner Dory/Marlin debates. True story.

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