“I always wanted to have children. The desire was always in me. And one day it grew so strong that it hurt. Until I felt my child growing deep inside, then the pain instantly transformed to love. A love like no other, a love created out of nothing.” My mother spoke without hesitation, in a calm voice, her eyes resting on a place far in the distance and in the past.
I never wanted to have children. The desire was never in me. Until it was. One day, in K’s and my flat, on the wide avenue lined with tulips, I looked up from my reading and could sense a child with us in the space. I could feel a new constellation, our love opening up into a triangle. I silently held this fragile tenderness like a paper thin shelled egg. The next morning I woke and the yearning had flown away, leaving my branches bowing under its released weight. I am grateful for experiencing this sentiment, even though it was just one breath of my life. I hold its memory in my heart and it rustles each time I see a mother with her child.
The moon has been following me. And I, her. When I raise my face to the sky I see her when I most need her.
My mother stayed home with us three kids until I had set off to school, the youngest. One working parent. One stay at home parent. No tribe. My mother stayed home with her children because she wanted to and because she could. I remember her as happy and tired, with a perm loosed by the wind and the sun, and skin always darkening with freckles which popped like corn each afternoon. And I remember her magic. She created charms for us to discover, surprises of her imagination. What she knew we would love she summoned into reality. Our joy and her joy were all the same. And our hurt and her hurt were all the same as well.
“What will happen when her uterus and ovaries and everything else is removed? What happens to that space?” I ask.
My mother’s doctor nonchalantly responds that the space will be filled in by the other organs, that they will collapse into the void created by the hysterectomy.
All the butterflies which had ever fluttered in my stomach suddenly land in unison. An awful stillness consumes me.
The male doctor crisply confirms a premonition I had known since I was a child. That in our absence, our surroundings simply collapse inward. My space, my me, my relevance and even my memory will disappear as if I had never existed at all. A black hole which only consumes.
The innumerable butterflies pull their wings together in a choreographed inhale, then tip, exhaling, falling, dead.
But not dead. I sit with my mother as she absorbs information about the approaching hysterectomy. Troops assembled, another defensive maneuver against cancer. Breast already cut away. Keep cutting says the male doctor. So simple. Just remove and dispose of this part, this part my mother and I had once both inhabited, shared cells, shared breath. I feel selfish and mournful but most of all pissed off that the solution is to cut my mother open, to cut her womb out and to throw it away. I am raging that this is the only choice she is given. That to live she has to let him kill this part of her.
The moon has been following me. And I, her. When I raise my face to the sky I see her when I most need her. I feel her pull. I feel trust in her waxing and waning. Many years ago, fifteen perhaps, I stopped taking the pills doctors too willingly gave to me, and now, only this year, me and moon wax and wane together. I bleed with her phases.
Many years ago, fifteen perhaps, I began practicing yoga. My mother cut out a gray toned advertisement from the town paper. She placed the square of thin newsprint on my dresser, an image of the teacher, strong arms supporting an arched lower back, heart open and chest lifted. My mother wrote with her red felt-tipped pen, for your back? It was the first thing she had suggested in a long while, in my teenage mind, that I agreed with, respected, was even excited about. After just one class I could feel my body learning to know itself, to support itself, to untwist my scoliosis. After just one class yoga became central to my life. I am both in control and in love with myself when I am practicing.
One day my teacher told me she was pregnant. She asked if I would be the body for her voice. She would orate the classes and I would shadow, as close as possible. I would be the human form for the students to base their own movements on. In return I could join in on all the classes I wished. It was the perfect deal. No money, just two humans working together to support one another and to support themselves. Three humans. My mother had been the impetus for my practice and that is the truth. She was there in helping me connect to my whole body, even to the parts she could not speak of. My root, my sexuality. I do not resent her anymore for her silence, for denying that I was and am a sexual being. She did what she could, and more and more I am in awe of what she did and does.
We leave the male doctor in the gray room in the gray building. We drive to my mother’s yoga class. We enter and share this safe space together. We both sit in charged silence as the teacher places our hands on our lower abdominal, on our root chakra. She speaks of its existence, of its strength and beauty. We recognize its existence, side by side. We search for it, search to feel it with our breath. Side by side we push our inhales into the pelvis, and slowly deeper, into the perineum. And through my exhale I know. I know that with or without a uterus, our serpent awaits, spiraled, constricted in an offering of potential energy. I hold my mother and my mother holds me, the shared space within retained, no matter what is cut out, or ignored, this is not killed.