Sometimes I wonder what it must have been like to exist inside my mother’s womb. I imagine myself tiny, like a speck, a minute seed or a whisper of a cell smaller than a grain of salt, tucked away in the folds of her skin, hanging on for life, certainly not knowing what I was getting myself in to. Can we remember the moment of our inception? I think of all the billions of cells that exist in just one egg and all the billions of sperm that exist in just one drop of semen. How in the world did the joining of those two things make me? If some other sperm had hit that egg then I would be someone else. It’s too strange to think about.
Sometimes I image I am once again that egg and I can feel the penetration of that one determined sperm blasting through my wall, battling down its defenses, like an invading army crashing through the gates of a castle with a crude battering ram and brute force. What did that moment feel like, the moment that life began? Like the Big Bang. A tidal wave. The eye of a hurricane waiting for the deluge to strike. I look at my belly button and image a cord hanging from it. The origin of myself, the marker of my total dependency upon my mother for life. I saw my baby niece just after she had been born. Her navel had a stump protruding from it, a bloody and ragged nub of where she had been severed from her mother. It looked raw and painful and I learned that it would take weeks of gentle cleanings before the cord would fully separate from the body. Now people save these pieces of birth, believing that the cord will bring good luck or maybe hold the key to some life saving disease in their DNA. Some artist even use the placenta in their work. I’m glad my mother didn’t save my cord or uterine lining. My bellybutton is reminder enough of my dependency, my need.
I think about remoras that attach themselves to sharks and feed off their host. The shark does not gain from this relationship. Or the African hippo that submerges itself into the river, sunk so deep that only the tops of its nostrils peek out of the surface. Beneath the water a host of small feeder fish swarm about the giant, floating form, eating parasites that have settled into the hippo’s skin. Sometimes the relationship between two life forces is healthy and symbiotic as the smaller entities provide a service to their host, like cleaning off bacteria.
What did I feel like to my mother, my host of 9 months? Did she feel me siphoning off her energy, borrowing her life force while I was in her belly? Was she aware of the cord that bound me to her, heart and soul, until I was freed from her stomach and brought into the fluorescent-lit world of the hospital? Did she feel pain when that cord was cut, knowing that I would never again be as needy of her? It must have been heavenly inside her while it lasted. To sleep, dream and float, waiting for my body to grow, my gills to turn to lungs, my fingers to form nails. Nine months to simply be with no real expectations placed upon you and those people outside waiting happily for your arrival. Your only goal is to be patient, extract nourishment from the food your mother eats and to grow, grow, grow.