Deathbomb Arc

Mother of Sighs - Mother of Sighs (Digital EP)

On a trip in the spring of 2008, I woke up in a pool of blood. I knew it was coming. I started spotting days before. The doctor in the Swiss ER apologized profusely for their English. They asked questions and probed my uterus. The hurried bustle, mumbles and shouts in French and German, half heard explanations of tissue likely flushed away, the highly probable and common occurrence. The sounds were swelling and peaking, assaulting me. My womb had rejected this badly wanted pregnancy. I had held it at bay for over a year but was completely helpless in that moment as familiar waves of terror and sadness began washing over me.

A relative said I should find out what was wrong with me. They had many children and this had never happened. Pregnant again, I continued to bleed. I couldn’t sleep for fear of waking to another dead baby.

I friend found me difficult to be around. Why couldn’t I just get over it? Why did I want one anyway? The climate crisis meant that it would inherit an unbearable and over-populated Earth. And I knew it would be like me. My womb knew it, too.

Over the next four years, despite my body’s best efforts, I brought two children into the world. Exhausted, I felt as if something had sucked the marrow out of my bones.

I often had the uncanny sense that someone was standing over me as my infant daughter slept against my chest. I lacked the courage to open my eyes. By the time she was three, she described the old lady that watched her at night. Chills down my spine, I assured her it was just her great grandmother watching over her.

Fear and desolation haunted me as I carried my son into the world. Post-pregnancy, a hospital intern and supervisor surveyed my stress level and signs of depression. They smilingly remarked that some of my scores were high, thanked me for contributing to the intern’s growth, and left. The on-call OBGYN said they could write a script for another night’s stay at the hospital. I fought back tears and steadily remarked that I had not slept more than a few hours in two days.
“There is a great deal of noise here,” I said.
“Hmm,” they said and signed the discharge.

I floated through many months, my mind in a fog, drifting in and out of sleep as my toddler daughter learned to pour her own cereal and my son rocked and cried in the swing. I cried often and for reasons that were not always clear. I screamed at my husband and into the pillow, longed for sleep and solitude but couldn’t quiet my mind when I had it.

My son vomited up everything I could squeeze from my breasts. A colleague who had grown boys, resentfully held him while he screamed. They told me I should find out what was wrong with him. The first time my son punched a desk at school and said he was bad inside, the voice said, “You did this.”

The voice was always there. Raised in an evangelical family, efforts were focused on redemption from the unseen sin hiding inside me. They said even my thoughts were known. The voice was not the thoughts, the voice knew the thoughts and shamed me back into submission.

The voice sounds just like my own. It is there to remind me that I am grotesque, morbid, unworthy. It is the first to speak when I feel overwhelmed, to point out what I cannot do. It is there to reassure me when I cave and give up. It already knows I will fail. It is there to comfort me, reminding me that it is the only one who really knows me, the unseen corrosion on the inside. Then it bewitches me with an insatiable appetite for sleep and seclusion. I am in a fog, cannot write, cannot create, cannot be present. I am insulated from failure.

Sometimes I crawl out from under it. Slowly, clarity returns. I make eye contact in the mirror, write, laugh with my husband and children, reach out to friends, sleep undisturbed. I relax the death grip on the wheel, breathe into my core. I quiet the noise to a low hum. I reground with five things I can see, four I can hear, three I can touch.

I walk through the house at night, turning off lights, thanking the ancestors for their watchful eyes but begging them to let my children sleep peacefully. I tell the fear, the sadness, the voice, “Leave me alone tonight.”