It’s the slow, heaving pant on the other end of the line that wakes me. No words in the receiver, just this heavy, exaggerated exhale of a body.
My brow crinkles. I don’t open eyes, searching for a way out of dreams, to figure out who, why.
And then a voice, hardly audible:
“I think it is today.”
It registers. My sister’s voice. And today. The Saturday before Mother’s Day.
“In Him, you can do this, sister.” I press the phone closer, wanting her to hear, get this.
“Just stay fluid, lean back into it. Let it come. Channels only.”
They are close, handy, those phrases that coached through our six births. And too, I guess what is true of the labor of birth is true of the work of life. Stay fluid, lean back into it. Channels only.
“You think I can do this?” Her teeth are chattering now, nerves jangled, scared.
“Lay back into Him. Then yes, you can definitely do this.”
She answers with long, methodical breathing.
“Enjoy this.” I whisper. “You know not if you pass this way again.”
We both know it’s time and she has to go and I step into new day coming.
My daughter and I, we dress for a Mother-d aughtergarden tea at the church, day before Mother’s Day. She wears flashing pink and I wear safe black and I don’t know what my own Mama would have wore, for now she cannot come. My mother will collect my sister’s little girls while my sister lets go of curled child within.
At garden tea, daughter and I, we listen to the chatting, laughing, talk of recipes, sipping of cups, but I am not there. My thoughts are with my sister, with my memories of my laboring too thirteen years ago on the cusp of Mother’s Day.
I am with a uterus emptying.
Sometimes I catch myself, this laying a hand on my flatness, over that still cavity. Sometimes I can feel the pulse of ache’s howl. A woman’s body is hollowed out to create. Her soul made to knit in the private spaces. And so the longings come, these yearnings to fill, to carry, to deliver.
And yet does the womb need an embryonic soul? Can any kind of soul fill the void?
We are hardly through home’s door from the tea when the phone rings, sister’s voice again.
“Already?” I glance up at the clock over the table.
“She’s here.” Her voice is light, wearily happy. “Now we have four.” I shake my head at the wonder of all those little girls growing old together.
“Ana… after you.” My breath catches. Words scatter, leaving me stilled.
And I realize: We never cease to be with child. Those of us who have birthed, and those of us who never have.
We may not be with child. But we can be with the abandoned, the elderly, the needy. We need not ever let our wombs languish empty. We may always open and welcome another person to find nourishment and comfort within the empty places we have made just for them.
Regardless of age or fertility, we can make spaces within for the growing of souls. For the unfurling of people’s dreams, their stories, their hurts, their lives.
Do we not line our lives with the stretch marks of love?
Somewhere under a night pinned up with stars, Ana Jordan sleeps near her mother’s face, her warm breath falling, her fists clenched tight.
And we of empty uteruses still swell, making ourselves homes.
My last act on a Saturday before Mother’s Day is the opening of a card to write a haiku of feelings for my own mother who still harbors a place within for me:
Still you swell, full with child, an
Always dwelling place.
©2009, Ann Voskamp