Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Kick Inside

We took the photo we received from the ultrasound up to Newcastle last week to show it off to my family.

My dad guffawed cheerfully when he saw it and my stepmother squealed with delight and told me that the baby had my nose.

Grumpy granddad said he couldn’t see anything but that might be because his spectacles were thickly coated with a yellowish layer of his own scalp tissue which has taken to flaking off in chunks and floating about his shoulders.

And yes I did offer to clean them (glasses, not scalp) and it took me nearly half an hour with the Windex and the paper towels and within a few minutes of my granddad putting them back on and exclaiming with delight at how clearly he could see the tv screen, I noticed the flakes starting to fall and cling to his lenses again.

My God this moving thing is slow.

Well not the actual moving out part, that was reasonably fast because we threw everything into cardboard boxes, and not the actual moving in part because two strong burly Chinese fellows named Johnny and Bob hurled our boxes into their truck and then lugged them up the stairs of the Big House.

The slow part is the unpacking part.

We have a bedroom, a bathroom and a large room for everything else in our cosy upstairs section of the Big House. At the moment this room features a couch, two desks, a dining room table and an enormous mountain of boxes, all full and all needing to be unpacked and sorted and stored.

Most of these boxes are labeled BOOKS or for a change LARGE HEAVY BOOKS. One of the boxes got broken somewhere between Johnny hurling it into the truck and Bob lugging it up the stairs and so a small collection of my childhood reading has been oozing out of the side of the box mountain. I can’t collect all those books together because that would necessitate putting them in a bookshelf which would in turn necessitate deciding where the bookshelves should go because god forbid we double handle things.

So instead I’ve been reading them.

I have gone through the Borrowers series and flirted a little with Anne of Avonlea and dipped extensively into the Little House series, even though I read most of the Laura Ingalls books not too long ago.

My idea of hell is that scene in ‘On The Banks Of Plum Creek’ where Laura Ingalls wickedly leads the hideous Nellie Olson into the part of the creek where the leeches dwell. Within a minute Nellie is covered in the bloodsucking fiends. And boy does she deserve it because she’s a nasty piece of work and a half but even so, it makes me wince.

And this is basically a long and raving introduction(which I blame on pregnancy induced mushbrain) into what I really wanted to say which is that this week was the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death.

My mother was born in a village in the Philippines on the island of Luzon. The country had been occupied by the Japanese army since 1941 and the local people hated and feared them. Within a few hours of my mother’s birth the village received a warning that soldiers were heading their way.

The entire village immediately evacuated and headed into the mountains. They planned to hide in some caves until the soldiers had passed by and then return to the village. There was no time to pack anything more than a few essentials. The tiny brown new born babe that wouold one day be my mother was wrapped in a rice sack.

It took them over an hour walking through forests and crossing a river to reach the caves.

The villagers hid deep within the caves and then one of the scouts told them that the soldiers were close by and they must all stay very quiet.

And then.

My mother began to cry.

The cry of a baby is piercing. Like an alarm or a siren. Or a betrayal. My grandmother tried desperately to feed her, to comfort her, to rock her back to silence but still she screamed.

The other villagers were terrified, they pleaded with my grandparents. The sound would draw the soldiers, they cried, they would all be killed. They had to do something, they had to stop her.

So my grandfather drew his knife and put the blade to the baby’s throat. He hesitated as my grandmother wept and prayed.

And then, just as suddenly, the baby stopped.

The soldiers passed, the villagers left the cave and made their way back down to their village. When they stopped to cross the river, my grandmother moved down to the water’s edge and unwrapped my mother from the rice sack so that she could bathe her in the river water.

And there, she discovered the leech. It must have made its way into the sack when they initially crossed the river. Now, hours later, it was firmly attached to the baby’s heel; black, glossy, swollen with blood and so fat it was as big as her entire foot.

When I imagine this scene, I think about how when my grandfather held back his knife, he spared not only his first born child, but also me, his first born grandchild, and my sisters and our children too. That ol' eggs within eggs thing again.

Today I should be unpacking boxes and writing things and Being Organised but instead I’m thinking about Mum and how much I miss her and love her. I look at the image of my unborn baby(week 21 - size of a banana), with its nose like mine, and its aunties and the grandmother it will only ever know from photographs and stories and the la la la of the one Filipino song I remember her singing.


I feel the familiar squirming deep within as the baby turns and stretches in my abdomen.

And there’s something more. Higher up, that soft pounding against my heart.


It’s been twelve years but I haven’t forgotten that grief kicks too.

27 comments:

Gabrielle said...

I can't even begin to imagine how you are feeling, not being able to share with your Mum your excitement and feelings about becoming a mother yourself. So I have no witty comment or words of wisdom other than that to say I am thinking of you and sending you a hug, and to thank you for making me think about what my Mum means to me, and to appreciate my Mum even more.

What an amazing story of survival that you can pass down to your babe about their grandmother. Very special. M

LabiaLady said...

OG,
My thoughts are with you... sometimes grief hits you at the most extraordinary times doesn't it? I like to think that grief is not something to "get over", but just becomes part of your make up, your story, your life.

amazing story of survival... just imagine....

Speaking of childhood reads... did anyone read Milly Molly Mandy? That was my fave...

waitingforspring said...

Thank you for make me feel good when I read your posts, miss my mothers too a lot. This months I am doing my first FET with acupuncture treatment before and after, cross your fingers. I love your family, all seems so full of love.

Em said...

Now that is a story. Eggs within eggs, indeed. Hoorah on the good scan.

Urban Chick said...

♥ ♥ ♥

UC

Catizhere said...

What an incredible story to tell.

I too am missing my dad most of all now that I am expecting a boy who will be named after my father. He's also gone 12 years now, next week. (the 11th).

Funny how recently I've been dreaming of Dad. I think he's with me & knows about his grandson.

Juliabohemian said...

you will be a wonderful mother.
try not to bathe your baby in any rivers though.

k #2 said...

That is an amazing family story. How truly terrifying that must have been for your grandparents. Glad your scan went well!

pixi said...

Thank goodness your mum's life was spared. Sorry she had to leave too soon, though.

Lut C. said...

I'm glad you're doing well. :-)

What a terrible ordeal for your grandparents! It's hard to imagine such a thing, living such a sheltered life as I am.

Spanglish said...

You're in my thoughts.

mig bardsley said...

Oh to think..all your lives hanging in that few seconds. Thank god (figuratively speaking) the baby stopped crying.
It's hard and sad knowing your mother will never know her grandchild. But you will be able to tell your child about your mother and you'll do it wonderfully well I know.

Anonymous said...

Your Mum was such a beautiful woman. I feel very grateful to have been 'adopted' into the family and had had your Mum as a second Mother. I miss her as well. Thinking of you!

Thalia said...

Such wonderful stories we all have, and what a reminder of the complex knock-on effects of the choices we make in our lives. I'm sorry for your loss.

Chee Chee said...

I'm so sorry about the loss of your mother.

I can't imagine the scene you describe. What your grandparents must have been feeling at the time! The idea of the loss of your mom and all who would follow here. It's truly amazing.

Take care.

Millie said...

What a beautiful, haunting story. I'm so sorry for your loss.

cat said...

Sending you some love as this anniversary passes. No matter how many years pass she will always be with you.

Once again you share the deeply intimate in the most beautiful way. Thank you.

Burnt Karma said...

It's a scary thought that somewhere along the family line, one of our relatives came close to not making it, and so by the law of nature we would never be here.

We're all winners of the lucky sperm club!

((((((hugs))))))

your posts are so moving. I love coming here to read them.

fisher queen said...

What a story. Grief and joy ofetn seem to go hand in hand don't they?

Vacant Uterus said...

How beautiful and achingly sad all at once. You put it exactly right: "Grief kicks, too." What a perfect analogy...I don't think I've ever hear it so well described.

Mandy said...

That was beautiful, as always. Thank you for sharing it.

elle said...

Wow, amazing story. So glad things are going well with the babe. Sorry about your mom.

Lin said...

There is a whole world of us who can't wait to meet (internetingly) your little one. I'm so very happy that all is well.

I shed some tears for your Mum and for your loss and it reminds me once more that while death is final, the sweetness of the spirit remains strong. Details may fuzz, but the essence of your Mum is within you and will guide you with your little one.

Yidchick said...

You grab me by the guts with every word you write OG. Your mom must be looking at you now, so proud. And so amazing that the little being inside you will have your mom in her too. And her mom, and hers...

Kyahgirl said...

I've missed your writing OG. Its wonderful.

Mony said...

I knew you were from good stock.
What an amazing story alright. I felt a little kick in my heart too....for you, for your Mother, for your grandparents, for your combined triumph.

4tops said...

OK, I'm new to your site. And sitting at the kitchen bar, peacefully spooning lightly buttered and brown sugared cream of wheat cereal down, to assuage the wanting to vomit feeling (I am 6 weeks pg). I'm enjoying, catching up, reading past posts, and then. Then. Then there is the thing about your Grumpy Granddad's (gulp, gag) flaking scalp and his glasses. Need more warning of such gag inducing material!

Yeah, then it wouldn't read as well. I'll keep trying to plod on, and keep my cereal down.