Saturday, September 27, 2008

A tiny fur seal, c. 1996

There are those moments in your life that send chills up your spine.

I have so many of these in the realm of my Charlotte. I see a picture of myself, holding a tiny sweater that she would never wear up over my belly, an enormous smile on my face. I find something that I wrote to her, assuming that I would have her forever. I remember that moment of looking up at the ceiling in my living room, caressing my huge belly, and wondering if I would be able to survive if my baby dies. I never thought I was seriously pondering this, at the time it was just a way for me to wrap my head around how crazy in love with her I already was.

So today I found this huge packet full of all the letters I wrote to Greg while I was in New Zealand and he was in Madagascar our junior year at Middlebury. They are akin to old letters sent during the war, explaining things that I saw, what I did, feelings that filled me. We had no telephone contact during that time, so it was inclusive of mostly everything.

In the midst of one of the letters, I recovered this account of a fur seal dissection that I attended at the University of Otago in Dunedin. A graduate student studying fur seal populations had an arrangement with a certain fishing company to procure all of the fur seals that died accidentally in their nets (! :( oh dear). In any case the animals were used for reasearch and I was there, assisting with this dissection. I had never attended the dissection of such a large mammal before.

I remember quite vividly, having been reminded through my writing of this experience, the dampened, melancholy curiousity that came over me when we realized that the seal we were dissecting was quite pregnant. This is what I wrote to the man who is now Charlotte's daddy. I am shivering right now.

We had sawed open the two adults and pretty much disemboweled them and they were lying on the stainless steel table, which was covered with blood. Coated with blood. And the full uterus was just lying in this pool of blood on the table. The student, Gail, cut through one, two, three layers of sac, and amniotic fluid poured out onto the table , and then, there lay this tiny, clean little seal, the only thing in the whole room that was not covered in blood. Its skin was soft and pink, and its tiny eyes were closed. Its nose looked like a kitten's and a soft coating of brown down covered its body. I opened its mouth and it had no teeth yet; its tongue was little and pink. It was so sweet. It was so sad that it had died and never even seen the world, but so peaceful that it had lived its whole life rocking in the warmth of its mother's body. We all surrounded this tiny creature in complete awe at something so small, yet so complete. Examining and amazed by this little seal, I looked forward to one day when a small person, soft and pink, will come into my life, a little piece of me that I'm sure I will be just as amazed and astonished by.

Except at that time, when I was nineteen years old and writing this, I never imagined that my baby would also be dead, did I? Also drowned by lack of oxygen, floating in the warmth of her mother's womb. But she was astonishing, I give you that, and I was truly amazed by her.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Wow. That's amazing.