there is this song of mothers and daughters, one i have been rehearsing my whole life. i have been trying to lay down its lyrics over the past few days, sounding out the verses, testing what is honest. it is hardly work, this writing…it lurches out of me in spurts and clots, memory and wish and history all webbed together, the fabric of identity.

i am playing Scheherezade, counting down the days to this baby’s viability with stories, hoping to lure us past the danger zone. it is a fiction, of course, this deliberate narrative convention: i know that stories do not knit tissue or keep blood flowing, seal vulnerable sacs of fluid, hold cervixes tight. i know that the 24-week threshhold of viability is itself a fiction: this baby had a brother born fifteen days past that point, and the odds failed him utterly. yet there is nothing else i have to give.

it is not that i will love her more, this girl child. she will be her own surprise, whatever she is, no more or less mythic than her brothers once she leaves my body. but i did not know there were mythologies of mothers and sons – i grew up the only daughter of an only daughter, no men left standing in the family – and so in this liminal before-time, the idea of a her signifies a continuity i have been immersed and engaged in since my earliest consciousness, a song i have anticipated singing since i was four years old. it has nothing to do with ribbons and bows, sugar and spice. its ties cut deeper, and cut sharp, sometimes.

the caul of my protective shell has been torn away, the one that held some part of me numb and disconnected and able to believe that none of this was real. this baby moves, kicks, somersaults inside me, a sudden presence, an Other demanding recognition. in acknowledging her, opening myself to the possibility of her, i am made all the more vulnerable. i feel the prickling of my skin, the terror that this may be all the time we have. but it is enough for stories. i like to believe she can hear my voice.

i come from a long line of women, i used to tell myself…as if the family tree from which i’d sprung were solely female, made up of vines extending across generations on the x chromosome, the men present only as pollinators. i imagined the mystery of my own murky fertility as a logical extension of the pattern: someday, under some suitably Bohemian circumstances, some fine, decent man-friend of mine would make it possible for me to bring forth a daughter and go on about my destiny. she, in her turn, might eventually manage to free herself entirely from the extraneous male half of the population and spontaneously self-fertilize.

this mythology was born, of course, of wounds, of an effort to turn absences and holes into strengths, into some special twist of fortune. it was also born of the pleasure i took, in my peevish, fraught adolescence, in shocking those women i came from, those unintentionally unconventional women who in spite of themselves had taught me that men were not needed in a family. they are not iconoclasts, these women we come from, daughter…not most of them. i once thought i was, and the memory makes me smile. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

we all of us women are daughters, at least once over, at least for a time. perhaps that is why some of us hope and long for girls, because it is what we understand of parenting and childhood. perhaps that is why some want nothing to do with such a mess.

all these things i am scribbling these days, grafitti and narrative, a song i hope her voice will add its own verses to, someday…some time far from now when how it all ends in this verse is clear and inviolable.