Text: Johanna Michelle Lim
Illustration: Veronika V. Hipolito
A mother dies when she gives birth. At least, a part of her does. She will lose that ability to think only for and about herself. She will start to think of her womb as a vessel where a new place, still untouchable, grows. That place is Eden. And she herself is exiled from it.
The peripheries of that paradise, her own body, will become foreign land. She will see it with novelty as if she has not had it, been in it, for years. What was once in her control – breasts, bladder, stomach, armpits – will be disembodied. She is rented real estate. She is a stranger. Nothing is familiar.
Once she has found Eden, she will find all ways to protect it. It will become her world. No other life form flows outside of Eden. No other life form matters. Her body – chest, stomach, shoulders – will convulate to safeguard this sanctuary. She will look unflichingly at the mirror and not recognize anything about herself. She will begrudge all else that will take her away from this image. She will latch on to the role as protector. It is the only thing she recognizes.
Oh, but she will try to find her way back even if there is no map, no reference point. Retrace the steps, or move forward. Both directions are foggy, just like her sleep and wake.
Eden will start to look for other worlds. The outside world is now her womb. There will be an absence that will gnaw for a time. A hole in her chest, and belly. You don’t remember what was there before the hole. This is the irony. It lived inside the mother, and yet it’s the mother who has lost a place, a home.
In this hole, a new voice will start to merge. It will sound surprisingly like you own. But it’s not a you that you recognize. This causes worry. Can you merge world and womb? Can you be person and mother? Dreamer and mother? Life and mother? You begin to wean yourself of the thought of just being mother.
Once, you measured her world as your own. You will forget your birthday, your hair appointment, your closet space, your career, your friends, your artistic pursuits, your life. But you will remember first words, first cut toenails, first tooth, first favorite color, first party, first time away. You chronicled your days around these. But the life you had, will have, has already awakened.
By now, Eden is a farfetched place. It has grown and thrived without your tending. You will visit it once in a while, sure. And once in a while, you will panic at how distant it has become. But in its place, you will find a life that has been resurrected. You will pick it up again, and it will continue to rise, and rise, and rise.