I’m reading Marita Golden’s autobiography, Migrations of the Heart. Her story is compelling and thoughtful and beautifully written. Can I use beautifully? It’s hard at times and yet still somehow beautiful. Her writing is striking and full and lively.
In this passage, she’s writing about a very powerful loss. Her first pregnancy ended with what her doctor called a spontaneous abortion. Ms. Golden is “taking me to school” in her writing. I’m learning. I’m listening. As she’s talked about her experiences in this autobiography of loving Femi, a Nigerian, and moving into his culture after having lived for years in the US, I’m learning, through her, of what it took for her to adjust. New expectations, new rules, spoken and unspoken. I’m learning of how manhood and womanhood was seen and expressed in her life. I’m learning about being a husband.
At home I recuperated, confined by the doctor, Femi and my own desire to bed. Almost immediately I began to write furiously, with the fervor of a long-awaited eruption. I filled page after page with an outpouring the loss of my child released. The writing affirmed me, anointed me with a sense of purpose. Most of all, it slowly began to dissipate the sense of failure that squatted, a mannerless intruder, inside my spirit. The writing redeemed my talent for creation and, as the days passed, made me whole once again.
In the evenings Bisi came to visit, and for several days under her hand I received a postpartum “native treatment.” Filling the tub with warm water and an assortment of leaves, grasses and herbs, her hands pressed and gently kneaded my stomach in a downward motion. “This will bring out the poisons,” she explained. The water was the color of strong tea and the steam rising from it made me drowsy. Drying me with a towel, she warned, “Tell uncle to let you rest. Let your body heal. Tell him to be patient.”
“I will,” I assured her, “I will.”
Mourning the loss of his child, his son, Femi inhabited the house with me but was dazed with grief. As I ate dinner from a tray in bed one evening, he said, “We lost a man.”
“No, Femi, we lost a child.”
“We lost my son,” he insisted. “And we must find out why this happened. What went wrong, so that it won’t happen again. Next time you will not drive; the roads alone could cause a miscarriage.”
“Femi, the doctor told me that sometimes a weak or defective fetus will spontaneously abort. That perhaps if the child had gone nine months, it may not have been a healthy baby anyway.”
In response he quieted me with a wave of his hand. “We will be more careful next time.”