“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

12 Feb

10 feet from where I sit, face lit by this computer in a dark room, my daughter burns with fever, barters with the fever headache and lingers in fever dream.

A short while ago, she called out to me, and I saw her sitting confused in her bed, hands covered in vomit. She looked up at me to make it all better.

I did.


On my way back from getting children’s advil and ginger ale and some coke for me, my eyes lingered upon the missing poster for Karissa Boudreau, a 12 year old girl who went missing in Bridgewater a few weeks back. I had my usual, knee jerk sad response until I saw her birthdate.


I was 18 in 1995. I was squandering brain cells in 1995. While I was wondering what university I might go to, while I was trying to piece together what sort of life I might like to have, Karissa’s mother was entering a new world. I think the same when I think of Hannah Walker, an 11 year old girl from my home town who died hours away from the heart transplant she so desperately needed. While I was confused and foolish, their mother’s were becoming.

They tell you that you’ll change when you have a child. That life will become different. But you don’t change. You evolve. You become an absolute different person-a new you. A you with true fears, true love. When you become a mother, when you take that child home, be it home to where you live or home in your heart, you molt. You shed the skin of your maidenhood, you leave behind the trinkets of before. You grow a new organ, next to your heart, that allows you to feel pain and joy all at once, over and over again.

When I was 18, people were birthing their children, and themselves. And now those children are lost to them.

How do we look up at a clear night sky, stare at the stars and not scream why? How do we not spend our days huddled in bed, crying for those we can’t save, crying for the fucking unfairness of it all? How do we spend our days arguing stupid needs and wants while somewhere, a mother has lost her daughter?

How do we excuse this? When I was 18, I didn’t know any better. I couldn’t conceive of this. My heart had not yet opened. Could I have imagined then, how I would feel walking home in the brisk winter night, playing over and over in my mind the time Vivian had a seizure from her fever, and worrying it might happen again? Could I have imagined then how utterly my heart had stopped that day, and how I feared she was dead?

Could I tell 18 year old me these things?

These losses, these gains, these changes-they bind us to each other. Karissa is my daughter. Hannah my sister. All of you-my mother. In a sisterhood we stay attached, in a sisterhood we find ourselves safe-across this province, across these countries and oceans, we’ve felt the same fears and longings for our daughters, our sisters and mothers. For ourselves. The fear of one mother is the longing of a daughter.

I couldn’t understand this 10, 12 years ago, when these children, these people drew their first breath-that they are connected to me, that they are as important to me as the people who sit beside me. Your daughter is also my daughter. I feel her pain as well as you do. This is how we survive the losses. This is how we survive the fear of loss. We look to our mothers, and sisters to know how to bear it, how to move past it.

We look to our daughters to know how to fear.


I can still make it better. I can rub tummies and soothe the pain. But I worry about her paleness, her slight frame. I worry, as mothers as wont to do. I fear. I fear because I understand love, and I understand the bond that ties us together, the bond that tells me in seconds when something is wrong. I fear that someday, as it seems for both Hannah and Karissa, it just won’t be enough.

3 Responses to ““There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.””

  1. Lala February 12, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    I can’t imagine that it’s NOT her but I so don’t want it to be. Her mother’s sobs broke my heart.

  2. marcelarhodus February 13, 2008 at 12:27 am #

    I’m aching and praying.

  3. Mad Hatter February 14, 2008 at 12:05 am #

    I’ve been thinking along these lines a lot since having the miscarriage. Both my sisters had terrible experiences in their childbearing years. I was a kid/teen at the time and simply didn’t get it. I still didn’t get it all those years as an adult. Now that I am a mother I do and I feel so dreadful about that person I was and all the understanding I simply could not grasp.

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