Birth at Sea

Editor’s note: This poem first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 54, Summer 2000.
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In my dream, I run
all the way down the hillside
to the estuary where the kingfishers wheel
and dive and the sea lions swim
upriver with just their noses
above water and the children bump
sticks along the sand.

I jump in to feel the rush
of cold river current that sweeps
me out to sea where the waves roll
past haystacks and headlands,
where the surf scoters bob
on swells and the sea garden of kelp sways
gently shoreward.

A sea star plants its body on my belly, sends
its rays across the moon of transparent flesh
and Rosemary rises,
reaches toward that underneath place,
the Jacob’s lantern,
where the light of the night sky hides
from the view of the casual observer.

Rosemary swims out into the salt bath
and we float together,
past the gray whale
whose spray baptizes us,
past the white pelican
whose call beckons us,
under the bright sun,
whose rays bless us.

Holly says:

I drew this picture the night before I went into labor. That day, my husband and I had walked along the banks of the Willamette River. The river ran fast and was swollen, just like I was. A vision of the fish’s awesome, upstream journey came to me. I felt that certain qualities of the fish’s journey could help me on the one I was ready to take in order to birth and parent my daughter. The vision was so strong, that I know it was important, but I worried about the end of the fish’s journey. Would the fish make a good role model, given that she dies before her children are born? My friend Catia said, "She’s a great role model. She’s given them everything they need to survive."

So, my beautiful daughter, Rosemary Hannah Williams, swam out at 3:42 a.m. on July 31, 1999.

About Author: Holly Knight

Holly Knight has worked as a pesticide activist and environmental educator. Parenting her daughter, Rosemary, with her husband, Tom Williams, has been her most rewarding—and inspiring—job thus far.

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