Friday, August 19, 2011

Flesh and Words

Before having my first baby in 2009, I thought my only contribution to the world would be my writing. Black words on a white page (or screen) have always seemed more permanent than anything created from blood and bone and flesh. And yet... I now see my legacy as two-fold: the emotions I bleed into words on the page and the human beings I bring into this world. My blood, my life, in written and living form.

I am two weeks away from giving birth to my second child. He will come into this world the same way his brother did-- through an incision made by a surgeon's scalpel. The scar will heal in time, the numbness caused by cutting through muscle will linger forever. But there will be a second child of mine in the world, carrying my DNA.

Because of my age, I opted for genetic testing in both my pregnancies. This time around, I participated in a maternal fetal medicine study, which involved giving a vial of my blood. In the great scheme of things for pregnant women over a certain age, another vial of blood is as insignificant as a few strands of hair. I agreed, because I have benefited from modern medicine and wanted to be a part of a study that will help future generations of women. Plus, it was only some blood. I've lost a lot of blood over the years from awful menstrual cycles brought on by invasive fibroids, from miscarriages, from birth. This was a needle stick. Nothing at all.

It seems that as much as 10% of a pregnant woman's blood contains fetal DNA. Which means that, if that DNA could be isolated from the mother's DNA, doctors would need only do a blood draw to determine all sorts of genetic information that now involves invasive, painful and potentially risky procedures. Imagine the possibilities: with a single needle stick, being able to tell if your unborn child is carrying a genetic disorder. It boggles the mind.

It is also mind boggling to know that not only is my body possessed by the creature that wriggles and squirms and makes my belly bulge in odd and uncomfortable ways-- but this creature is also in my very blood. I am not myself. I am two people. For now. And in two weeks when a surgeon's scalpel separates us, he will still be part of me. For always. Much like my writing, sent out into the world, is still a part of me. Always.

The word legacy has historically been used to describe what men leave behind. Sons, land, reputation, laws-- the word legacy is filled with masculinity. It is about making a mark on the world, something women were long denied even though it was their blood that flowed to bring those men into the world. My two boys will set their own paths and make their own marks on the world and will carry in their veins the blood that contains my DNA. My legacy, or part of it, in blood and flesh.

I will wait and watch and wonder as my boys grow, pondering what about them is like me, what is like their father, what is like previous generations I know nothing of. Will they write? I don't know. Is writing a genetic trait-- or something that runs deeper than blood, soul deep? If they are of my body and my blood carries their DNA, are they also imprinted on my soul-- and me on theirs? It's a question for a far more spiritual mind than mine. But one wonders at the connection-- the cosmic umbilical cord that ties the generations together.

I am proud of my writing, of the metaphorical blood I have shed to find the words I want to share with the world. I am also proud of this body of mine and what it has accomplished despite odds that put my chances of bearing one child (much less two) in the 1-5% range. I am proud of my 20 month old toddler, who already demonstrates creativity, intelligence and kindness. I am proud of the baby I am carrying for thriving despite the odds, despite my age, despite a less than perfect uterus. I am proud of the legacies I will leave behind-- my life's blood in flesh and words. May they complement each other and make the world a better place.


  1. A great post about being a writer and a mother, Kristina. As a grandmother of 2, I often feel the same way. Even if all my writing is eventually forgotten, DNA lives on. :)

  2. And I will leave nothing behind but my poor scribblings... sigh.

    I think that the urge to write must have some genetic components. I was thinking about my poetry the other day. I started writing poems when I was six or seven. Nobody ever suggested that I should do so. I can't even remember learning what a poem was - though it's true my parents read aloud to us, including verse.

    This is a gorgeous piece, to tie the whole week together, Kristina.

    Two weeks!! Do you have an actual date?


  3. Jean ~ DNA does live on. It's such a strange thing to consider after spending four decades of my life thinking I wouldn't have children. :-)

  4. Lisabet, I think the words we leave are at least as important as the DNA in the genes of future generations. We writers are leaving our voice behind-- that's no small thing when I think of the generations of women who could not write or were not allowed to write.

    Oh, and I do have an actual birth date! It will be September 1. 13 days and counting...

  5. Kristina - I remember so strongly that weird feeling of being alone for the first time in months right after my daughters were born. They get into your blood, they get into your psyche, and then they get into your stash of cookies.

  6. Oh Kathleen, you made me laugh. Especially since I just read your comment as my toddler was bringing me cookies from the pantry.

  7. Another great post! For me, I leave my painting and sewing, but it's still a part of me out there in the world.

  8. Thank you, Fran. I think your art is a wonderful legacy-- a part of you out in the world influencing others, influencing culture. If we can't take it with us, it's nice to be able to leave the best parts of ourself behind.

  9. My happiest moments were after my babies were born, on in 1988 and one in 1991. It felt right.

    When I write and, these days to a certain extend when I tutor my writing students, it feels right.

    I wish it hadn't taken me so long to get to that place,but I'm glad to be there and obviously, Kristina, so are you.

    The DNA thing is, frankly, scary. For my kids, I mean, not for me. Mine both write! Ha!


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