On Sunday, July 9, I swam to the middle of Indian Lake. It’s taken me these past four weeks to begin to write about that event. I have not been procrastinating. I just haven’t known where to start. I know myself as a writer and a person, and this is a sign that there is a lot below the surface of the obvious act of swimming that made that afternoon momentous not just in the course of my four-week artists residency, but in my life.
I know the following paragraphs and forthcoming blog posts will be in-progress, unorganized, and raw exploration of the swim and everything below its surface, but it’s a start… I don’t know of what, but I know I’ll find something as I move forward.
I’ve come a long way in conquering my fear of water to learn to swim so that I could keep my promise to Liam. He is always (ALWAYS) on my mind, but it is difficult to write explicitly about him. Liam is the son my husband and I lost in February 2008, a stillbirth at 37 weeks of pregnancy after five years of failed attempts to conceive and losses. I felt many things, most strongly among them was my feeling of failure–as a woman unable to perform the most basic function of conception, as a mother unable to keep my baby safe even within my own body, and as a person unable to function emotionally and cognitively after the loss.
I spoke to Liam constantly while he was in utero. I promised him many things, including that I would enroll him in swimming lessons as early as possible so he would learn to be competent and confident in the water. I also promised that I would learn right alongside him; I would be brave for him. I didn’t have the ability to teach him to swim, but I could teach him how to face challenge, work hard, and not give up, and that as his mommy, I would do anything and always be there for him.
Liam died because of a placental abruption and Strep A infection, but it happened in my body. I had broken that maternal promise that is so basic it goes unspoken: I won’t let you die. It has taken me years to believe Liam’s death was not my fault. In those years, learning to swim became a priority, at times to the point of obsession. I couldn’t break another promise to my son.
(End of the first in a series of related posts.)
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