Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Endangered

Okay, so I have a crazy thing for anthropomorphizing animals and projecting my own skewed-by-loss maternal yearnings onto their behaviours. (This is just one of the many and obscure ways in which my brain has become its own peculiar version of twisted as a result of loss and trying and infertility and loss. What does animal reproduction and parenting have to do with my own experience? How do I manage to take the most random scenarios and find in them a reminder of what my body can't do, or do only badly? How can I feel I understand anything of their animal experiences of death or grieving or maternity? Crazy talk.)

When I read that Washington Zoo's panda Mei Xiang gave birth this week to a surprise, stillborn twin to her healthy delivery, it hurt my heart a little. And when I read that she groomed her dead baby for 17 minutes before relinquishing it to keepers for an autopsy, not only did I cry; I felt I got it, a little.

Mei Xiang, who was impregnated via insemination, gave birth to another baby last year that lived for six days. This was her second loss.

Giant pandas are an endangered species, so that's a big deal.

Sometimes - back in the world of human reproduction - knowing all the stories I do and all the things that can go wrong, I wonder how healthy pregnancies ever progress, how babies ever get born and grow into children. It's inexplicable to me. They all seem like endangered species.


Parallels. Source

22 comments:

  1. This is so poignant and beautiful.

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  2. I agree, knowing everything I do about what can go wrong, it amazes me that so many healthy babies are born every day.

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    1. It's just hard not to absorb all that awareness of what can and does go wrong. I guess the 'upside' (if there can be said to be one in this shitty situation), is that we have a real appreciation for just how amazing a growing life really is. I often feel that many people don't.

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  3. I feel the same way too. Before it seemed like such an effortless thing, but now... I don't understand how any of us are here, with the limitless things that can and do go wrong.

    I didn't know that about the panda at the Washington zoo. How sad.

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    1. Ah, I (almost) remember those days of it feeling effortless and natural...which of course, it is supposed to. We conceived our son on the first real try, and now sometimes I just look around me and can't help thinking: 'how did *this* become my life?'. Sigh.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this, Sadie. I was so touched by the story of the mother panda grooming her stillborn cub. It's so heartbreaking, and also amazing to see that maternal instinct operating in such a beautiful and powerful way across different species.

    Your final paragraph really resonated with me. I have often thought the same thing--after realizing just how fragile life is thanks to this journey, it's become almost surreal to me that healthy babies are born all the time. In the world of infertility/loss, we just can't take those miracles for granted like other people do.

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    1. I thought that was beautiful too, and I could understand something of that instinct because it's exactly what I felt when I held my son's lifeless little body.

      Surreal is exactly the word. It's unbelieveable to me that it happens normally at all. I can never take those things for granted now.

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  5. I'm not clicking on this story because I would cry, too. Animals are amazing, aren't they? And a hell of a lot more civilized than people sometimes.

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    1. So true! Animals are amazing, and if we're bothered to pay attention, I feel like they can teach a lot about the basic, important stuff in life. It's like that stupid bumper sticker: 'The more people I meet, the more I love my dog'. I'm not even really a dog person, but I TOTALLY feel like that some days.

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  6. This reminds me of the saying, "I'm not anxious, just extremely well educated about all the things that can go wrong!" Sadly, it's true.

    I had the same feelings after learning about the stillborn twin -- even more so now that I know and can picture Mei Xiang's reaction, which seems so similar to what a human mother would do.

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    1. It was that picture, and the feelings that it conjured, that really had me in tears at this story. I think that some basic maternal behaviours probably cut across species, and that's somehow oddly comforting too.

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  7. It is so very sad, but so very understandable.

    And I agree, knowing all that can go wrong, it's amazing that it does go right most of the time.

    /MMB

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. It really does feel like a total miracle when you think about it, doesn't it? Which I guess it is...

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  8. Yep. I totally get this. Knowing too much--most of it not even from my own personal experience--is enough to make you question everything.

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    1. I guess there is such a thing as knowing too much, but I'm also glad that a) I'm not one of those obnoxious people who hides my head in the sand, or b) someone who doesn't appreciate good fortune when it finds them. That's some small consolation, perhaps.

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  9. Beautiful post. I couldn't agree more - we know too much and it is literally mind boggling to imagine that women not only get pregnant through haphazard sex and the missing of a birth control pill but that those same women actually carry a healthy child to term. It feels...unreal and at times impossible.

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    1. Thanks Sarah. Yeah, I think I feel so far removed from the whole experience at this point, that it does indeed seem unreal and totally mind boggling. While I hope I never lose that awe, I also hope it won't feel so impossible for me forever.

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  10. Life is a miracle against all the odds, in all the cases, from small to big. But the development of an embryo and of more "evolved" creatures to the point which is perfectly engineered is amazing... because of all the things that have to take place at particular moments.
    I don't think you are anthropomorphizing, or maybe you are... I don't see that big of a difference between animals and us, they do *feel* even if they are conscious of themselves in different ways.
    Pandas are so specialized... they only enter oestrus / ovulate once a year (with the fertile period lasting 2-4 days). The first time they succeeded at breeding Pandas in captivity was a huge deal, and it still is, every single time.

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    1. Thanks Amanda, I forgot that you could supply some professional insight to this topic ;)

      I don't really think I'm anthropomorphizing either, and I agree that animals feel in some way we might not fully understand. For a long time I have been really interested in studies on primate emotions (particularly their grieving 'rituals'); I guess I am just conscious of not presuming too much.

      But you're right: it's all a miracle anyway. That's a perspective that I'm happy to have as a side effect of this horrible experience.

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  11. Im so glad Mel shared this post in the round up. I hadn't heard this story and I really get Mei Xiang wanting to take the time with her baby. I often wonder how animals process their emotions as well- how do they go through their steps of grief- how do they get on day to day and what more can they teach us about moving forward.

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  12. Here from Mel's round up... I hadn't heard this story. Every time I hear stories like this, I shed a tear or two. Mothers- no matter what species- have strong bonds with their children. She may not experience grief the way that we do, but I do imagine that even pandas mourn in their own way. Thank you for sharing.

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