The search for an agent reminds me of giving birth to my daughter.
I was terrified of the pain.
I spent eight years trying to have a baby, and the day that I found that I was pregnant, my joy was only surpassed by the terror that I would lose her. I had already lost twins a couple of years earlier in an ugly miscarriage that left me in pieces for months afterwards. And now I was 43. This pregnancy was a miracle, my last chance to have a child of my own.
The first and second months passed with morning sickness that left me delightedly drained. Then, on the morning of the third month, I woke with the same red warning sign that preceded the cessation of my first pregnancy: blood.
I took to my bed and lay there hardly daring to breathe. My husband brought liquidised vegetables and other nutritious foods to feed me and our baby. We contacted a herbalist who recommended a herb to prevent miscarriages and after much agonising, I decided to take it. I meditated, and even though I don’t believe in deities, I prayed.
Each day seemed like a life time. My mother rang every morning to ask if the baby was still there. I tip-toed to the loo, and tip-toed back again. I lay watching the clock, waiting for my baby to grow.
Finally, we passed the first trimester, and I got out of my bed and came shakily downstairs. I was now formally pregnant.
It wasn’t an easy gestation, but I loved it: the hard bump of my belly and the little feet kicking inside my stomach wall, an extraordinary intimacy with someone I had never met, yet who was part of me; and the way time had changed, so that all other schedules bowed to this new one, which I called ‘baby time’. I loved the feeling of wholeness. Of hope.
In the eight month, I found myself unable to breathe and was taken to hospital. Gasping for air, I asked my husband if he would take care of our daughter, should I die. I was glad it was my life I was contemplating losing this time and not hers; I wanted her to live more than anything in the world.
So when the labour loomed, I was afraid. My baby was going on the most treacherous journey of her lifetime, down the birth canal – and I had to help her leave me.
I had to say goodbye to those wonderful, terrible months of carrying her inside me, and turn the dream into a reality, to let her go out into the world as a separate being, and trust she would survive.
Of course Black Water is nothing like a child. And yet… I have nurtured it and grown it out of that strange dark womb of my imagination, and now it is being sent out, to risk rejection and unkind words. It may well die in the face of indifference, because what is a book that is never read? In some sense it remains stillborn.
Yet, as I contemplate the possibility that I may have spent all these years labouring over my story in vain, one consolation remains: while it was with me, it was truly loved.