Letter to the Unborn

Danielle Lattuga essays

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When we first began trying to conceive you, I focused on remembering each detail of each day. I thought that someday you would want to know the flavor of the sky when you were made and who your parents were then.

How the horses grazed dry hills, swishing and snapping their tails against flies and heat—against the blue, cloudless sky.

How the dogs you would never know hunted and rolled in the pale, fall grass.

How your father flew kites for the first time, testing each one in the gasp of the Montana breeze, first, the green frog, then the butterfly, then the sun and seascape.

Yet, as the months passed, I fell back into the limbo of “what if?” and “when?” Doubt was planted in me long before the choice to have you was even palpable. Labeled geriatric in fertility terms, I found myself carrying the weight of ideas and beliefs that my bones themselves rejected. I found myself learning to find my way through a divide between what I knew to be true and what so many others felt was the harsh reality I should know—as if I wasn’t acutely aware of the numbers and the risks.  

As much as we wanted you, we knew that our want wouldn’t necessarily make it so. It was about magic, it was about biology, timing, circumstance, chance, and you. It was your choice too. Now, I remember those things along with the moments of intention focused only on bringing you to be.

I also remember what it felt like to loosen my grip on the idea of you and savor the succulence of my life when my shape was familiar to me and fertility meant lacing words into a poem, having ample energy to give freely to my loved ones, and a richness of time so abundant that each breath was a sweetness on the tip of my tongue.

Today, you are nestled in my belly while I crouch awkwardly in the garden, plunging my hands into soil and breaking parched clumps between my fingers. I am scattering some seeds and pushing others into the ground with a finger that craves the cool feel of the quenched dirt below. I am dreaming tender, green tendrils up from the earth like I dreamt you into this body.

I dig with a satisfied purpose and I treasure this moment of intimacy with you and the land, but my heart feels the bigger world. I am remembering how, not long ago and far away, Nepalese men dug frantically. Their bare hands clawed at the earth, tossing rubble and debris aside to pull beautiful round babies from the dust; babies who were buried when the earth wrenched open; babies who were wrenched from their mothers’ arms; babies who have futures as uncertain as ours, but who have already suffered and survived in their brief, precious lives.

Meanwhile, the great horned owls raise their young above a jewel-strewn creek.

Meanwhile, Arrowleaf Balsamroot flexes and opens its bright yellow face to early, hot light, with no concern for what we call it or the joy it brings.

I don’t know if one day, you will concern yourself with any of these thoughts or even what we call you. My hope is that this will bring you some kind of simple clarity, whether spoken or read or buried beneath the garden shed.

I’ve come to realize that you were made from a whole flurry of moments. You were conceived along an endless path; one that curved back on itself, snaked up countless mountain flanks, reached deep into the forest and across the glacial maze. You were born of momentum driven by wind and water: burnished, deconstructed and rebuilt by intention, good fortune, and love.

You are the dust on those little babies across the world as much as you are the roundness of my flesh bathed in the peace and flood of my thoughts. You are at once everything I know and the wonder of infinite mystery. I have my hands in everything and nothing, but still, I cradle you.

Right now, we are two sharing one body. It won’t be all that long before you have your own and I am imperceptibly changed. Right now, I see the fissures in my own hands, sucked dry by the soil; a thirst that helps me remember to breathe in this moment, a thirst that belongs to no one and everyone.

However you enter into the realm of the born, I will hold you my sweet child, as I hold you within me now. Yet, I will try not to hold you too tightly, for you are as much mine as you are the world’s. We may be fleeting but my love is not. That one thing is as sure as the seeds in palm.


About the Author

Danielle Lattuga

Danielle Lattuga is a freelance writer and editor who lives happily in Missoula, MT. Some people, we won't say who, refer to her as The Garden Commander. You can read more of her work at .

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