How I Swallowed my Daughter

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, swallowed her daughter who died, by Photoshopping multiple decorative borders around a photo.Almost five years ago on a moonlit night, I stood with my newly inherited dog in the driveway. It was the place I felt closest to my daughter who had died. Looking up at the stars, I whispered, “Marika, please stay with me.”

During the months before Marika was even born, I had watched the changing shape of my growing belly and talked to her, not knowing who she would be. Now as I spoke to my daughter, I watched the ever-changing sky, the creeping clouds, the moon turning from fingernail to half cookie to bright pearl to hidden promise.

At age twenty, Marika had written to her dear friend who died, “Because I got to live, you will too.” So she’d already set my direction for what to do when a loved one dies. She was going to “carry” her friend forever. Thus, I would “carry” Marika. That’s how I came to “swallow” my daughter.

People swallow pride, feelings, secrets and unsaid words, bitter pills, … mostly to bury them. But when I took in my dead daughter, it was more like “wearing” her from the inside out. I decided to be more like her, to dedicate a chunk of who I was to who she was, so that I might see the world through her eyes. This way it didn’t feel so much like a final separation. And keeping another’s perspective is useful in dealing with what life springs on you.

As it turns out, this is not so crazy. Mothers have been doing this for ages. The term is the only thing I invented. Since publishing my article, The Mother who Swallowed her Daughter, I’ve gotten responses from bereaved parents as well as the lucky ones. Cries of “I swallowed my daughter too,” and “I swallowed my son,” fill my email box. My own mother wrote, “I’m a mother of three female children and I have swallowed them all –each and every one — just as they are. Sometimes they give me indigestion….”

Anyway, at my most desperate hour, this was what I came up with to survive the death of my daughter. It was the only way I could imagine ever finding joy again.

“Help me be strong. Help me find the right words, Marika. What exceptional thing will we do tomorrow?” I say this often. In the driveway. In bed. In the kitchen. On hilltops and wooded trails. By the sea. In daylight. In the dark …

 

What have you swallowed? And how has it changed you?

 

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10 thoughts on “How I Swallowed my Daughter

  1. Sage

    my mom. gone 6 years now. I see my son through her eyes, I love him in ways I know she would have. I say her words, make her recipes and sing her lullabies. miss her every day

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Welcome to my online home, Sage. And welcome to your mom, definitely a part of you now, even gone 6 years. I believe making someone’s recipes and singing her lullabies is like “continuing” them on earth. Food and song, and a pattern of loving, are the most splendid ways to keep someone you love. It’s so good to “meet” you. Cheers!

      Reply
  2. Elaine Mansfield

    I get it, and your mother’s comment is the best. Sometimes, living or dead, our children and anyone we love can be indigestible. It’s a brave title and a brave concept, Robin. Thank you for putting it out there. I’m glad the Grateful Living article was found by Skip (Donald) Conover of Archetype in Action. He loves promoting good things.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I was going to ask you about that, Elaine. Skip Conover and his group or whatever he’s trying to put together. Thanks for helping him “find” me. Yes, as always, and as you are, I’m practicing ‘brave.’

      Reply
      1. Elaine Mansfield

        Skip was a career Marine officer during Vietnam and after. He’s married to a Buddhist meditation teacher, meditates himself, writes, is a Bernie supporter, a student of C.G. Jung and many other scholars, loves the intellectual life and isn’t afraid to write controversial things. He found my TEDx talk and then my blog and then wanted to read Vic’s articles. He knew people I knew, so I knew his intentions are to change the world in a positive way.. Archetype in Action, his site, focuses on bringing Jungian ideas into everyday life, but I think it’s mostly about what Skip finds interesting at the moment. He’s a good person to have on your team. He loves social media. I share his stuff and he shares mine.

        Remember when you said Imbolc or the time of the quickening was too optimistic for Feb. 1 (or 2)? Look at the light. Roots and seeds respond, even when under snow which would be the usual situation. We already have longer days and the sun is moving north. It speeds up now. Soon the sap runs and time for lambing.

        Reply
        1. Robin Botie Post author

          Time for lambing? Who is lambing? This sounds like something I want to see, to know about. It sounds like something healing. As for Skip, thank you for introducing us. I do need to check out his site. Not to mention checking for some text on Jungian Ideas for Dummies. We need all the people we can get on our side. So cheers!

          Reply
  3. Lynne Taetzsch

    I don’t know what to say, Robin, except that swallowing your daughter is perfectly understandable. I can see how it has fortified you and helped you to go on.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      It’s one way that brings comfort. It’s not for everyone, Lynne. We find our own coping mechanisms. Or we don’t. I imagine painting works for you. Or at least gives you enough fortification to go on. Just looking at your colors brings me joy. Cheers!

      Reply
  4. Joann Giovannone (Jo)

    Very much enjoyed this touching article of yours, Robin! I’d like to say I’ve swallowed all of our son’s great qualities and excitement, joy for life and upchucked the negative memories of losing him and learning to cope/live without him here on Earth….however, that’s a “work in progress”, but I keep trying, which is the best anyone can hope for.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Of course there are those negative memories, Jo. They will always manage to squeak in just when you least expect. Aside from a lobotomy, I can’t imagine how one could get rid of those. People say you just have to learn to love the pain – another “work in progress” I guess. When you “swallow” fish, you take in some bones. When you “swallow” your child, you get the sadness and negatives too. (I still hear Marika saying, “MOM! You are so clueless.” Often.)

      Reply

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