Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Feeling Peckish

From what I understand, this lady chicken was unable to lay eggs and, in her frustration, had been in the nesting box and causing all kinds of problems with her fellow chicky roommates and their eggs. Her owners explored a few options and provided her with some wooden eggs to distract her and help relieve everyone and settle her down a bit, and she very seriously and dutifully sat on them for three weeks, hoping for babies, but, sadly, wooden eggs don't hatch, and her owners sympathized with her predicament. They then very sweetly bought a few little adopted chicks and stealthily slipped them under her, replacing the wooden eggs, and after a few minutes of shock and adjustment, she was shaking and clucking with the excitement of becoming a mother, apparently taking to it quite naturally.

Her owner says of the solution, "It could bring me to tears to think that, with silly wooden eggs, a silly wooden spoon and four sixty cent chicks from the feed store, something that felt so lonely and broken could be so perfectly fixed."

I just learned that "broody," besides just meaning contemplative or moody or melancholy, has etymological roots in hens that are "apt to breed" or "full of maternal longing" ... which to me is pretty interesting.

This chicken story gave me pause because this lady chick is not the only hopeful pre-mother I know who struggles in waiting for babies, who feels broody. It seems I've had several conversations lately with several people about this tension between when someone decides they're ready for a baby and when they actually get pregnant and have a baby. That waiting period, whether one month or many years, seems to frustrate everyone and drive them to distracted discontent. And as beautiful as that story is, heartbreakingly, these problems mostly aren't solved by wooden eggs and baby chicks from the feed store.

Rachel in Genesis 30:1

When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!"

Hannah in 1 Samuel 1

And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"

And Rachel and Hannah are obviously not the only examples around. It's almost become a cultural joke. We've been watching season one of 30 Rock, and just the other night Liz Lemon's proverbial biological clock was ticking, and she accidentally stole a baby. Funny? Yes. But unusual? Hardly.

And so I wonder about this phenomenon. What is this thing that happens? Is it just not getting the thing you want? Is it jealous thoughts or erratic emotions? I really hesitate to label it biological, but it doesn't seem entirely removed from biological inclinations either. Anyway, I don't know. I certainly don't have any kind of neat and tidy solution. Do this! Do that! Stop thinking about the only thing you want to think about! I think it is curious (if not necessarily comforting) to see a glimpse of some kind of almost archetypal pattern in this struggle. It's just something I've been thinking about.

1 comment:

hip hip gin gin said...

Oh my goodness, this story just about broke my heart! She is lucky to have such loving and creative owners. Poor thing. It really is something to think about though, I don't know what that longing is (I don't have it yet) but I have heard from other women that once it starts it really is so strong and sometimes painful. I wish there was an easy "wooden egg" solution for women who are suffering with this feeling.