I have two mothers.
The first is Mum, who dabs crumpled tissues on her eyes. She goes places to hide her weeping for my pain, for my future; but I can always tell. When she returns, her smile is too false and eyes too darkened.
The second is Mother Nature, for when Mum is exhausted by blaming herself; she’ll bitterly blame nature for my mitochondrial disease.
Afraid I might judge her, she sometimes hides empty bottles in the laundry. I dump my school clothes in and pretend I haven’t seen them.
My body is fighting a losing war against nature. I do not have the weapons to fight back. No words to comfort Mum.
When I see that she is sad, even in my nausea and pain, I smile. I smile, for I know she says I have the most beautiful smile. And when she smiles back, I dare to dream that everything will be okay.
They give me experiences I might not have. Theme park next – I’m heading for the pirate ship on the beach.
For my unborn brother or sister, a cure. But they say that this is against nature. Against God. Two mothers and Mother Nature. I dream of a world that allows three mothers.
Got a lovely 3rd Runner-up Award. Thank you, kind judges.
Sinéad: We were both struck by the topicality of this story, and the poignancy of the child’s realisation that the scientific advances that will save his or her unborn sibling will come too late to save him/her. The details here – the crumpled tissues and the bottles hidden in the laundry basket, and the child’s pretense at a smile mirroring the mother’s – gave the story an urgent poignancy and power. I was also struck by the mention of mitochondrial disease, which can be caused by problems with mitochondrial DNA (inherited from the mother), and how this means that both the child’s life and death have come from their birth mother, as well as ‘mother’ Nature. This story took an interesting and fresh look at the idea of mother Nature and motherhood in general, contrasting the ‘flawed’ mothers with an idealised, and impossible, ‘third’ mother, from which only life – and not the inevitable death – would come.