Thursday, July 28, 2011
Mama & Bees
The heat of summer has arrived and with it, the honeybees are busy fanning themselves all day long, just to keep cool. I watch them congregate at the entrance to the hive or along the bottom mesh in the late afternoon, as if to catch a breath of fresh air. In the heat of the day I can even smell propolis and honey wafting up into the garden. It is honey season.
I would be 6 months pregnant right now, if I hadn't lost a baby in April. Floating in the river and complaining of the heat. Instead, I am starting a business and drained with grief. You see, I became a mother, but I have nothing to show for it. Still, the bees are on the lavender every day, singing away, and I find comfort in the sight.
A few weeks ago I opened the hive to see if they were producing any honey. Sure enough, there along the top rim of the combs were little white caps. When bees bring flower nectar into the hive, they deposit the nectar in the hex comb and begin to fan it until the water content reduced to 20%. At that point the honey is considered "ripe" and is capped with wax an left for the winter. First season bees in a new home usually don't make enough surplus honey for the apiculturist to take for human use, but this hive might be different. They are full to the brim with comb, where as the its sister hives on other local properties still have plenty of space to fill. I have yet to ask or inspect again, but if I am going to be taking honey it will have to be before mid august.
During my bee inspection in early July, with mother and sisters watching, I very delicately stuck my pinky finger into some capped comb and tasted an every-so-tiny bit of fresh honey. It's true. There is nothing like it. It tasted of herbs, fresh cut grass and early spring all mixed with a sweetness that was almost unbearable.
Since then I have not opened or spent much time around the hive. They are creatures of bliss, but I have not felt my energy "matched" the hive's in any way, so I have only visited for short periods. I have been experiencing a greater and greater sense of loss around my miscarriage this April and have been unable to cultivate the joy and wonder I usually feel around bees. Instead, I worry I may upset them. When feeling especially low, I go to the hive and cry, because I still remember (sometimes) that I am supposed to keep talking to the bees, no matter what. It is a difficult passage and I believe I am beginning the take the initial steps out of grief and depression by allowing myself to work within the grief.
Writing has not been much on my mind, but I did name this blog Honeybee Mama because I though I would be raising bees and a baby all relatively within the same year. Now baby has been postponed to some unknown point in time and I am left with a gorgeous full hive of bees thriving above the spot where I buried the tiny remains of my 11 week placenta. It is beautiful and deeply confusing.
Our culture does not know how to hold miscarriage. For some women, the loss of a baby is the loss of a fetus and a potential life and although sad, not a major trauma. I honor that form of experience around miscarriage, but I had another. I am experiencing the loss of a child. A family member who I have been waiting for since I was a teenager. I recognized the spirit instantly. So, while I understand on a spiritual and intellectual level that the spirit may come back, my body, which became the body of a mother, is grief-stricken and confused. No only that, but women who have had a miscarriage can still experience postpartum depression, a form of depression that sometimes hits when hormones take a dive after birth. Another thing nobody talks about.
While this may not be the most uplifting or bee-centered blog I've written, I hope that someone reads this and is able to reach out and help and friend, a sister or a mother who may experience pregnancy loss. It is more common than I ever knew and it is almost never the mother's fault. Us mamas grieve over every loss, no matter how short lived and no matter if it was our conscious choice to end the pregnancy or the great All That Is. Some women will always remember that little life and where it could be now: birthing, growing, loving. As they heal from a loss like that, it helps to have friends to hold you, make tea, listen, bring you food (and remind you to eat), take you to nature and make you laugh. It is not a loss that shows on the skin, nor does it receive the support given if someone dies, but there is a death and an empty womb and a loss of purpose.
Honeybees always have a purpose. They are part of a whole. A community supporting and living together. One being, many parts. They register emotion and they feel emotion as a being. When a beloved beekeeper dies, some hives have been known to let out a moan for hours on end. They are not so very different from us, they just remember, in every moment, to continue to move toward bliss. Maybe that's why they came so quickly after I lost my baby. Or maybe it was just the season. Either way, the honey they make will be the honey produced from my own season of grief and it will be sweet, healing and full of life.