Creeping from the Womb
By Kristi DeMeester
In the past, I have said that motherhood is the most monstrous thing you can do. I’ve now been a mother for five years, and I still believe that. Female bodies have often been treated as objects of horror. Our monthly blood; the infinite mysteries we carry in our wombs; the pain and violence of childbirth; our bellies swollen and unrecognizable even after an impassive doctor has pressed a squalling child into our arms. We turn away from it because it is primal. Because of all the things in our world that have been lessened, made more delicate, this act of birth and then of mothering is still the thing we wish to close our eyes to. Even when we are the ones bringing the child into the world.
But of course, the monster doesn’t die after a child is born. It bends and grows and shifts into things with different kinds of sharp, unknowable teeth. Guilt. Shame. The deep-seated knowledge that this was something you were not born to do; something you should not have done, and you sit with your child pressed against your aching breast, and wish for something, anything to take away the deep exhaustion that has cut itself into you in a way that you know you will never be rid of it. Women, fundamentally, when they dare to admit it, are the only ones to truly experience and then write about this emotion. The love and despair and fear and loneliness when your life has become somehow…reduced. Compressed into something not lovely. Perhaps this is why there are so many stories about evil children. Because despite our love, despite our adoration, they leech out of us everything we so desperately need to keep for ourselves, and what else is the creature in horror fiction than exactly this?
And our fear of becoming the terrifying mother—our fear that we won’t be up to the task, or that we will become new variations of our own terrible mother figures—looms over all, coloring the sunlight in the years of infancy a darker stain. For where children are designed to consume, so are mothers as the child grows older. The monstrous feminine who leeches off the child, drawing from it everything it felt it lost. In fairy tale, in fable, the mother has frequently done this. Trying to reclaim the person she was before motherhood altered her into something she no longer recognized. Even when we read of these terrible women, there is a sense of pity. A sense of empathy. Because there are parts of so many mothers who have needed what those evil women needed. At least in some capacity.
Or, in the aching fierceness of our love, we become willing to do anything in the name of protecting our children. We write that love in blood. In pain. And we smile serenely over the chaos we create, comforted by the safety we have offered, that mewling, yawning mouth that opens and opens, the arms forever reaching.
We tell our stories because no one else is brave enough to tell them, and they call them horrific. They call us horrors. And we wear that veil. We take the name into our mouths. Because it is the truth. And there is beauty in that.
If you read a horror story closely enough, you will find it.
About Kristi DeMeester
Kristi is the author of BENEATH, a novel published by Word Horde, and the author of EVERYTHING THAT’S UNDERNEATH, a short fiction collection published by Apex Publications. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1 and 3, Black Static, The Dark, Apex Magazine, and several others.
She is currently at work on her fourth novel and seeking representation.