Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Apparent Suicide: A Postpartum Fairy Tale

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The dull rumor aching beneath her skin told her it would be her last winter. Thunderclaps from inside the womb. No one would believe her, would believe the clots she left behind her with every step. The fear of that was enough to validate her announcement to the family, that she would be embarking on a search for Meaning. There was no time for anything else.
Puzzled, they showed it to her. In last summer's snapshots. In curlicued stickum notes pasted to the fridge next to vegetable dye fingerpaintings. Look here, they sang, gesturing wildly, Look here!, acting out skits at unassuming times in her day with hopes she'd become sensible.

She still didn't recognize it. She only smiled and told them, "I'll be on my way now," the next clot forming as she spoke.

Resigned, they assembled as any family would, giving her a mess kit, a flashlight, water tablets, a cell phone, a ride.

Romancing the idea of intuition, she left the map of her stay-home world in the curled-up hands of her youngest child, the one who'd colored in the key just for her.

Eventually they found her trailhead at the edge of the highway, after a twenty-hour ride in the car following precise but unpublished directions from her and the lightning storms held constant against the horizon.

"This is it?" her family asked her. There was nothing there, no signs, no water, no people, no mountains. Only dust and the sound of the SUV hazard signal.

"You can't see like I can see," was her reply.

It was true. In that moment, she faded into the dunes like a shadow into darkness.

Through the desert, she hiked, relying on old shoes left over from before motherhood.

She walked for a day, trying to erase from aural memory the tune to Itsy Bitsy Spider. Nothing happened. She eventually found herself at the zenith of a pyramid enveloped in fog, after picking up one ankle after the other, three hundred strides, without a drop of sweat left behind her. Even so, she grew thirsty and drank from a rain puddle that wasn't really there, and fell to dysentery.

She died in the night, too weak to take off her shoes, too dulled by confusion brought on by dust devils, lightning strikes and immoveable banks of white fog to hear the ringing Motorola stuffed inside her backpack, the portal where children waited on the other side to transmit digitized goodnight kisses.

Later, a search party found the woman's body, following a trail of blood clots, thinly coated in the flour-like sand of the desert, which zigzagged up the side of a mountain. In her own hand, there was a note etched in blood:

"You were not enough."

Blindly, the family assumed all blame. They buried her at a rainy-day service back home three days later, their hands held out for Meaning like paupers at her tomb.


Tamara Kaye Sellman is the mother of two daughters ages 8 and 11. Both became published poets by the age of 6. Sellman endured a minor case of postpartum depression following the Caesarean birth of her first daughter; “Apparent Suicide” is one attempt by her to capture the dark matter of that experience. Her writing on pregnancy and motherhood has appeared widely, including hip mama, The North American Review, Other Voices, Peralta Press and Quarterly West.


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