You may be wondering why we named Hudson “the Turtle” when we were pregnant with her. Long before Hudson was born, I had already decided that sea turtles were my spirit animal. Ed and I have both always loved sea creatures of all kinds and we have always been the types who would stop on a dime to save a turtle in the middle of the road. Three years ago (I write that and cannot believe that my beautiful girl was dreamed about, conceived, born and taken from us in three short years—it takes my breath away), Ed and I spent three amazing weeks in Hawaii for our delayed honeymoon/post-bar trip. While snorkeling near Hanalei in Kauai, we encountered several sea turtles (called honu in Hawaii), adults and babies alike. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My clever husband, unaware (as was I) of a federal law prohibiting people from coming within like 50 feet of sea turtles, pulled some seaweed off a rock and held it out to one of the turtles underwater. The turtle gobbled it up. Well, you can bet I wanted to try that one immediately. I held some seaweed out to the same turtle, and it gobbled it up, too, but grabbed my finger along with it—apparently, I didn’t let go of my end quite fast enough. Those jaws are so powerful that I felt lucky I didn’t lose the tip of my finger with that little stunt. It bled a little, but otherwise I was fine. For the rest of the trip, anytime I saw people anywhere near the turtles, I instantly felt unjustified righteous indignation, wanting those people to get the hell away from them. I steered clear myself for the rest of the trip, too. I felt incredibly protective of them, I guess as a result of my terrible violation of their sanctity. But from then on, sea turtles became my spirit animal.
When we first found out we were pregnant with Hudson, we went in to the OB at around 6 weeks. Even I thought that seemed a little early to do an ultrasound, but the doctor did one anyway. She saw a gestational sac of the right size but couldn’t see anything else in there—she thought I had blighted ovum, which meant I would miscarry soon. She said it could be just that I was not as far along as I thought, though, and that we should come back in a week and see what happened. That entire week, I was beside myself. It was a terrible feeling, walking around just waiting to start bleeding and lose the pregnancy. The next Monday, we went back in and as soon as we saw the screen, even our untrained eyes could see that something was there that hadn’t been visible the week before. And sure enough, it was Hudson, her little heart beating away furiously. Here’s the picture.
So later that week, we were trying to decide what we’d call the little peanut we’d seen on the screen. I remember this all so clearly—we had just walked out of the house and turned down the sidewalk on our way to the metro. Right as we passed our driveway, I turned to Ed and said, “The Turtle!” Our little baby was just a little shy and took its time showing itself to the world, but then came out of its shell at just the right time. And given my pre-existing spiritual connection to sea turtles, the name couldn’t have been more ideal. We planned the nursery around a turtle and sea creature theme, and bought a ridiculously large stuffed sea turtle that became Hudson’s measuring stick for the pictures we took on her month birthday every month for the first year.
Of course, once she was born and started growing, she wasn’t very turtle-like at all, and I easily slipped over into calling her “my little monkey.” At least as far as personality went, it was much more fitting.
As I think about it now, it becomes even clearer how appropriate the name “Turtle” was for Hudson. Once the mama sea turtle has gone ashore and picked the safest spot to lay her eggs, she doesn’t have much more control over her babies’ destiny. They face a terribly dangerous journey back to sea, one that the majority does not survive. As I was thinking about this post today, I read that while the mama is nesting, she sheds huge salty tears. Although the reason is purely biological, the image is incredibly powerful.
I also read the Hawaiian legend of the honu today—believe it or not, it is the story of a mother and daughter. The mother turtle was a magnificent, supposedly supernatural sea turtle with a pure white head. Her egg hatched into beautiful Kauila, a turtle who could turn herself into a girl and thereby keep watch over the children playing by the ocean. Kauila is considered to be the mythical mother of all sea turtles. Although I have no idea about the afterlife, it brings a smile to my face to think of Hudson, the St. Ann’s day care “class concierge,” out there somewhere, watching over all her little friends who are still with us. And it certainly brings me comfort to think of her “mothering” somehow, just like her mama mothered her.
And of course, the turtle’s lesson is to slow down. Enjoy. Breathe deeply. Float. Bask in the sun. Take risks. Carry with you only what you need. This is Hudson’s lesson, too: cherish what is.
This is the ring I found several months ago when I was looking for something I could wear that would keep Hudson with me always. It is a mama and a baby honu. I always wear it so that the baby is swimming toward my heart. If only my sweet girl could have been one of those rare sea turtles that lives for a hundred years.