In the leafy bushes immediately outside of our front door, a hummingbird has built a nest. For the past three weeks, during which time my husband has grown a beard in mourning for his mother, and I have swollen into the last month of my third pregnancy, the mother hummingbird has been sitting on her two tiny eggs, which recently hatched two Lilliputian, helpless, hummingbird chicks. We’ve been trying not to use our front door, but none of us can long resist the desire to tiptoe past this minuscule miracle, and peer inside.
Our daughters are delighted. They’ve told everyone. “Our hummingbird made a mest,” says my two year old, and the four year old chimes in, “and all day long she sits like this, without moving, keeping her babies warm.” She imitates the bird, staring straight ahead, unblinking, until she turns her big, light-filled eyes to her audience, waiting for them to become infected with her joy. Though the chicks have hatched, still the hummingbird sits, keeping the live little chicks warm, but now she also flits around, gathering whatever it is that nourishes tiny birds, and bringing it in her beak to her ravenous brood. She feeds them and sits on them again.
Often, I find myself hovering near our front door and gazing protectingly outside. If the mother is out foraging, and I notice a crow or robin nearby, I hiss angrily. My own children seem to me like frightening giants when they leave our house, squealing and excited to gaze at what the natural world has laid at their fingertips. “Quietly! Gently! Not too close!” I warn, knowing that I am partly talking about myself, about the turning, stretching new life within me, slowly descending, soon to hatch. I identify with the beady-eyed, resigned, taught expression of the mother hummingbird, an expression which acknowledges with resolve that fragile life is within its care.
Each morning, when my husband returns home from the morning minyan he attends daily to say Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, he reports on the state of the birds. “She was sitting on the nest,” he shares, or “she must have been out gathering food.” Each day we wonder whether or not they are surviving, and what the next day will bring. In the evening, the children put their hands on my belly. “It’s moving!” they shout as a fist or foot sweeps across my translucent belly. At night, when I toss from one side to another, seeking elusive comfort, my dreams are a-flutter with hummingbird, tranquil and stoic on her nest. Sometimes I dream that I am her chick, curled up beneath her warm, breathing body, and sometimes I dream I am she, and am overwhelmed by a desire to fly far and fast, away, even as I sit.