Biology lesson/seahorses

 photo by  R. Ling

photo by R. Ling

This poem mentions my current pregnancy.

Seahorses, we read,
lay up to 1000 eggs
in the male’s pouch.
Only five
survive to adulthood.

That means 9,995 die, I say.

The girls are aghast.
That’s so sad!
That means…
—they do some faulty fifth-grade math—
If we wanted to have five children live,
we’d have to have 100.

I correct them.
We simplify the fraction,
and I think,
If I were a seahorse, the odds are 200 to 1.

Under the table,
I put one hand protectively
over my own little seahorse
swimming secretly in my womb.

But humans are different,
I try to comfort them.
Mammals take care of their babies.
We don’t have as many,
so we raise them
as carefully as we can.

Right, says one girl matter-of-factly,
But the mother seahorses
don’t take care of their babies.

I ache for that mother seahorse,
trusting the laws of nature.

We look at the photograph,
tiny translucent seahorses
drifting into the dark waters,
dandelion seeds to the wind.

If you could go back, how do you wish you could have protected your baby(ies)? If you have living children, what do you do to try to protect them?