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  • I dreamt a lot about mermaids when I was pregnant with my daughter. Great, glistering tails and swishing tumbling through water. I would wake sometimes and feel another fish like presence performing acrobatics in my stomach.

    They were recurring dreams and it wasn't long before them began to appear in my notebooks. Little doodles in the margins, curling round the ring-binder holes. A fishy tail disappearing down the paper plugholes in the margin.

    One early August morning my daughter was born into water. My own gummy, grimacing Peg Powler suddenly gripped me in a fist pinch of love. Mermaids are not always the pretty powderpuff creations of Disney - Ariels and scions of Neptune. After all, the mother of all mermaids was Atargatis - a goddess with a spiky fish's tail who could personify both death and life at once in one totem; healing love and destructive obsession in equal measure. Two sides to one coin. Calling you onto the rocks, splintering the hull of your ship with the jagged teeth of low wave-hidden dangers then saving an unfortunate sailor with a flick of her tail.

    Motherhood has it's own way of showing both sides of this love. Sometimes in the deep night, with a red-faced furious infant it can seem as if you have been left in the sea wreckage of your former life, desperately grasping to a once familiar but now utterly strange landscape. A moment later, the reverse is true.

    Lately, my daughter has begun to be haunted by mermaids. Again and again, they surface in familiar bedtime stories and drawings. Or in dreams. Like the one this week where she dreamt herself a mermaid who had lost her tail. Bitten off by a shark as she broke the surface.

    Perhaps this is her own kind of trauma. A body memory of her birth. Leaving the mere-pool of my stomach, lip hooked by the world. Pulled over the brink and onto the bank, a sliver gasping with unaccustomed breath. Perhaps she looked behind and saw herself snapped in half. Her fishy tail left behind. The watery world lost. Launched onto land.
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