She isn’t pretty. Her face is angular in an odd way reminding you of a triangle; her stomach swollen, stretched to its limit. She looks uncomfortable, ungainly even, yet she doesn’t seem inhibited by her pregnancy, climbing about as she does, nimbly moving from leaf to leaf. A few weeks ago, when you spied her hanging from the delicate yellow dahlia, she was white, almost translucent. The next time you saw her, this praying mantis was green, secretive like the leaves, seeking her prey, quietly, so very quiet.
You warned the large grasshopper about her, moving him carefully to another plant, but the next morning, he was but a shell of himself, lying under the dahlia, all his juices sucked out of his body and into hers, providing nutrition for her eggs. This female has a violent past, having murdered her mate, eating his head while copulating then feasting on his entire body after she got what she wanted.
The pregnant mantis is not the only one carrying offspring as summer changes to fall. A swollen wolf spider sits contentedly in a corner of your garage, near the door into the kitchen. Is she hoping to sneak inside when you least expect it and find a cozy shoe to lay her eggs? You have a vision of dozens of baby wolf spiders hatching and finding their way into your clothes. Still, you leave her be, hoping she will move off on her own.
When workmen come to replace your kitchen countertops, they see her lurking above them as they bang in and out of the door, jarring her repeatedly. Still, she does not move, five legs tucked carefully beneath her swollen belly, three jutting outward ready to propel her forward as she waits patiently to seize an errant fly. Why doesn’t your husband kill her, the workmen ask? Aren’t you afraid? Your answer is restrained; as long as she keeps to the garage, you have no quarrel with her.
Days have passed and you have not spied either the mantis or the spider. The mulberry tree has turned yellow now and the dark emerald leaves of the Rayburn Ash are becoming red. You search for the pregnant creatures in the garden and in the garage, lifting the stems of flowering plants or checking shoes on the work bench in the garage. Your husband shakes his head, wondering why you care about these two pests which you normally ignore or eradicate. In the deep alcove of your heart, only you understand your silent reason.
Oh, it’s a long story—one of cold examination tables and long hypodermic needles; the marking of calendars for optimum fertility, the years of waiting and hoping, and finally the invasive, painful surgery that allows a pregnancy and ultimately a precious son.
Your silent reason: Despite being different species, the mantis, the spider and you share a common bond—the eternal struggle to become a mother.