Motherhood Can Cross All Species Lines

05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET
  • Blake Fleetwood Former reporter for the New York Times and Daily News; taught Political Science at NYU

Theresa Trapani, a friend of mine, who lives north of Miami, sent me the following email:

A Mother's Day Story

Last night Russ and I went to the beach in search of nesting Sea Turtles.

It was the night of the full moon, and it lit the beach so well we could see from one end to the other. We walked south on the beach about a half mile without seeing any turtles, then turned around, figuring luck just wasn't with us that night. By then it was after 10 o'clock.

As we climbed the stairway over the dunes, we turned around for one last look, when Russ spotted her coming out of the water. An enormous Loggerhead turtle. She had to be four and a half feet long and must have weighed 250 to 300 pounds.

We ran down the beach, keeping out of her sight so as not to disturb her.

She started making her way up to the dunes and soft sand. She could only take 4 steps at a time before she had to rest, panting heavily. Carrying all that weight out of the water must be a tremendous burden.

In the moonlight you could see several barnacles the size of silver dollars glistening on her back.

We couldn't quite make out her true color though - she just looked grey in the moonlight. Her eyes were huge and black and shone like polished marble.

After about 20 minutes of struggling up the sand, she found a spot she felt comfortable with and started digging. She dug a very deep hole using her back flippers.

When it was deep enough, she began laying her eggs. From our prone position behind her, we could see the eggs as she laid them, one or two at a time, clearly lit up in the light of the moon.

We were so close to her we could hear her breathing, grunting and could see her body contracting as each egg
came out.

This went on steadily for over half an hour, until she finally stopped laying and began to cover her eggs with sand.
She sprayed sand over the eggs with her front flippers and gently patted it down with her back flippers.

This went on for quite a while too, and I dozed off waiting for her to finish.

Finally, satisfied with all her efforts she turned to head back into the water. It was amazing to see this creature move at all. It was like watching a cement ball pick itself up and walk down the beach. She did move much faster going back down then she did coming up, however, minus who knows how many pounds of eggs.

We'd been dying to touch her, but waited until she was finished and on her way back to the water before we dared
to get that close. We tried to see if we could lift her but couldn't even budge her.

I wiped some of the sand off her smooth shell and touched her flippers, which felt just as you would, sandy, rubbery and strong.

We waved good-bye as she slipped back into the surf and the weightless watery world where she belongs.

It was amazing experience, and a vivid reminder of how Motherhood can cross all species lines.