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February 16, 2021


Nicole McCarthy

The female octopus, after mating, produces tens of thousands of eggs. With a short life span of a few years, if lucky, she only gets one shot at producing offspring to outlive her. She weaves them into delicate strands at the back of her den and uses her siphon to blow debris off to keep them clean. Octopuses live solitary lives, separating immediately at birth and hoping to escape the pod without being eaten. An octopus can spend almost a year of her life hiding and hunting, turning shells into shields or floating through endless forests of kelp. They can dream, too. With their flesh flashing white and red and burgundy and brown, one color to the next in a moment. But the female octopus at the back of her den, protecting her eggs, no longer hunts. In protecting her eggs, she gives up her pursuits, gives up her body, to keep them safe. She fasts. She lives long enough to see them hatch, then dies. 

In humans, around 300,000 eggs live inside a female body facing puberty. That number decreases to around 70,000 by the time she reaches 30. 

I have spent the last twenty-two years wishing my eggs away, cursing them, month by month as they float down the drain. I have spent the last ten years telling people I won’t be having kids, that I don’t want them. Breaking my mother and grandmother’s wishes, returning worn onesies. 

But now I’m thinking a lot about sacrifices.