Leaning over the kayak, I peer down amber stalks of kelp growing from the ocean floor. Nearby, a sea lion surfaces – we consider each other amid gentle, early-fall rollers making their way to shore.
As the wave set passes, a dozen dolphins appear suddenly, crowding my kayak. Their collective energy kicks my adrenaline switch, charging my arm hairs into static attention. I worry that they might bump my small craft, ejecting me into the center of their pod. Instead, they offer up a newborn calf as big as my forearm; her vulnerable body cradled by a muscled mass of flippers.
Awestruck, I look to the sea lion for confirmation that this is really happening. The pinniped’s head pokes up through floppy kelp leaves as he peers over my bow to get a better look. We admire the pearl-grey infant in unison as the dolphin tribe puffs through blowholes, coating my face and arms with sea spray.
“Beautiful baby!” I say.
They emit a prideful beam before slowly moving their newborn parade downcoast.
One month later, I discover I’m pregnant.
I arrive home with my swaddled newborn in early summer and stand on the porch as a salty breeze grazes her tender cheeks.
“Home,” I whisper, “Our ocean home.”
Just offshore, a small pod of dolphins pauses in the kelp forest. I hold my daughter up so they can see her; she bats her gossamer eyelashes, reflecting tiny rainbows from the sun. A dolphin leaps. My pride crashes over the swell rolling between us and I can’t help but think that the jumping dolphin is a mama like me.
A feeling of motherly kinship stirs deep in my cells; in that moment, I resolve to devote myself to protecting the ocean home that nurtures her baby and mine.