Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bubonic Plague

This post is totally unrelated to my family, and tangentially related to motherhood. It's more a post about perspective. It's a little disturbing, you may not want to read this one.

Ever since I was a little kid I've been fascinated with the various outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague. I've almost thought that the whole thing was "cool"... as much as one can about something so grizzly. I've done various presentations on it over the years and I have a fairly good understanding of how the plague was transmitted and what they did about it.

At least, I thought I did. In October 2011, I got to go to Scotland for a week when Scott was 1 year old. I was pregnant at the time. During this trip, we went on a walking tour that lead underneath the city of Edinburgh. The tour was called "The Real Mary King's Close". The tour was full of interesting things, but it was also full of absolutely terrifying things. The way Edinburgh grew, people ended up living underground, or at the bottom of very tall and narrow passages. I'm slightly claustrophobic as it is, so this was a little stomach churning to begin with. But the thing that's still haunting me 8 months later was a small offshoot about the bubonic plague. We were exploring a section under the streets of Edinburgh, where people really lived, in real old homes and passages, and they had various mannequins set-up in different scenarios showing how life was then. Murders, daily work, and one section on the plague. There was a mother trying to care for her two children who had come down with the plague. They were huddled on a bed of straw, wasting away. There was a man, a doctor of sorts, coming by to collect the dead in a full leather coat and mask. Viewing the scene from the eyes of a mother who has had to care for her child with just a cold, I was seriously shaken. There are things about history that seem interesting until you are confronted with them in a new way. For me, in this case, it was being a parent myself, facing a life sized representation of one of my worst fears. Motherhood creates fierce and strong emotions. This one, the protective instinct, is new and powerful. I'm so heartbroken over all of the mothers who had to watch their children die (and then probably die themselves from catching it themselves).

I just wanted to write about it because it's stuck in my head and my heart today (no idea why), and I wanted to try and get it out, have the chance to process my thoughts on the topic. And to express my great grattitude and joy that we know what caused the plague and aren't currently living in a time or area with any great medical epidemics.

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