I have been considering the herbs mentioned in the beginning of the book that grow on top of the broken and buried baby carriage (presumably because they were planted by the mother). The narrator claims he found the bassinet “buried beneath the nightshade, the monkshood, the pennyroyal” and that the fingerling “asked what it was my wife intended to grow, knowing I had no answer for his smirking question” (18). These three plants are toxic (nightshade and monkshood particularly so) but what is more interesting is that pennyroyal is an herb that has traditionally been used as an abortifacient (this is the only medicinal use of the plant that I’m aware of). Given that they grow on top of an object that the wife buried, and with consideration of the fingerling’s unanswered question, it seems wholly possible that the mother aborted all of her pregnancies.
I am not sure what to make of this other than that the mother appears to have even more control over what she creates and how she creates it than the narrator believes. Assuming she induced the miscarriages, the mother rejects all children that were the offspring of her husband, embracing only the one she created from the bear cub. By crafting a child from the bear cub, the mother has also created a child (kind of) without a father. The bear cub presumably had a male bear father, but the mother extracted the material for her child from the female bear. The mother is the most interesting character in the book in my mind. Rejecting all her husband’s children in favor of a child born entirely of women (at least on a symbolic level) not only displays the mother’s agency but it reduces the agency of the husband, an individual who can only create matter and life through his small role in his wife’s pregnancy and who is repeatedly denied these creations.