Briefly Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace — When the algorithms know they are dead before you really do

3 min readDec 14, 2023

It’s been four years since I last felt you. You left my body four years ago today. The glow of your embers kept me warm through the grief of the first few months. The first year even.

It takes a while for your body to realize you are no longer holding a baby inside of you. Much quicker perhaps were the algorithms that had tracked my progress meticulously, advertising me the right things and the right times. The algorithms, sometimes helpful, nudging me to get elasticated trousers, other times neurotic (## // buy everything you already have but in a fluffy corner-less pink version ~##).

The ever-watching always-nudging algorithms also take a moment to realise you are no longer carrying a child inside you. For a few weeks they keep telling you to get a maternity headband (what ever that is) or compelling you to believe you need a special blanket for being with a baby.

And then slowly they stop. It’s an eerie sensation to notice that one day the algorithms have moved on, grieved and are searching for the next thing, but your body has not.

I felt that absence. I felt the void that came when the advertisements dissipated. The Machines of Loving Grace are not so graceful just yet. But then neither are we.

On ghost babies, phantom sensations & our final goodbye

The day echo was due to be born was April 1st. It’s a funny and dark twist, the ultimate April fools trick of telling people you are pregnant, turned back on you by the universe ‘only kiddinggg, fooled you’.

That morning I was in England. We had planned a little unbirthday party on zoom for that day. As I sat on the couch in the early morning sun. Wearing soft wool on my skin. I for the sharp morning sun coming in at an angle. The way that it does, like a sideways laser beam.

Suddenly I felt the pressure and the warmth of a little baby on my chest. On my shoulder nuzzles into my neck. I remember gasping (perhaps just in my mind). I am not prone to these things and I felt my mind try and fight it, dismiss it as not real. But it was real for me. My phantom baby sensation. We lay together for just a few seconds. Second that felt like forever. And just like that my baby dissolved into the air like bubbles rising in a glass of bubbly water.

Only then did my body really know that it was over.

Four years later. It’s harder and harder for me to remember you. To remember the joy I felt from your presence. It is hard to find the connection.

It’s strange to love something or someone you don’t know well, that you have has such short time with. I don’t know if I can call it love really. This was something more like unspoken togetherness. Collaboration without words. Fighting without fists. Tenderness without touch.

To echo, I carry you with me always, even if the algorithms do not.


All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

- Richard Brautigan