I’d planned to post this anyway, since I wrote it exactly two years ago today. But I’ve been thinking a lot about life and death and hope and all that really deep stuff lately, for reasons I’d like to only touch upon as briefly and gently as possible:
I have a friend who lost his first child on the day of her birth almost a year ago and I’ve just learned he is having a son due this winter. They live across the country from us and so it’s hard to properly express the depth of the love and support Thor and I wish to offer them.
I have a pair of friends whose three-year-old son just got diagnosed with leukemia. Along with many friends we are prepared to swarm all over them as much as they want, but right now we’re just waiting for our marching orders since they’re still at the hospital. I keep trying to picture how I would feel if it were Owlet, so I would know what to say and do. I get an overwhelming wave of sadness, fear, anger, and fierce hope, but have yet to give myself any good advice. (If you have any ideas for us, please share.)
In short, my heart is full of hope and concern for each of them, and the words to properly express it won’t come. So instead, here’s what I wrote about my mom two years ago:
[originally written on Sunday, August 22, 2010]
The thing about becoming a mom is you invariably think about your own mother. A lot, during the whole process, from deciding to get pregnant (unless it’s an accident, of course) all the way until, well, your own death, I’d imagine! Which is probably complicated enough when your relationship with your mom is super duper and she’s, you know, alive and all. But if you’re not the bestest of buddies, or if she happens to be deceased, like mine is, well, that’s a whole new level of complexity.
All through pregnancy, I felt hyper-connected both horizontally, to every other pregnant woman I saw, and vertically, to all the women in my family who had given birth going back and back and back endlessly through the generations. But at the same time, I was conscious of that missing link: my own mother, who should be passing down to me some sort of secret knowledge of motherhood.
I spent awhile (the whole pregnancy, actually, and about the first month of Owlet’s life) not thinking about what it would be like if she were here. Determinedly *not thinking* about what it would be like… if she were here. Here for the whole thing. She’d be the first person I called when we decided to start trying to have kids, and the first I called when, a few weeks later, a couple pink lines told us we were really good at this procreation thing. How proud she’d be, and excited, oozing warmth and confidence in me. She’d laugh when I couldn’t bear to fall asleep on my belly long before I actually had to stop. She’d tell me stories about the things that made her puke when I stopped being able to exist in the same location as food of any kind. We’d wait and wait and wait for that first twitch of a kick, and even though they’d divorced, she’d glow to hear me tell her that Dad got to feel a kick for the first time while reading The Night Before Christmas (a family must for Christmas Eve). She’d rub my back as it sagged into its preggo curve and my feet when they began to protest the extra baggage. She’d applaud how cute maternity clothes are now compared to when she was pregnant. And even though I didn’t want any family in the room while in labor (except Thor, of course!), I would have wanted her there. And she would have hovered in the background, conscious to give Thor room to be my main support, but she’d have come forward when I needed her soothing words, her cool hand on my head, or simply to take over when Thor needed to eat or pee, the way our awesome doula did. She’d have glowed in her quiet, loving way at the wiggly, goopy, perfect granddaughter who finally popped into the world.
I realized I was determinedly not thinking about what it would be like because I was scared of triggering depression. I know you can’t unsay things you’ve thought to yourself, and I figured thinking about what it would be like would be worse than useless, because it wasn’t what it actually was like, and that I would get all upset and unable to get over it and my baby would suffer because I wouldn’t be able to love her properly and… And as soon as I figured that out, I relaxed. I am strong, and I know it. My mind is just made of tough stuff. And partially that’s Mom — she gave me such unwavering love, thirteen years of it is enough to last a lifetime.
So I rewound. I imagined all of the above. And many moments since. And I have to laugh, because it’s just impossible. Not that all of those things wouldn’t have happened. Most of them probably would have. But even people with the most amazing moms around still fight with them, still get exasperated and feel misunderstood and occasionally want them to take a long walk off a short something-or-other. As sure as I am that I’ll make a great mom, I’m twice as sure Owlet will feel that way about me… hopefully not all the time.
What I don’t get to have anymore is my mother in the flesh. And that’s a truly terrible thing. But what I do get is her imprint, anyplace I choose to put it. And in these never-happened memories, I don’t make stupid mistakes, she doesn’t say the wrong things, and there is always laughter and love and hugs. Just what I want to give to my own daughter.