Lately I’ve been reading all these beautiful and/or tragic birth stories. They fall into those two categories it seems. You either had a miraculous and life changing birth story or something awful (mainly due to complications), but what if you didn’t have either? What if most of it went missing?
I became pregnant with my first child when I was 16 and most of what I remember isn’t very pleasant. I found out I was pregnant after running away from home because I didn’t want to be wrapped up in a cult anymore. It is an awful feeling to not want to be pregnant, now that I know what it feels like to want to be. It hurts some part of you because you are already set on this path and the first thing you remember is that you never wanted to be there.
My problem then wasn’t that I didn’t exactly what a child, it was that I (a child myself) didn’t really want to be alive at that point and all the sudden I was faced with not only removing myself from the world but this being that decided to start growing inside of me. The first few months of what should have been the glory days of basking in my new pregnancy were filled with hiding, starvation and fear. I eventually had to lie to everyone to be welcomed back because I was so hungry and I had no where to go. I spent all my days crying and holding my belly, making promises to God that I wouldn’t give up, giving into my pseudo immortal Motherhood.
I was 17 when I gave birth. I sped up the labor to make him come faster and then the epidural slowed it down. They gave me so many drugs that I don’t remember any part of my birthing experience besides watching the Brady Bunch, that he came out very fast when no one expected it (almost to the point that my Mom caught him) and seeing his head full of hair and thinking that it was the most hair I’d ever seen on a child. That’s not much to tell your son about his first day being alive.
My life afterward would be just as blurred for many years, things come and go, but it was such a hard time and I was so young. I worked every day for 12 hours and rarely slept, I look back and realize I never got to watch him grow up in the way I get to watch my youngest grow up now. I remember his first birthday and when he first started to walk, I remember things he’d said because he was so different and amusing in all his seriousness. His whole life until we moved here was a struggle, struggling for food, struggling for shelter, struggling to keep us alive another day and another day and another day…. what a relief it is to just finally be able to enjoy our time and how unimaginably sad it is to know all that I have lost before it.
My youngest was born into a wonderful world of love and happiness, of family and choices with wide open doors to life in every direction. I was able to relish every moment of my pregnancy, stay home every day of his life to this point and I remember every bump, every turn and toss and tear. It is much different when you get to a point in your life where you are stable and secure in a marriage. I don’t have to worry about how I am going to feed him, clothe him, put him through school or whether we’ll have a home tomorrow. I don’t have to be afraid for him, so I have time in my heart to remember these things. But for my oldest, my ‘Reason’, I had sacrificed all the memories just to keep us moving forward and I don’t know when I might forgive myself for that.
In some way I guess I had my story taken from me, time and life came together awkwardly and I was lost in the cracks suffocating from the mess that my life was. I used to think this was what made him and I special, because I don’t have much of a story, I don’t have many pictures and I don’t have any keepsakes from when I was born. We both have the same birthmarks on our faces, we both share some unspoken knowledge of our expressions, regardless of whether or not he has a lack of empathy as a teenager. We have this bond that grew out of darkness and in the light it is easy to see how beaten and scarred it is.
I wish I could have been one of the moms with the wonderful stories, that could have written out every week the updates to my blossoming life and shared moments with my son about all the favorite parts. Instead what pieces I have aren’t really a gift at all. They’re fragmented and tainted; a story I have kept from him for so long because I never wanted to blotch out all the happiness he remembers.
My Mom once told me that you know you did a good job when they don’t remember how hard it really was, that their memories are pure.
I hope I did a good job.