Being a mother to three beautiful, hilarious, energetic kids is where I find my largest identity in life. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a Christian, a reader, a teacher, a woman who dreams; but at my core, I am a mother. After delivering Jordan, my first-born child, God’s love for me became crystal clear. He had gifted me this perfect parcel. He had trusted me to care for her, provide for her, and be her guide in this world. I was a mom, and it was the greatest feeling.
When I was 24 I was idling in the drive through at McDonalds when I suddenly felt a truth pull through my entire body. I am pregnant. I knew it instantaneously; one hour, four 99 Cent Store tests, and one Clear Blue Easy from Rite Aid confirmed it. But there was no joy in my heart, which is a guilt I will never recover from.
I had a new apartment, a new boyfriend, and a new job as a teacher. There was no room for a baby in my life. I am the planniest planner of all. I had lists for each day, made millions of lists for my life, and my babies were to come waaaaaaay down the road.
I kept the news of the baby mostly to myself. I didn’t share with my mother, my sister, or most of my friends. I shared with the father, to his great stress and worry, and my best friend, who had no clue what to think. I went to the doctor and received a due date for July 4th. Independence Day… As the baby began to grow and develop, so did my feelings of dread. I had always had very strong feelings against abortion, but there was a dark hour when I considered it. That consideration is something that makes me physically ill. Navigating the early doctors appointments were a blur. I had no clue what to ask. The doctor seemed dismissive of me; another young dumb girl, there without a man or a ring on her finger. But when she asked me if I wanted to have an abortion the resolve became clear. No. I don’t want this baby now; but I’m going to have her.
But then… I lost her. The night after Thanksgiving I woke to excruciating pain, feeling as if I were being stabbed. The pain of that night surpasses the pain of child delivery in my memory. It was unbearable, but cell phones were barely a thing, and I felt stupid calling an ambulance. My boyfriend didn’t have a cell phone, my mother didn’t know I was pregnant, and my sister, who I had finally told the night before, was two hours away. I drove myself to the hospital, where I was told I was most likely losing the baby. Numbers were discussed, but I had no clue what was being said. How did I feel? I don’t know. Confused at best. Why didn’t I just call my mother? Why did I sit around so oblivious? I headed home and began to wait.
Two nights later it was over.
I was taken by a male nurse to an empty part of the hospital, to a room in a dark corridor. I sobbed as he gave me a vaginal ultrasound. I don’t know if I am the victim of sexual assault, but I think I am. I’ve never shared that with anyone. I was utterly alone, and so uncomfortable with his presence, but I can barely remember that room, except for a sense of despair. Maybe my sorrow is not in victimization, but simply another symptom of my regret.
By 7:30 am I was receiving a D&C for a baby who was no longer living. The baby I hadn’t wanted was gone, and now I wanted her. I cried to my boyfriend, who no doubt felt nothing but relief. Thankfully he had the compassion to assure me that we could have a baby when the time was right. When we were married, and established and ready. I tried to find comfort in this, but guilt became my constant companion. I hadn’t been a welcoming womb. I hadn’t sung to her or prayed for her. I took no pre-natal vitamins. All the deep breathing I had done had been through tears of worry. I had bobbed along in silence, worried only about losing a man and my independence, instead of savoring the gift of being a mother. I was a failure. For months, everyone around me seemed to have a baby or be pregnant, which felt like the proper penance as I sat with the grief.
I don’t know when the tide began to turn in my heart. I just know that I finally accepted that sometimes things just happen. I hoped that I would someday have the chance to make it right, but I started to tell myself that I wouldn’t get another chance.
Even now, fifteen years and three children later, I regret that I had not tried harder. Life experience has taught me that many women experience this loss, and most often for no reason at all. When I meet her in Heaven I will need to apologize before I lavish her with the love she deserves. I attempt to make up for my failures by being the best mom that I can be to the three gifts that I received after her. I know I’m not perfect, as no one is, but I am aiming for a solid 85%, which I think is pretty good. It’s why on nights like tonight, when my youngest cries for more hugs and songs as she learns to fall asleep in her big girl bed, that I stay with her beyond the time I had planned. Yes, I have other things to do, but her little face is changing into the face of a girl, the moments in which she is a baby are slipping through my fingers, and tonight she wants nothing more than to breathe me in. I stroke her precious curls and feel so much tender love. Thank you for another chance.
And mothering is like that. Every day is a second chance. I got it wrong with my first baby. I get it wrong in a million other ways- by paying too much attention to my book, or to sweeping and the endless chores at home. I lose my temper and I scream. I say no when I could easily say yes. But every day is another chance.
My friend and I always assure one another with the idea that our beautiful children are forgiving and resilient, and tomorrow is a new chance to get it right. This is the good news.
By grace I received a second, third, and to my great surprise, even a fourth chance to be a mother. I recognize this gift now, because it is who I am.