A year ago I went for my first prenatal exam during my pregnancy with Gabriel. A nurse practioner saw me and near the end of my exam, asked me to lay down so she could search for a heartbeat with her doppler. She warned me not to get upset if we couldn't find the heartbeat. It was still early in the pregnancy yet and a heartbeat can't always be picked up at that stage. But after searching for just a moment Gabriel's heartbeat could be heard loud and clear. Tears rolled uncontrollably down my cheeks; we had never heard our first baby's heartbeat, having lost him or her too soon. But this child, even so early in the pregnancy, had a heartbeat that was already loud and strong. Gabriel's heartbeat came to mean so much to me, and when his heart stopped beating, I think mine did too for a time. I remember CM Tracy once responding in a forum that posed the question "Motherhood: What's in it for you?" I recall her answer vividly: "What's in it for me? I get to watch my heart beat outside of my body." I have always remembered her response and looked forward to the day when I could experience that too, and so it followed that when Gabriel's heart stopped, mine should too. And though the mechanics of my body continue to function, a piece of my metephorical heart is gone.
After Gabriel was born, I was a differrent person and I say so often. I dress differently - I am a mom now, after all. I see the world differently. I don't want to go back to the woman I was before I was a mother. I like the person I am since I have had children.
But I now that sometimes, when I'm sitting in a bar with a beer in my hand, people must wonder what kind of mother I am. What kind of mother spends more time in a bar than at home with her children? Of course, all they've ever heard me say is "I am a mom now." They see pictures of my son, and sometimes I like to forget to tell them that he is not with me anymore. Sometimes it's just nice to pretend. No matter what they might think of me, sometimes it is easier to let them think I am just a bad mom, insteaed of looking into their eyes filled with pity when they know I am actually a mother who has lost her child.
Sometimes I feel like Elizabeth Taylor's character in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Since Gabriel has gone I feel as though the show I am putting on never ends, ad it has made me quirky, caused me to drink too much sometimes, made me mean to my husband. When I catch myself goading my husband until he says something mean back I wonder why I am doing it, and I think it must be to get him to say something that will smart, something to distract me from the constant ache of living without my babies.
Being Elizabeth Taylor isn't as glamorous as it seems. Not when she's Martha. Martha is getting old and bitter. Martha tries to stiffle her hurt but the pain is always there and inevitably it errupts from time to time. Sometimes, I think I might be turning into Martha.
Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? . . . I am.