"You can be pregnant on Mother's Day and still celebrate as a mother," Suzanne advised me. Don't I know it. I thought back to Mother's Day 2010, still innocently blissful with the news of my first pregnancy. Just a few days later, the miscarriage began. The following year Mother's Day was a bittersweet event for me. I was pregnant with Gabriel, but still mourning the first pregnancy, and already mourning Gabriel's impending death.
The next two years were even more difficult, carrying two children in my heart, but neither of them in my arms. The feelings are further complicated by the two May anniversaries that surround Mother's Day: The miscarraige, which took place from May 14 to May 17, and the rape, which occurred nearly 13 years ago on May 7, 2001. Though the memory of the assault is much less pervasive all these years later, I still find it effects my life. Sometimes I feel the memories wash over me with the setting of the sun, as I recall the daylight fading from the apartment where I was violated years ago. The feeling is brief, and sometimes I'm not even aware of why I feel suddenly and irreparably upset until the moment has passed. Other times the effects are more obvious, such as my refusal to see a male Ob/Gyn. The typical response from the receptionist at the doctor's office is, "You know you may not get a female doctor at delivery, right?" My response is always the same. "Maybe at delivery, I won't care. But right now I'm not in labor, and I don't plan on being in labor at my next appointment. So right now, I care." There's no reason, really, for me to be so short with the receptionist who's just trying to schedule an appointment. Still, for reasons I can't seem to control, I resent her asking.
My therapist and I discussed both the subtle and blatant responses that I have to an event that I feel has for the most part, been resolved in my mind. I can say all the things I am supposed to be able to say at this stage, that it's not my fault, that the rape doesn't define me, that my body is mine to control, and that my body is in fact amazing in its ability to bring beautiful, innocent lives into this world. I am probably as well-adjusted to life as a rape victim-turned-survivor as I will ever be, but the fact remains that such a violent, violative event will probably always remain a stain on my brain that I'll sometimes encounter. It doesn't really go away. It just gets covered up by the other stuff. And for all of the sadness, the other stuff is mostly good. More good than bad, I think, and I think that's what's made me capable of moving on - The fact that overall, life has been pretty kind to me.
As I left my therapists office I did my typical once-over of the patients sitting in the lobby. I am assigned to a substance abuse specialist, and so is everyone waiting in that pod to see their counselor. I'm so assigned because I have not only a history of dating and enabling substance abusers, but there have been times in my life when I've bordered on substance abuse myself. The habit is probably most evident not in my actual drinking habits, but in my tendency to replace the drinking with food or baby clothes or whatever else I don't really need but find I HAVE to have. I have to scold myself after every session not to speculate as to these patients' lives. They could be just like me. They could have it much worse. None of it's really any of my damn business. But wondering what their substance of choice is, or who their co-dependent is, takes my mind off of my own flaws.
I ride the wave of emotions fueled by pregnancy hormones and complicated by traumatic life experiences with shaky feet. I never know these days what's going to trigger a flashback, or a flash forward. I wonder if I'm really ready to give up the life I had before I became pregnant this time. I wonder if I'll be able to maintain the friendships that have come to mean so much to me, or if those friends will want to maintain friendships with me. I wonder if I can be a parent to multiple children, one living and two deceased. I wonder if I'll ever be the wife that Marcos deserves. I wonder if I know how to be a working mom. I hope that I'm not putting pressure on this new little baby to somehow make up for all that's gone wrong in the past. I wonder if I'm being fair to him or her. I wonder if I'm being fair to the dogs. I wonder all of the things that all new mothers worry about, and I worry about all of the things that grieving parents worry about, and it's a delicate balance.
One method of calculation says that I am 33 weeks pregnant today. My baby is due in seven weeks, on May 13th. I wonder what it would be like to have the baby on May 7, or May 14. I wonder what it would be like to be able to re-associate one of those days with a happy memory of giving birth to a health, whole, baby boy or girl. I have in my heart a wish, a deep longing for the baby to be born before Mother's Day. I have this dream of being able to walk into Mass on Mother's Day this year, having celebrated the holiday as a mother myself for the last four years, and this time carry a baby in my arms. I know I can be pregnant, or in mourning, and still celebrate as a mother. But this year, I want more. I want tangible proof. I want the evidence that things are going to be alright. I know it in my heart. I want to hold it in my hands.