i never really wanted to have children. growing up, because of our family dynamics, i often felt i was a mother to my younger brother and sister. i had a taste of parenting, and i wanted nothing to do with it. i was sixteen years old when this thought was cemented. it was a summer night. my sister, ten years old at the time, had gone to a carnival with a friend’s family. i had promised my Dad that i’d pick my sister up and bring her home. i arrive at the carnival and can’t find them anywhere. i walk the grounds, over and over. i start running. this was before cell phones, so i all i could do was run around frantic in search of my little sister. i find a pay phone, and try to get the number of my sister’s friend’s house. no luck. i continue to run around, my heart beating out of my chest and my level of crazy rapidly increasing. fast forward a couple hours and i finally track my sister down, she had gone to someone else’s house. when i finally find her, i can’t decide if i want to hug her or hit her. driving back home, my sister safe in the car with me, tears stream down my face. i realize that if i got this nutty over my sister, there was no way i could (or wanted to) handle the stress of my own child.
from that night forward, i was positive that i did not want to be a mother. except. there was this one day. i am sitting on an amazing beach in hawaii. there aren’t that many people around. i’m reading in a chair. a group of women walk by, clearly mothers with their young teenage daughters. they look like they are having a blast. i watch them for a long time. a wave of emotion comes over me, and i envision myself as a mother. the type of mother that is fun. the type of mother that takes a girls trip to the beach with friends. the type of mother that has a strong bond with her daughter. that night, i reflect on my day. i allow the possibility of becoming a mother to enter my brain, my being. i shake my head. no. this feeling will pass. it does.
a couple years later, my father lies in bed, dying of cancer. during those last weeks of my father’s life, we talk about everything. sharing memories, secrets, our hopes for the future. one day, he tearfully asks me to promise him that he’ll be a grandfather some day. i can’t. he was well aware of my feelings, and why i felt the way i did. additionally, his illness, being the child of a dying parent, was torture. i was fearful of putting my child in a situation like this. no, i tell him. i can’t make you that promise. i’m sorry.
one day, months after Billy died, it hits me. i want to be a mother.
my pregnancy was glorious. i was happier than i had been in years. to this day, i consider those months some of the best of my life and reflect on that time with pure happiness. i adored the feeling of a little one growing inside of me, it just felt right. i could feel my Dad’s presence so strongly during my pregnancy. this made me happier than i can even to begin to describe in words. it also brought a tremendous amount of sadness, knowing that he would never be able to hug his grandchild. i pack a framed picture of him in my “hospital bag”, i wanted Billy next to me when i gave birth.
the day of her arrival, i have that picture across from me. pushing through contractions, i look at the picture. i take it down, i can’t handle it. the sadness of Billy not being with me is too much for me to take. then she is born. i have a daughter. that day was seven years ago tomorrow.
my daughter’s first seven years have been far from what i envisioned. for many, many reasons, it has been a roller coaster of complete bliss and a total nightmare. i am blessed with a wonderful, healthy, kind-hearted daughter. and yet, i never thought that her parents would not be partners in love for life. because of this, these seven years have brought many tears and unmeasurable levels of heartache. but it has also brought a tremendous amount of clarity. ironically, the sad, lonely, dark days of my past have illuminated the way for me. i have become much more in tune to who i am. as a friend, a partner, a sister, a woman. but more than anything else, as a mother.
i strive to be fully present with my daughter. the bad days, the good days, through tears and laughter. this, i like to think, i would have done regardless of my relationship with her father. but in some ways, i pay more attention to being present with her daily because, so often, it’s just her and i. maybe it’s overcompensating for the fact that her parents aren’t together. or that she doesn’t have younger siblings, as i thought she would have by now. but i’m okay with that. regardless of how we got here, or perhaps because of how we got here, our bond is stronger than i ever imagined.
these last seven trips around the sun, since her birth, have not been easy for me. but again, it is now so clear to me that growth and enlightenment have come from darkness and doubt. i can see it reflected back at me, through my daughter. she is happy and thoughtful and loved. and perhaps a bit of her glow comes from her grandfather Billy, looking down on us, watching us struggle and persevere through life’s challenges. i am far from perfect. she is far from perfect. but i am perfect for her. and she is perfect for me. happy seven years to us.