The other day, once again, I was informed that I am not qualified to discuss how a mother handled her child in a highly publicized “situation” that made its way across television and computer screens all over the world. “We are qualified because unlike YOU, we are parents,” I was told. The self-righteous indignation stung, yet she was right. I am not a parent. I have made no secret of the fact that despite marrying a man with kids, I don’t feel qualified to claim the title just yet. Still, we have all walked our own journeys and no, I’m not a mother, BUT…
That night in New Orleans, it hit me like a freight train. Or a baseball bat, maybe. I turned around to see if someone or something crashed into me. In what felt like a split second I was hunched over in pain and immediately asking to be taken back to my hotel room.
The pain was inexplicable.
The rapid onset of weakness, worrisome.
In the bathroom the expulsion looked like pink tapioca marbled with traces of blood or maybe it was caviar. A fucking clot did this to me?! But I had never seen anything like it. Great. I’m thirty now. This shit is just going to get even worse.
Three days later in my doctor’s office I explained the feeling of having the wind knocked out of me, showed him the photograph of this blob-like foreign object and asked him if this meant my days of already existing misery during “that time of the month” were about to get worse.
Instead of answering me, his eyes while glancing at the photo grew somewhat large. “Oh. Ummm. Yeah. Hang on.”
“Let’s get some urine.” He grabbed a kit and a dropper.
“Doc, you just said that.”
“I’m sorry. You had a miscarriage.”
Of course, I knew that wasn’t possible. I didn’t want to be a mother. I was on birth control. And besides, chemotherapy and what three forms of cancer did to my body meant I couldn’t get pregnant anyway. Right?
“That has to be a mistake.”
Pretending it didn’t bother me I asked, “So Doc, Will you finally tie my tubes now?”
I walked out, stunned. And with an appointment to finally have myself permanently sterilized.
The dysfunctional relationship in which I pretended to function unnerved me on the drive home. I knew I was wrong to be thankful. But I was. It was highly unlikely I could have ever carried a child to term. Yet being freed of a health risk was not the reason for my gratitude. The relief riddled me with guilt. Perhaps every so often it still does.
On what would have been close to my due date I dreamed of the most beautiful baby boy upon which I’ve ever lain eyes, closed or otherwise. His were the greenest I’d ever seen. He was perfect. I Loved him.
“Hi. It’s me, Jake. Don’t worry. It’s okay. I’m okay, mom.” Mom.
“Tell dad I said hi.” Dad.
I awoke wanting just a few more minutes with him. Just a few more. With someone I never had. Someone I never wanted… Come back, please.
Years later I became a STEPmother, a label which much of society deems the equivalent of an evil Disney character. I love children who aren’t “mine” per se. I provide for them. I worry for them. I have dreams for them. I want the best for them. I sacrifice. I get very little to no say. I am on the sidelines. And sometimes my existence in the kid’s lives doesn’t feel as though it matters very much. I hold out hope that this will change as soon we will no longer live 1,600 miles apart. A whole lot of hope.
I have walked a path that shouldn’t be required to qualify me worthy of a parenting discussion and I don’t have a special day of the year declaring this worth. No. I am not a mother, but… I am worthy.
Two days after my dream, I picked up the phone at 2am, the ex on the other end of the receiver apologizing if he had woken me. He was startled and explained he could not wait to call. He had dreamed of a baby named Jake…a perfect baby. With perfect green eyes…
(This post first ran on Life of a Traveling Navy Wife.)
About the author: Business Traveler Magazine NA’s Business Traveler of the Year, Heather Wilson, is a corporate event marketing manager proudly married to a US Navy Sailor. A newlywed and proud cancer survivor who made history with her belly-button, she is addicted to loose-leaf tea and despite being half-Colombian has never had a cup of coffee in her life. Heather blogs about her adventures and all things “life” at Life of a Traveling Navy Wife. When she’s not traveling the world, you can find Heather with her husband on their Harley Davidson enjoying the beautiful San Diego scenery, strolling through Balboa Park walking her pet lizards, giving back to her community and trying to figure out to which hair color she should finally stick. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.