Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quarter of a Century

Ask any mother, no matter how old their child, and they can tell you, I am willing to wager, about the day that child was born in minute detail.  I sometimes wonder if my birth mother, whoever she is, can as well, but I certainly can.  For both my daughters.  But, for me, the initial adventure into motherhood began a quarter century ago.  Don't try and find me today.  I'm at the zoo, trying to distract myself from the memories of that day, which will inevitably come down on me like the incessant rain.  Greg did not make it here with my other daughter as planned for all of us to spend this day together.  My feelings on that subject are complicated.  It is a hard day for all of us; we will have another in less than a month on the second anniversary of Kelsey's death.  I imagine it will always be that way.  And I chose to forge off ahead of them to get us set up here.  But, I will selfishly allow that this day is harder for me than anyone who is not a mother can imagine, because it was inside of me that she incubated and grew from a tiny cell into that baby that I gave birth to at 4:04 in the morning on May 28, 1986.

I have always been wryly amused by the expectant fathers who say "we're pregnant".  No, you are not pregnant, no matter what your involvement in caring for your wife and unborn child is.  The woman is pregnant.  You are not retaining water to the point where your feet resemble an elephant's.  You are not having to store crackers on your bedside table to munch on before you even sit up to avoid puking, to have it work only about half the time.  You do not have a ten-pound bowling ball sitting on your bladder 24/7.  And you certainly are not going to experience hours of unimaginable pain to bring forth this child.  I admire the intent behind using "we", the modern dad's verbal commitment to wanting to be empathetic, but the truth is that there is a bond that grows out of all of that morning sickness, back pain, skin stretching and finally labor.  Some of it is genetic.  We're designed that way so we don't eat our young.  But, some of it is the fact that giving birth is, quite literally, a labor of love, and there's absolutely no way in hell I'm going through all of that for someone I don't love more than I love myself.  So, my baby and I fought the battle of birth together, and there is something we share because of it that is different and apart from what a dad can really know.

But, for those of us who then lose our child down the rabbit hole of addiction, violence or something like an eating disorder, that bond can be particularly haunting.  What did we pass along to our child, what genetic trigger did we give them, and then what environment did we raise them in that pulled the trigger?  Around Mother's Day, NEDA circulated a video, the basic theme of which is that it is not the mother's fault.  Bullshit.  It most certainly is.  At least it is for me.  I won't presume to lay that at the feet of all mothers.  Each of us has to search our own souls.  And, I know that at some point, it is true, Kelsey needed to take command of her own life and fate, and rise above what I gave to her in terms of genetics and rearing; I couldn't do that for her.  But, don't try and tell me I had nothing to do with loading the proverbial bullet in the gun.  I know better.  So, today will always be a bittersweet, mostly bitter, day for me.  No one in their right mind wants to place a person on this earth only to have them suffer.

One thing that will always remain absolutely true is the thought I had at the moment they laid my newly born child, all red and wrinkled with a forceps mark on her precious tiny face, yet warm and alive, in my arms, "From this moment forward life will never be the same."  And it never will.  Just not in the way I hoped back then, 25 years ago to this day.


  1. It's so so strange to think it's been 2 years. In some ways a long time but in others, not at all.

  2. I love you Cheryl! Happy birthday to Kelsey, who I know is smiling down at her mama today!

  3. I am sincerely sorry for your hurt (What do you say to something that inspires tears so easily?). I think about Kelsey all the time, & I admire & respect you for writing about your experience.