Last week on June 13th, I watched the clock’s minute hand spin for hours.
I had woken up that morning with a foggy blurring of thoughts and movements that rose with me, and I was powerless to shake it away.
“Today is the day”. Dread is a terrible means to rise up, and there is no stopping it. The sun saturating my curtains wasn’t beautiful that day, instead it was a stale glow that I wish I could wipe away. I put my feet on the floor. I lifted the soles up just enough to delay the reality of truly moving up and forward. I thought of the day I had risen 5 years ago just like the start to my normal routine but it was hours of wall clock ticking before I would learn The News.
Every moment of the day from the morning to the afternoon I was trying to have a normal routine which would appear neutral to my coworkers.
The clock was approaching 3:30p.m.
At 1:30 p.m., on the afternoon of June 13th 2012, was the moment I saw the double lines.
At 3:30p.m., on the afternoon of June 13th 2012, was the moment I saw my blood test result.
The HCG level was real. I’ll never forget the number sequence that was there, plain as day, in front my my eyes and my face going pale. I hated my blood and myself and I wanted to disbelieve it, but how could I?
On June 13th 2017, I left work to have lunch and could not eat. It had been on my lunch break, 5 years ago, that I had seen the double lines.
I just sat there with food in front of me, which I only made out of routine and obligation, and my tangible memory practically felt the plastic test case between my fingers.
I thought maybe I could recreate that day and that time. Maybe I could take another test, just for the sake of seeing only one line, to relive that day and that time as if it never happened. Maybe I could replace the memory, which I’ve always wished never ever occurred, with a new moment which could take its place. I was like when I was a kid and thought if I squeezed a moment, fantasy, illusion, which I wanted so deeply to come true that maybe it could come true.
I watched the paper in its case soak up the liquid and moving sideways towards the end, passing through the center of the strip where the lines lay hidden, manufactured somehow to provide an end result of a spectrum of emotional results.
When it passed over the hidden lines, I got a lump in my throat and suddenly hoped for a set of double lines. As a source of redemption, or a sudden hope granted.
How different would my entire life be now had there been only one line at 1:30 p.m., on the afternoon of June 13th 2012?
How different would my entire inner world be now had there been only one line at 1:30 p.m., on the afternoon of June 13th 2012?
Years of change flashed before my eyes. Heavy, heaving grieving for the obliteration and desecration of the woman who I might have been now on June 13th 2017. I’ll never know the woman that I might be now. I’ll never be that woman, no matter who she might have been.
I threw the one line in the trash can. I put the lunch away and never ate it. Then I had to wait for the inevitable 3:30 p.m. to come around, and re-lived my phone call that I had made to my best friend at 2:30 p.m. that day.
Two lines equals 0 time remaining.
My mother doesn’t know that, for one month five years ago, she was a grandmother.
I don’t see her often, but we met up for Mother’s Day and spent the day doing fun things and I had to recenter over and over again so as to remember that this was a day on the calendar delegated for mothers who are openly acknowledged, and known, to have that title.
Does conceiving an offspring who was never born allow me to have that title?
I feel like the outside world, outside of my own, disallows it. Especially since it was my “choice”.
I feel connected to the title of Mother, however ambiguous or past or present it may or may not be. The viewpoints or opinions (borrowed or authentic) of others might not agree or, as I’ve absorbed 100x fold is not okay or real.
This is one of so many reasons why I’ve chosen to participate in this blog’s goals.
To express the reality that women who “choose” termination are free to identify with the title of Mother, free to identify with grieving loss in the same or similar ways that Mothers who did not choose such an ending.
In the early evening of Mother’s Day, after my mom and I parted ways on separate trains, the isolation arrived more clearly than it had all day. I was alone with the presence of guilt and the presence of quiet rest against a cold train window.
She was lit up all day. I’m her first-born, and she reflected on the special rite-of-passage that she had when I was born. The contrast of her joy with the stark emptiness of my heart (and of my womb) churned within me throughout the course of the day and peaked on my way home.
Deep sadness sat with me like an unwelcome visitor overstaying its visit.
She didn’t know. She’s never known.
When I handed her my Mother’s Day card, I somewhat wished that the secret would come out when she opened it and that she wouldn’t be upset if it did, and that she wouldn’t be sad or feel loss of an opportunity she never had, and that she would tell me “I acknowledge you, and we are both Mothers in our own ways.” and that she would offer comfort mixed with support and that then it could be a bittersweet day with more moments of sweet ones than of bitter ones, because she knew and I didn’t have to feel like I was witnessing my life from outside of myself.
I imagine that’s what a ghost of oneself would/does experience, or a ghost of one’s past, or a ghost of one’s memory, or a ghost of one’s regret, or a ghost of one’s loss.
For isn’t death what gives us lucidity, which never dies?
“Is there anything I can help you with?”, a store associate asked me. It jolted me a bit because I had no idea how long I had been lingering among the cards. I felt all-too-familiar pangs of vulnerability, embarrassment and isolation bubble up and disrupt the soft storm that was simmering inside my head and heart. When these pangs occur publicly an anxious sensation, which I never feel in other times, arrives and I want it to leave immediately. The associate was courteously doing her job and possibly (likely) sensed that I could use her offer. I wanted her to leave immediately, yet go ahead and tell her why I couldn’t make up my mind. I imagined myself blurting out “Why don’t you have cards for this? Is there anything you can do? Can you write a letter to corporate? Can I?”
Instead I responded as I’ve taught myself to do: With a cold shallow breath rising up from my chest to my throat, mustering all the little strength I have to keep my voice from breaking, I closed the door between us with a brief “no thank you, I’m fine.”
The lie echoed around me. I despise saying that phrase in times like this. My skin felt cold, as it always does when I am cornered into feigning wellness.
“No thank you, I’m fine.”
There are no commercial Hallmark cards on the market for women who, by planned or unplanned means, have lost their offspring. I know this, yet nevertheless I looked for one when shopping for a Mother’s Day card for my own mom.
For every card I saw I knew that it had been created to sell a sentiment to someone who chose to walk in the store to sift through the embellished, decorative rows until they found “the right one”. How do they, and I, end up choosing the right one? We might connect with the art or the words, on the spectrum of sentimentality; sometimes it’s rooted in obligation. We gather our internal maternal experiences over time until the sum of the parts succinctly confirms we have found “the right one”.
It’s common for the gift-giver to visualize what the recipient mom will think and appreciate when they open the envelope. That guides their discovery. The moment of anticipation which surfaces, from both sides, when a gift is about to be exchanged is habitual and essential to the experience.