Loved and lost / And some may say / When usually it's nothing / Surely you're happy / It should be this way
Mother’s Day has long been a day of celebration and complicated grief. A day filled with love for my mother and mother-figures juxtaposed by thoughts of my abortions, miscarriages, and the tide of emotions wrapped up in my feelings about whether I ever even wanted a child.
My brother Oscar used to call me each Mother’s Day morning to thank me for being the second mom he’d never wanted and wish me a happy day. He’d sing Happy Mother’s Day in his off key tune and I’d shift uncomfortably between gratitude and embarrassment at his kind offering. He could see me.
Like so many, I spent this week thinking about abortion and my relationship to it, to the feeling I had for so many years that my vacillating desire to be and inability to become a mother were tied to a punishing energy for my actions as a young woman. As a young woman, I’d aborted because of bad choices tied to my lack of self worth. It’s complicated. I repeatedly said yes when I meant no, or had said yes, because I didn’t understand I could be loved even if I said no. When each pregnancy announced itself, I was finally able to say yes to caring for myself by choosing to abort, but it took far longer to learn to love myself.
Years later, when I became pregnant in my marriage, I said yes to a feeling of hope despite intense fears of what it would mean to be a mother, only to miscarry, twice. Although I am content with my decision to never become a mother, the ghosts haunt me at times. I don’t really talk about it, but feel it most acutely on days like today or when random people, like well-meaning coworkers or audacious livery cab drivers (that’s a story unto itself*), ask me if I have kids. Or look at me with pity, the middle aged barren woman who must have stories of woe to tell. I am confident in who I am today, but how do I easily tell that story without literally reading them my book?
In that memoir, I write about when I first began 12th step work with a sponsor. I cried to her about the shame and guilt I felt about the aborted pregnancies, the feeling that I was haunted by their small figures, the manipulatively gory images I’d seen on signs at the pro-choice marches I’d joined since 1992.
She looked at me and smiled with crinkled eyes, "What makes you think those angels aren't up there praying for you?"
I don’t believe in angels, at least not the way she seemed to imagine them, but the idea of these beings/souls/energy out in the world, praying for me, or even just not hating me, made my heart grow.
This year, as I think of the women I love most dearly in my life, those who are grieving the loss of their children, physical or ambiguous, or the loss of mother figures themselves, I am seeking to find that same sense of solace in the idea of a band of energies in the Universe looking after us all, ushering us with grace through this complicated and often overwhelming physical world. I wish that for you.