Saturday, December 13, 2008

All comments are more than welcome.

Below is a very rough draft of some info I want to include into a memoir I'm hoping to publish one day about early pregnancy loss... this piece is about the fact that I didn't always want to be a mom and how I finally came about to wanting to parent so bad. If you don't get that vibe through this, please let me know. If there are ANY questions or comments - be it about content, form, whatever - please let me know. Please.

I didn’t always want to be a mom. In fact, there was a time when I thought I would truly never get married and never have children because I simply didn’t want my children to have to go through what I did as a child – a product of divorce that occurred between Old World parents, a generation apart, who had no clue how to deal with divorce and their children at the same time.

I was the youngest of three and I’m sure if you were to speak with my older brother and sister, they’d tell you I was the spoiled one. Maybe it started out that way when I was first born in 1972, but I can assure you that it didn’t last that long.

Earliest memories include the whole family: Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister, and myself. Summertime memories are the ones that stick out the most for me. Memories like chasing and capturing fireflies in the early evening while anxiously awaiting the serenade from the ice cream truck; having water balloon fights with all the kids on the street we lived on during the hottest summer days; playing soccer in the alley after dinnertime with other neighborhood kids and waiting for my father to join us with some oranges that he would peel into a fancy chain, leaving us all marveling over how he made the chains while we enjoyed a wedge or two of the oranges; riding mopeds and bikes to the park to play for a while.

Weekends were typically spent traveling in the Ford Granada to the border between our state and the next where my grandparents had bought some land and were building a house. I’d always get stuck in the middle of the back seat and inevitably would end up getting car sick and needing Papa to pull the car off to the side of the road. When making the trek home, we’d always stop off at the McDonald’s closest to our home for cheeseburgers and I can remember always wanting a Big Mac but not being allowed one until I was around 10 or so.

Birthdays and Holidays always brought everyone together. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents… wherever we gathered for these special occasions, they were always big gatherings with plenty of food, drink, and laughter and nobody was ever left to be bored.

Life was pretty darn wonderful and very family-oriented.

When I was 9 in 1981, it all changed.

I went from being a very outgoing, mischievous child, to a shy introvert. I went from attending the same private school with the same kids I’d known my whole life, to attending six public schools in the following eight years. I went from having friends everywhere and anywhere I turned, to having one friend. I went from secure and happy, to cold and hungry. And it all happened without any justification which left my young mind and heart wondering, and oftentimes believing, that my parents’ decision to go their separate ways and all that occurred following that decision was because of something I did.

And that’s when I thought I would never get married, I would never have children.

It’s not that I didn’t like kids, it’s that I was so alone and sad and wrapped up in my own cold world that I could never imagine having my own child feeling like that... and because I knew no other and because nothing was ever really explained to me, I assumed that what happened to me would happen to my own children.

I hated my pre-teen and adolescent years. I hated that we lived on food stamps. I hated that there were times, a lot of times, when there was no electricity or heat. I hated that I had to drink milk that was made from powder that came from a big white box with green and black lettering. I hated being perceived as some na├»ve kid and feeling like there was nothing I could do to escape the life I was living. I hated my life so much that when I was around 14, suicide was on my mind all the time. I just couldn’t see past the misery that enveloped me. And hearing people tell me that I should enjoy life then because it didn’t get any better, certainly didn’t leave me wanting more. Fortunately I found a couple outlets to keep me going to the next day: writing in a journal and Bryan Adams’s music. Writing helped me release some heavy thoughts and Bryan Adams’s music led me to believe that I really wasn’t as alone as I felt.

It was also around that same time that I became an aunt for the first time in June of 1987. My sister, 7 years my senior, had given birth to my oldest nephew, D, a year after getting married while she was in the Air Force stationed in Turkey.

Two and a half years later in October of 1989, when I was 17, my sister gave birth to her second child, a girl. By then, she and her husband were back in the States and my mother flew out to help my sister during the first days of the life of her second child, K. A week later, I followed suit and visited my sister and her family.

And, thankfully, that’s when my life was forever changed again.

As soon as D came running into the room I was sleeping in and climbed into the bed I was sleeping on to visit with his “Aun’ Fish” for the first time in his two years of life, I knew I had a purpose. I knew there was a reason I was in this world.

His innocence, trust, and unconditional love was something that I had never experienced and as soon as he gave me, upon our very first encounter with one another, kisses and hugs and told me the three little words no other person in my world had ever uttered up to that point – I love you – I knew what life was all about. In that one moment, I knew why I hadn’t killed myself two years prior when I felt like there was nothing left for me. I knew that the greatest joy in life, the reason to live, was because of that little boy and what he represented.

That week changed my life and made me realize things I never knew existed: Life was good.

In 1990, I completed high school and started college that fall thanks to financial aid and the fact that my mother didn’t hold very high-paying jobs. I focused all of my energy on school and writing.

In May of 1992, my second nephew, J, was born to my older brother by three years who had recently married and lived nearby. J was the first baby I ever met as a newborn in the hospital on the day he was born. He was also the first newborn left in my care for a couple hours and boy could that child cry when he was hungry or needed a diaper changed!

I was quite content and pretty much in love with being an aunt and while my heart was warming up to the idea of at least opening up to the possibility of being in a relationship with another adult, the thought of having my own children still wasn’t really in the foreseeable future.

That summer I got my first taste of what being a parent might entail when I went to stay with my sister for several months. She needed my help with 5-year-old D and 2½-year-old K as her husband got a new job which he needed to be trained for in another state, so I played mom for what seemed like years although it was only a couple months. It was my first time being around kids for such a long time period, day in and day out, and it pretty much reiterated to me that I did not want children – at least at that point in my life (though I will admit that my thoughts about having children changed from an absolute “never” to a “maybe”).

Although it was a bit of a rough summer, and although I found my very first gray hair on my 20th birthday that September while I was still playing mom, I wouldn’t trade those months in for anything… Being a part of children learning and growing is a pretty amazing experience!

Nevertheless, I was pretty much ecstatic to leave and get back to being a regular early-twenty-something and threw myself back into college and writing. And after graduating college in 1994, I started opening up my heart toward others again and started spending a lot of time with family – especially nearby family like my brother and his family.

I enjoyed being “Auntie Chris” or “Ga-ga” to 2-year-old J and his big sister (from a prior relationship their mom had) V. I babysat a lot and even if I wasn’t babysitting, I was spending a lot of time at their house. Then when their parents started separating from one another in 1995 my life changed again; I had a new purpose and that purpose was to do whatever I had to do to make sure those kids never felt what I did when I went through what they were about to go through.

I ended up spending the next four years of my life playing surrogate mommy to J because my brother had custodial rights of J and I wanted to help out, so I moved in with them. And while there were some very trying times during those years, they were some of the best years of my life and I feel blessed to have been able to experience what I did.

I was there when J first learned how to ride his bike on his 5th birthday. No training wheels were ever even attached for this kid! I was the one that taught J how to tie his shoes. I was there to help him read and spell. I was there for all of his school functions – from preschool Holiday plays, to grade school performances. I was at all of his soccer games, cheering on J as he became a mini soccer star in the town we lived. I was there waking up with him every morning and making sure he had a breakfast and got on the school bus and made it to school in time. I was riding bikes with him after school in the summertime or building snowmen in the wintertime. I was there reading stories to him every night before bed.

There were so many days when I wanted to throw in the towel and start living my own life and then I’d come home, unlock that front door, and from up the stairs, I’d hear J yell out to me, “Auntie!!” His little feet pounded against the floor, vibrating the walls, as he rushed toward me to give me a hug.

It didn’t matter what happened that day, when that little boy greeted me each and every day with so much excitement, so much love, so much life… it was all worth it. Everything was worth it to see this child thrive and love life the way he did.

But it also hurt greatly because the fact of the matter was that I was not this child’s parent. He had a mommy and a daddy; he just didn’t get to see them as much as he did me because my brother worked nights and his mommy saw him every other weekend. So when J and I would go out to the store or something and someone would say, “Go ask your mom” or “Is that your mom?” or something relating mom to me, J would quickly answer, “No, that’s my aunt.”

And that’s the truth. I was, and am, his Aunt.

While I knew then that I was just his Aunt, I made a promise to do whatever I could for him, for all of “my kids”, to not endure the pain and heartache I did as a child when my parents divorced. So I pushed through the hurt and focused on the good, and this child deserved so much good, happiness, and joy.

Then when one millennium came to a close and a new one approached with big changes in sight, my life seemed to echo that time and as much as it pained me to leave J, it was time for me to start living life for me. So in January of 2000, at the age of 27, I moved out of my brother and J’s house and into my own apartment.

It was truly one of the most difficult things I ever had to do – to tell an almost 8-year-old boy who had been told by his own mother she was leaving four years prior, that I was leaving, too. The pain and heartache I felt that day was indescribable but I knew that at 27, I needed to start living my own life and start separating myself from my nephew because I truly loved the boy as if he were my own child, and it just wasn’t healthy for either of us.

I don’t have many regrets in my life to date other than not participating enough in life because for much of it – like my teens and early 20s – I felt as if I was just letting things happen instead of making things happen. So now I try to live my life in a way where I’m in control. It’s my life after all, and I’m only given one of them to live so why not try living it to its fullest?

I started realizing all of this when I made the decision to separate myself from J and move into my own place – and that’s the only reason I could go through with it. I loved that boy like no other and wanted nothing more than to stay there and continue helping him and watching him learn and grow. It was one of the greatest honors of my life to be such a part of his life all those years. But I needed to participate more in my own life and that realization is what pushed me into my own place.

Four months later in April of 2000, I met my now husband, S on the internet. God bless the internet! We met in person in June of 2000 and, after meeting and getting along with my first true love of my life, J, we’ve been together ever since.

We were married June 2007. J was our usher; D was my makeup artist; K caught the bouquet, while her baby daughter H, my great-niece, slept in her stroller.

Meeting 2-year-old D that first time nearly 20 years ago saved my life… and “my kids” have been an imperative part ever since. While I’m forever grateful to be blessed with great kids, the need to have one of my own, to parent a child who calls me mom, is so great and it was something S and I discussed very early on in the relationship because I simply couldn’t spend my time with someone who didn’t want to parent.


Angie said...

I think this is beautiful. I don't know that the NEED to become a mom comes across completely, but the shift from one side to the other is very clear. I think you really start off well for what's eventually going to be a beautifully moving story.

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