I got pregnant the first time when I was twenty-six years old. I’d been married for two years. My husband and I had great jobs and a condo. Everyone, including my husband, was overjoyed by the news.
But I wasn’t.
I took three home pregnancy tests, heart pounding, each time praying the one before had been a false positive. I went to Planned Parenthood hoping that a professional administering the test would tell me something different. She didn’t. She came back into the room smiling. (On paper, I certainly looked like I’d be happy about the news.) “You’re pregnant,” she said, and I broke down and cried.
I’d never wanted children. As a little girl, I never played with dolls. As a teenager, I never babysat. I never dreamed of being anyone’s mom. I harbored no maternal instincts, felt no stirrings when I grew up and my friends started having babies. I held their babies awkwardly and always felt relief when it was time to hand the little bundles of joy back to their parents.
When I found out I was pregnant, I felt only fear. I knew, absolutely, that I wasn’t cut out to be anyone’s mother. I was too selfish, too full of my own big dreams. I felt it constantly, a low-level humming inside me, the vibration of my own possibility. I was living a very traditional life, but I knew it was temporary. It was just a matter of stepping off the path, of letting the wildness outside and the wildness inside connect. I’d be whole in a way I never had been, transformed, unrecognizable.
I’d never dreamed of becoming a mother and having a baby felt like the end of everything I had dreamed of. For days I was shell-shocked, and then I was incredibly sad. I considered abortion. I considered hurling myself down the stairs. At night, I had panic attacks.
Seven months later I had Dillon.
I did not step into motherhood gracefully. I stumbled. I doubted myself. I wrestled my demons. I loved him with an intensity I’d never known before and yet I felt some part of me slipping away, a wildness I’d never been brave enough to claim. I played with him all the time. I couldn’t get enough of him. Other people had to tell me to put him down, to let him sleep. Dillon spoke early. One of the first things he ever told me, pointing to his room, pleading, “Bed,” he said, exhausted.
I often say (and anyone who’s met Dillon agrees) that Dillon has an old soul. Even as a child, he seemed to understand me more than I understood him. To me he was magical, mysterious, miraculous. He was one fantastical feat after another. I loved every new stage more than the last. I watched how he moved in the world and I learned… far more than I taught.
During the course of his childhood, I worked, then quit to be a stay-at-home mother after his brother was born. I was sad and wrote a terrible book, and then went back to school so I could learn how to write a much better book. I developed theories on parenting that did not align themselves to the prevailing wisdom. They were aligned to my soul, to the funny, chaotic rhythm of our lives. I decided I’d rather tell my boys too much than ever have them feel I lied to them, and I chased my dreams because I knew I’d rather have them see me fail then see me afraid to leap.
Three years ago, when I finished the first draft of Beautiful Lives, Dillon was more proud of me, more certain of my trajectory than I was. Not long after, all grown up, he got a tattoo on his forearm. The tattoo says Beautiful Lives. When he showed it to me, I was stunned, and giddy, and nervous. I said, “What if it never gets published?”
He said, “Writing that book is who you are. When you see Beautiful Lives on my arm, think MOM. This is just way cooler than a MOM tattoo.”
He’s right. It is… in a way I can’t quite do justice to in a blog post.
As part of the love project, I want to collect loves stories. This is the first. I’ll write more. I’m kind of hoping you will too. I’d love to have a “love stories” category, or maybe a whole ZS love story page. If you want to share in the comments section here, please do. If you’d like to email me, I’d so love to hear from you at zebrasoundsj [at] gmail [dot] com.