I never wanted to be a mother: an alien inside me sucking on my marrow, leeching the strength I’d need to get out of bed in the morning to drink my tea, to stand up and work. My body ignored me for some time, the bio clock of my thirty-five-year-old-self filing for divorce after seven years of marriage for many reasons; one of them being the deal we struck when we vowed to never have kids, to travel the world (by which he mostly meant his native Belgium).
And then I was thirty-six—the ticking clock counting down the rest of my fertility like a bomb imploding. I trolled match.com for a husband who’d give me the baby my body (and not my mind) needed, and my husband came with two kids already from a previous marriage. Those children would sometimes be too much for me: their screeching, Kama Kazi dive-bombing into our bed at night those winter nights in Maunawili when the thunder and lightening shook the walls and lit up their rooms, too much for them to bear alone; how my step-daughter couldn’t walk across the grocery store without taking my hand in hers and forcing me to follow to the cosmetics section to find acne medicine for acne she did not yet have; how my step-son left trails of socks and t-shirts, candy wrappers and cheerios like Hansel, trying to make us remember him even when he was gone to his mother’s.
Those early days, I couldn’t imagine my own `opihi stuck to me, keeping me in pajamas all day, oily-haired, stomach blown-out, vagina torn or uterus sliced, breasts like tube socks I’d have to roll up to fit into my bra. It was before we got married that I found out I was pregnant. I became nauseated, fatigued and depressed, like a dementor was sucking out my soul, and on a night when both step-daughter and step-son were throwing things, were scream-crying and breaking things, my husband and I closed the door and whispered about what to do.
“I don’t think we’d make it with a kid of our own,” he said. “No breaks when they’re yours, no days off. Your body’d be the food, and babies don’t want daddies when they’re that small. Then we’d divide and conquer: you’d shower while I’d change the diaper, I’d work while you’d sterilize bottles. You couldn’t work. You’d have to stay home. There’d be no time for us anymore, no time for you.”
I told my husband I would get an abortion. He was relieved, like I’d removed his Sisyphus boulder. I took a pill that made me bleed my baby out, stayed in bed for two days as the pill cramped my insides and dislodged the placenta from my uterus, uprooting the life that was growing inside me.
“If it happens again,” I said then, “I will not.”
He knew I was serious. But the idea of a baby, all chubby, gorgeous, and glistening with baby dew was still lodged inside the pit of me, and I carried it for many years.
I was forty-three when my mom died, and the ache intensified, knowing I’d been born with all my eggs inside me, that my mom had carried me and all my unborn babies in her tummy. I wanted to bring her back to life, to have some part of her exist that was mine, to see her eyes somehow or hear her laugh again. And I wanted to see what of my own would look like, smell like, feel like, to experience me in someone else I’d made. I wanted to know what it was to be a mother, even though I bought my step-daughter her first training bra, explained her first period, rubbed lavender lotion into her feet when she couldn’t sleep; even though I picked up my step-son’s stray cheerios, washed his sweaty clothes and folded his towels, rubbed lavender lotion into his feet when he couldn’t sleep, even though I taught them both to drive.
I’m forty-seven now, too old and too afraid. My girlfriend says, “I was fifty-two when I had Travis,” and I don’t respond with, “And I don’t want to have a developmentally-challenged child who still wets his bed even though he’s fifteen. I don’t want the tantrums or to be punched in the head or to be called an asshole.” But I think it.
Throughout the years, the children have said things to me like, “I hate my mom,” and “I don’t want to go to her house.”
I say, “your mother loves you,” and “she’s doing her best.”
I don’t say, “I don’t know why she cares more about her hula kids than you two or why she refuses to give you a bed at her house, why she won’t get better internet service so you can go to school online, why she tells you to just stay with us when her nieces come to visit, why everyone but you is more important. I don’t know why she had you, really, except that she was probably really good at the baby thing and is clearly not very good at the rest of it.”
Then Mother’s Day comes and my step kids are gone to their mother’s house, and there is never anything. There is always nothing. I wanted something for the all I’ve sacrificed, even if it was just a “Happy Mother’s Day,” but I may never get it. Instead, I call forward the women I know whose step daughters drive the cars they’ve bought, whose step sons accept the rent money and food money, the tuition and insurance money but refuse to be civil, and I invite them to brunch. This Mother’s Day, we will sit on the veranda: the few of us, the un-acknowledged, and together we will drink mimosas in the sun and know we are not alone.
Christina Low Dwight won Bamboo Ridge’s Editor’s Choice Award for its centennial issue. She has also been published by The Hawai’i Review, Vice-Versa Journal, RipRap Journal, and various other national publications. She earned her Master’s degree in Creative Writing in 2010 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Christina has practiced real estate since 2001, and became the broker and owner of her own company, Commercial Investment Strategies, in 2012.