Twenty-One: Happy Birthday, Baby...
Warning: Possible triggers regarding child loss. Please do not read this if you feel this may harm you emotionally or mentally.
January 3, 2022. Alexis at 21. I imagine taking her to have her first (legal) alcoholic drink, if she chose to do that. I imagine helping her to prepare to graduate college and move further along her path. I see her uncles and aunts, cousins, grandfamily, and extended family (bio and otherwise) living the kinds of lives I would want her to emulate. She might be watching their examples and learning from their processes and the consequences thereof. I imagine a young adult, darker in complexion than I, but with a similar body shape to mine at that age. I might be grateful that the updated pants shapes in recent years mean she doesn't have to struggle to find something that actually fits her properly, as I had to when I was growing up.
I imagine warning her against my own mistakes when I was her age. Not her; to be her mother surely would have meant struggles, but I'm no stranger to struggle. More importantly, it would have meant joy. I would have reminded her to seek a loving, giving, kind, funny, and open individual with whom to share her life. A partnered life without a true partner is no life. It is merely existence, and not a good one.
Today, Alexis is the age I was when I gave birth to her. I have so many emotions surrounding this knowledge. I have now lived half of my life without my oldest child here in the physical world. Half of my life. It is a strange reality, and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it.
Twenty-one years ago, I was twenty-one years old. And I was lying in a hospital bed with dangerously high blood pressure, crying and lamenting the injustice of never hearing my child cry. I held her, but I could barely see her through my tears. I had my mother with me; she had been approximately my age when she gave birth to me. I remember her looking pensive, and then turning to me and saying, "I have no idea what you are going through." As much as I'm sure it pained her to recognize this, it was cathartic for me to hear. I had heard platitudes, and I wasn't all that interested in hearing once again about God having a plan. My mother had two live, healthy babies in my brother and me. And she set an amazing example for us. But she was outside her element as a mother of a mother whose child would never cry.
Being a foster mother and a comadre (co-parent; sort of a Godparent, but it doesn't have to be) has helped me to send out much of my maternal spirit in a way that I had only gotten to do in quick spurts in the past. I have been able to open the maternal parts of my heart and soul and let that love I didn't even know I had been holding in for so long flow out into the universe. I think there was a part of my subconscious that felt as though allowing that energy out would be disrespectful to my babies. And then my babies sent me babies I had no choice but to love. Sometimes people ask each other, "Do you believe in love at first sight?" I think that the general implication of that question is that we are focusing on romantic love. But my response goes beyond romantic love, to all kinds of love. Do I believe in love at first sight? No. I don't have to believe. I know. I have experienced love BEFORE first sight, and I have experienced love AT first sight. This is what I mean by having no choice but to love. I do not lament that I have had these experiences. They have opened my heart, and despite some of the painful circumstances I have gone through, they continue to keep my heart open and love flowing outward.
With all that I have been feeling as I have reflected on the past twenty-one years, the strongest is love. I have somehow gotten to a point in my life where the hurt exists, but it's more of an itchy scar than an open wound. I have been surrounded by love in the last twenty-one years, by people who have always been there, and those who came into my life between then and now. I wonder if some of these individuals have chosen to support and love me, because they know of my struggles, and they know of my tenacity. I believe that some were brought to me by my babies, because they knew I would need to be encircled in love, kindness, and strength. I know that some have stayed in my circle despite, and because of, all of the aspects of who I am.
There is no doubt in my mind that Alexis opened a path in my life that I made myself as ready as I could to walk, several years before I had actually planned. And when she was stillborn, I think I left that path, returning once in a while to gaze down, consider what might have been, lament. But I never closed the path off. I let it become overgrown and almost unrecognizable. Over time, I found myself on that path, at times not knowing how I had gotten there, yet glad that I was. If I chose to walk along the path, to trim the hedges as I passed, I didn't recognize it as a choice. Nor did I feel like it was something I was forced to do. It was more of a gentle nudging, a light push and a certainty that this was how it was supposed to be. I have not had twenty-one years of being a mother without any children. I have had twenty-one years of being a mother, and a number of those years have seen me being a mother to multiple children, for a day, an hour, a year... I get the feeling that this understanding is my daughter's birthday gift...to me. I love you Alexis, my child, my guide. Happy Birthday! Please don't stop gently nudging your Mama in the right direction.