A Mama Never Forgets…

My memory is terrible. Not just the “Now what did I come in this room for?” kind of stuff. My memory for life in general is just lacking. There are the insignificant moments that are clear as day. There are happy and sad and horrifying and joyous things I remember and some I should, but don’t. I’m certain there is an explanation; whatever the reason behind what I do and don’t remember bothers my psychiatrist much more than it does me.

“I’m never having kids.”

Me, age 19

I was putting away dishes, my sister was baking brownies and my mom was at the sink. I’m sure I’d said them before. Often. I never made a killing as a babysitter growing up so I’m fairly certain my declaration against motherhood was frequent. Not sure why this specific instance was locked away. December 6, 2001. 10 years later. Those words and that moment came flying out of whatever corner they’d been hiding.

My Fave and I never really talked about having kids before we got married. I’m not sure we ever talked about kids. We most certainly had no discussion of when we might want to think about talking about it. Of this I am certain: I would not be pregnant less than six months after we said, “I do.” And yet there we were.

We’d moved into our house just before 9/11. The excitement of making that house a Home had the wind sucked out of it in the midst of a terror attack. I’m a neat freak. And control freak. I’d imagined having every box unpacked within two weeks and have it feeling like Home within three. But there was a sadness and fear of believing in permanency that allowed the boxes to remain packed much longer than I’d planned. In early November I was still unpacking and came across some bathroom items I realized I hadn’t needed for a couple of months. Four EPT tests later, I finally admitted to myself, and My Fave, that we were going to be parents. WTF?!?! turned to excitement after hearing a heartbeat; not sharing our excitement wasn’t going to happen. I’m certain, but of course don’t remember, someone had said, “Wait until after 12 weeks to start telling people.” Would have been a good tidbit to hang on to; instead I found myself remembering being 19 and in my Mom’s kitchen.

We were parents-to-be for just a few weeks. “I’m never having kids.” quickly became “I’ve never wanted a baby more.” and also “I’m being punished for…” followed by a list that included everything from uttering those words in my Mom’s kitchen to being a current smoker and on psych meds to every unforgivable act in between. Every failed EPT test that followed was torture. It was like having the band aid ripped off and salt poured into the gaping wound beneath. Sex became a chore. A job. A means to an end. It was stressful and sad. Marriage is already hard. Miscarriage is hard. There was just thunk blanket of heaviness. And then one day there wasn’t. I took four EPT tests in July just to make sure and then we kept our mouths shut until after 12 weeks.

On March 25, 2003, J made me a Mama. His birth wasn’t the horror stories you hear, despite the fact we sort of winged it. My Fave almost passed out during the video of placenta delivery in the birthing class and so we didn’t go back. My water broke at 9:30 p.m. and J entered the world at 4:37 a.m. the next morning. A lot of cursing at My Fave in between, none of it which would have been avoided had we finished the birthing classes. Epidural, breathe, push, baby. Not terrible. Also, not something I wanted to do again anytime soon.

The idea to become “Miller, party of 4.” started getting some significant thought around Thanksgiving. My planning mind mapped it something like this: “It took quite a few months to get pregnant with J. After Christmas, we’ll start taking my temperature and making charts. It will take some time to establish a pattern. No way we’re pregnant before May or June, which puts the kids well beyond two years apart. That’s perfect!”

“It’s always so interesting to Me that you can’t seem to remember the One actually making plans.”

Jesus

We got pregnant on the first try. I honestly wavered between “Yay!” and “What? Wait. No. That wasn’t the plan!” for a few weeks. At our 36 week visit, C measured nearly 42 weeks. “I’m not J!” was his already his mantra. On November 10, 2004, he made his entrance: a c-section because his 4’10” Mama, who birthed a 6 lb 13 oz baby the year before with ease, wasn’t delivering a 9 lb 2 oz baby without the likelihood of serious complications. We were now “Miller, party of 4.”

A toddler and not small newborn. A 6 inch incision and two kids under two and the holidays coming fast. A refusal to take psych meds after a pregnancy with none. A Christmas Eve fever leading to “If he makes it.” being said about our newborn with bacterial meningitis and Christmas in NICU and going home with a pic line for antibiotics. And my sister’s wedding. And a year I barely remember unless I see pictures. Except for one day and the mental picture I wish I could erase.

“I need you to come home. Right now. I’m filling the bathtub. Please come home.”

Just after C’s first birthday, I became the Mama that people look at and see a monster. I have no memory of the boys that day or My Fave coming home. No idea what we did all day. I don’t know what made me hit a point where ending my life and the life of my babies sounded rational. I remember the running of the water, the coldness of the bathroom floor and those words. The guilt planted a seed for every “You’re crazy! You’re selfish! What were you thinking? How in the hell did you imagine you’d be a good mom? God, your selfish! And a monster! Your kids will hate you! They will see your for the horrid human your are and they will hate you! They will leave your house when they can and never come home!” moment since, the sheer number I wish I could forget. The words and actions I wish I could un-remember haunt me.

The rage of a Mama and the sadness of a Mama and the anxious mess of a Mama with mental illness has to cause such damage. There’s guilt and shame and a voice of “Your kids only ‘love’ you because they have to.” It’s a lie, I know, but it’s there and makes an ugly appearance all too often. Every argument and “I hate you!” and act of defiance and choosing to hang out with friends instead of having a family dinner and kids being kids and teenagers being teenagers and I remember those words in my Mom’s kitchen.

Enter Mother’s Day. I say I don’t want gifts and fancy meals or a big fuss. It’s a lie. I do. Not as some grand gesture of them loving me more on that specific day than they do the other 364 (or 365, as is the case this year). It’s that a day of over-the-top might remind me I am not the worst mama on the planet. That “I’m never having kids.” doesn’t mean I never should have. That I’m not a monster. That I haven’t scarred the boys for life. That they won’t leave after high school and never return.

Mostly, I need one more day to help me remember that Jesus doesn’t do mistakes and to remember the day, on a bathroom floor, when He mustered up in me an unimaginable dream amount of courage to call My Fave and say, “I need you to come home.” That He made me the way He did on purpose. That there are some things He wants to make sure a Warr;or Mama never forgets.

And I am a Warr;or Mama.

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