I imagine childbirth to be another memory hidden away in an avalanche of ruined messages somewhere along the synaptic highway of my dementia, the red and squalling life lost with it. Her tiny body wrinkled, covered in hair as a tiny caterpillar, legs and arms aflutter with their first taste of cold freedom, her terror shrill and demanding from purple lips; PUT ME BACK. She is wise in this demand, enfant terrible. I’d put her back too, save her from the despair of life we all must know; the trade off for our existence. I realize too late I do not have the strength to save her. The only way to save her is for her to not exist. In causing myself the greatest joy, I have caused her the susceptibility of existence. I love her already though, loved her years before she even came into existence, and I would not change a thing.
This is how I imagine it, anyway. If ever there were a babe, I don’t know it. I wish there were a babe. It was ever my desire, my deepest secret, to have a child of my own to spoil with such love and affection as I always dreamed for myself. But early on, fear kept me from creating such a being and by the time I gave way to desire over fear, my biology would not cooperate. Perhaps my body was smarter than I, even as it began its descent into the darkness where now it holds me trapped between the horror of fantasy and the terror of the reality that I am forced to live.
Any child of mine would surely be damned. I don’t mean this in a biblical sense, for surely I would have to believe in the bible and the tenants and superstitions therein. No such fiction is required for my world. Truth is plenty horrific enough without such lore. No, the problems are very real and grounded in science and so many I hesitate to put too great an emphasis on any one. I suppose some of it comes down to the age old debate of nature versus nurture; how much of the family curse is attributable to genes and how much to generations of bad parentage? Add in generations of alcohol abuse and more than a few nasty diseases of a hereditary nature that even the most lackadaisical would be leery of producing progeny. Then add a heaping helping of dementia beginning in the late thirties and damned my child surely would be just for having to live with me. I should feel grateful.
I don’t. I want that squalling red caterpillar brought kicking and screaming into the world against her will. I want the opportunity to ruin her just as my own mother ruined me. I want to roll the dice against all odds and hope she will have all that I never did and that it will in large part be because of me rather than in spite of me. After all, all those years of therapy weren’t just for me. All that education and work to make something of myself wasn’t just for me. The house in a good school district with a big backyard and finished basement where she could play on rainy days weren’t just for me.
Even at 42 and broken as I am, I cry for the want of her, her tiny arms and legs wrapped around my torso, her big head resting on a shoulder as I coo to her and rock her. Her little finger trying to follow the words I read from her favorite book about an alligator who can’t pronounce the letter ‘A’. Her tiny legs running as she tries to catch bubbles from our favorite bubble gun. It is not youth I dream of on these early spring days, but being the witness of hers, the guardian of her innocence, her educator, her mother; the center of her world.
We bought that perfect house in that perfect school district in that perfect little suburb and instead of having her I got a neuro-immune disorder. Instead of being eligible for adoption or even foster parenting for that matter I became eligible for disability. Instead of bringing her into my heart and drawing her to my bosom, I drew in all the pain and disappointment of a life interrupted but unlikely to end in any untimely fashion, just me and my damnably vivid imagination of what might have been. Gone is the home with all the hope. Gone all the things I thought one day Mother’s day would come to mean.