Saturday, January 10, 2015
Bubba and Otis
I never wanted to have children. I grew up knowing I never wanted to get married and I never wanted to have children. I didn't understand myself at the time, but I now realize I avoid commitment. It's not healthy, but it's who I am. I don't trust people to stay. Anyway, I never wanted kids. At 19, I got pregnant. I wasn't happy about it. I wasn't sad or angry or nervous. I wasn't anything. At the time I was in a very abusive relationship and that took all of my energy. I quit smoking and drinking and did whatever the doctor told me to, but I wasn't excited to be a mother. Having been adopted, I could never do that. Ever. No part of me would be sent out to the world alone full of questions that no one would ever answer. I believe in abortion 100%. I will fight, rally and scream for the rest of my life for a woman's right to have an abortion. But I knew I couldn't have one. I knew the way my brain worked that I would never be able to let it go. I would torture myself with wondering and lamenting "what if's" for the rest of my life.
Throughout my pregnancy I never thought much about what it would be like to be a parent. Again, I was too busy dealing with the asshole in my life at the time. I was careful to block my belly from his blows but beyond that the thought that my child would soon be there rarely entered my mind. I hated her father. Passionately. When he would touch me or climb into bed I would physically get nauseous. I fucking hated him. But I hated myself, too. I realize that now. I didn't really think enough of myself or I would've never ended up with him in the first place. If I hadn't had Audrey I would probably be with him to this day.
The morning of November 30, 1992 I was scheduled to have a c-section because she was breached. When we got to the hospital I was given a gown to get into. There was a nurse who was helping me get dressed and she saw that my entire left side was bruised and asked what had happened. The truth was I had taken my worst beating until then the night before because I hid the last of my money so I could afford the newborn pictures from the hospital. Matt thought the money would be better spent on alcohol. I have always been, and will always be, stubborn. Motherfucker you aren't taking the rest of my money. So I was beaten terribly. My body was actually thrown into Audrey's crib and broke it. As he beat me I was in a ball protecting my belly. That is why my entire left side was bruised. It was all he could get to. I told the nurse that I didn't know where they came from (he was standing right there). She gave me a look of "yeah, right," and I thought maybe she would tell someone or call the police. But nothing else ever came of it.
That morning they velcroed me to a table like Jesus. I wasn't nervous or afraid. I might have been curious. It didn't seem to take much time at all. The doctors and nurses were talking about their plans for the holidays and then the surgeon asked me "Would you like to see? I can move this mirror for you to see." Matt, who had been watching the whole thing said, "You don't want to see this," with a look of disgust. I'm sure he was right. I declined. The next thing I knew she was out. I was still strapped to the table and couldn't move my arms so the nurse brought her close and laid her on my chest so we could meet. She was beautiful. I know all mothers think their child is the most beautiful who has ever lived, but they're wrong. Mine was. It's a fact. I fell in love in an instant. It overwhelmed me and I began to cry. I loved this person that I had just met. I felt a rush of emotion. I wanted to hold her and never let her go. I don't remember it occurring to me at that moment, but this was the first person I knew who I was biologically related to. The nurse was worried about something and they took her from my chest. They wheeled me into another room that I called "the cold room." It turns out it wasn't. It was me who was cold. They later told me that I was losing too much blood. I found out that day that I am a good bleeder. They kept me in there for hours and I just wanted to go see my baby.
Later that afternoon I got to hold her. She was amazing. She had a full head of black hair and the deepest and most beautiful blue eyes I'd ever seen. I wanted to never let her go. I had read some parenting literature during my pregnancy but never gave much thought to it. I didn't even take Lamaze classes because Matt had already taken them when his first daughter was born (ok, well, if you know what to do, we should be good). I was never allowed to be in a room without him (not kidding) let alone go in public. I guess it's a good thing she was breached. I didn't walk into the hospital that morning having a single idea of what I was getting myself into. But holding her I knew whatever was the "right" thing to do, that was what I'd do. I instantly became a nurturing, protective and loving mother. When the nurse came in and asked if I was going to breast feed, I said I was. Of course, I hadn't learned anything about it so we winged it and figured it out. I was going to keep being thoughtful and making the best decisions for Audrey from then on.
The doctor said I could go home as soon as I could walk to the end of the hall and back. I was willing to do whatever it took to get out of there. Matt was driving me crazy. He wouldn't leave my side for a second and whined repeatedly that he had to sleep in the recliner. Our last night there he tried to convince me it wasn't fair that I had the bed and we should take turns. Yes, having just had surgery and a belly full of stitches and staples, I will gladly sleep on a recliner for you tonight. I stood up to him. That was the first time I did it for a reason other than being stubborn or angry. I stood up to him because I had value. Sadly, I would find out many years later, it's not healthy to see your value as being something beyond your very self. But for now I would use the value I'd found in being Audrey's mother to begin a better life.
Three weeks after Audrey was born we were able to get away from Matt. A lot of things made our life pretty rough. I know if I didn't have Audrey I'd have had no reason to live. I put my focus into creating the best life I could for her and we carried on. We were very close. She was incredibly smart and I found she could learn absolutely anything if you put it to music. I started college when she was 9 months old and most of the time we couldn't afford a car so we would take the bus. We read books to school and back every day for an hour each way. She loved to read and I loved her curiosity. Whatever she found interesting we would explore until she moved on to the next thing. Thanks to her crushes on both Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy (actual crushes), we researched and learned quite a lot about both. We even took a road trip to Lincoln's birth home. We looked into mythology, the rain forest and the Wild West. I was very aware that it was my role as a mother to teach her lessons about the world and about how to carry herself in it. Has she been paying attention? Does she understand what I say to her? Does anything that we share really penetrate? One always hopes they've done a good job, but one never really knows.
When Audrey started kindergarten I found out that she had, in fact, been paying attention. I had deliberately sent her to an alternative school that was strict. I thought I was strict so this would be perfect. Early in the school year her teacher called me because Audrey had been disrespectful. I don't want to call you a liar, lady, but nu'huh. I knew my kid. Every person who had ever had her in daycare would tell you that she was the sweetest and most pleasing little girl they've had. I asked the teacher what Audrey had done. She replied, "She said, 'Yes, ma'am,' when I instructed her." I explained that she says that to me, too. I taught her to be respectful. She told me that she didn't appreciate it. Okay. Whatever. Later in the year I got a call at home in the evening from the teacher. Now what!? She called, this time, for something funny. She told me that the class was singing Mary Had A Little Lamb and Audrey refused to sing. The teacher asked her to join in and Audrey pouted and said that's not how the song goes. The teacher assured her that it was the way she had always heard it. Audrey replied, "Well, that's not how Otis Redding sings it."
Nailed it! For some reason that was a moment of affirmation to me. Beyond being the cutest thing ever, I knew that she was receiving what I was giving her. Obviously I never told her that the way Otis sings a song is the only way (though there really is never a reason for anyone else to ever try, its been done to perfection, thank you), but the day to day life we had was ingrained. I was sure that if she had that steadfast belief in the music I offered her, she was paying attention to the rest, as well.
Audrey and I were always incredibly close. People often envied our relationship. I'm sure we benefitted from being the only two in our family. When she got into her mid-teens, of course, things started to change. I should've known it was coming. I certainly merited any payback that was to come. But it broke my heart. I loved her wrong. I made her my companion. I had put too much on her. But I didn't see it then. She would have a smart mouth, refuse to clean her room or cat box, and sneak out of the house. I was the wrong kind of upset. I saw it as an affront to me. Of course, it had nothing to do with me. She was a smart-assed teenager, like she was supposed to be. We went back and forth, round and round for years. We never stopped loving one another but our relationship changed. I didn't realize it was supposed to. Somewhere in the middle there she was supposed to stop being the cutest thing in the world that I did everything with and for. I was a little late figuring that one out, too.
As she enters adulthood it is hard to stop telling her about the world with a mothers bias. I keep reminding myself that this is now her world, open to her interpretation. When she has the problems that a young woman in college faces it's equally hard to avoid pointing out why that happened and how to fix it. My opinion is now only necessary upon request. She will have many experiences and many challenges to face and explore. Both will give her opportunities for success or failure. Either, of which, will offer her growth and wisdom. And neither is mine to decide.