This will be long. Feel free to not read.
October 1999. I was starting what would be my last year at the HMO, in a critical position that meant I had to work in Denver. So, 4 days a week I stayed up there and came home Thursday night and went back in the wee hours of Monday morning. My husband at that time worked Thursday through Sunday, nights, so there was always someone in the house with my daughter, then 16, who had just decided to say Fuck It to the world and drop out of school.
But it didn’t matter. That weekend, October 13, 1999, I was sitting on the couch in the house and she came in with this guy that I had met a couple of times and they walked back to her room.
And I knew.
She came in a little while later and asked me to come back there, but I already knew. I knew what she was going to tell me.
That she was pregnant.
I can never find the words to express to people how this devastated me. It was, truly, the worst day of my life, before or since. I went, later, to an online group that had offered support for the members–members who were married to child molesters and members who had serious health problems and everyone was always so understanding and empathetic, and I poured out my heart and hoped some ONE, some WHERE would understand and I got slapped. One member asked me if I just needed a nice glass of wine. One said I better not kick my daughter out and abandon her. Great, thanks for the support.
I couldn’t/can’t explain this near-phobia I had about pregnancy. It wasn’t like my mom hung over me every moment warning me about it. It wasn’t like I didn’t know how it happened. It was just that my whole life, I never, EVER was with anyone who ever engendered in me the feeling that “love” or whatever is supposed to engender in a woman the desire to have a child. My own experience with parenthood to date was fraught with worry, anxiety, fear, financial ruin, and other things even less pleasant. And since my daughter had been 10 or 11, I just knew that she was going to end up pregnant in her teens. I never worried about drugs or alcohol. We talked about both. I tried to educate her. I offered contraception. We had discussions, she wasn’t stupid. She was proud when she started her period. She told me. But this.
I was finally in a job where I made more than minimum wage doing something I really liked and I was GOOD at. I was known. I was respected. And this.
Devastated, undermined, blind-sided, wrecked, beaten, defeated, destroyed. None of them are strong enough alone or together to describe how I felt. My life as I knew it was over.
On Monday at 4 a.m. I drove back to Denver. I worked. I went home to the little house where I rented a room. I wrote in my journal. I walked around the neighborhood. I told a few people. I tried to be strong and optimistic, they way I most always look at life. My husband continued to sink into drinking and he definitely had his ideas about what my daughter should do and what I should do. And what should he do? Sit there and tell us what to do, I guess. The only thing I remember saying to him was that I would make sure none of it impacted him financially. Yeah, we had a great marriage, didn’t we?
Then, about a month later, November 17, 1999 (I know from my diaries), I came home from work that night, to my little blue bed in my little blue room and I wrote this:
Too heavy my hand
To force the words across the page
Too heavy my legs
To place one foot before the next
Clouds have piled before the sun
No light or warmth
Reaches my heart,
My soul is cold
I have lost the center
Don’t know why.
I sink into gluey pits
of sudden, increasing gravity
Where is Light?
Where is Hope, who
dwelled so recently within?
Why have they fled?
Or have I simply turned away?
Where is the Hand
Reaching out to me?
And then, I couldn’t write another word. I couldn’t think another thought. I wanted only to lie down on the floor, go to sleep and never, EVER wake up again. I wanted everything, the job, the fights with my daughter, the whole relationship with her, the next 20 years of raising another child, the sham marriage, the holding it all together for everyone else but me, I wanted it done and over with. I wanted out of it in the worst way, a feeling I never had before or since.
So, there I sat, on a little twin bed in an attic room with a ceiling so low that I could not walk under the light bulb without ducking. I could not even cry. I was already dead inside.
And then, something happened.
From behind me, I felt arms, or maybe they were wings, enfolding me, the way you hug someone who is sitting, hunched over with emotion. Strong, soft, and real, they surrounded me with love and compassion. I felt a soft cheek lay itself on the top of my head, as if my own mother were there to comfort me. Was it her? Was it an angel? I don’t know, but I know that SOMETHING was there, holding me, keeping me right there.
And then I cried. And cried. And cried.
And there was the Voice.
“But it will be all right. Why are you doubting?”
Because I’m afraid, I said in my head.
“You can be afraid. It doesn’t matter. This is your calling.”
I don’t understand.
“You don’t have to. Just keep listening.”
And then, IT was gone. And I put my things away and went to bed and slept like I had been drugged and when I woke up, something had shifted. Before I even sat up the next morning, before my eyes were even open, I knew that I was different inside, that nothing would ever “get” to me like that again, that I could handle whatever the Universe had for me, I was capable. I could do it. I would never feel the hopelessness again. I knew it.
And so it has been.