A couple of weeks before I gave birth, I had a phone conversation with my mom. Looking back, I think I spent the majority of my pregnancy in a clinically depressed state that got jolted from time to time by utter terror and panic when my then-husband decided to show his true colors. It was not a pleasant time. During this particular conversation, I broke down and confessed to my mother that I was scared to death that my life was over and I would never be myself again, the strong, happy, confident self I had known only too briefly before my cascade of wrong decisions nearly did me in. I didn’t know where that young woman was; I barely remembered her. I was convinced that this thing would come out of my body and I would simply recoil in horror and not be able to cope at all. There was no support on the spousal side of things. He had wanted me pregnant for a particular purpose, and I already knew it wasn’t so he could participate in any kind of domestic partnership.
To her credit, my mother was very gentle and supporting. I know she didn’t understand what I was feeling. It went beyond the ordinary trepidation about the changes that parenthood brings to anyone. The majority of people, while not completely understanding those vast and far-reaching consequences, at least are eager to embrace them and go forward into their new phase of life with enthusiasm if not outright glee. This was a phobic reaction. What are you afraid of? Gut-wrenchingly terrified of confronting or encountering? Snakes? Heights? Strangers grabbing at you from a dark alley? Whatever it is, that’s how I felt about what was about to happen in my life. It was a dark, dank, sucking dread that pulled at my limbs like stinking swamp mud and that I couldn’t get off me, no matter what I did. She did her best to lighten my mood, to encourage me, to let me know that these sorts of feeling were normal right before the big birthing event. I tried to go along with her and pretend that she was helping, but I hung up the phone even heavier than before.
With the exception of the first early years, and then a few years after the divorce, that dread has stayed with me. It’s like my tinnitus–the fine, high, slight ringing that’s always present in my ears. If there’s enough background noise I don’t really notice, but when it’s quiet, it nearly consumes my head.
It’s been quiet on the daughter front for too long. I’ve long practiced the “no news is good news” style when dealing with her, but summer is nigh upon us, and her maternity leave is going to be up. The last news I had was that her boyfriend had gotten fired from the job that he had held for a long time. They have only one car (his) that is a two-door Honda or Toyota and how all five of them can fit in there now, with at least two of them now at or over six feet tall is beyond me. I don’t think about that. I can’t.
GS2’s birthday was Sunday. He was 13. I sent him a card with some cash and then I had a FB email from her saying that her phone was off but she could still get WIFI and could we watch the boys “this weekend.” I couldn’t figure out if that meant this past weekend or next weekend. I haven’t responded and probably won’t. There’s no confronting her. You either agree and say yes, or she escalates to screaming and throwing the F-bomb around and I am just not up to that any more. It seems that she is in a pattern of wanting us to take the boys when it’s around either of their birthdays. I’m not sure if she feels like she can’t provide an adequate kind of experience and thinks we will do it, or if she just doesn’t want them around, or if she even realizes she’s doing it. That’s the thing. I have no idea how her mind works. I don’t really know what she values, what she wants. From the outside, it seems like she has a baby with every guy she hooks up with as a way to keep them with her, but you’d think by the third time, she would have realized that this doesn’t work. I’m sure the only reason she didn’t have a baby with the one guy she actually married was that he had already had a vasectomy. Good for him.
Shortly before the baby was born, apparently she and the BF had a huge fight centered around the boys. She called me weeping that “they got their way and he’s moving out.” For once I wasn’t having it. I was completely unsympathetic, told her if that was the case, then he’s no kind of man anyway and too bad, so sad. She’s 30 years old, for Pete’s sake. How many times does she have to repeat this sick pattern? How many kids does she have to bring into her chaos?
So the dread is building. G and I have planned to have GS2 for his birthday week, around the 2oth of June. We have decided to have them one at a time now because they are reaching the age where they both need a break from each other and because they act totally different when the other one is not around, so even not having one of them at home will be a break for the others. Plus, we can do more with one than two at a time when each of them is bound and determined to want exactly what the other one doesn’t. Siblings, right?
These are the times I curse my imagination. I’ve sent her emails about the date we are going to pick him up. No response. I’ve tried to call. The phone is off. I sent the FB mail to check that she was getting my messages, and all I got was “can you watch the boys this weekend”. And, then how is THAT going to happen even if we would? Would she bring them down? Doubtful. Would G drive up and get them, because I would be working? NO, resoundingly. She’s as fed up with this as I am and doesn’t have the familial guilt thing AND she has a social worker background and tends to look at all of this through that lens. Then my brain starts to whirl. They’re losing their apartment. There’s no food in the house. He’s left and she’s there with two preteens and a baby. On and on it spirals until I’m ready to throw myself off a bridge to end the disaster I’m creating in my own head. Honestly, there are times when I want to call Dr. Phil and say please, PLEASE intervene here–not for her sake, but for the boys who so vulnerable and didn’t ask for any of this. What sort of life are you role-modeling for these kids?
I realize that all this is a creation of my own brain. In spite of all the dread, I hold out the thin hope that I’ll get a call here in a bit and she’ll be all happy and chatty and isn’t life great. It could happen. But more likely it won’t. More likely I’ll get a weeping grandson on the phone who will tell me once again how much he wants to come and live with us. And I will have to bite my tongue and curse my own child and tell him he can’t do that because it wouldn’t work out. And then G and I will have to retreat to separate corners and then talk and process and talk and process and talk and process until we are so utterly sick of the subject that we have to swear to each other that we won’t even mention their names for a month until we can regain some kind of equilibrium again. We’ll recover…again. And the ringing in my ears and the dread in my head will retreat. For a while.