Seattle, October 1995 …
“You’re pregnant,” says the nurse, relaying the results of the blood test over the phone.
I’m not surprised. I just bought a lemon at the grocery store for a scratch and sniff remedy; the citrus scent keeps me from vomiting.
Montaña de Oro, October 2016 …
A blustery day. It rained the night before, and will do so again. In California, this is cause for celebration. I feed Cisko just after a cloudy gold and pink sunrise, then go back to bed. Around 9:30 I pack my rucksack and hike down to the ocean.
Highest tide I’ve seen here. The sea rushes all the way up to snowy plover land. About six weeks ago I saw a baby snowy plover — tee-niny! About the size of a ping-pong ball, and probably the same weight. Cute, of course, as all babies are.
I walk north for a while, after stowing my purple boots high on a dune. Lotta kelp washed ashore, the waves still big from the storm. The water is way too turbulent to swim in.
As I walk farther north, I process thoughts and feelings out loud, as is my habit. Nobody’s around, and I find it helpful. Eventually, I sit on a hillock and drink rose-hibiscus tea from my beat up green thermos. Watch the curlews and whimbrels and pelicans.
“I’m not dying!” I yell to a buzzard circling high overhead. And then laugh. It’s true! Three years ago it wasn’t, but today it is. Such beautiful flyers, turkey vultures, just cruising the currents, with barely a wing flap.
When I drove into town last Friday, I passed baby black cows in a field on the south side of the road. Cute! ‘Tis the season. For some.
On the beach, I remember the abortions I subjected myself to. And then a shift occurs. Instead of the familiar rut of beliefs that usually pop up — I shouldn’t want a baby, I’d be a terrible mother, the men were unfit for fatherhood — after decades of lying to myself, I finally speak the truth on this windswept shore: I wanted a baby. I begin to weep.
You see, I had talked myself out of it. Three times. I believed, deeply, that I would be a terrible mother. I did not trust that I would not hurt my baby. I did not trust that I could be different from my parents.
I did not have a baby because I thought I would not be able to control my anger, my impatience, my mean streak. And I thought I needed to be in love with the father. And I thought I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do it alone.
But the reality? What I did not allow myself to know? I wanted a baby. The third abortion, in 1995, was wretched. My body reacted badly, and I could not stop crying. For hours. I wanted to die, and fell into a deep depression soon after.
Eventually I hike back to the apartment, and make a smoothie with strawberries, banana, soymilk, and spinach. It tastes great, despite the fact that I’ve run out of dates. Smoothies are a treat I look forward to after hikes, so this is good news.
“I don’t need dates,” I sing, and dance around the studio. “I don’t need dates.” Which is when I realize that I didn’t need a father either.
Most of my long life I’ve believed that I’ve been missing out on a “regular” dad, whatever that is. Someone who’s always around the house. Two parents, not divorced. Two happy-with-each-other parents.
But that’s not what I got. I got a three-times-a-year dad, a vacation dad. And, despite a lifetime of pining, that has been perfectly fine. Absolutely, incredibly okay. Another truth, bubbling up. Hunh.
And if I didn’t need a dad, perhaps my baby wouldn’t have missed one either. Because that’s the other way I talked myself out of having the baby. The men were not father material, by ANY stretch of the imagination. One was a violent alcoholic druggie, the other was a passive-agressive Beavis-and-Butthead-watching geek. I did not want us to be tied to either of them. I trusted them even less than I trusted myself.
But deep down inside, hidden from me by so-called “rational” thinking, I wanted a baby.
Which also explains my distraught reaction to menopause, sobbing over the clots of blood in the toilet.
Now, despite the tears, or maybe because of them, it is a relief to finally — deep e-x-h-a-l-e — know the truth.
I wanted a baby.