This morning, while taking a shower, a memory flooded into my mind.
One day, several years ago, I went home to my mom’s house. She was the only one home and I eventually found her in the bathtub. She had been crying, and laying on the ground beside her were clothes soaked in blood – she had a miscarriage, again. To me, the idea of her wanting another baby was insane; she had five children, and the youngest of which, at that time, was about 12 or 13… Nonetheless, she tried and tried, and the successful attempts, I think there were two, both ended in losing the baby early on in the pregnancy.
It occurred to me, this morning, that I am, now, about the same age that she was that day, and something stung in my soul that I don’t think I’ve been able to articulate until now.
I wish she had recognized what she had, who she had, and found peace and contentment there, instead of needing something more to sustain her happiness. I wish she had fought, and fought again, and fought again, and maybe, we’d still have a mother. I wish she had gotten out of that tub, naked and devastated as she was, and held her oldest daughter and let herself cry in my arms. For all of it – every bit of pain and loss she felt, to break and let someone be there for her. I was too young then to have the right words, but I would have held her as best I could, even knowing that wasn’t my role; I would have wanted to remind her that she already has babies, we just happened to be growing up. I wish she would have allowed herself to appreciate that, soon, she’d raise all of us out of the house, and get to finally live the freedom and autonomy she never quite had, because she had us starting at the age of 16.
I’d do anything to be able to call her now and talk about all that has happened, where I am now, and how hard this is, and get to share life now that I am a grown woman with my own children. I would take ten years off my life to give her ten more. I would use that borrowed sacrifice to teach her what it looks like to keep going, even though the world is cruel, people are unkind, addictions happen, and pain is real, but in the perseverance despite those truths we find our truest strength.
Right now, I just don’t really know what today holds, let alone tomorrow or three months from now. So many times, recently, I’ve cried out to God to release me from the grip of shame, past hurts, and current conflicts, but I get resounding silence, and this ache in my heart only lifts temporarily – when my son says a new word, when one of my daughters looks up and tells me they love me, just because they felt it in that moment. Little things, that actually turn out to be big things, in the midst of so much internal struggle and outward chaos. I would do anything to have certainty, in each step, and to know where this path is leading me. The thing is, I won’t ever get that, even when things are running smoothly, and sometimes I’m resentful of how hard this has been.
My therapist is helping me understand that my particular brand of hardship began before I had any awareness of life at all. It may seem like a cop out if you don’t understand the mechanism of trauma, but those who do hear my story and assure me that so much of “who I am”, and why this was made to be harder for me, began when I took my first labored breathes. I spent the first few months of my life fighting to live, every day, all the time. Fragile and tiny, under two pounds at birth, and having multiple procedures, and a heart surgery, to preserve my life. I was isolated, truly and literally, from my mother, my father, from comfort and the feeling of my skin against my mom’s heartbeat – left alone to struggle just to breathe, let alone unaware that my brain was rewired as a result of this undeniable trauma. I don’t know the figure, but I know back in 1984, most babies in that NICU did not survive, and I was born smaller than most of them, so I was told. I must have had to really dig deep, but how can you ask such a thing from an infant who should still be safe inside her mother, unharmed, uncut, untouched.
I’ll never, ever forget when I first had a session with this therapist, and somehow I mentioned briefly, not thinking much of it at the time, my birth story – a light flipped on in her immediately, and she softly showed me how I’m not just a broken, angry person; I was traumatized and left alone from the moment I was born, and there isn’t anything I did to cause that, nor could I have saved myself from how it would affect me for the rest of my life. I understood that so so much about me – a hypersensitive person – comes from the earliest days of my life, and subsequently, how I reacted all my life to pressure, fear, pain, and sadness was magnified because of a damaged, dysregulated brain. It is fact, it is science; you can look at my brain, and someone without my history, and see actual differences in parts of the brain that regulate these responses; I was given the short straw since my life began. While this was a revelation for me, so much so that I cried a grief I’d never felt before, it was also a very powerful moment of reckoning who I’ve been with the truth of how I began. It wasn’t my fault, and it isn’t now.
I wish my parents could have been taught how to love me better, given all the things we know now and the information we have today, they just didn’t have that back then, so it isn’t blame that they didn’t know. They were very young, and already had two kids when I came along, and shortly after me, had two more. I went home sometime after three months in the hospital, still in an incubator, still learning how to breathe on my own, and they not only had that to deal with, but raising their sons who were still only one and two years old then. I know this sounds intensely weird, but I get the sense I must have actually died a few times, if anything stopped breathing and fighting long enough to feel the relief from the pain, and because of this, I like to think I am an exceptionally strong person – I am still here, after all. But, honestly, it is quite sad – to really get a hold on that kind of existential suffering, knowing not anyone around me had the skill or the sensitivity to handle something like this, let alone the resources to get me help as a small child to make some of the challenges I faced eased even just a little.
Had my dad known why I flinched every time he yelled. Had my mom known why, whenever she set me in the dirt, I’d pull my feet up and clench my fists tight, because the sensation of dirt against my skin sent shivers through my entire body. On and on it goes, and my childhood wasn’t the easiest of times on top of being intensely sensitive naturally anyway, it was made worse, and deepened the trauma response, to endure the challenges that were prevalent then.
One day, I know that I will have my day with God. I will have the trial of my life, and answer to everything I’ve done, and I sincerely hope He shows mercy on me, knowing it wasn’t my choice to come into the world this way, and many others given the same start couldn’t endure, so shouldn’t my endurance count for something? When that time comes, He will have His way, and show righteous anger for every ill intention or action on my part; I haven’t made this any easier on myself at times, and I know that. But. How was I to do any better when nobody around me, those chosen to teach and guide and love me, didn’t know what to do with a sensitive soul like mine? How was I to know, before I knew, why this world seemed so much harder on me than it did for those living in the same house?
I sometimes resent my mom, for dying. I really do, because God damn it, I know her life was hard, too, but could she really not see the value in pushing for another day? If even not for herself, but for us. You see, because even at my darkest moments – and God there have been many – I still look at each of my children and think, “You have to push through this, for them…”
If I could go back to that moment with my mom in the tub, knowing everything I know now, I would have gotten in there with her, laid my head against her bare chest, and held her as tight as I could. I would surrender my heartache to lift her up, and maybe she could have seen what she had, instead of grieving what she did not. If it was the me I am today, I’d probably also smack her, hard, not even kidding, and tell her to stand up, damn it, fight another day. I’d say, I know this is hard, I KNOW, but look at what you’ve been given, look into the eyes of your five children and God damn it pull your shit together. She just… couldn’t. Wouldn’t. Honestly, not knowing which has haunted me since the day it sunk in that she was actually, really, dead. My God that was almost 16 years ago – what the hell.
I know how hard that is, to keep going, but I do it – I fucking do it, and it would have been really nice if she did, too. Damn it right now if I could rip off my flesh and just be spirit, I’d do it, to have a single moment not trapped inside a body that so badly worked against me quite literally all my life. Ouhf, writing that just made me start crying now, because it’s so true, so deeply true. Just to have a MOMENT, of peace. Back in the womb, so to speak, but this time, the arms of God. I wonder, now that my mom is free, she would see looking back how valuable it is to suffer, because it means we’re still alive, and being alive means we still have a chance to get this right, to be better humans, to try in spite of how fucking hard it is sometimes.
I really don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but believe if I can help it I’m going to be here to find out. I may not like it, and it will be hard – if I could only really be honest, really say all the reasons why this season is so devastatingly difficult – I guess the only part is that it all ties together. My birth, my mother and her pain passed down to me, my life now. It is all entwined, and I am slowly learning how to pull at the threads to untangle myself from this lifelong struggle of being different than those around me. Understanding that there is great worth in endurance, especially because it is so fucking hard for me, I hope I am teaching my children at least that part. That I fail, yes. I cry in front of them. I sometimes have screaming matches with my partner – ahem ahem – and they witness me being the cause more often than not. BUT.
I don’t stop trying, in fact if anything, I think I’ve tried more radical approaches to heal all this shit than anyone else I’ve ever met. I’ve ventured down Alice’s rabbit hole and journeyed straight to hell, and processed through specific traumas regarding losing great love, and why I lost it, while laying down with a blindfold on as the medicine ravaged me and made me feel all of it. I didn’t know that none of that would be the answer, but I tried it, because that is how desperate I am to break free from trauma that has followed me literally my whole life.
Now, I’m turning to God, and I am asking hard questions, of His purpose, of this plan, and of my own heart. I am accountable to others and following my treatment plans, including journaling, meditation, and ceaseless prayer and time in the word. I’ve even begun going to church again, regularly. When I say I am trying everything, it doesn’t mean I don’t think God can handle it and take these burdens from me, it just means damn it I think He’s sitting back with His arms folded, just waiting what I’ll do next. Will I keep going? Will I repent even when I fall hard and it is my fault? Will I love my partner even when the look in his eyes is filled with contempt, and she shuts down completely to save his own soul? Will I continue to give my children love and the attention they deserve, even while wishing I really could take a month off from this position and go backpacking through Europe? Will I bite my tongue, and hit a punching back instead of a fist through a wall when rage is the only thing I can feel? What more do I have to do, and how many corners do I have to turn down before the path is made straight? It seems, really, it’s never been, my entire life, and somehow, I’m just expected to know how to navigate this.
My mom would learn a lot from who I am now, I’m sure of that. And I am know absolutely I am stronger than she was, and though I’m sure she’d want that, it is profoundly sad for me, because I got this way from losing so much, including her. I am so fucking tired of losing, and want to fully embody the present moment, love my family how they deserve, and allow myself to be loved, trusting, and hopeful. I want to believe that what I have now is enough, even though I can’t see what tomorrow will bring, and there’s so much I’d change if I had the power to make it happen today.
All I can do is sit here and cry, and write these words through blurry eyes. But, that’s life, sometimes, that is life – for me.
Eventually, I got out of the shower this morning, and I stood in front of the mirror naked. My face has been severely altered the past year by what was thought to be psoriasis, but now it is completely unknown what is causing these painful and emotionally draining changes. My heart is broken every time I see myself, and it hurts me in a way I cannot describe, to go from being comfortable in my skin at the age of 36, finally, to now waking every day wondering if I’ll look horrible and it crushes my spirit when I see that I do. My children and my partner still say I am beautiful, but I don’t feel it at all, and it is just another obstacle placed in my path to test my loyalty to ultimate truth: Can I see myself through the eyes of grace, tenderness, and love? Or, when I look in the mirror, do I just see the sin of my internal struggle and this world manifest in my skin? Nobody can relate, and yet I’m supposed to just know how to deal with it. One more thing, one more poke in the fabric of my Being, that I was born to suffer greatly and still find a way through it, every day.
I am tired, just like she was, but I haven’t lost sight of what is right in front of me. I am a mother, and I am also that woman in the bathtub all those years ago. I am Christina, but I am also Roberta. I am healed, but I am also broken. I believe, but I also resent how hard its been just to dwell in this skin every day when it’s felt wrong my entire existence.
Who knows, man. Really.
Life is suffering, it is.
But I am exhausted. Still, here I am – still trying, still seeking truth knowing it may never be in the cards for me to just catch my breathe and feel at peace here. I may never be loved the way I wanted when I am exhausting to deal with and people don’t get why, or understood the way I crave, or have a safe circle of support beyond someone I pay a lot of money to each week.
Still. I know – deep in the softest part of my heart that holds onto hope no matter how dark it gets, that I have purpose here, and there is going to come a day all of this will make sense, and I will see why God chose me to endure it, and not my mother.