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January 4, 2017

My Baby is Gone, but I’m Still a Mom.

*Warning: strong language.

~

On rare days, I forget that this photo exists.

Most days I don’t.

It remains in my phone—protected from the outside world, enveloped by photos of joyful moments.

Some days, when I feel a familiar darkness tugging on my heart and soul, it becomes the medicine and battle armor I use to fight my inner demons.

The first sight feels like ripping a scab off. I take a deep anticipatory breath, trying to convince myself it won’t hurt, but inevitably wincing in pain. There’s an infection—the heart and soul kind that lingers beneath the surface forever. It changes with time, but never fully heals.

When I see this photo, I’m flooded with memories.

This happened.

I was a mom.

It was real. Not a dream.

I dive in, and I remember.

I remember the baby girl from my dreams, before I knew, with the thick dark curls. I nursed her, looked down at her, felt my overwhelming love for her. The same baby, every night. And every morning I’d wake up confused. “Weird. That dream again.”

Or casually mentioning to my mom, “I wish there was a way that I could feel what it’s like to be pregnant. Just for a moment.” I didn’t understand the power of words. I especially didn’t understand how powerful I was.

But the Universe sure as hell did, and it delivered the biggest lesson of my life.

When that double-line appeared as I sat hugging my knees on the cold bathroom floor, all I could think through stunned panic was:

“Holy shit!

No. No no no no no.

Not like this. Not with him.

It’s not supposed to happen this way.” 

I mean, Jesus-effing-Christ. This would happen. I’m the “good girl” who grew up following all the rules, who never once skipped class, but got caught every time I dared to rebel.

Every. Time.

He was my rebellion. He was the toxic, addictive, magnetically seductive anomaly of my life. I saw my reflection in his unapologetic darkness, and repeatedly dipped my toes in to meet it, a little deeper each time.

From the beginning I knew what I should do—turn and run away, as fast as possible. Instead? I dipped my toes in. Again, and again. The finally “one last time.” But this time, like always, I got caught.

I fell in—all the way.

That night he asked me two questions:

“Whose is it?”

“Yours.” 

“How quickly will you ‘take care of this’?”

“Never.”

Five days later, the morning after Valentine’s Day, he motioned for me to join him on my living room couch. To talk.

“Why are you doing this? I mean, seriously. You’re ruining my life.”

“Um…because none of the other options are going to happen. It’s a huge flaming bag of dog shit at the moment, but ultimately it’s a gift. I’m taking it. I know I can do this—I want to do this. You can join me, or not.”

In response, he stood up and walked to the door.

“Becca. I just can’t. And you can’t make me. It’s not supposed to happen like this.”

“No shit! But it did.”

And with that, the door closed on everything I thought I knew about myself, my life, what I deserved, and the way things were supposed to go.

So I stood up.

I walked to the door and as I grabbed the deadbolt I caught a glimpse of my mirrored reflection. A primal fierceness I didn’t recognize looked directly, challengingly, yet gently and nurturingly back at me. In that moment something unlocked deep in my core. It shifted, rose, coursed up through and out my body, rippling instantly through the entire universe.

I was no longer just my body. I was everything.

I flicked the lock shut and as I turned away a voice, the power of which I’d never heard before, emerged from my throat. What it said was as much a declaration to any oncoming challenge as it was my past self.

“I’m a mom now. Do. Not. Fuck with me.”

I remember what came next.

The fleeting peace—found only in moments between waking from my nightmares and realizing that I was living in one.

The full-body agonized cries. On the floor. On the couch. At the river. In the mountains. Anywhere, at any time.

The desperate hours of research. The numbers. The logistics. The known sacrifices and the unknown obstacles. Trying to grasp the game and optimal strategy, knowing that I’d never see instructions. The purposeful determination to protect my child and the paralyzing realization that there was no right way to do so.

Then finally, the sobbing 3 a.m. call to my mom, and understanding that the most loving act I had the strength to offer was to say “no.”

“I can’t do this, Mom. I can’t. Not like this. I want this gift—but I need to give it back.”

My deepest fear, amongst many, was that I would never be a mother again—that this was my only chance. By giving up this sacred title, would I by default lose access to the version of me that came with it—that strong, brave, badass, take-no-shit woman I saw in the mirror, and instantly embodied?

I’d closed and locked the door on my former self. She was never coming back. If this went away too, then who the hell was I?

This photo was taken to answer that question. Whenever I fall back into the darkness and doubt who I am, I force myself to look and remember this:

>> I always was, and always will be that strong, gentle, magical, brave, badass, take-no-shit woman in the mirror. This innate power is in every one of us.

>> I always will be a mom—even though my baby isn’t with me. My capacity to love and empower didn’t disappear—it grew. It is the foundation of the woman I’ve become, and my life’s renewed mission.

>> Our decisions are ours, and ours alone. Let’s own and honor ourselves, by honoring them. And sometimes? That’s terrifying.

I’ve only just begun to grasp the meaning of “sisterhood.” I continue to to be humbled and amazed by the unwavering support and immediate bond of women who share their stories with me. Stories of miscarriage, abortion, or adoption. Stories of devastating loss or tough choices. We all have our own journey, yet we are all connected.

We are moms.

We are powerful.

We are everything.

We are love.

I remember.

~

Author: Becca Close

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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