Monday, December 17, 2007

julia

julia & i, almost sixteen years later

"half of what i say is meaningless
but i say it just to reach you, julia."

julia came into my life when i was very confused, and unsure about myself. at 23 years old, the adolescent ghosts of insecurity still hung about haunting me, voices echoing in the back of my mind that i was never quite good enough at anything, or for anyone. i think it was because of this doubt in myself that i had proclaimed over and over again, to anyone who would listen, that i would never be a parent, and that i would never have kids of my own.

i am the adult survivor of a childhood wrought with abuse, and was still carrying the hurt and anger surrounding abandonment issues from my father leaving my mother and i when i was so young, for him not even showing up for court to fight, or to say anything, when my stepfather petitioned to legally adopt me when i was a child; he never fought for me, he just let me go, and in the viewpoint of my childhood vision i equated my father's actions as one more reason to add to the running list of why i was not good enough.

i know that even at 23 i still felt responsible for my stepfather's abuse towards me, and for later damaging incidences that happened in my life where i found myself in the victim role again. i honestly felt that i had nothing to offer a child, that it would be one more thing i would fail at, and i was firsthand aware of the fact that terrible things can happen to children, and do. the thought of not being able to protect a child of my own filled me with deep rooted fear. i even had reoccurring nightmares of being a mother, and having things go horrifically wrong; a house catching on fire and me not being able to pull a child out to safety, my feet cemented to the ground and my body paralyzed; or watching as horror film type monsters would tear the limbs from my body, leaving me powerless to just lie there and watch as they carried a child away; all i could do was scream.

i was honestly terrified of being responsible for someone else's life, and i also felt that i had enough struggles holding myself together to have anything at all to offer a child in life.

i remember the very instant i suspected that i might be pregnant, i even clearly recall the night julia was conceived, and the events that took place earlier that day, something that has forever felt like fate stepping in and changing the course of my life; subsequently altering the state of my heart and mind. my best friend's mother was expecting a baby that year, a surprise late in life when her other two children, my best friend included, were well grown, or nearing adulthood. it was the day i went to visit her mother at the hospital, to first meet my best friend's new baby sister, that my life changed. i remember holding that newborn baby close to my chest and leaning in to kiss her head; it was the baby smell that got me, that unique and almost soothing scent that emanates from infants that is quite possibly the sweetest and most intoxicating smell i have ever encountered. it was right at that moment that i thought to myself "i think i want this someday, i think i want to have a baby."

i left the hospital in a daze, feeling dizzy and disoriented from the experience, and shaken by the sudden opposing emotions that were coursing through me; this was a wish that was completely contradictory to the set in stone decision i had made for my life. it was as if fate reached down and jump-stared, or woke up, my biological clock. and i guess, as they say, you should never say never.

it was that night that i truly believe julia was conceived. it was her father's birthday and we had been out with friends until the wee hours, giggling and shushing each other as we stumbled into the house he lived in with his parents. we were trying to sneak into his bedroom, unnoticed by his notoriously light sleeper mother who would have frowned at me being in her house at such an hour, let alone in her youngest son's bedroom. it made no difference that he was 25 years old, she still saw him as a boy, and treated him accordingly.

i can recall lying in his bed staring up at the glow-in-the-dark constellation of stars as he snored asleep next to me, exhausted by the last gift i had given him for his birthday. i counted each star over and over again in an attempt to lull myself to sleep, and i wondered to myself that night if wishes on plastic ceiling stars counted; either way, i made a few wishes on them, just in case.

it was a few weeks later that the most dreaded girl fear surfaced. i was late. i stood in the bathroom and closed my eyes, going over the days in my head, counting backwards and then forwards, repeating them in an attempt to somehow come up with a different outcome. but, each time the days were the same, and there was no denying that i was definitely late. my best friend was sitting on the bed that faced the open bathroom door talking to me when i turned to look at her, a flash of panic painting hot across my skin. i told her what i suspected, and she jumped up and hugged me, then said with a bit of false bravado and assurance that she was sure it was something else, that i shouldn't worry. we took turns then coming up with possible reasons for it's tardy arrival; stress, just newly moved in with my boyfriend, allergies, change of job. we both knew right then, i think; at least i believe that deep down i knew, that i felt it somehow, and maybe those stars worked after all. but, was i ready for such a thing to be my reality? wishes were one thing, but did i honestly know what i'd asked the universe for?

a few days later i finally got up the courage to buy one of those home tests. my hands shook as i held the stick in my hand, waiting to see what color it would become. i joked that this was sort of like those mood rings we'd bought off one of the street vendors at venice beach, a touch of magic prediction using hue to designate what your mood was while wearing it. but, this answer would be about much more than a mood swing. the directions stated that you had to wait fifteen minutes for the most accurate of results, and those fifteen minutes felt like hours dragging by. i wondered how long it took for a rabbit to die, and pondered whether or not they really found out if you were knocked up that way; i laughed at the thought of a tri-state killing spree of rabbits, taken down by a wanted and well-known gang of pregnant mother's who shot at the innocent floppy-eared victims with water pistol's full of pregnancy pee. the most random things come to mind when you are waiting for your life to be changed drastically, or not.

i was flooded with relief when the color in front of me was the sign of a negative test. perhaps one of those fabricated life alibis had turned out to be true, maybe this was just stress, or a change in the weather, or something. though after the initial sense of relief subsided and settled a differing feeling emerged, and sat itself heavy in the pit of my stomach. i sat in the car outside of my work fighting back tears, my eyes stinging from the effort to keep them from tear-trickles escaping down my face. it was then i felt the shock of realizing that i was actually disappointed. it made no clear sense to be let down about this, i was barely able to support myself as it was, and my boyfriend and i were on very shaky ground with each other. two weeks prior we had moved into our apartment. it was a rash move, a burn yourself in the fire after tumbling out of the frying pan kind of decision we'd both jumped into fueled solely by our mutual desire to escape our parents. not once did we ever talk about wanting to share space with each other out of love, or even friendship. it was all just a stupid act of desperation.

after two weeks in together and i already knew it wasn't working, that it wasn't going to last, and that we as a couple were not making it. i was already preparing myself for the inevitable "this just isn't working out" talk that was creeping closer each day. it was looming over each of our heads like a cartoon drawn bubble that lets the reader in on the secret thoughts of some walking and talking bear, or a mouse donning a silly pair of red shorts. while i mentally readied myself for the on the horizon break-up i had been calculating the facts and figures, lining them up, and grimacing at the proof staring back at me that my record store paycheck was barely enough to keep me living, sharing the rent, much less on my own. so, why the tinges of loss? it was good news, the best really, exactly what i needed it to be.

two months later my period still hadn't arrived. i would walk around and wonder if something else was wrong with me, entertaining notions of incurable diseases and hospital beds, wondering if this was the life changing moment, but just in a much more dire way. fear kept me silent about this new current state of my body. i held the passing of each day inside, fooling myself into believing that if i did not say it aloud that whatever was possibly wrong with me would just disappear. it was a naive coping skill to shield myself from things that scared me more than any reality of being somebody's mother, and i was dealing with the seriousness and fear like a child who tucks their head beneath the covers as a false sense of security, convinced that they have rendered their bodies invisible; that what you cannot see could not possibly ever hurt you. it is amazing how you can trick your mind into all sorts of senses of folly, and denial.

when the next month passed i noticed a difference in my body, suddenly my pants were hard to button, and my unhealthy diet regime of coffee, diet coke, cigarettes and maybe one meal a day was not cutting it any longer. i would wake up in the morning ravenously hungry, eating uncharacteristic generous portions of breakfast, and then i would find myself just as starving a few hours later. i was not as daft and out of touch as this may all seem, i really wasn't, i think i just held on to that test's result as fact because i needed to believe in something, and denial can be a very powerful force to be reckoned with. deep down i knew that it was not some illness that was causing my body to change, or my emotions. my hands began to instinctively rest on my belly, and i would catch myself talking to an imagined baby inside of me, singing and telling it about my day, or about a film i had just watched.

his best friend was the first person that i confessed my suspicions to. i don't know why he was the first choice of who to say those words aloud to, but it just felt like he was the only person i could utter any of this to, at all. we were close, but not confidantes, yet i knew somehow i could trust him to keep the possibility to himself. and, i secretly hoped he could shed some insider's light on how he thought his friend might react to the news, if it was what i thought. i needed to have blueprints and plans of what to expect, something, anything to prepare myself with. his guess was wrong though, he thought his friend would take it well, and stand by my side in support. he was wrong. he did not take it well, at all.

the first words that my boyfriend said to me after a very long and uncomfortable silence was that this was not part of his plan for life. he explained that he planned to adopt a child someday, much like his idol john lennon claimed to have wanted to do, and that he had made that decision long ago and had no intention of changing it; he refused to accept a differing future. he told me in a very matter of fact tone that i simply was not pregnant, that it was impossible, and he would not accept it as truth. i countered his declaration immediately, my words running together, disjointed and jangly; my voice hot with anger and shock. i threw down a challenge for him to prove me wrong, a gauntlet laid between us in the shape of a family planning office. once again i was waiting for the color of fate to come in and change my life.

this time the results were a resounding "yes, yes, yes young lady, you are most definitely pregnant, just about five months pregnant, at that." i felt the undeniable rush of every emotion i think a body can ever contain meet up and run an indy 500 lap under my skin. my head felt light and fuzzy, my vision blurring slightly, and my heart pounding as hard and fast as some kind of rave thump beat spun across a dance floor. this was happening, i was actually somebody's mother. i looked over to see some kind of realization, or feeling, on his face. i was stupidly wishing to see something i could pin on a cloud of hope that this woudl be something he could find a way to be happy about. silently hoping that maybe we could find a way to make it work. i said, in a hushed tone to him "well, i guess you won't need to adopt now." my poor attempt at humor, tinted with sarcasm, an inherited family trait passed on by my mother and grandmother. the women in my family were ever expected to have inappropriate humor spill out when they were most afraid, or nervous. humor was definitely not the right thing for that moment though, at least not directed towards him. he stood there, unmoving, staring at me in response with a look of such cold blank emptiness that i felt physically chilled to the bone, and suddenly, overwhelmingly alone.

he spoke in steady, flat and emotionless tones; droning over me like the charlie brown voice-over parents that we never could understand, or even believed existed. his intentions were clear and concise, this was not something he had any intention of being a part of, and he told me that he trusted that the only decision to be made was obvious. an appointment was to be made, and then soon enough this momentary falter of ours would be gone, and not brought up ever again. he grabbed my hand and led me over to the counter, asking for the appropriate papers that would need to be filled out and signed, and he set a date for the week following for me to come in and have this situation taken care of. i remember my body feeling paralyzed in disbelief, my feet heavy and immobile, my words stuck thick in the back of my throat, and my head throbbing in pain. i had that same overwhelming helpless feeling like from those repeated nightmares of not being able to keep a child safe from harm. i felt all sense of control or strength being pulled from me with each and every exchange of words that passed between the slid open window that separated us from the nasally voiced girl on the other side. she kept repeating directions of what i would need to do, and reminding my boyfriend again that i was not to come here alone.

i began to silently count the criss-crossed intersection of lines that patterned the wallpaper, trying to find a way to disappear right there into the orderly design, to find a way to make this all just go away.

after we drove home in silence i told him i had to go to my mom's, blurting out some story about promising to help her clean out closets, or some such laughable project that my mom and i would honestly never do together. i wasn't really sure i'd even end up there as i drove away. i did not know if this would be one of those times of disappointment when i let myself really need her to be strong for me, to make it all better, or at least just listen and only be met with the reality that she was just not able to be that for me, not when i needed her to, at least. but, it has been my experience that no matter how dysfunctional or distant our relationships are with our mothers, we all have at least once experienced something that hits us so hard that all we really want is that childlike security of our mother's love.

i did end up there eventually that day, after hours of driving around aimlessly, playing music as loud as i could stand it, until the speakers crackled and spit back at me in defiance. i sang until my throat hurt and my mouth went dry. i think i was trying to throw myself into the songs i was singing, spin around in them and find what i needed in the sounds, and in the lyrics. finding answers in music was something i had always turned to, the one place i trusted, and was never let down by a song i loved, ever.

i drove past the beach and decided to stop and pull over, parking the car so i was facing the ocean, rolling down the windows so i could breathe in deeply the salty sea air. i could feel it fill me up and begin to clear my head as i sat there, unmoving. time felt as if it was frozen still and stopped, my eyes fixed on the ebb and flow of the tide, letting myself become hypnotized by the soothing rhythm of the waves. eventually i stepped out of the car, threw my shoes into the backseat, and walked barefoot across the sand. when i reached the water i waded in it until i was knee-deep, the hem of my skirt getting soaked and salt-sticky, clinging to my legs. i felt drawn to the water, my legs turned heavy, and i was filled with the desire to just drop and let the water take me in; the pull to go was almost too strong to fight against. eventually, though, i offered the ocean a compromise. i fell down onto my hands and knees, letting the water soak my clothes, the chill of the pacific turning my skin pale and prickle sharp. the spray of the waves danced across my face and shoulders, and it was right then that i screamed into the water. the scream was filled with everything i had. a long, loud guttural wail that did not even sound like anything that could possibly come from my mouth; but it did.

when my lips finally closed and pressed together, when there was no more sound left in my body, i stood back up and felt a rush of electric current pulse through my veins. i felt stronger, more alive. tears streamed down my face without any care or control, i stopped trying to hold them back and just allowed myself to cry. the tears dried up and turned to intermittent sighs and soft sobs by the time i reached the familiar turn of streets and blocks, leading into the neighborhood that i grew up in. i wiped my face and rubbed at my eyes, blinking away my distorted vision, as i walked up the driveway towards my childhood home.

they say when you have a near death experience that your life flashes before your eyes. i always imagined it to be something like the click of a film strip, like those safety ones, or the "you are becoming a woman...here comes puberty" films we all had to suffer through in junior high school. or maybe it is more on the lines of a music video, you know the ones that flip between flashbacks and now. they are predictable in their storytelling progression. they go something like this: girl meets boy with guitar, click to first kiss between boy and girl, then another click to boy caught with groupie confrontation. skip on ahead to the girl for some random reason lying atop a car dressed in a skimpy bikini, then click a tragic accident befalls the girl and regretful boy with guitar leans sadly over her grave, skip on to the end where boy writes this very song for the girl. i know that i'd prefer at that moment before death to have my life flash by accompanied by a running soundtrack; it would not seem like my life if it didn't have music playing along, actually.

but, i digress.

at that precise moment of walking up the uneven driveway i was filled with a sort of sense memory overload. i could almost smell the fresh cut grass being dampened by the sprinklers on a hot summer day, my friends and i running through them. i could just about feel the grit and cold, damp sensation of soil with the occasional worm as i sat cross-legged by my mom, planting our first garden in the side yard. i felt as if i could lean in a bit closer and make out the sounds of duran duran coming from a long gone turntable, the same album that was played countless times over and over again, that initial scratch and whir of the needle when you first set it down on the vinyl and it started to spin around. i could almost see my bedroom window propped open with stacks of books, and my best friend and i, our teenage voices in unison singing along inside. it was as if i could feel my entire childhood blowing circles around me, and slipping softly inside of me, flooding me with an overwhelming flush of remember. the strange thing was that most times when i looked back on my childhood it was the pain i remembered. but that day, right then, the memories that came to me were all good ones, memories of laughter and peace, playful abandon, and song.

i think it was at that very moment that my decision was made, that i knew without a shred of a doubt what i would do, and i did not pause for a moment to care what he thought of it, or what anyone else thought about it either. i was going to have a baby, and i was thrilled, and scared as hell. but, i was sure of it, i was going to be somebody's mother.

9 comments:

BeachBum said...

Stunning entry. I just spent 15 minutes reading this instead doing actual work. To say this was a much better way to spend my time is an understatement.

Keep up the great work!

lucy said...

thank you so much. this piece means quite a lot to me considering it is about my daughter.

i really appreciate you taking the time to read it (it is a long piece), and giving your feedback.

kathleen said...

The story that surrounds the conception of a child... if they knew the truth of things during that time. And we moms spin a tale round each illuminated detail, whether it be the smallest or darkest. And no matter spinning them into tales of love;the heavy overlooked, and the bright shining through.
I had forgotten everything but the child laying on me. No fear, no doubt, just love in human form,.. life shared until they were ready to go on their own.

Mine laugh heartily, still oblivious to the heavy of facts.
Course, I had the strangest births.

Michal is still intoxicating.... she melted alot of people, that baby.

kathleen said...

Jules has been such a blessing.

lucy said...

michal did melt a lot of people, and yes, i agree. when she was born most of that fear was gone.

and yes, mother's like to spin a tale, and her birthday nearing made me think on it more. some things i had forgotten, and others are vivid.

sixteen...i can hardly believe it. and yes, she has been such a blessing.

Kate said...

16 oi. I remember her little crooked nose. And her dresses.

Awww.. how can she be that old.

Kate said...

thoguh now how's she's grown into a beautiful young woman... the the friend she is to me...boys, makeup, sharing... damn you did good.

lucy said...

she adores you, and looks up to you in so many ways.

Tom said...

This was such a great piece. Sixteen? Really? I know I haven't known you that long but it seems like just the other day I was reading your posts about her in middle school.