Coming home from the post office yesterday morning, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting a bear cub. Let me say that again. There was a bear. In the road. You know, those big furry lumbering things that live at the Bronx zoo? Turns out, most bears are not native New Yorkers. Turns out, they ARE native to our back yard. I suppose it’s their yard though, isn’t it..we’re just squatting.
Jen. You know I love you.
No good sentence has ever begun this way
But you’re not thinking clearly. Do you really want this reminder everyday for the rest of your life? This is exactly why we HAVE abortions. No one will blame you.
Believe it or not, this decision is based on more than a fear of who might place blame where.
She tries again. Speaking slowly the way one might upon realizing they’re trying to rationalize with the utterly irrational. In case I’ve reached a level of crazy that might lend itself to homicide. She’s about to play her trump card and it’s one I’ll have laid before me more than once in the upcoming months.
You’ll never be able to forget.
No. No, I won’t. Baby or no baby, I don’t think that forgetting is very likely.
But I will be able to move on.
There is dark, and there is mountain dark. In mountain dark, you might be the only one in the world. It is a viscous velvet, rich. Standing outside, I’m enveloped in this cloak of invisibility and I disappear. I can find my way out but I cannot be found. I’m not scared. I am safe. Even knowing about the bears doesn’t make me nervous, though it probably should.
The first thing you have to do is have an abortion.
I’m walking in an aimless circle around our neighborhood in suburban North Carolina. It’s cold but sunny and the chill is tolerable. Young children are shrieking about everything that is happy shriek-worthy in their universe, teenagers have planted themselves in sullen clumps on the sidewalk shuffling around to keep warm, too cool for coats, and parents arriving home late from work overtaxed and exhausted are ordering pizza from the locally owned “Michelangelo’s” (home of one amazing cannoli.)
It all appears very status quo..
For me? Well. I’ve been living far outside any semblance of a status quo for months. And now I’m on the phone telling my mother that I’m pregnant again. Only this time..
Jennifer. You need to get an abortion.
My silence is unnerving to her. She knows what it means.
Your body is not strong enough to sustain a pregnancy. You barely made it through last time. And that was almost a decade ago!
She’s not wrong about my physical limitations or the fraught with complications pregnancy nine years ago. The one from which my body hadn’t yet recovered. Between then and now there was another relapse into anorexia, a spring and summer of inpatient treatment. I know her concerns for me continuing with this pregnancy are not limited to the hardship on my body. Then:
“You do not need five children.”
It should be noted that she said the exact same thing when we told her about number four. And come to think of it, number three.
I’m my mother’s only. She doesn’t quite get the appeal of a large family. It’s all too…TOO. Noise and mess and activity. She can’t deal. It’s not for everybody.
“God will understand.”
I love my mom. I know at this moment just how scared she is for me. For her to bring deity into the conversation…
She is not a believer and simultaneously not NOT a believer. She says she has her own relationship with God and it’s none of anyone’s business especially bible-thumpers like me. This is said playfully although she isn’t really kidding.
How can I make her understand? I’m not keeping the baby out of some sense of religious obligation. Not fear of eternal repercussions. It isn’t about morality or politics or even trying to atone for past sins. How do I explain that there simply isn’t a choice to be made. Like breathing or blinking. There’s a baby on the way, herego, I am having a baby.
“Please..please think about it. You’ll have this reminder forever.”
It’ll be okay, Mom.
This is something that I know. If nothing else.
It’ll be okay.
There is no neighborhood to walk about now. Our home is nestled amid several acres of wooded hillside. Every half mile , give or take, there are other homes. Now that spring has sprung, some afternoons I’ll strap Josh to my chest and we’ll go exploring. We both stare in wonder at the rolling hills and valleys and smoky mountain peaks that he will grow up calling home. He babbles and grins at the meadows dotted with languid, lowing cows or cantering horses. His chubby little legs kick when we stop to watch the baby goats buck and bounce against each other. Because the last thing we need are goats, there is serious talk about getting a few in the upcoming weeks. We see donkeys and alpacas and chickens and occasionally a truck rumbles by and we get a wave and a smile. Because it’s that kind of place.
I am moving on.
For better and for worse, nothing is as it was.
I have not forgotten. The reminders everyone was so concerned with, are everywhere.
Air so crisp and cool that even though it’s almost May, I light the fireplace in my bedroom most mornings.
A forty minute drive to the nearest grocery store every time we forget to pick up diapers or milk.
The sound of distant gunshots that aren’t cause for alarm for anyone not sporting antlers.
And there is Joshua.
His presence reminds me..of course it does.
When I scoop him up in my arms, I am reminded of how I triumphed over the evil that could have destroyed me.
When he puts his tiny hands on either side of my face and looks into my eyes, I am reminded of my terrific vulnerability and God’s protection.
When I see him sleeping, thumb in his mouth, bottom up in the air like a little stinkbug, I am so hopelessly in love and filled with such a physical yearning to keep him safe, that I am reminded of the One who loved me enough to lay it all down. To suffer and die so I might live.
I am , daily, reminded of who and whose I am. The depths from which I was pulled, the heights in my future that I never before imagined I could reach.
As was told to me so often, I will not forget, cannot forget, don’t want to ever forget, that one dark and blustery January afternoon last year, Someone found me worthy of saving. Worthy of another chance. Of a new life.
And that. That’s the reminder I have in my son.
Well, in him, and the occasional bear cub.