Annual Vigil

Tomorrow is the first day of my labor anniversary. Each year I hold a kind of vigil over the four days and nights between the onset of my labor (6 am on Sept 1st) and the birth of my son (8:04 am on the 5th). I make sure his birthday is a happy, celebratory day but I carve a small space in the days before for my sadness. 

No one warned me that pregnancy would disable me, that it would move my arthritis and other conditions from “manageable” to “not”. I didn’t know I would begin getting cavities for the first time in my life, or that my hip would dislocate during pushing. I resent not having an informed choice, or even fair warning. 

A 98 hour labor stays with you. It’s not the kind of thing you forget. In the early years my vigil was mostly about that, about the expectations I had and the failure I felt like.  It took me a few years to move past the trauma of it, and I didn’t really feel “safe” from a repeat experience until I terminated my second pregnancy. 

Then I spent a few years working through my shame over my choice of husband. His useless and bad behavior was something I carried the guilt for, and it took some time to stop cleaning his messes. I wished I’d gotten pregnant by a better man, but then that baby wouldn’t really be my son, would not be the same person at all. And I definitely don’t want to trade my child in for some other. 

This year I’m learning to accept that I came out too late to avoid hetero marriage and the associated domestic violence, but that if I’d come out any sooner, I wouldn’t have this child. I would not have the trauma of that 98 hour labor, nor the intimate joy of growing him in my womb. 

I can’t keep the baby but throw out that old bathwater. I can’t have this child but not that closet, that ex, that four day birth. And I love him so much, his place in my life is so important, I find I can cope with the worst things I’ve lived through, because that’s what it took to get him 

I grieve each year for what I’ve lost, but I know it’s a price I would willingly pay again to be his mother. 

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