The Moment I Stopped Apologizing for Being Human
Thinking back on it now, it was silly of my husband and I to think I would not get pregnant. After having been on the birth control pill for over a decade because of heavy bleeding and painful cramps, I decided to take a break from it to see if I could endure my periods without it. So many couples around us were desperate to get pregnant, having such difficulty conceiving, we thought surely it would not and could not happen so easily for us. If anything, we thought maybe it would take us more than a year after getting off of the pill to get pregnant, but hopefully we wouldn’t at all. We had always been on the same page about it since we had started dating - we hoped that parenthood wasn’t in our future.
But we were very wrong.
After three pregnancy tests, all confirming what I was dreading, I still could not accept that a life was growing inside of me. I could not believe I was pregnant even as I looked at the sonogram because all it showed was a small dot, a sac, not yet a fetus. It wasn’t until I heard the heartbeat that I could not deny that this new life was all too real. I didn’t hope for miscarriage but I clung to the fact that it was a possibility before the first trimester. Then the morning sickness started and it got worse, and worse, and worse. I knew it was a sign that this baby was growing healthy and strong; he was to be born no matter how I felt about it.
The guilt of not wanting my baby was heavy. I, married to a wonderful man who I was sure would also be wonderful dad (and I was right!), with the means to raise him, the capacity to love him, did not want motherhood to be a part of my life. The shame of feeling so selfish was burdensome. I carried it throughout my entire pregnancy.
At our 20 week sonogram appointment, we found out that our baby, with his legs spread wide, was a boy. My mom was with us. On the screen, she saw him breathe the amniotic fluid in and out. She gasped. She held my hand tightly. She heard his heartbeat. She wept. She squeezed my hand even more tightly. Maybe she cried because she knew that she would never get to hold her grandson; maybe she knew this would be the closest she would ever get to that. I wish I had asked, but it would only have confirmed for me my deepest fear of her dying, and even worse - her passing away before the birth.
When my mom passed away after 8 years of battling colorectal cancer, I was 27 weeks along. I was devastated and heartbroken, filled with the agony that is grief. Grief is eating but never feeling satisfied, sleeping but always being tired, smiling for others while weeping silently in the corner.
While pregnant, I often felt guilt and shame for not wanting our babe in the first place, and then for bringing him into our messy lives while at the beginning of grieving my mom. But when I held Abe in my arms for the first time, I couldn’t help but stare in awe at him, to want the best for him. The guilt and shame from not wanting him to the love I now felt for this beautiful baby boy in my arms was overwhelmingly redemptive. And I knew that meant I needed to start unpacking and processing my grief for my mental and emotional health. Our son’s well-being, the strength of our marriage, and our family depends on it.
This babe I did not want, that I did not ask for, gave me permission to let go of my mom, to grieve, and to heal. I was no longer just a daughter but also his mother. I had the choice to either let my grief consume me into sadness or process and accept it as part of my life. He was exactly what I needed to show me healing was possible if I allowed myself to do so.
Though grief will always be present in my life, I am allowed to process and move forward while acknowledging the empty part of my heart my mom took with her. She can be honored and I can move on simultaneously; it is not either/or.
The first year of her being gone was anxiety-ridden. The anticipation of each first milestone made me anxious because I did not know how I would feel come that day. I cried and cried everyday for the first couple of months postpartum. My hormones in addition to the emotional labor that comes with being a new mom was too much to bear at times while I longed for my own mother.
What got me through the first year was crying when emotions hit me instead of holding it in, verbalizing my feelings to my husband and trusted friends, and seeing a counselor regularly. Most important of all, I gave myself permission to be sad instead of feeling guilty or ashamed about making others uncomfortable with my sadness.
There is so much freedom from guilt and shame when you stop apologizing about being human.
It’s human to be sad and to grieve a loved one.
It’s human to laugh and find joy despite great pain and sorrow.
It’s human to love and want to be loved.
We are all human.
And that is beautiful.