One of the reasons I keep doing the self portrait challenge is that I like the way it makes me think on a theme for a month and then takes my writing and photos somewhere out of the routine of daily life. Yet sometimes it all intersects. Grace's second birthday is in less than a week and I find myself reflecting somewhat on my journey as a mother, how I got to be here, living this life with my precious and beautiful daughter and her Dad. This month's theme is the body and I started thinking of those parts inside of me that make life and I thought, wow wouldn't it be great to look inside. Then I remembered that I had, on maybe thirty occasions, and it wasn't always that great. Grace was born when I was 41 and is the result of my seventh pregnancy.
The first time I got pregnant, when our love was still young and when I hadn't really figured out that love could poke holes in your contraceptive resolve, it was all over within a week of taking the test. I imagine we might have kept on with the pregnancy but with the next one everything seemed shakier, so we didn't. I just couldn't see how people like us could be parents. Then followed a year of blackness when we battled our demons and ultimately became stronger as a couple, became people who could make a go of family life. Finding out that I was pregnant in 2002 was joyous for us, our families and our friends.
Our son, Frank was born just short of twenty weeks gestation, after a decision that I still find it hard to be at ease with. So coming up to Grace's birthday, there's this uncomfortable thought that comes sneaking into my mind that if things had gone as they should have, if there hadn't been all that sorrow on the way, then we mightn't have this Grace living amongst us. Then there's this other thought, that maybe she should have an older brother. But then we might not have had her. And I have to stop thinking because if I do, I can't bear it. Not any of it.
After our son was born, I had another two pregnancies in quick succession, both babies died inside me, one too early to tell and one of gentic causes. We found out that I have a blood antibody which causes clotting and miscarriage (and is helped by aspirin of all things). So I had my age and my blood working against this desire for motherhood, an urge that sometimes consumed every single part of me. My body was racing towars the reproductive finish line and could do nothing right. Could not do this one simple thing (really, I know it's not simple, not at all) and make me a mother, make us a family. I tried to let it go and then became pregnant again, another genetic disorder, another baby dying inside me. Was it my former lifestyle? Too much pot, acid, speed, party drugs? The doctors always said no, and I saw other women who did the same or worse have succesful pregnancies, even before they had left that lifestyle behind, which I already had. No, it was my body, something wrong inside me. In a place we kept looking at but couldn't change.
So when on holidays in 2004, I accidentally became pregnant with Grace, I held my breath everytime I got up on the ultrasound bed. Steeling myself for bad news and being shunted off into the quiet room with the tissues while we waited for the doctor to come and arrange the next step. In the six weeks up until the thirteenth week, I had an ultrasound every Thursday and I always took someone to the hospital with me. Just in case. Each time we saw the little beating heart, I breathed a little easier. And when she was born in April 2005 (birth story to come later this week), wow and double wow, I knew that I would always love my belly. No matter how wobbly it gets.
Explore the world of bodies here.