It’s Jasper birthday today. He’s three. Don’t tell him that, though.
Me, this morning: “Is it your birthday today, Jasper? Happy birthday!”
Jasper: “No, Mommy, not my birthday. YOUR birthday.” He’s close: my birthday is just a couple of days away. Still, you’d think that the child would be kinda pleased about having a birthday. Birthdays are awesome when you’re a kid. Less so once you’re a grown-up, but still.
Me: “No, baby. It’s YOUR birthday. You’re three! Happy birthday!”
Jasper: “NO, Mommy, I NOT. IS NOT MY BIRTHDAY.”
I think that Mother’s Day is as good a time as any to break out the heavy emotional artillery, don’t you?
I can’t say that I regret having had an abortion, but I also can’t say that I don’t. It’s complicated. Its complicatedness sometimes hurts my heart. Which is precisely why people talk about the emotional consequences of abortion. Because many women find, like I did, that their hearts hurt. Because many women struggle to figure out how to reconcile the complicated tension between regret and not-regret and find that they’re unable, and because many women do so while bearing their children, their wanted children, in arms.
I should know by now that when my sister posts on my Facebook wall, it’s a bad sign, because my sister – bless her – believes that Facebook is the best way to reach me when there’s something urgent to communicate. That she could also reach me by phone or email – I’ll grant that I do not always answer my phone, but I do check my email regularly, and in fact only get Facebook messages through email, because I ALMOST NEVER GO ON FACEBOOK – is a detail of modern telecommunications that she has chosen to ignore. She alerted me through Facebook that I needed to call her when my grandfather died, and then again when my dad died, and – here we get to the thing that I really want to talk about – again last night when I needed to be informed that our mom has an aneurysm that is growing at an alarming rate and needs to be surgically removed at the earliest opportunity but, oh god, the doctors aren’t sure her heart can handle it and all of this was signaled to me by a public Facebook posting of CATHY YOU NEED TO CALL ME OR MOM. And then: LIKE, TONIGHT.
So, yeah. This is why I don’t like getting Facebook messages from my sister, who I otherwise adore. When those messages landed in my inbox, my heart dropped, and it dropped hard.
At the closing keynote session at the Mom 2.0 Summit the other week they showed a promotional clip for Oprah’s new network. In it, Oprah made a few remarks about why she never had children. “I realized that I didn’t want to make the sacrifice,” she said, “and motherhood is about sacrifice.”
Ugh, I thought. Sacrifice. I like the word sacrifice about as much as I like the word ‘goatspit’, which is to say, not at all. The word ‘sacrifice’ makes me think of ancient Spartan war rituals and that one Indiana Jones movie where that they tore out people’s hearts and flung them into pits of fire, which, sure, is maybe an appropriate analogy for parenthood some days, but still.
Emilia likes to make cards. She has a basket filled with stickers and glue and ribbon and glitter and discarded Hallmark product and she draws upon the contents of that basket frequently to craft fancifully illustrated and elaborately decorated cartes de voeux for every occasion, including but not limited to birthdays, holidays, dinnertime, bedtime, breakfast and the weekend, and expressing sentiments ranging from thanks for the pancakes, congratulations on picking me up from school, condolences on having your Macbook scribbled upon with crayon, I’m sorry that I scribbled on your Macbook with crayon, I love you even though you got mad that I scribbled on your Macbook with crayon, to my favorite, ‘RJOV‘, which you might think is some obscure Latin acronym but actually means ‘I love you’ in the code of the five year old who lacks sufficient vowels in her alphabet sticker supply (‘the J looks like an L Mommy if you look at it backwards and also I didn’t have an E’. She didn’t say what the ‘R’ represents. I’m choosing to go with ROCKSTAR.)
A few weeks ago at SXSW in Austin, Texas, the lovely Karen Walrond sat me down and asked me a few questions about heartbreak. Not about the sad and the terrible and the woe-is-me of heartbreak, but about the beauty of heartbreak. And it was a wonderful and, I think, important conversation, because there is beauty in heartbreak, such that it’s actually misleading to call that exercising of the heart a break. The heart never really breaks. It pulls and stretches and moves and expands, and that movement can hurt terribly, but it’s not a movement toward breaking. The heart is not bone or ceramic or glass, Debbie Harry’s assertions notwithstanding. The heart, as I’ve said before, is a muscle. Its movements are extraordinary, even when they hurt. I needed to remind myself of that.