I suddenly remembered moving our things into this house while Erik rested deathly still inside of my belly. I remember the dreams I had back then and how proud I was to tell our new neighbor that we had a bun in the oven (I have always detested that expression but was so delirious that I used it the first day I met them). God, I loved being pregnant. I have never been so utterly, ridiculously happy. People probably thought I was sniffing glue all of the time. Yeah, I was that happy.
What the hell happened to that girl?
Today I found myself wanting to shut the front door to the house and hide behind it. More than I already do these days.
Today was bad.
I tried so hard to get Erik to pick his coat off the floor at school when we arrived, but he couldn't seem to hear me around the other children. Seriously. Complete deafness. He still doesn't understand how to hang up his backpack. After school he staggered and fell off the bus, frightened of the noises the old-fashioned metal fan above the driver's head made. He had asked her to turn it on as he was leaving, and she did, not expecting his startled reaction. She saw his face and quickly promised him she would never, EVER turn it on again, but he was so scared he jumped off the chunky steps right into the air without a second thought. Like a frightened animal. I caught him in my arms, and he struggled to get out of my grip. I almost miss the days he used to let out a simple wail when he heard a noise. He began the repetitious, frantic chanting. "Turn on the fan. Turn on the fan. Turn on the fan." Even though that was the last thing he wanted. She then tried to strap his backpack on over his arms, but I know there is no point. At these moments, I feel like screaming. The bag will sag off his shoulders to the ground, and he will leave it behind without knowing it was even there in the first place.
We finally made it inside the house, and I chopped his peanut butter and jelly sandwich into tiny pieces. He crammed all of them in his mouth, anyway, before he started to gag on them and extracted them out with both hands, spitting them out on his placemat in a slimy, solid bolus for me to clean up. This was after I stood next to him and coached him for five minutes to take small bites. These days he insists on fighting me every step of the way, yelling NO at everything I suggest and asking me thousands of times if he gets to see his grandparents, no matter how many times I tell him the answer. I tried to play with him today, knowing I was only torturing myself. The little moments of connecting with him here and there are sometimes not enough for me. I tried to get him to lead me in the silliness of his choosing, knowing it would fail and leave me more depressed. Instead, he scattered the toys I offered to him all over the floor and left. He would much rather empty my candle cabinet and spin and roll votives around for hours at a time with bright red, wet streaks forming behind him from the toes that don't have normal skin on them to keep the blood on the inside where it belongs. On dark days, I pack frequently discarded toys into boxes and take them to Goodwill or to his school for the children who like them. I can't even bear to look at them.
I hate toys.
I hate playgrounds.
I hate baby showers.
I hate birthday parties.
I hate classrooms.
I HATE THEM.
I hate the fact I want more moments of normal. I also hate the fact I have no desire to get pregnant and do this all over again. But I don't. I simply don't have baby-related dreams anymore. They're history and have been for years. I don't want to pretend I'm not afraid of finding myself rolling around on an ultrasound table in agony experiencing yet one more miscarriage or delivering a child with another chromosomal abnormality. Of failing one more time as a woman to do what should come naturally.
Here's the thing, though: I just don't want to.
Even if I did, everything in my gut screams me to stop. Instead, I want to try to move on and find new dreams that will make ME happy. There is nothing more maddening to be immersed in people who tell you what you should want. What you should do. If you do not want the same things, eventually you begin to wonder what is defective in yourself. And that is not good. I'm tired of explaining myself to people who don't understand. Of defending myself.
I hate the hurt that this decision creates around me in people I love who must remember the girl that used to have traditional dreams. I turned 38 this summer. I hate aging, knowing I might someday be an old woman who might wonder "What if?" Will I hate myself for it later? I honestly doubt it. I am that certain about my instincts. Besides, my pockets are already crammed full of WHAT IFS, and they don't do anything but weigh me down and threaten to help me drown.
Sitting there on the steps, I began a weak attempt to list the good things that have come with the weird directions my life has gone. Nothing (and I mean NOTHING) turned out the way I thought it would, but it's not all bad, I guess. I'm lonely sometimes. I'm horribly depressed sometimes. I find myself incredibly angry sometimes. On days like today. But I can still count my blessings. I have lots of them. They are just more difficult to visualize when the pain in my heart has me doubled over and I'm looking at the ground. I want to curl up in a ball and tend to my wounds on days like today. Autumn is a hard season for me, anyway, because it reminds me of the end of my first pregnancy.
I can count my blessings. And I will do that tomorrow.
But right now I just don't want to.