“I love you, mommy,” he says with a dimpled smile as he turns to walk into the school building. My beautiful boy is six years old and starting school this year. There’s a smudge of pinkish red on his cheek where I’ve left an imprint of my lips. I wonder if, like me at that age, he’ll resist the teasing of the other children and leave it on all day or if he’ll succumb to their peer pressure and wipe it off.
His lovely dark brown curls bounce as he runs into the school building sporting a Batman backpack, little hands clutching at a lunch pail with the Transformers on it that he just had to have.
He’s beautiful to my mind’s eye, this cheerful little boy of mine. Skin darker than my own, but much lighter than his father’s, his eyes are shaped like mine. I imagine that he’s got cherubic cheeks and full lips, his little body still hanging onto that baby fat. He’s still my baby.
Oh, how I wished he was here sometimes.
I had my initial screening appointment with the VA today to talk about “my trauma,” which apparently includes everything from a childhood cut short by my mother’s illness to multiple incidences of rape and domestic abuse. I kept a straight face through most of it and didn’t cry at all during the interview, though I did tear up at one point.
The point where we talked about my baby. They baby that never was.
Right after my mother died, I was in dire straights. I was isolated in a foreign country with nobody around me who loved me. I was severely depressed and in need of comfort and care.
There was a man I knew with whom I had previous sexual experience. There wasn’t really anything seriously intimate about our relationship, as he had a girlfriend (who knew about me and was okay with the situation) and he & I hadn’t really spent much time together, other than our brief liaisons.
One night he messaged me asking if I would come over. I resisted until he said the magic words, something to the effect of, “I truly care about you.” I distinctly remember the “L word” being tossed in there. The big one. And even though I had resisted, he said the words I so desperately wanted to be true. So I went to him. I don’t think he realized the head space I was in, or the effect his words had on me.
After we finished the first time, he took off his condom and started to come back down to me again. I pushed him away and told him that we couldn’t do it again without a condom. He brushed aside my concerns and said that there was still spermicide on him and that would take care of any sperm that were still in evidence. Also, he added, since he had already come, he wouldn’t be coming again inside me.
I let him in.
And I became pregnant.
Of course, I didn’t find out immediately. I actually didn’t find out until after I had started dating another man, who would later become my fiance.
When I found out, I was a month into my pregnancy and freaking out. If I kept the baby, I would be sent away from my base to come to the States, where we had facilities set up for families. If I kept the baby, it could ruin the fledgling relationship I had and the one my child’s father was in with the woman to whom he is now married. If I kept the baby, my family would never accept it, as it was half black, and coming from East Texas, we just don’t do things like that. My child and I would be outcasts in our family. Most importantly, if I kept the baby, I would be an unfit mother. I was sunk deep into depression over the loss of my mother and my emotional isolation, and I didn’t have the kind of money I thought I would need to raise a child on my own.
And so I made a very difficult decision. I terminated my pregnancy. I decided to let go of the little one nestled so deep inside me. At the time, it seemed like the only decision I could make. At the time, I felt I had no choice.
To do so required that I leave the country I was in. This was no easy feat, as I would also be required to fill out leave paperwork and I had used all my leave (and then some) to spend with family after my mother passed. My then boyfriend came to my rescue and arranged everything so that no one, not even my direct supervisor or the fetus’s father knew the truth of what was happening. I was terrified of anyone finding out because of the circumstances and the fact that I had a friend who had ended up in a similar position. She came back from her termination to find that someone had drawn a dead baby with a knife through its heart on her bedroom door.
Now, years later, I’m going through everything that has happened. I consider this to be a traumatic event to me. I’m still not clear where it lies on the consent scale. I think that if only I had been in my right mind, had been more firm and refused to go over to his house, or communicated more clearly that I hadn’t been on birth control since I came back from my mom’s funeral, that maybe it wouldn’t have happened. I feel complicit and horrible in my actions. I wonder how he sees it, or if he even thinks about it anymore.
Today, I talked about this to the therapist screening me to see if I did indeed meet the criteria for traumatic sexual experiences in the military, this and many other things. We ran over time, into her next appointment and made plans for me to be contacted by the women’s trauma clinic within the week to start therapy for this and other things.
I went to a friend’s house to have some tea and get a hug, then went to work.
I left work early, and came home to get a shower and try to relax, hoping that the horrible nausea would go away. Relaxing just opened the floodgates I didn’t even realize I had locked down.
“Dear God,” I pray, kneeling in the shower, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me for what I did. Baby, I’m so sorry. Mommy loves you so much. She wishes things could have been different.”
In my head, I hear a small, understanding voice telling me that he loves me too, and phantom arms wrap around my neck and hold on tight, telling me that everything is going to be alright, just as I used to reassure my mom.
I wonder how she felt, years after her boyfriend brutally raped and beat her, then forced her to get an abortion. Did she regret her decision? Did it haunt her when she found out she could no longer have children? Sooner? I’ll never know for sure.
For now, I sit here and think about my life’s choices and how they led me to this conjuncture and I cry. I mourn the loss of the child that never made it beyond the size of a bean, who would be going into elementary school this year, my beautiful baby of whom I dreamed before I knew of his existence.
“I love you, mommy,” he says to me with a smile as his phantom arms squeeze my neck. I only hope that wherever his spirit is, my mom is able to spoil him as she never will with my other children, that she’s taking care of him and making sure he knows his mother’s love for him, and his Nanaw’s love, and he knows that it’s irrevocable and unconditional. I wish I had been stronger for him.
I’m so, so sorry, baby. Mommy loves you so much.