You weren’t an accident, but you were a surprise.
I inherited my grandmother’s wispy hair and whimsical ways, but not her womb. Her womb was a fickle place. It tossed out six babies before it let one stay long enough to grow its own lungs and take its own breath. She died six deaths before she was born a mother. And then she was born again. And again. And again. And the third baby, Sara, she named as an act of forgiveness.
Her mother was Sarah too, my great-grandmother, and that Sarah gave birth to nothing but sorrow in the form of a premature baby girl who kept on breathing despite her mother’s wishes. That little thing, my little grandmother, was kept alive with nothin’ but 20-watt light bulbs and hot water bottles in a dresser drawer while Sarah ached in bed, a bed she shared with a drunkard 13 years her senior, a bed she’d made and now had to lie in. She named the baby Lois after a sister she hated, an act of spite, and she raised that little Lois in the wing of her war, lovin’ and hatin’ down a raging river of boulders and brokenness.
My mother, the second Sara, spent three years before I turned up wondering why her womb stayed empty, echoing dull, lonely songs that got louder as the seasons changed and stung the space when other people announced happy news, even people she loved, waiting for what seemed like more and more of a miracle the more and more time passed, like Old Testament Sarah, like Lois, like so many others.
I was sure I’d inherited that waiting game. I planned for it, calculating how much time we’d need to “try” before the fertility specialists would touch me, factoring waiting into my plans like a traveler ready for the worst of traffic jams on the way to the plane. The right plane. The one you get on when you’re good and ready to go.
But that’s not how it worked.
As soon as I left those little white pills in the case, there you were, alive in my womb growing your own lungs, kicking my arms every time I folded them across my chest, resting them on my stomach in an effort to control my panic. I didn’t know if I was ready to be born a mother or if now was a good time, but the plane was in the air, flying over the world I’d walked on, headed to a place I did not know. And there was only one way down, just one way down for me, me and the wanton womb I’d come into by way of Sarah-the-first by surprise.
I’m a sturdy girl—athletic enough, tall enough, fit-looking enough. But I have a history of weakness. I fainted a lot growing up getting shots, thinking about getting shots, giving blood, thinking about giving blood. I got light-headed every time I watched someone use a pizza cutter, the kind that rolls like a terrifying miniature table saw. You know the kind. There’s nothing worse than a blade on a wheel, except maybe a guillotine. Studying the French Revolution in history class? Yep. Passed out then too. In my family, I’m known as something of a drama queen when it comes to pain tolerance. I hear that story about the boy who cried wolf more times than I can say. I’m picked last in a hypothetical fight club we joke about as college roommates. I’m picked last, because everybody knows that I am weaker than I look.
They’re teasing me, always teasing. It’s a joke. Don’t you get it? It’s a joke. It’s a joke. It’s …
It’s not a joke. It’s the truth. At least it’s the truth that I’ve let in. And now it’s there in my womb growing with you, crowding out the both of us. And there’s only one way to get it out, just one way out for me, but I am scared to land this plane. I’ve never landed a plane before.
And I don’t know what it’s like where we’re going or if weakness is something I could pass down to you like the state of my womb, or maybe like wombs, weakness skips a few generations. I don’t know, little girl. But I know that we’re movin’ along together, looking out the window as the world changes below us, passin’ over raging rivers of boulders and brokenness, and I am feedin’ on the light comin’ in through that window.
In my better moments, little girl, with that light on my face, I think I might be stronger than I look. I think I might be able to labor those lies right out of me and land this plane. Safely. For both of us.
And when I do I will hold you in my arms on the ground, both of us still dizzy from the heavens, and I will name you something new, something glorious, as an act of redemption.
I don’t know why we’re here now, little girl, but I know it was no accident.