A woman gives birth to her second child when her first, whom she had rejected and ignored all her life, dies.
My first experience of motherhood was not very inspiring. I was sixteen when I got pregnant and gave birth to Daniel when I was barely seventeen. To say that I wasn’t ready to be a mother is an understatement. I wasn’t even ready to be a woman.
Don’t talk to me about contraception and responsibility. I didn’t want Daniel’s father, I didn’t want any of it. I hated him, and I hated the child growing inside me even more.
I told my mom, and at first she didn’t believe me. Honestly? She didn’t want to believe me. Daniel’s father was a family friend, a smiling man who was always there to get my father out of trouble.
No, my mother didn’t want to believe me until she took me to the doctor, and they discovered that Daniel was growing inside me like a tumor, a parasite feeding on my pain.
I, of course, had the baby. No other options were considered. My mother believed me when she told that I was pregnant that Sunday at lunch, and the family friend I trusted turned white and broke the glass he was holding.
She believed me, and I know she talked to him without my father’s knowledge, because there was a lot of money there for my doctors and maternity clothes.
There was money to hire a home tutor from there so I could go to school without actually going to school. Oh yes, she believed me.
When Daniel was born, I refused to breastfeed him, I didn’t even want to touch him. I told my mother I wanted to give him to an orphanage, but she said it was our blood. You don’t give up your family.
Since she couldn’t make me do it, she ended up taking care of him herself. His crib was moved to my mom and dad’s room, and I rarely saw Daniel. When I saw him, I noticed that as he got older, he looked more and more like his father.
I refused to let myself be Daniel’s mother and I wouldn’t let him get in the way of my life. I passed my final year of high school and got brilliant grades. I went to prom with a boy named Ryan and wore a beautiful pink dress.
As soon as I walked through the door of my parents’ house, Daniel was gone.
Ironically, he adored me. He kept staring at me, tugging on my dress to get attention, and staring at me with those big brown moist eyes. He made me cringe.
I told my parents I applied to university and I was going to work to get into it, but my mom said it wasn’t necessary. My university will be paid for.
That’s when I realized that my mom was taking more money from Daniel’s dad than he needed. I had no problem with that. He owed me everything he stole from me – my trust, my childhood, my illusions.
I went to university and I loved it. I studied very well and graduated with honours at the age of 23. A year later I passed the exam to become a lawyer and was hired by a great firm in Boston.
For the next five years, I only came home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, if I could call my parents’ house home at all. The visits were a nightmare, Daniel constantly clinging to me, demanding my attention.
Then I met Jake. Jake was a client, the CEO of the software company he founded. I helped him manage the merger, and eventually we did our own merger. I married Jake in Aruba.
It was a small, private wedding to which my parents and son were not invited. I took Jake to meet them and Daniel. I didn’t particularly like the visit, but, to my surprise, Jake and Daniel got along.
“We could ask Daniel to move in with us,” Jake suggested, “He’s a great guy.”
I said “No!” so sharply and emphatically that Jake never mentioned it again. Anyway, Jake soon became too infatuated with my pregnancy. Yes, I was pregnant again, and this time I was overjoyed.
Ironically, my first pregnancy went perfectly, but my second pregnancy was categorised as high-risk. I was on full bed rest until childbirth, which was a nightmare for me.
My mother called me every day and insisted that I get close to Daniel. Honestly, what was I supposed to tell this kid? It was my mother. She sincerely believed that love cured everything, but of course it didn’t.
One afternoon she called, looking particularly tired and worried. “Carol,” she said. “Please let me bring Daniel to you.”
“I’m on bed rest, Mum,” I protested.
“We won’t bore you…,” she said pleadingly. “Please.”
“I don’t want to see it, Mum! Can’t you get it through your head?” I shouted. “I can’t get it to your ears!”
“Please, Carol,” she said softly. “Can’t you find some love in your heart for Daniel? He needs you.”
“NO!” I said angrily. “Don’t you understand? I never wanted him! I was a child, Mum, a child!”
My mother looked very sad. “And so is Daniel,” she said softly.
After that conversation, her calls became less frequent and when I called her, she seemed distracted. Two months later I went into labour. The doctors immediately decided on a caesarean section.
When they put my beautiful baby girl in my arms, I thought my heart was going to burst with love. Jake stood with tears in his eyes and smiled like an idiot.
“She’s so beautiful, Carol!” – he repeated. “I love you! I love you!”
I called my mum straight away. “Mum!” I shouted. “You have a new granddaughter. Look!” I picked up the phone so she could see the baby I was holding, but my mother didn’t smile.
“Mum?” I asked. “Is everything all right? Is Daddy all right? Where are you?”
My mother bit her lips and shook her head, then tears began to roll down her cheeks. “I’m in hospital, Carol,” she said quietly. “Daniel passed away an hour ago.”
“Daniel?” I asked without thinking. “Daniel what?”
“He’s dead, Carol,” my mother said. “Do you remember his headaches? The doctors diagnosed a tumour. There was nothing they could do but make him comfortable, make his last days as happy as possible.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.
“It was a high-risk pregnancy, I didn’t want to upset you, Carol,” my mother said, and then bitterly added: “Would it have made a difference?”
“No,” I whispered. “I guess not.”
I hung up the phone and looked at my little girl. A pang of pain formed in my chest, robbing me of my breath.
“Daniel,” I said to Jake, “Daniel’s gone, he’s dead, Jake. He’s dead.”
Jake wrapped his arms around me, hugging me and cradling me like I was a wounded child, and I realized that I was sobbing. “He’s gone, he’s gone,” I screamed.
I think I can see Daniel standing in front of me, looking at me with such love, holding the bouquet of wilted flowers he’d picked for me, or showing me his notes, desperately seeking my love and approval.
I let him down, I let my little boy down. I blamed him for being his father’s son and forgot that he was also MY son, my child. I looked down at the baby in my arms. “You had an older brother,” I whispered, “and he was wonderful.”
I was determined that my baby girl would be loved by both parents. I would be the mother Daniel needed and deserved. It was time to let go of bitterness and anger. It was time to love.
Jake and I went to Daniel’s funeral, and as I stood at his grave, I begged him to forgive me. A soft breeze touched the tears on my cheeks, and the pain vanished. My boy loved me, he forgave me, and I was able to forgive myself.