Love came before we even knew each other. Love came before we could even speak the same language together. Love happened when we both didn’t want it to happen. I was broken. He was broken. Sometimes I still feel very, very broken. We are just broken together. We didn’t heal each other as real life isn’t a fairytale. But I feel comfortable being broken around him, all my pieces face up, breathing in the clean air. Broken is OK, we are all somewhat broken.
Our first child sealed our fate: we now had an excuse to be together, to talk about forevers, to believe in each other. We watched her little heart beating, this tiny little being only visible to us, and we made a silent pact. It would always be us and her together. Things that others considered important such as age, culture, language, immigration status, all that didn’t matter to me. None of that ever mattered to me. Honesty, love, laughter, and strength matter to me. I liked running around, drinking myself into an oblivion; I liked hiding and running, but somehow we ended up together and I became a mother, and as long as we were a team I wasn’t worried. All that running around ended there. From that heartbeat came sobriety and a heavy sense of responsibility that acts as both burden and liberation.
We are still a team, 5 years and three children later. We still say “forever” and we still pinch each other’s butts and run away laughing. I don’t think about life without him because my old age is his old age and nothing will stop that. We didn’t both lose our fathers so early for that cycle to continue. But every day I stay up to make sure he comes home safe, especially in these times when people don’t like our types very much. Our legitimacy seems to be constantly in the air, a ball thrown around without much consideration for those stuck on the inside, or the outside. Every day I tell myself we need a plan, every day I tell myself that if I make a plan we will then be forced to use it. I used to worry about finally being in love for real, now I worry about our safety and that of our children. But love? Love is here, deeply rooted and well fed.
Motherhood came easy to me, a love so hard and fast, overwhelmingly powerful. I lost myself there for a while. And it happened again, and then again. Two girls, and a little boy, beautiful children. A family: my home. This is us, we are better together, us against the world: the clichés hang off my lips, but I don’t care, they are all true. This really is beautiful, we made little people and every day they surprise me, and sometimes I even surprise myself.
But in this beauty lies a ton of sticky, stinky shit. Today we walked in the sun, together, and suddenly my heart dropped, no reason, and my brain wailed “where are you?? Where have you gone Jade??” I never set out on this journey looking to find myself, as I had always been found, broken, but content in shards reflecting off of each other. But I did lose some of me, parts that were ready to be discarded, but also parts I had fought so hard to keep. They melted, hid, ran away. My hard-earned confidence, my ability to get everything done no matter the mountain I would need to climb. Now I tell myself every night I will do better tomorrow, and every morning I wake up exhausted, a dull ache in my jaw, constant headache from no sleep. Writing is my haven, writing helps me lay everything out, analyze it, and piece it back together again. Writing is my puzzle, but I don’t have enough time and energy for puzzles, so I zone out amidst the pieces, frustrated with myself, guilty because I’m not good enough at the moment. It will pass, as everything does, but I wish I knew how to ask for help. I don’t. I’m embarrassed. I miss interacting but I feel like a fraud, a child hanging out in this body I don’t recognize anymore. Frumpy because I don’t take care of myself. It will pass, it always does.
I didn’t realize how stripped bare I would feel when I became a mother, and how hard it would be to reframe my life. You jump off a cliff into the unknown, and that unknown is a changeling, snakes and ladders on a board game.
No one tells you that you will get pitying glances thrown your way when you mention that your partner won’t be able to come and pick you up from the hospital because he’s working and can’t take the time off. Giving birth alone wasn’t hard, but dealing with those stares, knowing that behind them they were all congratulating themselves for being married was tough. I wasn’t imagining them, I knew. All of these loving husbands helping their wives, and me sitting there, alone. I had never worried about people knowing we weren’t married until then. He was just at work, working 80 hour shifts so I didn’t have to go back to work immediately. No one tells you that the person in charge of getting the birth certificate information will condescendingly tell you that you can’t file it without your partner signing a consent form in front of her because “you aren’t married dear”. Why should we still feel like we are doing something wrong, in this day and age? I didn’t imagine the disapproval in the eyes masked by the tight smiles. No one had ever questioned the legitimacy of our relationship, of my pregnancy, not until I gave birth.
No one tells you how you disappear. No one tells you that motherhood is often a swamp, enchanted, but still a swamp. Your feet get stuck in the mud, and even treading water becomes an insurmountable task, others waving while they swim past with the current. It’s OK, it’s not really like you actually needed to be anywhere. My first never slept unless she was in my arms. She still doesn’t really sleep, plagued by anxiety that we are working hard on conquering together, my own fears amplified in hers, my own childhood sweeping back to me in waves. I will not let them live through that, not ever. My second is fighting for her place, learning new words every day, surprising me with how she already has this amazing sense of humor. At two she has the look of a defiant teen, the same one I had when I wanted to change the world, stomping around to Nirvana in my bedroom. And my third, our last, is my calm, I worry less. Somehow I may not fail so much with this one.
No one tells you that all those childhood memories you tucked away tightly may come back to haunt you as an adult again, blowing open the windows and shining the light on them in a way that scares you but also turns you into a warrior woman. You will find the strength to work through those memories properly this time, but who will understand when you suddenly collapse in a heap at the foot of the couch wailing “I can’t do this anymore!” into the void? When will that niggling feeling that you are failing your children before you have even begun to raise them go away? My mind twists and turns those memories inside, ripping the carefully sewn scars apart stitch by stitch, wondering if that broken feeling might vanish this time. Am I doing the right thing by rehashing it all again? But if I don’t will I be like they were? Can I be different? I know that I inherently am. But still, the questions haunt me the moment the children are sleeping. I fill those moments with everything but silence, and then kick myself for not taking a breath.
The guilt is real. I feel guilty about still being traumatized by the aftermath of my firstborn’s birth, a brutal image of how I am still that small child inside, hurt, unable to speak up and push away. I feel guilty about getting angry and yelling because no one is listening to me. I feel guilty about never being enough, about being depressed but hiding it. And then I feel guilty about feeling guilty, because I shouldn’t feel guilty about the simple act of being me. I feel guilty about not following the crowd, not fitting in, about isolating myself from the world. I’m scared I will break everything, still clumsy after all these years. I feel guilty about always worrying and I feel guilty about not being spontaneous anymore. I’m sometimes scared of my anger, and afraid of my sadness, because aren’t these feelings supposed to go away once you have children? Why do they suddenly feel amplified instead? I used to say I wasn’t afraid of much, now I’m filled with trepidation every time I leave the apartment. Is it a case of circumstance, or just a feeling that I will always need to fight against?
And motherhood still scares me. These little people constantly need me and we now live our life around that, often forgetting our own. I need time with him and he needs time with me, but rarely do we have those unicorn moments; work, children, sleep, more work... We worry in tandem, irritate each other, but only because we are comfortable enough to know that it won’t change what we feel. And we know this is only a small part of the whole of us, a curvy, but tiny, passage along our road. Children grow fast. I’m so aware of that, flying towards 40 but still a child inside.
But I am still Jade. I am mother, writer, woman, dreamer, lover, immigrant, resister, reader. I am a survivor. I am Me, a broken mirror, fixed with glue and tape, strong and way too compassionate. I am Jade, I am enough. I will be enough.