There was a time when I thought it was strange that I didn’t love my own child. Growing up, I had been fed so many things about motherhood from the women I looked up to. I was told that I would learn to love the child as it grew in my womb. I was told that I would learn to love the child as it kicked and shifted beneath my skin, as its tiny hands groped and its small feet pushed. I was told that I would learn to love the child instantaneously when we locked eyes – when I saw in it a reflection of myself and the trials and tribulations we had shared, when I felt its own tiny, beating heart synced with mine as it laid on my chest. I had expected each and every one of these things to come true – and that’s how I knew something was wrong with Sarah when she was born.
The father was out of the picture and my mother was the only one who accompanied me on the stormy night when I finally went into labor. In the moment, it was all a blur – the car ride, the wheelchair, the surgery table – everything bleeding into the next, joined by contractions and screams and tears. When they asked if I wanted drugs, I had pleaded with them to give me all that they had – but my mother had spoken against it, swearing that childbirth was all the more precious when one was fully conscious. In my hysteria – in my own muddled mind – I must have agreed, as I found myself quickly begging the opposite of what I had been, as if the fact that my mother had said it made it all the more true. Perhaps I agreed because she was my mother, and because she had obviously gone through the same steps with me. Perhaps it was something deeper. Regardless, I was awake for the entire ordeal, not knowing just how sour the deal would turn out to be.
In retrospect, everything is so much smaller. The pain of the birth was small. The span of time it took – the hours of pushing and breathing and crying – was small. Everything in memory is conflated to the tiniest modicum of time – a blink of an eye, a beat of a wing. And for what?
For most mothers, it would be the creation of an angel – the release of some celestial gate to bring forth a beauty and magnificence yet unseen in the world. For most mothers, it would be experiencing the divine through action. For me, it was much the opposite.
When I finally saw the eyes of my own child – when I finally looked in them after all was said and done – I did not feel love or compassion or protectiveness. I felt as though I had been duped. This was not my child. This thing, red-slimed and howling, was not my daughter. Its black eyes, its alien form – they sent shivers of fear and disgust down my spine. This was a grotesquery, a mockery of the human body. There was no soul in its eyes. There was nothing to love. This thing was little more than an animal – a product of sex unsanctioned by any higher being – a calf bred only for the slaughter. I hated it.
Some would imagine that this hatred stemmed from some sort of physical or mental deformity – incomplete limbs, Down’s Syndrome, etc. – but this assumption would be wrong. For all intents and purposes, this thing I brought into the world was fine in appearance. It looked human. It acted human. But, somehow, some way, I could tell that it wasn’t.
The worst part of it all was trying to act happy toward my mother and the other visitors that came to see me in the ensuing days. My sisters flew in with their children and smiled and cooed at the thing. My mother bought it lavish gifts – new clothes, new toys, things like that. Everyone was happy with the new addition to the family – except for me. The thing was not a child but, more importantly, the thing was not my child. It was not my Sarah.
There were brief stints where I sought help, thinking that there was something wrong with me. I spoke to psychologists, to therapists, to psychiatrists. I was put on drugs and taken off them in record time. I was told to see friends more, to deny my friends and spend more time with the thing, to attempt to date, to refuse dates because my time should be focused on the thing. It was a vicious circle and, in it, I was sure that I was either becoming slowly insane or slowly becoming coerced into accepting this thing’s forced existence in my life. My relationship, or lack thereof, with the father was brought up numerous times as a potential reason for my disconnect with the thing – but I knew that had nothing to do with it. Eventually, I stopped seeking help altogether. I wasn’t insane, I wasn’t in the wrong. I knew the difference between a part of me and a part of something malevolent, and I was sure that this was the latter.
Years passed and the thing grew. It consumed. It went to school, it made friends. It went to birthday parties and slumber parties. It had birthday parties and slumber parties. It celebrated and it became victim to depression. It mirrored, almost to perfection, the life I had lived and the lives I had seen. There were times when I almost thought I could begin to sympathize with it – but I found myself absolutely repulsed each time I tried.
Twelve years I tried. Twelve years I attempted to find in it the same love that everyone else saw. Twelve whole years I tried my hardest to bring the wrongness in it all upon myself, to allow for some avenue of empathy or, in the very least, sympathy to flourish between us, but I couldn’t. There was an unalienable sense of distance between us that couldn’t be covered – a foreign presence that putrefied my home and tainted everything in my life.
But tonight, I cleanse my home. Tonight, while it sleeps, I take back my life.
Tonight, by the hallowed edge of this kitchen knife, it all finally comes to an end, and I'll be free.
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