Excerpt From "A Mother's Love, A Son's Regret" Deluxe Edition
"A Young Mother" 1971-1983
From the days he slept in the safety of my belly, I worried. My beloved son. I would pray for him as my palm would glide across my tight skin, awaiting patiently to feel his movements. His kicks and punches throughout the day would give me assurance that he was okay. At appointments, my anxiety would overwhelm me as the doctor would search for his heartbeat. I knew she would find it. It was always there. But the thought of not immediately hearing it would cause my heart to palpitate. It's difficult to understand how one could love something it had never laid eyes on, but love was never meant to be seen.
Love is a feeling. An invisible friend camouflaged within an action or gesture.
The words "I love you" should never be released like a balloon in the air, without purpose or meaning. "I love you" should only be said as confirmation of what is already known.
I carried him alone. His father was a blemish on my judgment. It was a night I surrendered to my fleshly desires without a thought of the consequences to come. A one-night stand with a man I had barely known. I know now that my son needed his father. There were things only a man could teach his son. I believed that he would only need me. I was too young to know how wrong I would be. It was the result of the recklessness I carried like a pocketbook in my 20s. When I was a teen, my beloved mother died of heartbreak a year after my father deteriorated from his fight with dementia. I had gotten used to the loneliness. As I carried my son everywhere like a fanny pack, he would become the one I would talk to.
I would read the Bible to him as he lay motionless in the darkness of my body. As the black leather book sat securely on my rounded belly, I would begin…
"Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.
In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him." -1 John 4:8–9 (ESV)
I wanted to believe the scriptures lulled him to sleep at night. I needed him to trust the words that completed each page as much as I did. My fear had always been that he wouldn't fear God and that life would have to replace me as his teacher. These were thoughts that lived in my mind and heart that I couldn't evict. From the night I conceived him, and till the day I will leave him, I will love him.
At times, my love will be tough as leather. I vowed to never be afraid to hurt him with the truth. My job was to guide him away from danger, to warn him of the pitfalls in life that he would be too young to foresee. My love would also appear gentle as a kiss, allowing his vulnerability to feel safe in my arms. To hug and kiss him and allow him to fail without judgment. My prayer was that compassion and empathy as his mother would enable him to trust me. But there is no such thing as a perfect mother.
Motherhood is built upon trial and error. As a mother, you may not recognize your mistakes until your child is old enough to reflect on them. Hopefully, there will be time to apologize for missing the mark.
His birth was hard. 19 hours of labor. No husband to hold my hand and coach me through. I was forced to squeeze the hand of a nurse I didn't know as I pushed my son into this world of uncertainty. 8 pounds of beauty. I cried as my blood was washed from his body. As he cried, I worried the water was too cool for his precious skin. They swaddled him in a blanket and placed him on the skin of my breast. He became silent and content. He knew he was in the arms of the one who had carried him.
Once an infant confined to a bassinet, to a stumbling toddler, time had quickly moved along. From the constant cries for bottles to the begging of snacks, the only thing that had changed was his age and size. He was a curious boy. Playful and innocent. Like most boys, he was also mischievous. Sticking things in electrical sockets and flushing items of value down the toilet was all a part of his past time. His toddler stage was my favorite. Every sentence he managed to put together was rich with honesty. He had not yet learned to lie. Whatever was on his mind was headed towards his mouth.
I would cringe at the sight of him falling. I felt I could protect him from all scrapes or bruises, never realizing my approach could hinder him as well. He needed to learn how to fall and pull himself back to his feet. Catching him every time he stumbled would cause him to become handicapped. A father would have known that from the start. I had to learn how to protect him from the shadows of his life. As a mother, I wanted him to learn to not make mistakes, but failures and setbacks are some of life's most excellent teachers.
My son was around 12 years old when the questions began. No longer a wobbling toddler with spaghetti sauce stained around his mouth. He was now a bright, inquisitive young boy who needed answers. One evening, while we sat quietly eating dinner, he broke the silence and my heart with a question, "Ma, who is my father? Why do most of my friends have their Dad at home, and I don't?" I was stunned and embarrassed. I had no idea he even thought about his father. How could I explain to my 10-year-old son that his father was a random, one-night-stand, that I had only known a few hours? He was just a man that had no idea he had gotten me pregnant that night. I stumbled to muster up an explanation. "Your father was a good person. I believe his sister lives not too far away. I'll try to see if she has his number", I said, hoping he was satisfied with my answer. "Okay," he said as he looks down at his barely eaten plate of food. I felt like I had lied to my son. His father's sister did live nearby, but we didn't know each other.
It was my fault my son didn't know his father. My superwoman, arrogant approach to motherhood had proven to be a misstep. My hope was that he could find what he was searching for in me. I had convinced myself that I was enough. Everything he would ever need would be found in me. I was wrong. All of the love and attention I had smothered him with had never filled the void. The vacant space in his mind and heart that he secretly kept hidden. He was a son longing for his father.
There were fathers playing basketball on the court with their sons. Men in driver's seats of cars telling their boys that they loved them and to be good at school. The young eyes of my beloved son were silently observing it all. The once vibrant, silly, and energetic kid had become distant and quiet. He would sit at the kitchen table and paddle his cereal with his spoon until it was soggy. Whenever I would ask him what was wrong, he would simply say, "nothing." He was changing.
The sweetness of his personality had become less prevalent. The good mornings I would say to him begin to go unanswered. Subtle disrespectful facial expressions would appear whenever I would tell him to clean his room or do the dishes. I could see the rolling of his eyes and the turning of his lips. The no-it-all attitude I thought I would see when he became a teenager had already begun to surface.
He began acting out in school. Getting laughs during class had become more important than getting good grades. Suspensions for fighting on the playground had become a bi-weekly occurrence. This was not the son had carried for 9 months within the protection of my belly. He was becoming unrecognizable to me. Though his face still held the beauty that it did at the time of his birth, his personality had lost its shine.
As he sat alone in his room, I stood at the entrance of his door. "Son, what is happening to you? This is not who you are. Talk to me. Tell me, what is bothering you?" I asked.
Tears began to collect in the corners of his eyes. As his voice cracked, he said, "Why haven't you contacted my father yet? Why didn't he love me enough to stay? What was so wrong with me that he didn't want me?" My heart broke. It was time to tell him the truth regardless of how it shined a light on my flawed decisions. "I met your father at a party. I had never seen him before that night. He was a charming, well-dressed, handsome young man. We had a few drinks. We shared a taxi. I woke up the next morning in his apartment. I never saw him again. A month later, I found out I was pregnant with you", I said, as shame and embarrassment settled in.
"Ma, I thought you told me that married people have children together?" He said with confusion. "Yes. I did tell you that, but I made a mistake, and I'm sorry. I should have made a better effort to keep your father in your life. I thought that I could be everything that you needed. I'm realizing now that I wasn't enough. I'm going to try my very best to contact your father. I promise", I said, as I watched a cloud of disappointment hovering over my son's mood. He didn't understand my reasoning. To him, I was just a hypocrite.
Read the short story in its entirety here