I’d grown restless and anxious in the tiny cream house filled with one too many people. The creaking of the hardwood would startle me awake at night. The front door would rattle the old windows in my room whenever someone went in or out. The way I could hear my roommate play the piano, effortlessly and emphatically – a sound I once found soothing, now an irritation. I began to retreat to my room more, closing the once always open door, silently praying that no one would knock. I faked sick when friends called. I’d go to work in silence, I’d read when I wasn’t busy helping customers, and I’d return home, head down, avoiding the world, in silence. Everyone, everything, was unnecessary noise.
Months prior before I’d even known of the pregnancy, I’d held this house that had become my home, dear in my heart. I adored the character when I’d first visited- the rounded archways, the restored hardware, the bright colours in the rooms. The way the living room light shone in the evening. How my the old windows would become a maze of icy art. I thought daily about how I wish I could make the walls talk, always aware of the history that surrounded me. It had become my refuge from the world, a church, a temple. I was safe from judging eyes, the whispers of people. The other women living with me had slowly, as I allowed it, become my confidants, my cheerleaders, my protectors. There were no invasive questions here, no reason to hide my swollen belly in shame.
Now, I hated it and them.
Although, there wasn’t much I didn’t hate. I hated my body. I hated my family. I hated anyone who had no idea how trapped I felt. I hated the old man who could sleep on the bus and the way his breathy snores bounced rhythmically on each pothole. I hated the fake cubic zirconia ring I wore to offset the constant barrage of questions from strangers. I hated how he was able to be out partying and playing, while I was here, in matronly clothing, swollen ankles and stretch marks in places I never knew you could have them. I resented people who told me I was selfless. I resented the platitudes I was told about becoming a good mother “one day”. I hated the “therapy” sessions. I hated nodding along when I wanted to scream. Mostly, I hated myself for giving up what I knew I really wanted; to keep my son, and to stop the adoption.
I’d already tried. No one listened to me. So I began to shut the world out.
I went from devastatingly sad to feeling overwhelmingly helpless.
Then, the anger took hold.
I knew I wouldn’t let anyone know how angry I was, a smile always plastered on my face, words dripping out of my mouth that I didn’t recognize.
I wanted to be alone.
Within a week, I was moving out. I packed my bags, the boxes, I swept the old hardwood floor, gave that room one last look, and watched my father haul the small amount of belongings I had, into a truck. We crossed the river and ritually moved those items into a 4 bedroom cave of a house, completely alone. I didn’t have much to fill it with – a donated couch, a television set older than myself, a kitchen table that had clearly been through a battle or two, my bookshelves, a dresser, my bed, and the phone I had used to call my friends when I was only 7 years old.
The first night, alone in that house, I sat on the edge of my bed, every light in this cavernous, strange house off, listening to the dead silence. That’s all I had craved for weeks. Into the darkness, as I pulled my covers up over my head, I cried until I fell asleep. This would become my nightly ritual until long after I had given birth to my son.
During the day, I’d meticulously organized everything in my house by colour and size, hanging as many pieces of artwork as I could find, I’d rearranged the furniture dozens of times, attempting to fill the emptiness. It was beginning to be exhausting, the peacefulness I thought this would bring me, was doing the opposite. That silent house lived in the reality I’d been avoiding – it was haunted by the presence of my doubts, it echoed every reminder that I didn’t have to do this, and that I could bring it all to a standstill. Instead, I tried to fill the quiescent house with my dreams of after; What I was told my life would be like, what I thought life after losing your child would look like. Being a birthmother was presented as this glorious high level position. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being taken for a ride; in a car I didn’t really willingly get into.
One morning, after I’d padded my way through the house to the kitchen, poured myself a bowl of too sugary cereal, I absentmindedly found myself sitting cross-legged in the room that was across from mine. The blazing not quite summer sun, poured through the window and hit the soft yellow walls gracefully. With my back against the wall, the bowl resting on my belly, spoon clinking as I readied myself for another bite. Then it came, the simplicity of it crashing into me like a wave that I hadn’t grounded myself for.
“This could be his nursery.”
I set the bowl down beside me.
“You could put a chair right over there.”
I felt my hands clench, my heart begin to race.
“Can you imagine playing with him on the floor, in the morning? His giggles filling the room like the sun is?”
Tears cascaded down my cheeks. I felt my chest constricting and yet, I felt an empowerment I hadn’t felt ever. Shaking, I got to my feet, waddled into my room, and picked up the phone.
“Mom, I need to come stay with you guys until this is over.”
In the silence, I found how desperately I wanted to make the choice to keep him. The brutal stillness reminded me of my abilities, the ones I’d been told I didn’t have. It whispered calmly that adoption wasn’t the only way.
It was too late. I’d lost all confidence in myself. My support had succeeded with their threats of ostracism. That fleeting moment passed as quickly as it came.
Instead, I realized, that if if this car was being driven off the cliff, I wanted to be the one driving it.