I did not even knock. I just walked in on her. There she was – a pathetic little figure – staring back at me.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Don’t you recognize me?” I replied. Her confused expression told me that it has not dawned on her yet. She is turning 35 this year… and I am only two. There is a vague flickering of recognition in her eyes, but I can see that she is still struggling to place me.
I was born on the night that she died. She can’t see it yet, because she is still clinging to the past – to memories of herself before she became less selfish and less and reluctant to share her space. A journey so alone and yet so crowded. A secret passage to a different world, one in which you live two lives. Sometimes they are in harmony with one another, and sometimes in a complete state of war.
“I can’t anymore! Call the doctor now!” she screamed at the top of her lungs in the early morning hours of that day. The whole peaceful, rich neighbourhood of Saxonwold’s, silence shot to pieces. 30 March 2013, 3:15am, the day on which everything changed in our lives, forever.
“Do I know you from somewhere?” she asked again. “Only as your destiny after nine months”, I said.
“Do you remember that night when you brought me to life?” She looked startled, even scared.
“The fairy tale of a calm water birth, that you planned so carefully, went down the drain. Not even the serene surroundings, with your own private garden, could calm you down. You became a dragon, spitting fire at everyone, causing them to flee the room. All but your husband, because he was in your grip.” I said to her.
After 18 hours of active labour she was spent. Her epidural failed only minutes after they put it up. An exercise, mind you, that was quite a challenge to execute on her during full-on contractions. She could not care less if the needle was five inches or five feet long, just as long as it could make this unbearable feeling go away. She ended up with a caesarean and could not even recognize her husband until she saw the ring on his finger. Leaving her with a devastating feeling of guilt and anger months later. She was a failure in her own eyes. And I was crying in the corner, suffocating, waiting for her to let me in.
How do I explain to her how we fought with each other to give me space to grow? How she died a couple of deaths that year, each one on an anniversary. And with each death I slowly grew bigger. Their wedding anniversary was all but romantic. It was an evening filled with breast-sucking, her breasts yes, but not by her husband. Our first Christmas with the family was a total disaster, leaving her in therapy and her marriage hanging by a thread. Her baby girl, clinging to her body twenty-four-seven and scattering all her parenting ideas to pieces, was the final nail in the coffin.
Now this might sound like a funeral worth mourning about, and it is, but tears will never stop unless she is able to see that this end is only the beginning of something new and exciting. The worm does not emerge rotten out of the cocoon it spun for itself; it emerges as a different creature, a butterfly! Something gloriously different, but made from the same building blocks it came from. This realisation was a long and painful journey for her.
“Don’t be so scared, just let go and let me be. I cannot be me, and more than you could have been, if you do not pass into me.” I tried to calm her down.
“What are you talking about?” Her voice was at breaking point.
“I am talking about the secret world of motherhood. Giving birth to another life is the end of YOU as you know yourself. A death that started the moment you conceived. No one can prepare you for this, not even your own mother. Words of advice and preparation will be reduced to random notes in your head. It is only when you hold your baby in your arms that you start hearing the melody. It is soft at first, but grows louder as time passes,” I calmly replied.
During the first year of her daughter’s life, she was looking for her legs and could not find her feet. Only to realize on her baby’s first birthday that she would never find them… because she was me now, the one with wings, born from her. I was supposed to take over now and not to crawl along.
But it took her quite a while to hand the reigns over to me. Until today, when we got to meet face to face, and unpacked the last box that she has withheld for so long.
“Death is nothing to fear, especially not this kind of death.” I softly said. “You are not disappearing into a mass of non-existence. You are not losing your identity. In fact, you are given a new one. It is so amazing when you come to think about it. We both get a first shot at something totally new and uncertain. You get to remould yourself into someone that can look beyond the here and now, to create an even bigger space for you, your family and your offspring. Did anybody say this was going to be easy? Hell no!”
The realisation began glowing in her eyes. As tears rolled down her cheeks, I could feel mine becoming wet. As she placed her hand on the mirror, I could feel us become one.
“That’s it my dear, let me take over from you. Let us make our daughter’s second birthday an anniversary of your new life as me. I am the mom inside of you.”
We both smiled as she turned and walked away. The image in the mirror was now pure. I went to hug my husband for his birthday and helped my daughter blow out their birthday candles.
“I am a mom”, I said, “and I am your wife”. What an adventure this year is going to be.