This is the first time I have posted something on the website, so I'm a little nervous! It's not particularly a story, it's just a voice I have been hearing in my head, desperate to come out and so I wrote her down. That sounds a little crazy, I know, but it's just the way she came about. Her name is Maria, I think. I am contemplating giving her a story, filling out her life, so to speak, but only if it turns out to be half decent, obviously. If it's a pile of rubbish I will get rid :)
I used to grasp at names like they were pieces of parchment floating through the air. Precious scraps of feather light substance that I would craft together and fashion into my armour. A patchwork quilt of promises: Abigail, Emily, Oliver, Thomas, Evelyn, Elizabeth, Rose, Ella. Each letter in each name a thread I held against my cheek as comfort; a faint whisper of things yet to come.
That started in my mid teens. Drifting off into daydreams about Moses baskets and high chairs. I would get lost in the romance of motherhood, certain that it was my only destiny. Yet here I am. In my thirties and the only thing that has changed is the intensity of my desire. Every waking second is another moment without my child. It starts as I wake up - would you have sneaked into my room, too excited by the day ahead to sleep a minute more? Would you jump on my bed, bursting with impatient energy because the world is still your oyster? Would I get the chance to brush my teeth, wash my hair, smooth in the body lotion I use, before you dragged me into your world? All the tiny, mundane things of every day stick in my side like little pink fingers, a cruel reminder of what I don’t have.
Not for lack of wanting. I want you with enough force that it amazes me all the time that you don’t just Appear. That I haven’t just woken up one morning to find you inside me. A tiny knot of hope, swelling my belly with pride and love and arms and fingers…Even now, writing this, everything inside me reaches for you. I feel the air in my lungs and the blood in my veins pushing against my skin; even the hairs on my arms stand up in the effort to brush against you. How can it be that I don’t even know what you look like and yet my heart beats echo inside me, because I’m empty without you.
I would have sex and during it I would be begging with my partner, silently pleading with him to empty himself inside me. Of course, that never happened. Although that never seemed to matter. Afterwards I would walk around, convinced that this time was the time I would conceive, revelling in this heated secret I carried in the pit of my stomach. I was so sure that the condom had split or he hadn’t stopped in time or that by the simple force of my will I had made my body do what natures wasn’t being given the chance to do that I truly believed this time, or this time, or maybe this time I was pregnant.
I never was though. Obviously. Every day in the week leading up to my period I would wake up and walk to the bathroom fearfully. Each day that I wasn’t bleeding was like a reprieve, a day filled with light and colour because Of Course, I was pregnant. Some months, my period would be late by a week or two and I savoured each morning, triumphant. Perhaps this was the month I had done what it took to convince whoever it was in control of these things that I was worthy of this gift.
Inevitably, my period came. A flood bursting through my dam of prayers and need and want. And then I would cry. Great tears of pain that my partner would try to wipe away but I couldn’t let him touch. The hurt I felt inside would manifest itself into something so physical that if he touched me I thought my skin would fall off my bones, chunks of weeping flesh sacrifices to a God that wouldn’t give me a child.
Everything I did or learnt to do was ultimately for you. I chose to teach so I could understand how children work and see the world and so I could use the holidays to be with you. I learnt to make fairy cakes and sponge cakes and fudge and banoffee pie so I could make you birthday cakes and after school treats and hopefully teach you to do it too some day. I learnt to knit so that when I found out I was pregnant I could start knitting you a great blanket that you would wear down and love and sew into your wedding dress or tuck the last remaining corner into your suit one day. I researched my family tree so when you were old enough to understand it you could take it with you in your mind, so that if ever you found yourself not knowing where you were going, at least you know where you came from. All these things and a thousand, million more I have done for you; a child that doesn’t even exist yet.
Or do you? I know the science behind your beginning - sperm meets egg and hits it off and then the sperm worms its way into the egg which in turn buries itself in the spongy comfort of the womb. But where does the soul of you come from? I read somewhere once that there is a group of people that believe the souls of all the unborn children are floating around in this special place until they are picked by God or Fate or Mother Nature to go to a couple specially chosen for them. That seems a little hard to swallow, I know. But a child is a concept, something you conceive, and something as magical as you…you have no place in the sterile world of science. Besides. I know you. I am visited by you every day and I feel you around me sometimes, so I know you have already been given to me. I just need the scientific part of it to happen.
I’m not even allowed to talk about you. My beautiful fairy child. Then we, my partner and I, would fall out and argue, and I don’t want that. All I want to do is hold you in my arms and rock you. Smell you. See you looking at me and know that I can keep you safe and warm - even if just for a little while. My friend who is pregnant - she’s just so calm and complete, she has this smug look about her. She doesn’t mean to - she just is. Her whole body screams, “I am a mother, I am a haven. I am life’s ultimate blessing.” No. Even that’s not right. She’s ripe. She’s dripping with…with… I don’t know. She’s sensual and decadent. She’s plump with life blood and future and promise. There’s an air of light and warmth about her that no one can touch. Like even if a bomb went off she would remain safe and whole and perfect.
There’s nothing in this world that I wouldn’t give to be like that.
I used to think I wanted a huge number of children. I started off with seven, then eleven, then fifteen. I never wanted thirteen - too unlucky. I even had names for you all: Evelyn, Grace, Tom, Lily, James, Olivia, Joshua, William, Ella, Jack and Rose. I planned middle names and pets for you all. I cut out pictures from magazines of what I thought you would look like and kept them in a book, along with cut outs of clothes I thought you would wear. I imagined that they were photographs in my purse and that one day I would bump into someone in the supermarket from school and they would ask what I’m doing now and I would say “I have a family” and show you all to them.
Now I would happily only have you. Just the one. I only want you. Is that so much to ask? I’ve spent so many years planning and wishing and assuming that I ignored other things. Am I to be punished now? Maybe this is how I’m supposed to live my life. I have so many chances. I live in a world full to the brim with opportunities and I am desperate to trade them all for one soft skinned, innocent child. Can I not have one because I am ungrateful? Because I expected to get what I want. There are a million and one women out there who have multiple babies that don’t want them or can’t care for them. Why can’t I?
At its worst it feels like a thousand strings are attached to my stomach and are heaving it out towards you. My heart feels raw where it chafes against my rib cage, desperate to hold you. At its most intense, a surge of tears comes with every inhalation, threatening to wash over my head and drag me along with the tide. I didn’t know something emotion based, something not really even based on fact, could hurt so viscerally.
It makes me so angry. It makes me So Angry that I can’t have you. Even worse, it’s the kind of anger that can only manifest itself in tears because I can’t do anything to change it. I can ask nicely, I can try and seduce you out of him, I can beg and plead and sob but it’s no good. He doesn’t want you.
That’s a horrible sentence.
He doesn’t want you.
It’s nothing personal though. If he knew you like I do, if he could Feel you like I can, then he would be as besotted as me. It’s just the idea of you he doesn’t like, at least not right this minute. I know that. But it doesn’t stop it aching.
The thing is, I know deep down that he doesn’t want you ever. Not with a hatred, he has just never featured you in his plans until he met me. Now he says when we have enough money, when we are older, when he has done everything he wants to do with his life, then I can have you. But can I wait for that? Do I want that for you? Do I not think you deserve to be desired by two people who would tear the world apart with their bare hands just to get to you?
If I could make you by wishing alone. If I could close my eyes and form you just by the strength of my wanting. I can taste your skin on my lips and hear you laughing. How can you be so real?