I like to tell how she cried before she was born. Even before she emerged from the birth canal, she began wailing. And it is hard not to because she came second, after her sister, who was born silent. So it was the sound of her cry, like electricity, that connected us at the very first. As it was the sound of her sister’s silence that remains, even now, loudest, the way it lies just beneath the beating of my heart. There’s a thunder in that silence.
I was seventeen when the first girl came. Two days worth of labor. My water broke first and so they induced it. I was a tiny thing. Maybe one hundred twenty pounds eight plus months pregnant. They hooked me up to monitors, IVs, oxygen.
I was a child. “I’ve changed my mind,” I said, finally. “I’m not going to do this.” And I really thought I could just get up and leave. Someone wiped my face with a washcloth. Shushed me.
In the delivery room, the nurse who admonished me, “You wanted this baby. Now you have it!” was sent out of the room after I pulled her surgical cap off and broke the IV line in my arm, blood trickling behind it. I became an animal giving birth to a human.
A loss of consciousness, finally, and when I came to, a lone doctor in the room, perhaps an intern, pushing on my stomach.
“Where is my baby?” I asked, confused by the sudden emptiness.
“You had a girl.” He said. “Now push. We have to get out the afterbirth.”
I don’t know if it was days or hours before I saw her, my first girl.
She was born not breathing. While I lay unconscious, she was resuscitated, incubated, whisked away.
The second daughter was born in violence. Her father battering us the night before her birth. The only memory that dark room, my long hair, his fist in my stomach.
With the morning came my water and, because this had happened with the first one, I knew it was time to give birth. Again, I was induced. This time labor was fast. She was born within three hours after induction, screaming into the world. Born the same hour and minutes as the month and day. At ten twenty-seven on ten twenty-seven. She announced her arrival.
Daughters know how to break mothers. Or is it the other way around? We break each other. I was a child mother. My girls anchored me to the ground. Like twin soulmates they swirled around the satellite of me, their mother, and kept me from drifting into oblivion and space.
Daughters are not supposed to be the anchors. But mine were.
I don’t know how to say sorry for that. Because they still are.
I am the great grand-daughter of a witch, and so my daughters are her great-great- granddaughters. A lineage hard to come from, that of the designated witch. And that of child mothers.
One daughter has distanced herself from me of late. Both have broken my heart. My blond and brunette daughters, day and night, green eyes and brown. The loves of my life. Irretrievably, endlessly, broken.
When she was nine and I married their stepfather, the eldest said, “Now we won’t be the three musketeers anymore, Mom.” She looked steadily at me, her soul spilling from her eyes.
“We will always be the three musketeers.” I told her. Fiercely. But she wants nothing to do with me lately.
‘I am not your friend,” she recently said. She means she can’t take care of me. You see, she used to, child of a child mother. Neither of us are children now.
The second daughter calls to tell me her five year old girl’s latest antics. She is strong willed, like you were, I tell her. Like I was. We shake our heads a little, but secretly, we both take pride in her strength.
I can’t solve this mother daughter puzzle. My own mother is no longer close. I dream that, because my daughters each have a daughter, they will comprehend the way I love them someday. They will get it like a bomb going off in their chest. The stars will align and the universe will right itself anew. But there is no guarantee. There is really nothing but this river we come from, in which we swim, which swims in us, its tributaries of shame.
How I love them.