Here’s the thing: I never wanted to be a mother. I knew this always, from the beginning of memory onward. Maybe it’s because we grew up rough, maybe it’s because I saw the world as a writhing, painful, grasping place to which I would never subject a fragile new life. But I always knew.
This is a declaration that goes so far against our cultural conditioning, our animal roots, our DNA striving and struggling over millions of years to propagate. When I was younger, adults would pat me on the head upon hearing this, exchanging knowing glances above me. They surely knew better. I would reach an age where baby madness would engulf me with the fury of a thousand suns.
It’s so deeply ingrained in our society that many doctors treat you as if you have a mental illness if you so much as ask about being sterilized. I’ve heard so many horror stories of women being ignored, bullied and made to feel as if they have no bodily autonomy by doctors who simply refused to believe a human female could feel complete without one or more parasites growing inside her womb, bursting out of her vagina and being both legally and morally bound to her for the rest of her life.
I guess it’s still possible that I’ll contract some wild baby fever or end up old and alone, mourning my barren loins. But no, for the most part I think I can say my mind never changed one bit. And here’s a perhaps shameful admission- when my older sister first began having babies and it became rapidly apparent that she was unable and unwilling to take care of them, I did not suddenly hear some magical angel bell in my head, I did not pack up my Mary Poppins luggage and catch the nearest umbrella ride to the rescue.
Instead, I grudgingly fell into the role, still planning for a future that did not include them, still hoping against all reality that my sister would clean herself up, get her crap together and take care of her own responsibilities.
Sometimes that’s how love happens. It creeps up on you in the tiny moments in between. In late nights staying up to watch over congested coughs, in rocking chairs by windows, in crayon-scribbled books with the edges worn smooth from a hundred readings, in backseat fights and backseat sing-a-longs. It flashes through your mind as snapshots you wish you could have captured, sleepy eyes and pajamas lined up beside you brushing their teeth in the morning, pillow forts that take over the house, the way they will always choose to sit as close to you as possible, piling onto your lap, sprawling out at your feet, even though there are empty couches and chairs all around.
Though I never chose them, I feel the universe chose us for each other. I feel honored to be their guide and their protector. They inspire me to be my best possible self, because they deserve that. They deserve at least one person in this world who will never abandon them, who will never let them down. Who will die trying.
I often get asked about the details of our situation. I’m not really their mother, am I? Who are they? If I’m not their mother, where is she? Do I have custody, what about their father(s)? These things and more are no one’s business. All you need to know is that they are my girls, they will always be, and my heart aches with gratitude for them.