on being his mother.
some women say that being a mother came naturally. that seeing their child for the first time created an unbreakable bond felt deep within their soul. some women say that all of a sudden, they thought like a mother, acted like a mother. some women say when you’re a mother, you just know. you know what to do, how to act, and that motherly instinct takes over.
i am not that woman.
my pregnancy was not a standard one. i wasnt told i was having twins until my third ultrasound at 14 weeks. the odds of having identical twin boys were nil, 0.4%… thats zero point four percent, just in case you didnt read that correctly. my husband and i were kicked out of the condo we were renting because the owner was selling it.. and then we lost one of our twins after a minor car accident the day after christmas.
for those of you who have ever miscarried a child at 7 months, the grief is overwhelming. you know what i’m talking about, it does not need to be explained. however, my circumstances were quite different. i still had Adonis. and he came a week later…. i didnt expect to give birth the way i did, the day i did. the first time i looked at Adonis, i cried.
partly because of all the circumstances surrounding his birth, but partly because i didnt feel as connected to him as i thought i should have. partly because i looked at him, and saw — someone i didnt know. i felt… detatched. his chance of survival increased with everyday, but i was still terrified of feeling for someone that might not be there tomorrow, or next week, or next month.
as adonis came home for the first time, i would look at him and feel guilty. i would only see his face when i should be seeing double. it hurt. i was TERRIFIED of sleeping, of waking up and losing the one that God let me keep as if he was some sort of punishment or if i didnt deserve the blessing.
after pushing past the guilt, praying past the grief, i finally learned how to embrace motherhood. but it did not come naturally or easy. it was difficult, sleepless, fun, exhausting, surprising, overwhelming, and absolutely worthwhile all at the same time. i opened my heart to to someone that is nothing short of magnificent…and although at times i felt so frustrated and so lost and so stupid that i questioned myself, at other times all i had to do was look at his face cuz this love is so strong it feels like i can’t breathe…
some of my friends tell me they’re ready to be a mother, that they have the motherly instinct, that they already act like a mother to their brothers, sisters, or friends… i say bullshit. you are not prepared for the overwhelming amount of love you feel for a child you give life to. you are not prepared for the endless number of days you can go on without any sleep. you are not prepared for the surprising acts of selflessness you find yourself doing on a daily basis.
but thats the beauty of it all. being a mother teaches you that you DIDN’T KNOW SHIT. but you’re learning about it with every baby step, and every little cough, and every baby word. you learn. and its nothing less than amazing.
last night adonis came home from his grandparent’s house with a shirt that said “it was my brother’s fault” and i lost all composure. almost 2 years ago to the day, i found out i was pregnant with identical twin boys.
i was different then. i was a 24-year-old-newlywed-newly-pregnant-just-moved-into-a-new-home-woman.
i am different now. i am a 26-year-old-wife-and-mother-of-one- who still hasnt gotten around to decorating the house.
but still, i remember. Mateo, i love you.
Mr. Slick Rick and Mr. America. lol.
tryna get my son to not do the miss america wave is hard man.
ladies n gents, my lil man is the bizness. p.s. i sound like a man only cuz pregnancy fucked with my vocals n i never got my old voice back. lol. and dont mind the bagong gising face.
whats good in the (mother)HOOD.
blissfully uneventful sundays are my forte.
i spent mother’s day in my sweats, at home, playing with Adonis. We visited Mateo’s gravesite and ate applesauce and cookies in the sunshine and I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE.
i can finally say that i’m at a place where ive forgiven myself. i’ve stopped asking myself if i could have done anything different. i’ve stopped going over it in my head again and again and again. and it feels AMAZING. and although i still don’t feel whole, my heart does not feel empty. i spent yesterday feeling… joyous.
mike and i took our mamas out last night to dinner and i looked at them and understood. i understand what it means to love someone more than i possibly thought i could love anyone. i remember when i fell in love for the first time.. i was actually amazed that someone could feel so deeply about someone else… then when i fell in love with mike i felt like…. i loved him so much that my heart was gonna explode into a thousand pieces. i didnt think there was room in my soul for anymore love… and then i met our son. and its like that, times a gazillion and one plus infinity and beyond.
growing up my mom used to always preach to me. in between all the “buwisit” and the “puneta” and the “mag sisise ka pag wala ka ng magulang” (yes i’m a fob AND WHAT?) she would always say that i would never understand her until i have children of my own. and betcha by golly wow she was right. and i’m sure she was always right, i was just too hard headed and self absorbed to realize it. and i know everyone goes thru the growing pains of life, but my mom has been absolutely on point about all my pain of growing. i now believe that she’s a genius. and u bet ur ass she still says “buwisit” and “puneta” but u can also bet ur right leg that what she says no longer goes in one ear and out the other. and god, i appreciate her.
motherhood is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do. its the biggest responsibility of my life. its also the most rewarding. it never fails to teach me lessons that i’ve never learned and to surprise me with happiness i’ve never known. i also know that its the most worthwhile task that will ever be asked of me, and i’m completely game for whatever comes next.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, YO!
‘You are glasses.”
this is like needing glasses. when i was a kid, i would get these headaches and i went to the doctor and they said that i needed glasses. i didnt understand that. it didnt make sense to me because i could see fine and then i get the glasses and i put them on and im in the car on the way home and suddenly.. i yell. because the big green blobs that ive been staring at my whole life.. they werent big green blobs.. they were leaves! on trees! i could see the leaves..and i didnt even know i was missing the leaves. i didnt even know that leaves existed and then.. leaves! you are glasses. — dr. ericka hahn, grey’s anatomy
today, i remember….
its just one of those days where i have to pick myself up off the ground and remind myself that life doesnt stop because i want it to.
i remember. everyday.
413 days ago i was trying to finish packing to move out of the ghetto. i find an unused pregnancy test underneath the sink in our bedroom and wonder if it has an expiration date. i do my business and watch as the pink line for “positive” appears in 16 seconds flat. we name him Mateo.
365 days ago i go in for a routine ultrasound. my conversation with the tech is as follows:
her – (staring at the screen) when was ur last ultrasound?
me – umm. 2 weeks ago?
her – they didnt tell u that u were having two?
me – two what?
her – two babies.
me – SHUT THE FUCK UP.
i call mike. frantic. crying. im too scared and excited to talk. i start thinking in doubles. i buy a bigger car.
270 days ago some lady hits my car from behind. im startled. its too early and too cold to get upset. i’m still tired from opening christmas gifts the night before and i’m already late for my ultrasound. my conversation with the tech is as follows:
her – ok great there’s twin B. have you named him?
me – yes. Adonis. we dont have a second name for him yet.
her – (after a long pause) i’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this Rachel, but i cant find a heartbeat for twin A.
i call mike. frantic. crying. i’m too scared to talk. i hear the sound of my own heart breaking as i try and get the words out to tell him.
263 days ago i wake up bleeding. i see my ob and he sends me straight to the hospital. i’m 3 cm dilated and the drs at cpmc need me to stay for an undetermined amount of time. they give me medication to stop contractions, and stop the labor. i get steroid shots to help Adonis’ lungs. i’m prepared to spend the next 3 months in bed at the hospital. i ask for someone to bring me beard papa.
262 days ago the nurse tells me i’m fully dilated and starts prepping me for labor and delivery. i look at mike. frantic. crying. i’m too scared to talk. its too early for delivery. i’m barely 28 weeks pregnant. i pray as they wheel me out. i pray as they find out i cant give birth vaginally because Mateo is breech. i pray as they give me an epidural. i pray as they prep me for a cecesarian. i pray as they say nothing and deliver Mateo. i pray as they say “cute baby” and deliver Adonis. i hold my breath and wait for his cry. i count. 28,29,30,31. 32 seconds later i hear a small cry and i pray that he will be ok.
after they sew me up they wheel me to the NICU and i meet Adonis for the first time. he’s beautiful. even though he is only 2 lbs, his skin is almost transparent and he’s on a ventilator..he is the most beautiful thing i’ve ever laid my eyes on. i cry.
the social worker comes to see me. she askes what we want to do with Mateo’s body. she asks me if i want to see him. i cant bring myself to say yes. i cry.
260 days ago i meet Mateo. i say hello and goodbye in the same moment. i cry louder than ive ever cried.
258 days ago i eulogize a son i never got to know. i watch my husband cry in public. i realize that this is all real. this really happened. this is life. i watch as they bury his blue coffin no bigger than a shoe box 6 feet into the ground. i sob in front of family and friends but it doesnt matter. it doesnt matter.
i make the trip to cpmc daily to visit Adonis. i change his incredibly small diapers. i breast-feed. sometimes i just watch through the incubator as he sleeps. i wonder what it would have been like if there were two. i always wonder.
183 days ago i bring Adonis home in the car that i bought for 2 babies. i sit in the room i prepared for 2 boys. i look at the double sets of clothing hanging in the closet. i hold him and i wish so badly there were still 2. i always wish. i dont cry. i cant cry..i wont let myself cry in front of my son. i ask myself how its possible to celebrate my son’s homecoming, and mourn his brother at the same time. i ask myself this question even now.. this is my daily struggle.
today i wake up and stare at Adonis sleeping next to me. i imagine another baby boy, with Adonis’ face.. Adonis’ little hands.. Adonis’ chubby feet…. except his name is Mateo.
i remember pregnancy. i remember being able to determine which one of them was kicking me. i remember knowing exactly where they were.
i imagine them 2 years from now playing with each other in preschool. i imagine them 10 years from now running around the neighboorhood. i imagine them 20 years from now, telling me how lucky they were to have grown up with each other.
and then i remember again. i remember 263 days ago. i remember 260 days ago. i remember 258 days ago. i remember… and i never want to forget.
i see this chubby, healthy drooling baby and i cant even believe he was ever so small. i cant believe he ever needed a blood tranfusion.. ever needed a ventilator. i watch as Adonis laughs as he’s staring into space. i watch as he talks to the corner of the room and i wonder if maybe..just maybe Mateo is still there to talk to him. i wonder if he will always be there.
103 days from now my boys turn 1. Mateo’s 1st death anniversary. Adonis’ 1st birthday. i will remember the events of the last year… i will mourn the death of one son, and celebrate the life of the other. the day will be bittersweet. a true contradiction. the story of my life.
i may never understand why things happen, but i know this: i’ve been blessed with a child and a guardian angel. how many people get to say that? Mateo was never in my arms, but will always be in my heart. and i am so lucky that i get to see him in Adonis.
Adonis Mateo Quinn. the ink is forever etched on my skin. the memories forever etched in my head. the love forever etched on my heart.
everyday, i remember. i remember, everyday.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
– Mary Frye
Mateo Quinn Tan Brito – January 3, 2008