A few days ago my family celebrated Mother’s Day. We went for tea and cakes, and my son stole his father’s chocolate cake. He ate it with such gusto that we just smiled and enjoyed watching how his little face lit up with every bite.
In the evening we went to the park to play with him and my daughter. She’s too young to have cake, but she likes the swings and laughs every time she sees a leaf fall from a tree.
It’s autumn here, in Australia.
I was born in autumn in a city in America, and this Mother’s Day was the first time that I’ve thought about my birth.
‘She saw me and was repulsed. She wanted a boy’. That’s how one of the many short stories that I’ve written about my adoptive mother starts. Those stories won’t be published. They are too juvenile — and they were written before I learnt that she was my adoptive mother.
When I was 6 years old, my adoptive mother got pregnant. It was summer and I was at home. We watched television all day and I ate cakes and played with my nanny. My adoptive mother, LM, couldn’t get out of bed because she had preeclampsia.
Alice in Wonderland was my favourite book then and I remember well the day I asked my dad if we could name my sister Alice. He said yes.
When LM’s blood pressure got out of control, she gave birth to a little girl who was about 24 weeks. I never saw Alice. We never talked about Alice, yet her short life changed mine.
I always knew I wanted to have kids, but I was too afraid to even try to get pregnant. My head kept on playing the same scenes that haunted my fertility journey for years–LM pregnant, LM crying, LM not pregnant and my grandparents picking up a small cardboard box that is buried in their garden. I didn’t want to be pregnant and then lose my baby because of my blood pressure.
And it was until I lost a little girl that I learnt LM isn’t my mother.
My adoptive mother wasn’t repulsed when a doctor placed a two-day-old girl in her arms. She was surprised and disappointed. She wanted a boy. I was a girl. She wanted to have her own children. I was someone else’s daughter.
My mother is an American woman who is happily married and has a couple of kids. I like to think she lives in New York and takes long strolls in Central Park thinking about my whereabouts and how to contact me.
My mother is a woman in her early 50s who doesn’t know I’m still alive. My grandmother gave me up for adoption because she didn’t want her teenage daughter’s life to go to waste.
My mother doesn’t think about me because she never wanted me.
My mother. My mother.
Only my father knew who she was. She could be the American woman, she could be the teenager who never knew, or she can be someone who simply didn’t want a child.
Today I wonder if I’ll ever hear her voice.
That image of my son eating cake is now etched in my mind. When I think about Mother’s Day I’ll think about him–he was so proud of himself because he knew he was doing something wrong and was getting away with it. I’ll think about him standing up, face and hands covered in chocolate, holding my hand and taking me out of the restaurant to show me the fruit stall at the market.
My mother missed this day with her grandson. She’s missed 14,235 days of my life and I’ve needed her every single one of those days.
Maybe next Mother’s Day I’ll have her next to me. Maybe next autumn I’ll know her name.