It is almost midnight and the first 24 hours of 2020 are gone. As a present, as perhaps the first memory of the year, they have given me a day with my son, who told me I am beautiful and the best mum ever (he is four years old, and I won’t question the ulterior motives of this unexpected comment).
Ten years ago, my husband and I were on our my way to Sydney, Australia. I slept most of the flight. I’m not sure if he slept at all. We were nervous, not knowing what to expect, but happy to start a new year in a new country – 2010 was supposed to be marvellous.
We made new friends. Rekindled relations with friends who moved to Sydney almost a decade before us. We grew closer as a couple and in a way we also grew apart. We worked hard, enjoyed the fireworks and started fearing going back to a country whose political situation grew worse by the minute.
On a balmy summer day, we decided to stay here for a few more years. The decision wasn’t as straightforward as it seems. Finding a job in publishing was a concern.
Four years later, on another summer day, I found out we would become parents. Three months later, my husband and I were holding hands while we waited for the results that confirmed my pregnancy wasn’t viable.
I sat on our couch for many days, licking my wounds. My breast filled with sweet milk for my angel baby.
Once the milk stopped coming and my period returned, I tried to write all I could recall from my conversatiobs with GPs, obstetricians, midwives, geneticists, family members, and even coffee and tarot readers only to discover that my childhood fear was real: my mother isn’t my biological mother
I spat in an Ancestry.com tube and waited six weeks to get the results that confirmed my father isn’t my biological father.
My world and my family’s world crumbled. I wasn’t the mistress’s daughter.
My son was born via an emergency C-section in 2015, a few days before the severe storms that flooded New South Wales. The rain became his lullaby and my comfort. My daughter was born 17 months later in Melbourne. The rain also became her favourite lullaby.
I spent the next three years with them, watching them grow, learning with them and from them; marvelling at the way they sinterpret the world and sometimes crying with them because all of us were exhausted and overwhelmed at the same time.
My husband and I migrants.
Now I go to work in the morning and wonder what my children do at childcare. Some days I just want to stay with them at home. I fear missing their smiles, their jokes, even their tantrums. They prefer their father’s cooking (and I don’t blame them). When I’m at work and he is home, they grow succulent terrariums and bake blueberry muffins. When he’s at work and I’m home we paint, do puzzles, read books or explore the city.
They want to visit Mexico. I don’t know how to explain to them that safety is a concern. I wish I could take them to visit their grandfather’s tomb, show them where I grew up and their father’s childhood home.
Perhaps one day.
Life changed so dramatically for me in the last 10 years that even my immune system got an identity crisis: psoriasis. I’m learning to be kind with myself, to accept that sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed because the chronic illness has developed a particular taste for my joints.
Some days I wonder what is left of the woman who arrived in Sydney ten years ago, the one who has a terrible relationship with her mother, who dreamt of becoming a children’s book publisher; the one terrified of pregnancy because she spent her childhood playing in the reception area of her father’s obstetrics and gynaecology practice watching women cry because they couldn’t become mothers; the one who edited magazines, wrote film reviews and translated journals.
It would be unfair to say she’s gone.
Or perhaps not.
Once upon a time, a woman lived a lie. She crossed the ocean searching for answers. She moved cities searching for answers. She fell down a rabbit hole looking for answers. She stopped writing. She then found a link to her birth parents and looked at herself in the mirror. She took a picture of that image and hid the photo in a book. She then changed her clothes, curled her hair, bought a new lipstick. One day she went to church to light one candle for her father and one for her unborn daughter. She cried all the way back home. She had never before called that house home. Her children were at childcare; her husband at work. She looked at herself in the mirror again and kissed her own cheek. She decided to be friends with this new woman who looks somewhat frighted and has a soft voice. She promised to help her get her voice back. And then she found a shiny pencil and a notebook and started writing again.