Three. It’s a powerful number. There’s hardly any entity in our world that does not acknowledge the significance of the number three.
If you’re a Jew, there are the Three Tribes of Israel. The Christians have the Holy Trinity, Catholics have the Martyrs, the Wiccans have the Rule of Three. Prehistory is divided into three eras, and politics and philosophy are ripe with examples of why we need three.
I have a different view of three. I have absorbed the number three in a different wave of experiences. It is a woman’s three; a mother’s three. A three that has wrapped itself around my heart, around my womb, and likes to squeeze… hard, so that I’m not sure if it is there to defend me from harm or to hurt me itself. The three in this trinity have each brought me joy, sorrow, ambivalence, comfort – have helped me become who I am – as a mother, a wife, a friend, a woman. And now these things are mine.
This was one third of a Bad Things Trilogy. I had just quit my job in a major bout of frustration; the apartment that we had lined up fell through, and I found out I was pregnant. I was 24 and at a major crossroads in my life. I did not know what I was going to do with that life, and I did not want to be pregnant. I did not want to be a mother to a child whose father I had only been with for 8 months; did not want to be a mother to a child who would have to live in a rented basement apartment. Did not want to be a mother while I sifted through temp jobs before eventually finding the one that would launch my career. I did not want to be a mother that would rather go dancing than stay home with her kid; would rather spend money on weed than diapers; would rather eat nothing to stay skinny than watch my body grow a baby. I did not want to have a baby. I did not want to be a mother. I made a decision quickly, pragmatically, soundly.
I had an abortion. I am thankful that I had safe, free access to it, and a supporting, loving partner to literally hold my hand through it. I am thankful that my relationship with my partner was able to survive it and that we are still together today. I am thankful that I did not have that child.
Five years later, we conceived again. This pregnancy was welcomed, nurtured, protected and cherished. When I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl on the bed that she had been conceived in, I was made very aware of two things – how sacred a child is, and how sacred being a woman is. Like the pregnancy that had ended five years earlier, I did not quiet this experience with drugs. I wanted to know it, to know the visceral, powerful force of my body. I wanted to feel the physical equivalent of the emotions that had been churning inside me. That night, a child was born and so was a mother.
When I think about being a mother, I strip away the distractions of everyday life, the little frustrations, the noise. I think about how there is nothing more miraculous than the rise and fall of my daughter’s chest as she sleeps; nothing more beautiful than the pout of her lower lip as she waits for me to lift her up; nothing more delicious than her smile, her laugh. I look at my daughter and see what it means to exist.
I don’t know if the biological or emotional or physical call was the loudest. I don’t know if it had more to do with the growth of my hips and breasts, or that of my heart over the past 18 months. But all three had expanded since the birth of my daughter, and they longed to expand even more. It was time for our family to grow. For three months, we tried, hoped, wondered, fantasized… and were disappointed. And then, in the fourth month I thought that something felt different. I peed on yet another stick, placed the stick on the counter, closed my eyes and counted to 100, willing myself not to look.
98… 99…I looked.
One line. Again. I was deflated. Mentally, I ticked off another month that my children would be apart in age – a gap already larger than I had expected or wanted. I didn’t want to tell Chris that it was a ‘no,’ because I did not want to admit it out loud; did not want to give this disappointing truth a voice, because then it was reality. I didn’t want to go to work the next day, where two of my friends and coworkers were enjoying the bliss of their first pregnancy, and where another, who had been on the same timeline for #2 as I was, had just announced that she was 11 weeks pregnant. But of course, I did all of that. What choice did I have? I was dealing with disappointment, not tragedy, and I have always been one to downplay both. Chris made it easier, assuring me, with words that no poet could have better chosen, that what we so coveted was not a yes or no proposition. It was an eventuality. It would happen.
Two weeks later, I couldn’t shed the feeling that something was still indeed different. I convinced myself that this was a lingering; that I just did not want to admit that it had been a no. I was scheduled to take part in a very physical team-building activity with work the following week, and although I knew it would be fruitless, thought that I should take another test, just in case. So I peed on another stick, but did not begin my closed-eye counting ritual. I placed the stick on the counter and waited, simply intent on disposing of it in a moment’s time.
There were two lines.
Bee was the recipient of my initial shock, disbelief and happiness, until Chris got home and we could share it. I was enraptured. My feelings were of pure joy. Where my pregnancy with my daughter meshed joy with fear, this was the most welcomed gift I had ever received.
I said the words out loud, over and over again, at any possible opportunity. At this early stage those opportunities were limited to my home and my first doctor’s appointment, but I said them with pride, joy and thanks.
We had a plan for seeing our beloved midwife, for telling our parents, for logistically dealing with a pregnancy and toddler. I started looking at double strollers and pregnant women with reverence.
And just as the fatigue and nausea began, something else did too. I began to bleed.
And I willed the bleeding to stop, to be normal first trimester bleeding, to be implantation bleeding, to be pregnancy cysts, to be anything but what it could be. And the bleeding got heavier. And I gave it one more night, and it will stop before morning, and everything will be ok because I want this, I want this, I need this, I want this so badly, please please please please please. Please don’t do this. Please.
And the next morning, blood. And then the pain. Eclipsing even the pain of my heart breaking was the pain of my womb expelling my baby. It was the first time ever that I did not welcome the pain in my body; did not want to know what something felt like. But it was a pain that was not easily quieted, not by narcotics or tears or two days of writhing in bed with the drapes, and the door, and my heart, closed.
Six weeks have passed, and the pain has shrunk. It no longer envelopes my entire being, preferring to nestle in a lump in my throat. Sometimes I can swallow it down, and sometimes it threatens to spew forth from my body. But the experience is receding, from a technicolour, blinding neon pain of the present to a slightly dulled, sepia-toned archived pain belonging to my history. Herstory.
It is the third of three. A three of resolution, of joy, of pain. A woman’s three. It is a mother’s three. It is my trinity.