I was kidnapped by my father and taken from my mother when I was nearly 3 years old. They were divorced. He was stationed in San Antonio, she had been discharged from the military and moved back to Philly with me. He provided nothing for me and when she pushed for him to by contacting his superiors, he responded by showing up on her doorstep unannounced. He told her he wanted to see me and take me for a visit to his mother's, who lived a short distance away. She packed a brown paper bag with what he'd need for me for the day. He didn't bring me back. He took me back to San Antonio. There was a phone call days later where with his prodding, my toddler brain told her I had a new mommy (his girlfriend) and didn't want to come back. Shortly after that he took me to his new duty station in Alaska. She didn't hear my voice again until I was four, maybe even closer to five. There were weekly phone calls. Court case to arrange a new custody agreement. Transfer of guardianship. She didn't see me again until I stepped off a plane in Philly, escorted by a Delta employee, my newly acquired, tiny pilot wings pinned to my shirt. I was six. She went from being my sole caretaker to not knowing where I was, if I was alive, to fighting for her parental rights and only getting to see me in the summer.
At age ten, after yet another nasty court battle for custody, he lied about the result, said she told the court she didn't want me, said he was all I had. I didn't see or speak to her again until I was a month shy of seventeen.
From age three to seventeen, I had five stepmothers.
I've never met number six.
"I'm not going to be a part of something I don't agree with, so..."
We were standing outside the building where our law enforcement desk was housed, his radio turned down so we wouldn't have to talk over its intermittent squawking. We worked the same shift, but I was on leave. It had been 2 weeks since the clinic called and informed me my lab results confirmed I was indeed pregnant. I had armed up later that day, finding it strange to be placing a weapon around my hips and close to my belly where our baby was growing. He had stopped answering my phone calls and texts. He had suddenly forgot I existed and when he remembered, I was a stranger to him. When others in our squadron found out I was pregnant and congratulated him (because while we hadn't labeled the nature of our relationship, it had become obvious to everyone at work and within our circles that we were dating) he always said it wasn't his...that based on how far along I was, he hadn't been in town, he had been on leave at Bike Week in South Carolina, I must have messed around with someone else, because that's the kind of 22 year old female I was. I was the Airman First Class Security Forces Squadron slut who found herself standing in front of an NCO telling her he wasn't going to be a part of raising their child.
When I realized at 5 months postpartum I was facing being homeless and sleeping in my Toyota Corolla, I had called him, asked him to take our 5 month old for just a week or two so I could find us a more stable living situation; he said no and hung up.
He met our 8 year old son, my Brennan, for the first time when he was two and spent three hours with him. We haven't seen or heard from him since.
Postpartum depression and anxiety and later a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
I didn't really celebrate Mother's Day growing up because it depended on if my father decided it should be. Honoring whatever number stepmother as I got older just felt uncomfortably stupid, pointless. Aside from my first two, the others were not mothers to me. My relationship with my own mother once we reconnected and I went to live with her at 17 was difficult; more struggle and fight to reclaim and find the bond he had destroyed than anything else.
When I became a single parent I hated Mother's Day and found no solace in celebrating myself, in honoring my solo journey. I spent my first two as a mother resentful and envious of others who had partners to celebrate and take care of them so they could relax and "take the day off". My third I was a month postpartum, sinking faster and further into the depths of postpartum depression and anxiety. I didn't find my way out of it until Alex was a year and a half and it had been diagnosed as being triggered by bipolar disorder. Today is my eighth one and at this stage for me it's just...Sunday.
I've gone from finding Mother's Day pointless to hating it to feeling guilted by it to now feeling indifferent. I feel grateful for my mother and the women who mothered me when I was taken from her, but when it comes to honoring myself, or having others do it, I'm pretty indifferent. In addition to all of my "mommy" issues growing up, becoming a mom wasn't something I wanted to make a priority or even a reality. Marriage? Yea I wanted to get married. But kids I was never 100% sold on. I figured at the most, I'd adopt or be a foster parent. I don't resent having my boys and my love for them occupies every nook and recess in my heart because they are the most hilarious and dynamic humans I know. But I take no joy or comfort in being honored just for having them, nor do I have an interest to. I'm grateful for everything birthing and nurturing them these past eight years has done to teach me about myself, about relationship, about certain aspects of Life, yes. But I don't care to celebrate myself as a mother because motherhood is something I still struggle to wear as an identity, and still have too complicated of a relationship with.
I take no joy or pride in actually being a mom...I only have relief I've survived motherhood thus far. Maybe when my kids are grown men and I'm 50 I'll feel different but even if I don't I'm completely ok with that.
Having mothers. Being taken from them and getting new ones. Mother's Day. Motherhood itself, being taken over by it. It's all really just fucking complicated.