My #BeReal guest today is Kristi Rieger Campbell.
Kristi allowed me to share this piece, which on the surface of it, is a Monday of epic and immensely challenging proportions, and at the same time, is just another day filled with the commonplace, Mondayish things that fill each person’s world with a complex and ever-changing dance of dichotomy.
Because sometimes being real is neither small nor huge – nor sometimes even part of our own story, except almost – and it is important to acknowledge the ways the choices and behaviors of those closest to us are also part of our real, and can be every bit as life-altering as the enormous, mundane stuff of our own everyday.
Monday. Just Another Day, Really.
by Kristi Rieger Campbell
It’s Monday. The Monday after Sunday, which is just another day, really. Although, today is the one on which my step-daughter gave birth to the baby that she begged me to pay to abort. Seven months ago, her tears and mine choked our phone lines. “Please, I can’t do this,” she sobbed. “He’s not home, again, he says he’s working but he’s not, and I can’t reach him, and I can’t have a baby with him. Nobody else will help me. Please, I just want to make this go away,” she said.
“Ssshhh,” I replied. “Of course I will help you.”
Her son was born yesterday, and today he’s is in the NICU, and I’m not. I imagine his tiny fingers and toes and the little dimple in his chin that I’ve seen in photos on Facebook, shared there first, despite the promise that my husband and I would see him before Facebook would. I close my eyes and inhale the imagined scent of him. “I’m glad that he’s here,” I think. I worry whether he’s okay. I wonder whether it’d be better were he not here and remind myself that I’m glad that he’s here.
I worry about my step-daughter, and I worry about the life she lived while she thought that her son’s life would never come to be. I want to get in my car and drive for 11 hours and bring them home, but I know that nobody wants to be rescued right now, at least not in that way. I don’t know whether I should go anyway, or wait. She’s asked me to wait.
While I know that my step-daughter needs to spend this time with her mother, because her mother is what she’s longed for, for much too long, I also know that her being there and not here feels unfair. After all, it was I who sat on the front porch with her night after night, for years and years, talking and hugging. Crying. Promising. Loving. Fearing.
I was the mother who stroked her hair while she tried to sleep after another crappy therapy session, another awful decision, another promise and yet another wary and weary resolution. That was me. I was there. I was there for her, even when others told me to step back and to step away. Her mother? She didn’t even send her a birthday card. Not once, in more than four years.
And now my husband’s baby – who became my baby when she flunked eighth grade and moved in with us – has a baby that she didn’t want and begged me to pay to abort. My son became an uncle the day before Monday, at the age of six.
My step-daughter says she wants to be a mom, and feels ready for it, and I hope that’s true. At 3:00 a.m., though, I remember her and her temper and her addictions, and am worried that she won’t want him in just a few months. I am terrified that she will walk away from him when he needs her. I’m terrified that she will walk toward him when she should walk away.
The birth dad. Oh the promises he made to her. “Please keep the baby,” he begged. “We’ll be a family.” She wanted to believe and she believed in spite of this being his third promise to be there to as many sons in as many months, his twins born to another woman over the holidays. My step-daughter was already ripe with child.
“He’s ready this time,” she told me. And what was I to do? I’m hours away and know that she needs this time with her mom now. That our time, here, comes with conditions like school and school is hard. Night club life is easier – at least for now, for her.
Nobody was ready, including the bio father, and rather than dealing with the four babies that he has now spawned at the age of 28, he married yet another woman. One that he’s known for mere months. Somebody with children. “I’m so happy that he wants to parent my babies,” the wife-to-be said on Facebook.
It’s Monday. It’s the day after I woke myself sweaty and shaky, the “NO” not fully caught in my throat before it woke my husband. That happens, when I think the thinks and imagine the scenarios and feel the feels too much. I also know that it’s not my turn with this girl of ours right now. I know that she needs this time with her mom. I know that this time with her mom is healing and right even though I don’t trust it. Trust comes hard after betrayal, but I like to think that we all deserve it and I throw pennies into fountains wishing on second chances for each of us.
I know that if and when my turn comes with this baby, that it will come with less fight and more grace than would occur today, or next Monday, or the one after that. The ugliness of me trying to raise this baby, while he’s new and cute, and unvisited in the NICU because my step-daughter is “too fucking tired, and too fucking sore” isn’t reasonable, or fair.
I know that this little boy is not my baby, and I remind myself to not judge while I judge, because every baby deserves to have his mother’s hands on him in the NICU if that’s possible. And in this case, it’s possible. But I try to not judge. I’m not there.
Today is Monday. It’s the Monday after I became kinda-a-grandma, and I am not excited. I’m worried. I’m terrified. And a little bit excited in the way that we knock on wood, and warn ourselves to not get excited.
Today is Monday. The Monday when my husband said that we cannot take the baby unless his daughter wants us to, and I agree, even while looking at my son and wiping tears from my eyes before he sees them and wonders why I’m sad. It’s Monday after all, the day of camp and pizza.
I’m counting the Mondays until my step-daughter wakes up and becomes a mom who wants to put her hands on her son.
I’m also counting on the Monday when she wakes up to realize that she can’t do so, and asks for help. Maybe, she’ll ask me to raise her baby as my own.
It’s Monday, and my son told me that he wishes he were a brother.
Monday. The day when I tell myself that this is the first day of the rest of this baby’s forever, and it doesn’t end with my step-daughter choosing to nap rather than have her hands on her new baby in the NICU.
Monday. The day that I played, and laughed with my son in the sun. We went swimming, although today wasn’t the day for that. Monday is the day for pizza, and we had that, too.
Today is Monday, the day that I took my son to for his yearly check-up, and his doctor said that she is amazed at his progress. I called his dad to tell him.
It’s Monday. Just another day, really.
Kristi Rieger Campbell’s passion is writing and drawing stupid-looking pictures for her blog, Finding Ninee. It began with a memoir about her special-needs son Tucker, abandoned when she read that a publisher would rather shave a cat than read another memoir. Kristi writes for a variety of parenting websites including Huffington Post Parents, has been published in several popular anthologies, received 2014 BlogHer’s Voice of the Year People’s Choice Award, and was a proud cast member of the DC Listen to Your Mother show. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.