When I lived with my mum we talked about a lot of things: old boyfriends, jobs, sex, politics, family, cancer, growing up in the Maritimes.
Strangely, the one thing we didn’t talk about was death. Maybe because it was always just there, hanging about our day to day. Curling the corners of all other conversations, colouring our lives with the faintest, but most discernible of hues.
I can remember one night sitting in her kitchen. It was the beginning of October and while we could feel the faint scratch of autumn’s fingertips, we still laughed as we turned on her little electric fireplace.
My mother sat with her tiny frame engulfed in an oversized white knit sweater, her hand loosely curled around a glass of red wine.
“If you don’t have children, that’s totally fine with me,” she said. “You and Marc don’t have to have a baby.”
I had been talking to her about the fact that I didn’t know if I wanted to have kids, and the fact that I was struggling with my indecision. I had always assumed that as I got older something would just click inside of me and I would suddenly want to have a baby.
“That’s what happened to you, isn’t it?” I asked her. “How you knew you wanted kids?”
My mother nodded as she tried to work out of a piece of food from her teeth. “I just woke up one day and knew I wanted a baby. That it was something I needed in my life,” she said.
“See?” I said. “That’s what I’m looking for.”
I shifted in my seat as I told her that my waffling was also something that worried me in terms of my relationship with Marc. How my husband definitely wanted kids, and when we got married, I had assured him that it was something that would happen – not right away, but yes, definitely, someday.
But there I was, early thirties, still hoping for that “a ha!” moment that I had been so sure would happen when I made him those promises – to spend the rest of my life with him, and that our life would at some point include another little life that we would make together.
“I worry about what it could do to us,” I told her. “If I end up not wanting kids.”
She looked at me with her discerning eye, before taking a sip of her wine.
“It’s something you’ll get through,” she offered. “But as I said – I can imagine it.”
I didn’t have a response to this. I just shifted in my seat, again, hoping that perhaps I could adjust my discomfort as easy as I could my body.
What is funny – and completely devastating – about this memory and conversation with my mother, is that I can without a doubt pinpoint the exact moment when I knew that I wanted – nay, needed – to have a child.
It was four days after she had been admitted to the hospital. Marc and I were driving back from her house to spend the afternoon and evening with her. I was in the passenger side of the car – her car – and I felt a sudden surge of grief pour over and through me.
These emotional tsunamis had been happening since I first received a text from my sister at 5:40 in the morning telling me an ambulance was on its way.
Most of the time it would feel as though I was going to explosively vomit up my heart. Like my skin was a gaping wound, my entire body over. Like the only thing I could possibly do was cry and scream at the entire ugly, stupid world until I turned to dust.
But this time, instead, I just looked down. I looked down into my lap and there, in my hands, saw the entirety of my love for my mother.
A tangible, pulsing, incandescent love.
Its warmth soothing my broken skin, its strong beat calming the mania of my heart.
And that was it.
That’s when I knew. That there was no other option but to put that love somewhere, into a tiny little life, made by Marc and me.
And then I cried. Great, heaping tears of love and loss – of the greatest happiness, of my boundless relief and a most infinite sadness.
They are the same tears I shed when wee Elanor Marie was welcomed by the world last August. When we now dance together, slowly in the early afternoon sun. When she reaches for my face as I kiss her cheeks and ears and lips and eyes.
When I watch as she marvels at the wide world over.
When I wish with all of my heart that my mum could be here.
That she could imagine all of this, too.