Mother's Day; or The Long, Hot Summer
I will always remember a couple of things about the summer of 1980.
One is that it was hot as hell. Like really hot. In my corner of Texas, it reached 100 degrees 42 days in a row, and it reached 105 on a majority of those days. On a handful, it hit 110. It was like a dress rehearsal for our current climate reality.
I spent that summer at our lake house. It was our first summer living with my new step dad full time and it was a pretty good summer. He could be a little intense about his work, and my brother and I spent most of that summer outside, despite the heat. To this day, I think that's one of the reasons the heat never really gets to me. I learned to have fun in it.
It was really, really hot though. I remember that.
The other thing I remember about that summer is that my mother almost died.
Now look. I have spent a lot of time on these pages (and more than I could possibly say in therapy) talking about my mom. She was deeply imperfect as a mom. She had challenges that rendered her parenting... problematic. And. She was still my mom. She was still a human being. And I would not have wanted to lose her when I was 8. I didn't even want to lose her at 46, when I knew who she was. And what happened to her in the summer of 1980 was awful.
One night at dinner she was cooking and complaining about the heat. She laughed about the fact that she should have chosen a dinner that didn't require a stove. I don't remember what she was making. She kept complaining about feeling lightheaded, and about how bad her cramps were. She went to the bathroom after giving my brother and I some food.
When she emerged from the bathroom she was so white she was almost clear. And she was a pale woman to begin with. She told my step dad to call an ambulance, that she was bleeding. She doubled over and fell to the floor. I rushed over to where she was while my step dad called 911.
The next few minutes were a blur. The paramedics arrived, and I remember her being put into the ambulance and an oxygen mask being put on her face. I remember my step dad telling me to stay out of his studio and then leaving to be with her. I remember holding my brother and telling him it would all be okay while he cried, and then distracting him with GI Joes until he fell asleep. I remember staying up all night watching TV. I don't remember what was on.
I remember my step dad coming home the next day and telling us that mom would be okay. That she had to have emergency surgery and would need a few days in the hospital. That we would be able to see her the next day and that we would meet my grandmother there and go spend a few days at her house.
It was a couple of weeks later when my mom explained that after she had my brother she had a procedure called tubal ligation. My brother's birth had been hard. She had a c-section. And after that, she knew she was done being pregnant. She explained to my brother and I that having her tubes tied meant that she couldn't get pregnant.
Only sperm are very small, she told us. And sometimes they can wiggle through even a tied tube and find their way all the way to the part of a woman's body where the eggs are made. There the sperm and egg can combine and the egg can be fertilized. The result was something called an ectopic pregnancy she explained. And that's what happened to her.
Wait, my brother said, you were pregnant? Yes, my mom explained. But not really. The fertilized egg was in a part of my body that isn't designed for growing babies. And that means that it could really hurt me. Those were the pains I felt. I thought it was just a really bad period (side note - we spent the last 5 years or so before this happened with a single mom in her 20s. My brother and I knew what a period was, even as VERY small boys). But it wasn't just a period, she explained. It was something very dangerous. Luckily, the doctors were able to figure out what it was. And I am okay. And we won't have to worry about this ever again.
"Did they re-tie your tubes better?" my brother asked. No, she explained, they took them out. So I won't even make the eggs anymore.
What I didn't know then, but know now, is that my mom's ectopic pregnancy was life threatening. Women die from them all the time. When my mom was rushed to the hospital, it is very possible that I would have never seen her again.
The other thing I know now is that the emergency surgery that my mom had when she went to the hospital on that ambulance was an abortion. In order to save her life, doctors had to end her pregnancy.
Luckily for her (and the tens of thousands of women who this happens to every year), just 7 years earlier the Supreme Court handed down the Roe vs. Wade decision. Meaning my mom had the right to make a medical choice with her physicians that saved her life.
We lived in Texas, which now has some of the most strict anti-abortion laws in the country. And if Roe is vacated by the Supreme Court, they will only be made more strict. Many statehouses already have legislation winding through the process that would make allabortions illegal. ALL of them. No exceptions. Not for rape, not for incest.
Not for the life of the mother.
My mom was imperfect. And I still wanted my mom. There are times I still do. Because that is who moms are for us. They are the people we need to love us, and care for us, and protect us. Be present.
Women who get pregnant are not murderers. They are the opposite. They are not criminals. They are just people. Honest to goodness human beings just trying to find their way the best they can.
Sometimes that means that a combination of circumstances suggests that carrying a pregnancy to term is not the right choice. And there are as many reasons why as there are women who make that agonizing choice. It's their decision, though. It is a private medical decision made by a woman and her doctor. The reasons why really don't fucking matter. Her body, her choice.
My mom made a choice that saved her life.
It helped her meet her 5 grand kids. It brought her to the beach where she bought a house and where our family spent so much time laughing and building sand castles and tearing around on a golf cart. Her choice brought her decades of joy as an aunt, as a friend, as a grandmother.
It was her choice. And her choice gave her life. Every single woman should have that choice.
And I can't think of a better gift to give on Mother's Day.
As always, thank you for reading. Be well y'all.
And - no matter what - keep pounding the rock.
You never know which blow will be the one that breaks it.