I was so anxious the December I was pregnant with you. I was worried about money, and about how I’d finish my dissertation if I didn’t get it done before you were born. I remember walking up and down our street, at a torturously slow pace with your nearly-three-year old big sister, on our way to the library, or playtime, or ballet and mentally calculating: if I spend this much on that…or if I can finish this chapter by then…I worried about every cent I spent. Every time I used my debit card to buy groceries or toothpaste or a bus pass my heart would start to beat and I’d feel flushed and tired. I’d sit down at my computer and type words, type fast and delete, type fast and delete, repeat.
I never talked about it. I didn’t tell R how terrible I felt. I didn’t tell anyone. Before or after you died. Especially after.
I’ve never talked about it before today.
Because of course, after you died, I thought I’d killed you. I thought I’d made you leave with all my worrying. I thought – my deepest, darkest thought – that you knew I wondered if we were wrong to try again, to want another, if you knew I wasn’t sure we deserved you.
I worried I wouldn’t be able to handle two, wouldn’t be able to afford two, wouldn’t be able to advance in my career with two and all that worrying killed you. In a perverse way, I solved all my problems through worrying.
Every December since, my body remembers the worrying. I feel anxious again, each time I hand over my debit card – and guilty, too. I’m trying to let that go this year. I’m trying to forgive myself and also to let myself enjoy spending money, and even to spend a bit more wildly this year when for once we have it. I can go back to being sensible next year, but this year I feel like I need to spoil my kids, my partner, my family, myself. I need to treat myself and everyone around me to whatever beauty and cosiness a few dollars here and there can buy. I need to shake off that worried woman, huddled around her big belly in her winter coat, adding, subtracting, plotting, negotiating, worrying. I need to banish her and banish the feeling that I didn’t deserve what I had, what I was getting. That I wasn’t worthy of being a mom a second time around, to another beautiful daughter.
‘Let’s get a hot chocolate,’ I’ve said to E and M every day this week, sugar bugs and $4 drinks be damned. It seems a strange rebellion, but then, I don’t know, what about this grief isn’t strange?