On Receiving Notice of My Step-Daughter's Pregnancy
To which I want to ask, “For whom?”
Yes I am angry. Teeth-on-fire angry. Angry for the years of emotional blackmail, angry at your mother for calling this baby God’s will, at the baby’s father for being stupid, at the no-name church that preached abstinence then held up other young mothers as heroines, as martyrs. But especially angry at your mother—that warden mother you swore you hated, who, when you tried to speak openly with her about sex, threw her palms heavenward and implored, “Jesus, cut these lies in two!” The mother you now visit often and talk to about the beautiful perfect little baby girl in your belly, the baby that will transform all of your lives into goodness and light the moment she is born. The little princess who will love only you and worship you forever. The tiny doll you can dress up and carry around, that will never cry or make a mess or break your heart.
And I am angry at my shallow, shallow self. I hate that I am embarrassed to tell people the path you have chosen, that I feel the need to explain, as if there were an explanation. That to others, I say your mother is to blame. If I were a good person, I would not be jealous that you love your mother again.
Perhaps it is God’s will that you are pregnant, and I should pray for serenity. But not today. Today this anger is a shield that keeps me from seeing how I have failed you. How I never managed to help you through the thickness of your own private despair. I never managed to convince you that you were worthwhile and worthy. I never managed to make you want more from life. I never managed to protect you from yourself.
I am left with only this pathetic, fragile hope that maybe this, this, will finally make you happy.
I keep trying to believe it.
But I circle back to helpless rage: you are eighteen and I have to let you go, let you be who you will be, even if that means an unwed mother, college-dropout, working at McDonalds in a dead-end town.
I have to decide if I will love that person as much as I loved the suffering girl. Except, there is no choosing, love being what it is.
I have not saved you from yourself, but at least I have loved you. Know that I have loved you.
Mary Akers' work has appeared or is forthcoming in Xavier Review, Primavera, Literary Mama, Ink Pot, Pindeldyboz, Wisconsin Review and other journals. She is the recipient of a Bread Loaf Waitership and a graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program in Creative Writing.
photo by Dinty W. Moore