Part II of "2 Pink Lines"
The next few weeks after were even more intense, emotionally. Considering that my beloved aunt had just passed there was no way I can divulge the news to my family about a new life when we just lost someone so dear to our hearts. So I decided to keep everything to myself and deal with what was currently in front of me. My aunt’s passing brought an influx of family members into town and naturally, those of us who were local were expected to host. The main person to take on the brunt of that responsibility was my mother. Let me take a minute to share who my mother is. My mother is a selfless, go above and beyond, prioritize everyone else’s needs before hers kind of person. She finds herself consumed by an odd sense of guilt if she operated otherwise. And so, with family from all over the world in town grieving, my mother became the proverbial mother hen unable to fully grieve herself. I witnessed all of this unfold and immediately went into protective mode.
To lighten my mother’s load, I took on the responsibility of organizing my late aunt’s funeral arrangements, assisted with playing host to my family members which included frequent trips to and from Rockland County everyday after work. All this whilst still trying to grapple with my aunt’s passing and my pregnancy. Outside of myself and my partner, no one else knew I was pregnant. I recall my cousin offering me a drink, which naturally I declined. But she refused to let up because in our culture, drinking is a coping mechanism (no judgment). She continued to push and I eventually snapped at her with, “can you please leave it the hell alone?! I don’t want it”! We then both sat in awkward silence. Of course, this cousin did nothing wrong, she had no idea what I was going through. I was trying to manage my emotions internally, suppressing them. The stress was enormous but I wasn’t ready to face it. So instead of allowing myself to sit with it and sort through it all, I opted to keep busy and distract myself. The reality was, I didn’t know where to even begin. I wasn’t sure what emotion I needed or should feel first. Grief? Truth be told, my grief was two fold, I was mourning the loss of my aunt and my old life. Guilt? I was supposed to be happy, find solace in this “blessing”, but I knew that would be me pretending.
Thinking back, I believe that part of me took on the role of protector and take on as much as I did at the time was because I wanted so badly for the dust to finally settle so that I could begin feeling again. I was uncomfortable with having to shut off my emotions and feel negative or numb. So I thought if I hurried the process along by doing almost everything that needed to get done, that I’d finally be able to process all that I was going through and feel better. I was definitely wrong about this. In retrospect, what I needed was support, to process everything. But I couldn’t think about going to my support system about this, they were in the midst of dealing with their own emotions. So I pushed through and handled my self-appointed responsibility as protector, a complex I most certainly developed as an older sibling and quite possibly inherited from my mom, prioritizing other’s emotions over my own.
Fast forward to my first doctor’s appointment post home pregnancy test where my doctor confirmed what I knew to be true, but still refused to fully accept. Can you believe I still asked my doctor if there was a chance the test was wrong? Talk about denial… At this point, the dust had finally settled, for the most part, and most everyone started to get back to their daily routines. Family went back to their respective corners, Miami, Boston, etc. A few stayed behind. My cousin, my late aunt’s only child stayed behind to be with my mother who was helping him through his unfathomable pain. My uncle, who was more like my older brother, also turned to my mother for consoling because they had lost their mother (my grandmother) years ago and my late aunt easily took on that role for him and now she, too, was gone. My younger, teenage sister also needed my mom at the time because she was still learning how to process her emotions.
So I continued to keep the news about my pregnancy to myself. The person I needed to confide in the most, was currently preoccupied. This was no fault of hers or my family members who were depending on her, it just wasn’t the right time, for them or for me. Fact is, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to accept my mother’s reaction to my news. I haven’t yet accepted my own reaction. And so I chose to wait. I am grateful for my partner who helped me through all of this. But there is nothing like having your mother’s hugs, kisses, and assurances during a time when you are most vulnerable and absolutely clueless as to how to even begin to welcome this new stage of life: motherhood.
Reflection: We all cope and manage life’s challenges differently, and there is no wrong way as long as these mechanisms are not a detriment to yourself or others’ wellbeing. I choose to sort through things internally until I can fully accept that these challenges are my reality. Only when I have accepted these myself, do I feel like I am ready to accept the reactions and opinions of others. Let’s be honest, as humans we are full of opinions and judgments. So while we can’t control the way people’s opinions, we can control how we choose to react to them. And for me to do this, I need time to process on my own. Pregnancy was not something that was considered to be a milestone in my family which I believe fueled my apprehension to share. I kept the news of pregnancy to myself until I was roughly 4.5 months pregnant...that was approximately how long it took me to process it myself.