Saturday, in the morning, I was walking to school, and I could see the students from the higher school walking down the hill. The monks are reciting a prayer a certain number of times down at the holy site right now. It’s an annual thing. Anyway, I knew C must be walking down, and yet I could not stop to wait for her and see her. I had this terrible feeling, knowing she was so close and yet I couldn’t see her.
I don’t know why it was so intense, actually, and I did not have much time to think about it. In the afternoon, some of the higher school students were still there. I thought they would be there, so after school, I went. But I could not see her. I didn’t know if she was there or not. I don’t really know the other boarders, because they are mostly the ones who are not from here. I am not going to see them wandering around town. I know the day students, and really I only know Class 9 and 10 students, because those are the students who were at the lower school when I came. Because of that, I did not even really know if there boarders sitting and listening to the chanting, or the day students. It was an odd feeling again, not knowing if she was there or not. I always used to know where she was, because she was at my school. I knew what their activities were and I knew her routine at home. I knew where she ought to be.
It’s something I will have to get used to: this idea that I won’t know her every move. Maybe that’s all I’m working through at the moment. I am not sure. But it was so intense, that terrible feeling of being unable to find her. Missing her, and being unable to locate her.
It’s hard to get across how my thinking is so different now. I don’t mean my particular thoughts, but the way of thinking. It’s much less methodical and linear. It wanders down strange alleyways that are not clearly germane to the point, but seem to be necessary to get somewhere. I have a series of intense feelings and I have to work out what they are, but then I don’t necessarily know why I’m having them or what they connect to.
It seems to be fine in the end, but thinking has become a much messier enterprise than it used to be.
I wanted my baby. It came down to that. All of that longing and looking for her. I wanted my baby.
The thing is I had a dream a few nights ago that C was missing her family very badly and couldn’t stand to stay here. In reality, she probably is. The first few days of something new, you are taken up with learning about that new thing. Then once you’ve gotten a little bit used to everything, you start to miss the old things. That happens sometimes anyway. I am sure that is on my mind. My baby is sad, and I am not there to hold her and rock her.
Only my baby is 14. It’s confusing. Teenagers still need adults, but it’s different. There are new ways that holding and rocking look, and I don’t quite know what they are or if I am doing them.
The other things is I saw her friends walking home from school yesterday. The first thing D said was, “You aren’t meeting C?” There was the presumption that maybe something is wrong. I have no idea when she might have imagined I could have met C. Possibly, Tuesday—the boarders might have come down to the Holy Site again. I didn’t go, because I was totally exhausted, but maybe I could have met her then. I told D I was going to go on Sunday.
C’s friends are always concerned I am not seeing her enough, and I am not really sure why. D also thought C ought to be staying with me during the winter. Then C’s footballer friend, TY, felt worried C was not taking my calls. When I saw TY on Monday, she asked me right away, “Did you meet C?” I don’t know why it worries them so much, but it makes me think C might also be worried. If D wonders why I am not going to meet C, C might be wondering why too.
Later, I began to have an idea. On Sunday, I did meet C and I spoke to her for maybe 5 minutes. A little while later, I saw her two best friends. They aren’t seeing much of C either. D explained to me the reason for it, and I’m not sure I quite understood. She said C needs to be with the boarders. It isn’t required, but these are the girls who will take care of C. C needs to be with them. I guess.
But I think D also misses C and feels worried about her. She is older than C by about two years, and it might be that D has a kind of big-sister feeling for C. The other friend is almost exactly C’s age, but D is older.
So I have these couple of worries. My baby is homesick, and there is this other ill-defined expectation that I ought to be seeing more of her or talking more to her (people here will use “meeting” to refer to any contact—call, online chat, face-to-face).
Then it’s been almost a week. Maybe after a week, I just miss her.
Then also I was so close to her. If I had better eyesight, I probably would have seen her walking down the hill this morning.
Then maybe there is a different baby I am reminded of. One of our teachers was pregnant. She gave birth to the baby last week two months premature and the baby immediately died. I had a miscarriage as a teenager. I suppose I am reminded of that: holding that tiny little fetus in my hand.
Oh, and there was a kitten in the staffroom today. My baby was about kitten-sized. Very small kitten-sized, and this was a somewhat bigger kitten, but the kitten might have reminded me again. The weight of it in my hands was very similar.
I suppose I have been thinking a lot about separation anxiety and wanting my mommy. Then C called me mom to her friends. I suppose I am reminded of the baby that never lived to call me anything. It’s not that closely connected, but this seems to be how it all works. Your mind just kind of wanders. Stuff gets worked through. It’s confusing in the middle, thinking how does this all relate? But it works out in the end. I usually feel better in the long-run doing this.
First of all, it’s a somewhat different feeling, the sense of separation from a parent vs. the sense of separation from a child. It is similar in some senses, but different in others.
When I think about C, and when I miss her, it’s a different feeling than missing someone else. I didn’t realize that until late afternoon Sunday. I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, but I met her at the Holy Site again and a few hours after that I took a nap. A little while after I woke up, I had that same feeling, like an urgent need for her. It made me suddenly realize they were leaving the Holy Site. I had heard the end of the ritual without consciously being aware of it, and I knew that meant she would be leaving to go back to her hostel. I think feeling might be normal, it’s just I have these other traumas and I haven’t been able to really accept how I feel anyway, and so the feeling ends up in my stomach like knives.
I had that feeling for Nata, I realize, when she died. It’s about wanting to protect someone. It’s a recognition of separation that has a sense of needing to protect someone. You can feel separation from a protective figure too, and that also might feel like knives, but there is something adult to this feeling, as though I have power. The knives must be fear, and yet there is also a feeling of power and an urge to do something proactive, a wish to help or hold or defend someone.
It’s different in some ways and the same in others.
It’s a different feeling because it has to do with making sure C is safe. I hadn’t realized it was a different feeling, because I hadn’t fully connected it all. Yes, it’s kind of like separation from anyone important, but it’s also different. It is the same feeling as losing my own baby, the pregnancy that never fully developed into a child. I could not protect that baby, but the urge to protect it was so extremely intense. I don’t know why it died. I really don’t. I don’t know if it died the way fetuses do sometimes die or if some form of abuse helped it along. But that’s why my feeling of needing to protect C never fully gets processed. I have that feeling and get stuck thinking this just isn’t reasonable. I can’t work out why I’m having it. I can’t work it out because so many things remain too raw: the trauma of the miscarriage, and lots of other “baby” memories (Nata’s brutal abortion, Veroushka’s removal for adoption). They are processed enough that I could recognize them, but not so processed I could connect that this is the same emotion.
Some part of me knows, and yet my conscious mind can’t process it all. The information is not getting there to be processed. The feelings are being enacted or they are being suppressed. But they aren’t getting processed.
So I suppose I will do that now.
There was the miscarriage, with this sudden, brutal feeling of helplessness and despair—I instinctively wanted to protect that little, kitten-sized baby and yet I could not do anything. There was the sense of loss that was so extremely physical, because she had been in my body for four months. She was a part of me.
And then there was also Nata’s baby, who lit up every part of my heart the way I think only a child can. She wasn’t really my baby. She was Nata’s baby, but she felt every bit mine also.
As I got to know C, in retrospect, I must have had feelings I didn’t realize were familiar, because I knew but had forgotten the feelings that went with being a mom.
I was a child “mom.” I’m sure there’s a lot more to that to make sense of. The first bit of it being that as a child trying to care for a pregnancy or for an infant, you really have very little power. You want to have power to protect your baby, and yet you have so very little.
You cannot adequately protect that baby. You don’t have adult rights and you don’t have adult power or experience. If you are in an abusive environment, as we were, you really cannot protect them.
First of all, I think I need to grasp that my own baby died, because I am not sure that has completely and fully registered. I feel, in the present, as I remember it, just a terrible sense of confusion. That must be how I felt when it happened. This fetus cannot be on the outside of my body. This can’t be happening to me. And it also can’t be the little life Nata was trying so hard to save—one of the two lives she was trying to save, her little family—is dead along with her. It felt so cruel, and as though we were both so doomed.
Then also, I think I need to grasp that Nata’s baby is, very likely, fine. That baby was probably sold, but sold in a shady adoption to some well-off, white couple desperate to have a baby with a matching skin tone. Veroushka, I guess, would be 35. I don’t have any idea what she might have grown up to do. Maybe she’s a doctor or a lawyer, someone that would make a high-pressure couple with money to spend on an illegal adoption happy. She probably gets manicures and goes for acupuncture. She might get skinny lattes. She didn’t get sold into slavery. She got sold into having a normal enough life.
It’s somehow a lot to take in. I think it might be a lot to take in that I have feelings, just as other people do. They are all out of whack because of decades of unprocessed associations, a lot of them traumatic ones, so they are intense and many times I can’t make sense of them. But other people have these feelings of wanting to protect their children. Other people have the feeling that this child who has been given to me by God to take care of is absolutely precious. Other people are in awe at the way they make your whole heart light up sometimes.
I am not the only one with feelings, which I think is how growing up with parents who lack empathy tend to make you understand yourself. You are the space alien with all of this internal life. As an adult, that seemed to have morphed into this idea that I have feelings because of trauma. I have feelings about the trauma. Therefore the feelings themselves must be a result of trauma, and because I can’t process the trauma, I persist in being the space alien with feelings. If I could just process the trauma, I could stop having feelings.
Indeed, that is not it. Other people have feelings too. They have, in fact, more or less the same feelings. They can just make sense of theirs, and mine are only just now floating up from the murky, deciphered depths of sensations that were never integrated into my conscious awareness of the world.
I have a present. I have feelings about the present and in the present. They are connected to the past and sometimes made more intense by the past, but this is about the present even if everything inside me is still a little bit jumbled. I still have some kind of life.
It is getting dark now, and I miss C. Missing her is like knives. It is like partly because of the past: Dark is this terribly dangerous time in my memory. And I am supposed to make sure she is safe at home, only now I can’t, because there is no contact except in person. Her phone is with her uncle, and I call her or look at her online behaviour or otherwise deduce where she is or what she is doing.
Only I know the hostel matron must be watching them. She is not as safe as I would like her to be, but the worst cannot happen. That is why I made sure she was in the hostel. That is why she is here.