I wonder at times what might have been of my life had destiny chosen a different path for me. . . or maybe it was the path I chose that defined my destiny. Some say destiny does not write itself. You see, for many years I blamed destiny for my mistakes rather than accepting responsibility for my poor judgement.
Ah, good old responsibility. It comes knocking on your door like a bill collector – ready to come to terms with you, just as long as some type of payment installment is made. You think, Maybe if I don’t answer the door the pounding will stop. But the pounding continues, along with a sense of scornful shame that almost snickers at your inability to budge.
“ Push Cristina, Push! Come on, just a few more times and it will be all over.” A mob of voices interrupted what I didn’t know was suppose to be the most beautiful moment in a woman’s life. In a woman’s life. God, I’ve never pushed this hard in my life. What if I push harder, will my guts come out? How was I supposed to know that pushing was part of the process of getting the baby through the birth canal? How was I supposed to know that my responsibility was to push, no matter how tired I became?
“ You can do it Cristina. Come on! You have to . . . just one more time!” I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. Can I just take it all back and start all over? My body was stretching into angles of distress and uncertainty. With every push, I paid an installment of my responsibility.
There was that word again, RESPONSIBILITY, showing up in a form of a baby’s silhouette, competing for attention against a fluorescent lighting device and sterilized apparatus. Competing for attention against all odds. After all, statistics said she was at a higher risk for neglect and abuse. Statistics asserted that she had a 22% higher probability of becoming a teen mother herself. A part of her destiny had already been defined, even before she was born.
I tried to fade my reality within the channels of light that gleamed into my eyes. I tried to suffocate my cries with the cries of my baby. I tried to imagine that I was in a dollhouse, and I pretended to be the Mother. I tried, I really did.
“Ms. Gutierrez, you have a beautiful little girl who weighs 6lbs. 15oz. She is beautiful. Congratulations.” I wasn’t sure why I was being congratulated, but at that moment, I understood that something very special had occurred. Carmen.
As she was placed in my arms for the first time, I felt a great uncertainty about her future, about mine. Her eyes were gazing at me for the first time, and I looked up at Tita Carmen and asked, “Es mia? Es mi nina?” Then fear began to overwhelm me. I had destroyed all the possibilities she could ever have of growing up normal. The world I could offer her would never be enough. There was no way to make up for what I had taken from her. I just wanted to apologize.
Carmen, I swore I would never allow you to know what it is to grow up poor. I swore that you would never know what it is to grow up without a father. I swore that you would always be able to count on me. But most of all, I swore that you would always have a stable home. I failed you!
“Ms. Gutierrez”, the voice resonated in my ears as it reminded me that I was a single parent, and that from now on I would be solely responsible for the choices I made in Carmen’s life. Too great of a responsibility for me to bear. “Ms. Gutierrez, it’s time for your first breast feeding session.” I had the little one in my arms again. “Ms. Gutierrez, breast feeding is highly recommended for all babies. We will provide all the support so that this is a positive experience for both you and your baby.”
The nurse rooted the edge of Carmen’s mouth to entice her to begin breast-feeding. She attempted to latch on with such fervor. It was sort of like a hit and miss game because my poor chiquita just couldn’t settle into a continuous feeding rhythm. She struggled so much, making her first few attempts nothing less than frustrating.
Finally, she latched on, gently placing her tiny hand on my breast, exploring an aspect of Motherhood I was only beginning to assimilate. Wow, I didn’t know I could actually store that much milk. Where did it all come from and how come I couldn’t tell it was all in there? It’s funny the way nature works. Nature ensures that the circle of life continue and provides us with the essence of survival. A mother by nature must provide safety for her child.
Somehow, I was starting to realize that I hadn’t failed Carmen. I still had a chance, but most importantly, I had a choice. And her destiny had not been defined just yet. For the first time I understood that RESPONSIBILITY was not just a configuration of letters that indecisively trampled from our tongues, but in fact a choice and a chance to become a better human being, a better Mother. On May 13, 1992, Carmem, Tita Carmen, and I re-wrote our own destiny.
Carmen Elida Mason is now in her second year at American University (Washington D.C.) studying Film/Media and Anthropology. My life has been an incredible journey because of her, and there will never be a greater gift than her in my life. I look forward to sharing all about our adventures, our challenges, our struggles, and our dreams with you.