I sit, curled up in the middle of my queen sized bed, pressing the cold ultrasound picture against my feverish stomach. It won’t cool me down, or fill the fictitious oversized hole, but for a moment I imagine it does. I imagine that I’m still 14. I imagine that I never met Tristan. I imagine that my shoes and clothes still fit. I imagine that my mom doesn’t hate me. I imagine that I’m normal. I imagine that I’m not 15 with a child.
Slight movement on the other side of the room makes me sit up. Gianna stirs in her sleep, attempting to flip onto her tummy. Red flags go up in my mind. I scurry to the hand-me-down bassinet and gently tilt her onto her back.
A tear appears as I caress her soft cheek, landing on her minuscule hand. I touch her palm gingerly and the tears begin to flow. Another living, human being is on this earth because of me. She needs me. And I feel like I’ve failed already, by making me her mother. I’m not experienced. I don’t know anything. Gigi deserves more. She doesn’t need me. She needs someone who will give her the best. Anyone will be better than me.
But when I brought up adoption to my mom, she shut down the idea immediately. “She’s your responsibility. And needs a mother- her real mother.” She needs anyone but me.
I tip-toe out of my room, steering clear of all the creaky floorboards, not ready to see my mom’s disappointed eyes again. When I reach the kitchen I automatically go to the sugar-free side, but soon remember that I’m not carrying a child anymore. What I eat doesn’t mirror another human’s health right now. But going near the junk food or anything that I haven’t eaten in the past few months seems wrong. This whole situation is wrong.
My wrists begin to itch. I ball my hands into fists, willing myself not to give into the temptation. Willing myself not to open more wounds. Even though visible cuts could never hurt as much as the internal ones do.
A crying sound comes from the baby monitor on my hip, snapping me out of the dark thought spiral I was about to fall into.
My mom is already reaching over the cradle when I get to the room. My stomach does a flip, kicking my heart. We've been avoiding each other for the past few days and I’m not ready to see the permanent disappointed look on her face yet.
I cast my eyes down and wring my hands, feeling her gaze burn into me. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. It wasn’t my fault. All the words I want to say but never will be able to. She’ll say okay when I tell her I’m sorry, she’ll say I always forgive you, I’ll always love you, it’s not your fault. But it will all mean nothing. Because in the end, I know that no apology, no words, can ever mend the bond between us.
But I can’t help but wish that when I sneak a glance at her, that the hurt and hatred would be gone. That she'd accept me as her daughter again, no matter how messed up I was. Gianna needs a mother. I needed a mother. I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself. She needs someone better. Someone who knows how to love her. Someone who knows how to love themselves.
''Jas,'' My mom's voice scares the negative thoughts away. ''I want to talk to you.''
My stomach drops this time. The last time we ''talked,'' I told her I was having a baby. I follow her out of the bedroom down the hallway and into the living room. She gestures for me to sit next to her on the couch.
“Giana needs a strong woman to take care of her and I know I haven't always been the best role model but that is the type of person Gianna needs.” She wipes a tear and takes my hands in hers. “A woman who can defend her, a woman who will pick her up when she falls. A woman who any child would be proud to call their mother and most importantly, a woman who will love her like she is the only thing in the world that truly matters. You will be that woman. Age is just a number, Jas, don’t you see? Just because you are young doesn’t mean you cannot be an inspiring mother. You are already ready to be the mother Gianna needs, I’ve seen it, now all you need to do is see it yourself. You can be that woman who will inspire Gianna to reach for the stars. And Jas, I want you to know, that no matter what happens, I will always, always, love you. Never ever forget that. I don’t care about that stupid boy, I don’t care that you sometimes wish I was different, I don’t care that you have a child. You are all that I care about and I love you.”
Tears stream down her face as I go to hug her. We cry, and laugh, and hold each other. And in that moment, I realized three important things.
Adulthood doesn’t begin when you turn 18. Taking your responsibilities seriously doesn’t start when your parents finally kick you out. And true love isn’t always with the person you plant to marry someday. You become an adult when you are experienced in life. Making decisions that have an end result of good or bad. And believe me I know a few things about making bad decisions. Serious responsibilities start when you establish self love and a caring heart for the people around you. And true love? Well. ‘Love is a fickle thing,’ a girl once told me. And I don’t have it all figured out. No one does. But what I do know, is that when I hold Gianna close to my chest or when her deep brown eyes meet mine, holding my gaze as if I’m her favorite person in the world. Those fireworks? Those are as close to perfect as anything will ever get.