Mother's Day can be complicated. It may have started out as a Hallmark holiday designed by a massive corporation to sell more greeting cards (more on my capitalist patriarchal conspiracy theories later), but now this holiday has come to mean something special to a lot of people. That feels important. However, for those of us who have struggled with motherhood in one way or another, this Sunday in May can be painful and grievous, and also bittersweet.
In June of 2007, I had a miscarriage. I learned I was pregnant as it was happening. I was 24 years old. I was on the pill and took it every day, actively trying to prevent pregnancy. I was at most 4-6 weeks along. My boyfriend at the time and I lived five hours apart from one another for one half the year and an ocean apart the other half. It was a total shock.
At the time, I wasn't really capable of registering the depth of what had happened. Thankfully, my miscarriage took place while I was amongst friends who took good care of me, one of whom who had had a similar experience. She told me what had happened to her and gently coached me through how to take care of myself. I called my boyfriend to tell him the news and he immediately bought me a bus ticket to come see him so we could process it together. I don't remember crying much, but I do remember feeling numb, confused, and also relieved.
On one hand, this thing was tragic. It was terribly scary. A life had been lost. But it was barely a life, and I couldn't understand how one could lose something that was unwanted in the first place. The guilt of hosting a child that I didn't want overtook me, especially since so many try to become pregnant and can't. That emotion was followed by a lot of shame that my body couldn't hold this child even if I'd wanted it to. I felt broken, unable to do my job as a woman.
On the other hand, I was overcome with relief. I was so grateful that the baby hadn't gestated any longer and that the experience had not been physically painful. Most of all, I was so glad that I wasn't pregnant. I did not want to become a mother then, and eleven years later I'm still on the fence about it. I am beyond grateful that I don't have a ten-year old child. My life is full to the brim with creative, fun, and wonderful things... projects, adventures, intimacies. Of course many mothers have those gifts as well, and in fact some of my heroes are creative people who take their motherhood with them along those huge, wild journeys. Motherhood is not the end of a woman's creativity. But there's a freedom I feel from being no one's mother that I do not take for granted. I feel complete.
In 2015 I broke open and was able to start unpacking my emotions around this experience in a new way. This song, Primate, was a huge part of that process. Like my miscarriage, Primate also took me over by way of unintentional gestation. It flowed out of me, fully formed but underdeveloped, at a time when I was learning that my former boyfriends were starting to have kids of their own, on purpose, just as my marraige had ended. The jealousy, confusion, grief, and freedom I was finally able to express were indescribable in words, but this song sums it up well.
This version of Primate is, like my child, unfinished. After a long stretch of debating how and whether or not to release this song in its pre-natal form, I decided, like my child, to set it free. It's a gift from me to you, on Mother's Day. Primate is especially dedicated to those of us who have lost their children or their mothers in one form or another; physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. It's okay that it hurts.
Music generously and beautifully produced by multi-instrumentalist Nick Phaneuf
This song is free to download when you sign up for my email list, or you can donate a little if you like.