My name is Claire, I am 52 years old and “no I do not have any children”.
A letter to Bailey and George
Dear Bailey and George,
Because I loved you, you were never conceived and born.
You exist, though. I have always known you were here, fully alive in my heart and in my spirit.
I’ve always known your names.
Bailey Claire, my daughter, your first name is your grandmother’s, maiden name and Claire is my name. George Bullard, my son, your name comes from our ancestor Seth Bullard who fought in the revolutionary war. George was a family name, strong, and solid.
Over the years, I think of you. Sometimes I may go a month or even a year without thinking of you but you are always in my heart and spirit. Sometimes it’s painful– the what if- and other times I have the acceptance and understanding of my decision, my choice.
I didn’t think I would be a good mother. I was scared of myself. All I had ever known was abuse and I refused to subject you to the nightmare I endured.
Bailey, George because I loved you, you were never conceived and born.
I was the youngest child of three and the only girl. My arrival into the world was marked by one sentence in my father’s journal: “Today, Eleanor and Claire came home from the hospital” My father was 6 feet 6 inches tall, strong, mean and a raging alcoholic.
My mother, with a black eye and bruised arms, often begged him to stay.
There were constant fights and beatings. When I was 5, I watched my father beat my brother to toughen him up. That’s when I decided to become invisible and be the perfect child and girl my mother wanted.
It worked until I was six years old.
One summer day, my friend Doug and I went into the woods to play as we often did. In the woods, we ran into Doug’s older brothers and some neighborhood boys. They bullied me to pull my pants down. It didn’t feel right, but I was only six, so I pulled my pants down and up real fast, then ran home and told my brother. My mother overheard me. She stormed into the room, sent my brother away and proceeded to beat me with a brush. She made it clear that I was at fault, that I should be ashamed. “You’re a horrible child”, she told me. I believed her. Why not? She’s my mother.
I didn’t know until I was grown that a mother is someone who loves you, protects you, guides and supports you. I had no idea what it meant to be cherished, seen, loved, and encouraged to become myself.
Instead, my mother raised me to be a mini her and it was far easier to go along with her than to receive her rage. Appearances were paramount to her. Her two favorite colors, yellow and light blue, had to be my favorite colors. Everything was dictated to me – being a lady, a debutante, perfect manners, the right friends and activities and taking the abuse. Telling no one.
I escaped through fantasy. To fall asleep at night in my bed, I would imagine being kidnapped and the whole world knowing it. In my dream, I would escape my captors and run for days, surviving the dead of winter all by myself in a forest in France. Eventually, I would come across a farmhouse and the world would find out that I saved myself. I would become a hero!
And then, maybe, my parents would love me.
My mother did enjoy creating a lovely home and environment for us children. I always said she was Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart. She made a lovely table for me, painted white with red tulips in the center. There were four chairs –one blue, one green, one yellow, and one red. She didn’t know, nor did I, that I was colorblind. I loved the table; it’s pretty grey flowers.
One day, I was drawing with black ink that bled through the paper and ruined the red tulips – my mother’s labor of love.
My mother flew into a fit of rage. I was beaten. I was told that I was horrible, ungrateful and I must not love her because I destroyed her tulips. She painted over the ink in white, but never gave me the tulips back. I knew why, I didn’t deserve it. I was worthless.
Bailey, George because I loved you, you were never conceived and born.
I wanted you to know unconditional love. I wanted you to have good values and morals, to be your own person with dreams, to make mistakes and learn from them. I wanted to be there for you, no matter what. When I was younger, I didn’t know how to give you any of this, and so, I protected you. From me.
All I had to give you was fear. I knew violence and abuse: verbal, physical, and sexual. I didn’t want that for you. I didn’t expect to live past the age of 30. I expected to die at the hands of a gun. Why bother dreaming?
I was 13 years old sitting in the corner of my closet with my fingers in my ears to drown out the clicking and yelling noises. My room was right next to the fight. I’m stuck. I’m scared out of my mind when the door flew open; my mother grabbed my arm and yanked me up. She dragged me to my father, who is drunk with a loaded gun pointed at my mother. He’d been making her play Russian roulette, something he frequently did. She placed me in front of her. “Do you want to continue?” She asked.
My heart raced! It seemed like forever.
“Oh, Eleanor,” my father finally said as he put the gun down.
Back then; the cable box consisted of three rows of buttons that clicked when changing the channel. When in my room, time and time again, I never knew if the clicking sound was my father changing the channel or pointing a gun at my mother. The next time my brother came home, he switched the real bullets to blanks, but the clicking, that horrible clicking haunted me for years.
I was taught that when the going gets too tough, you attempt suicide.
My father attempted suicide when I was 10 years old. When I was 14, I talked my mother off the window ledge of our 9th floor NYC apartment. It became a pattern after that – my mother threatening to kill herself, me talking her out of it.
And then, I found myself on the same path.
I had a choice, continue on the destructive path to death or make a change. I chose healing – a long, painful path of discovery.
A discovery that a mother loves you unconditionally, protects you and puts you first. I had to learn this for myself. I have spent my adult life re-mothering myself, learning how to be loved and loving, forgiving, kind, and generous. This was my labor of love. I have taught myself to cry, to be angry appropriately, and to sit with my own sadness. I have forgiven my past and embrace today with love and joy.
For many years, I felt inferior because I wasn’t a mother. Isn’t that what it means to be a woman? One day, in my grief and in my struggle to forgive myself for not having you, my precious children, I looked up words related to “woman.”
I learned something meaningful.
I am a woman, whole and complete. I am gentle, caring, giving. I didn’t take the responsibility of being a mother lightly and I was strong enough to stand up to societal expectations in order to protect my children, in order to keep you safe.
I am a woman, most certainly full and complete.
I am a nurturer.
I am a listener.
I am a loving hand to hold.
I am kind.
I am trustworthy.
I am worthy.
I am content.
I now know how to hold you: tight with love, tenderness and protection. You are my sweet children in my heart and spirit. You are blessed. And I know the children, Reese, Nicholas, Martin, Edward, Baker, and Stewart, who are in my life now, are blessed with my love, advice, tenderness and protection. I will protect and love them as a mother does.
I stand here at peace, free, with love and strength.
Bailey and George, because I loved you, you were never conceived and born.
In my heart forever.