Last week my biggest regret crawled out in the open
and lay sprawled and odiferous out on the deck.
I was not glad to see it. It was as welcome as a
dying, disease-ravaged possum. And not as cute.
I thought if I poked my regret, I might be able to
make it go away, so I went to get an 11-foot pole.
And from that distance, I squatted down to peer at this
hoary, sorry regret, scientific name: mater onlyonceus.
How long ago it was when I planned for a family of six,
four children, white picket fence, Sunday school, ballet,
ball games, birthday parties, and family celebrations.
And I was thrilled when I got pregnant the first time,
joyful to deliver our perfectly beautiful baby boy.
Then six days later, after complications, I nearly died.
Oh, I lived…but terrified. And so I poured out all my
loving on this one lone child, our first and our last.
For forty years I believed it was my fear of death, blood,
and trauma that had stolen the family I had planned.
But now as this sad and sorrowful 40-year-old regret
lay splayed out in front of me, steaming in the noon-day sun,
a sudden thought blasted me like water from a fire hose:
I chose the life I have. It wasn’t tragic bad luck. I chose it.
My life spun on its axis, registering the women who have
pursued motherhood with all that finances and heartache
can bear, enduring weeks of bed rest, a cervix sewn shut, surgeries, miscarriages, risking all for a babe in arms.
It spun me dizzy, disoriented, to realize these 40 years later:
If motherhood had been my calling, my deepest yearning,
I would have had more children. No matter what the cost.
I chose the life I have, so, by default, also chose its sadnesses:
The subdued holidays, a paucity of riches–no rough-and-
tumble, big-family life, family gatherings and celebrations.
While I did not consciously choose to have just one child,
perhaps my soul chose for me, creating a life more true to
who I am than the one I had imagined for myself, a life that is
spacious, quiet, a good life for giving birth to poems and art.
I took up my 11-foot pole, thinking to nudge the old regret
to see if I could urge it to crawl away and leave my life forever.
Ah, but there was nothing there to nudge, no entity.
All these years my regret, a case of mistaken identity.