In April, we invited readers to share their responses to a writing prompt inspired by Jennifer Case's essay, On the Silence of Regret. We asked readers to tell us about a time they shared feelings of regret related to motherhood. Below is Andrea Isiminger's response.
Writing Down Regret
by Andrea Isiminger
My son Jess may not say he loves me, but we have our moments when we connect. Belting out songs along with Raffi while we are in the car or companionably making out the grocery list together—these are the images I recall each time I wish I could have a hug.
Jess's brain did not develop correctly in utero. No one's to blame; nothing can be done. But his condition trumps everything else. Some days his agenesis of the corpus callosum is a heavy load, and each of its 27 letters feels like a stone crushing my heart. As we help Jess live the fullest, happiest life possible, the opportunities he will never have and the freedoms we will never know are always in the ether, teasing us with unattainable alternate lives. They are the whispers of things not meant to be, and it is pointless they should cause regret, but they do.
My "what if" musings don't affect my love for Jess, but they do taint the way I view myself. Are these thoughts rooted in curiosity or weakness? Am I up to the task of mothering a special needs child? We are fortunate. My husband Ken and I don't have to struggle to provide for our family, and we both have enough free time to devote to our two sons. I have often told myself to be a stronger, wiser person who doesn't let such thoughts cloud my life.
Although I have wonderful, supportive girlfriends, I never discussed my feelings of regret with them. I can't explain my lack of trust. I hope it was because I intuitively knew there was only one person in the world who needed to hear the feelings I had left unspoken. But girlfriends are savvy. One day my sensitive, inquisitive friend Paulette asked me out of the blue, "What do you wish Ken would say to you?" I replied: "I know it is sometimes hard being Jess's mom."
Ken stoically rolls up his sleeves and pushes on while avoiding confrontation at all costs. I, on the other hand, should be a member of an "expressive" Italian family where no one would mind if I took a minute to bellow at the stars and smash pottery in the garden. Our opposite natures have made it difficult to discuss hot topics. For many years, our marriage passed through a period of silence; we concentrated on our children but did little to advance our own relationship.
Paulette's question helped me find my voice, and I explored my feelings through writing. It was still several years before Ken and I reached a crisis that forced us to address our issues. He was able to quietly catch up on my thoughts by reading what I had written. In a strange way, the time we lost allowed me to write essays that covered a gamut of emotions and represented a more complete view of my life. Writing helped me understand that fear and regret existed alongside happiness and laughter. And that they were all bound together by love, which, we often forget, trumps everything else.
Originally from Chicago, Andrea Isiminger currently lives in Madrid, Spain. A few years ago, with her fiftieth birthday on the horizon, she finally decided she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Her essays have been published in print and online, most recently at Thread and Mamalode.