I was born with a broken heart. Literally. They call it a communication. When babies are swimming in the warmth and protection of their mother’s uteri, there is no need for there to be walls between the heart’s chambers because they do not have to process the toxins of the world’s air just yet. When babies take that first breath of independent life, the walls begin to seal into four distinct processing areas. Mine did not. Thus, I was born with a heart that would never be whole. You think that this would mean that I was prepared for suffering and pain since birth. I have found that I only receive it with more physical and emotional anguish, albeit internalized, than most.
I did not know this about myself until I was 27 years old and I had to undergo comprehensive testing to begin the miraculous preparation for childbirth. I have always wanted children. I dreamed of five, two a set of twins, three boys and two girls in total. I saw my first two before they were even conceived. They came to me in dreams. I should have known then that their carrier, my partner at the time, the woman who would become my wife, would only try to hurt me for the rest of my life. She was furious when I told her that I had seen them, and many times. The smaller one came to me later. She was always present, but behind the more active and boisterous one. They were both dancers and the smaller one played a drum for her twin to dance its heart out. I did not know their sexes, but I longed for a boy and a girl. I could see their auras, one blue with tinges of gold and orange and the other fiery red with bursts of orange and yellow. They were beautiful and I sang to them each time, comforted them, for they feared returning to this world, and promised them all the love and care I could offer. I broke that promise unwillingly and my heart bleeds bits begging for forgiveness. I will have it never.
For two years, I loved their mother without pause. I conceded to isolation from family and friends because of reports of supposed homophobia and discomfort on her end. After all, didn’t I love her enough to protect her? She had fits and rages and I told myself that only meant she loved me all the more. It was not a sexual relationship and I convinced myself I could accept that, too. Before I knew it, I had gained 25 pounds and I was depressed unlike any other time in my life. I longed for freedom, but needed to hold steadfast to my promises. I had committed to a life together, of raising children for her because she was always ill and faint, and in the end, to do it speedily because her alcoholic father could die any day now. He lives still, to this day.
I never fathomed myself a victim. I save people. I help them. My passion is service to my community and others. I never lie. I don’t threaten because one should never commit to something they are unprepared to deliver upon. To my devastation, not everyone shares these values and SHE certainly did not.
When we were both fitted with thousands of milligrams of conception hormones and it was too late to turn back, I realized who she was. I realized what she was and who I was becoming. It wasn’t enough when she made me come out to my family, when she forced me to say I was a lesbian because telling the world I was bi-sexual meant I would leave her for a man. I was still blind when she prohibited me to travel with friends. She was afraid of international travel, you see, and what would it mean if I were to leave her alone. I allowed myself to be manipulated. I shared a wedding party with her evil twin sister, who demanded everything be done for her and helped with nothing, neither personally nor financially. I should have known better when she had raging fits and the entire family bent to her every whim, when I put her in her place and reminded her of the lies she had raveled herself in and was berated by my partner for doing so. She assured me that this behavior was her sister’s alone, especially when the girl called us asking “how much we had made.” But, I had witnessed symptoms and only convinced myself that she was without infermity.
I convinced myself that she wasn’t an alcoholic when her sister made comments about the party not starting until she had thrown up from enough tequila imbibement. When I ran to the store in search of advil at 4am to combat chronic migraines that mysteriously disappeared when enough time had passed from sobering up, I did not think twice. I was helping her. She needed me.
I had asked her to carry my embryos, it’s true, because I thought it would make us a family, each attached to the children that would be born. I wanted to share that with her, the gift of life, even when she demanded that she carry first and carry her own because the first mattered to her and the latter to her family. I should have seen that she was manipulative and venomous when she only agreed, and with the fervor of it being her idea, after hearing the doctor say that the previous couple he’d worked with had success only with the younger woman’s eggs in the older woman’s uterus. I continued walking on this path because I had committed to it, because I had given my word, and because I thought it was all in the basis of love.
When I returned from a service trip and she caught me in my office to scold me and threaten me as usual, I stopped and thought almost as for the first time in all of the time I had known her. She had accused me of sleeping with men in the past — it was her incessant fear after having an ex leave her for a man. But, to threaten to abort my children that were only in her womb for three weeks was a new low. Would this be my life? Could I bear it? I told her that I was not going anywhere, that I had given her my word.
Time passed and I feel down the rabbit’s hole. I was alone doing home repair every night in the other greatest mistake of my life – the over-priced, high-taxed, mosquito infested property that we bought in New Jersey. I wanted to get a fixer upper in Brooklyn, but childcare would be so much easier closer to her mother.
I found myself consoling my tears and pain in every crack and nook and cranny of that 1930s money trap. My knees were scraped, my hair had paint and wood chips, my belly was scarred from a rusty nails accident, and I had nothing to show for it. I continued to pay the household expenses jointly, to support her spending money foolishly on whatever she desired, and wasting away. I found solace in two or three friends, but for the most part, I was alone even when I was with company. When I returned from a study trip for my masters thesis – I was also in school at the time – I could bare it no longer. But, how do you tell someone who is three months pregnant that you can’t tolerate her presence anymore, that she has made you completely mad and desperate, that you will never be happy so long as you live in her company and under her control? I lied. I told her it was not about her. I told her I couldn’t bare to have children without a father, questioning our reasons, and hating us for them. My own father had been taken from me with a lie and how could I possibly do this to my children? These were all true and valid issues, but I admit they were subsidiary, hence why I’ll admit to lying about the real truth. I could not stand to look at her. I could not stand to look at myself. I vomited my saliva and I balled up on the rug and I cried and pleaded. I begged her to consider her previous threat. She admitted to me that it was just that – a threat. That she had no intentions of aborting the children, that she just wanted to hold something over me and while it was wrong, she needed to in that moment in order to confirm my ongoing support. I cannot tell you what happened then inside of me. I did not hate her. I did not want to harm her. It was as if she simply ceased to exist for me. She told me she would leave the next day to her mother’s and return in two days to discuss it more. I asked her if she could bring two children into the world that would look just like me if she hated me. If they would know happiness if we could not bring them into the world with love, as we had promised? She told me she could. I did not believe her.
The next day, while studying for my mid-term, she returned to tell me that she had wanted these children, that her mother would support her with everything she might need, and that she would not terminate the pregnancy. She blamed me for putting her in the position to even have to decide and I reminded her of her initial threat. “Oh, I didn’t mean it! Enough with that already!” About a week later, I told her I could never love her again, that I could never trust her for threatening to take away from me something that I had loved even before seeing, feeling, or hearing it and worse, that it could be done in some kind of joke merely to test and torment me. I had never been a victim my entire life. But, I was beginning to see that I had allowed myself to go down this very dark road and I wasn’t sure how I would ever resurface again. Would I ever be okay? Would I ever be whole? Could a heart break if it was already broken?
We lived together until her mandatory bed rest a month and a half later. She insisted on going to all of the Pride events in New York City regardless of my warnings. She even went to Provincetown with friends, a weekend full of walking about. She was so angry when the doctor told her she had dilated. And, she blamed me. I returned to my inferno and attempted more home improvement projects as the time passed before the girls came. The sonogram proved two little gems. I nearly lost my head. I didn’t realize it then, but the stress of having to protect and take care of three girls was more than I could bare. I had very unfairly longed for a boy to help with my responsibilities. See, even though I was the “feminine” one, my role included in addition to home improvement and rolling the garbage cans in and out, paying all of the bills and managing finances, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, appointments, car maintenance, gardening, and tending to whatever other needs the Mrs. might have. When we parted ways, I even sent her an excel spreadsheet with her income and expenditures. She was not aware of how much money she made. I thought I did it all because I loved her and wanted to make our family work. I realized later that I did it because I didn’t feel that I had a choice. Maybe this is the best life had to offer. Maybe this is the best I could hope for in having someone love me. How awful of me to wish to share that responsibility with a little boy. God had finally done me something right.
She allowed me to pick the names for the girls. The long and boisterous one was named after my mother and the smaller one was named after an Amazonian jungle spirit. I read to them in her belly and cried myself to sleep when she wasn’t looking. I had started sleeping on the sofa after she threatened to abort them and never shared a bed with her again. I was scared that I would start cutting myself again to tolerate the pain. I scratched my skin, pinched myself, and pricked little holes and lines to remind myself that I was alive. I wrote to the friends I had made on my trips and confided in them, but otherwise, I was completely alone. I continued to buy the girls little things, to create the baby registry for any showers we might have, and to organize the house as best I could. There was no denying that I was overcome with depression and longed to just stop my little heart from beating. As I sanded the floor in their nursery, I scolded myself repeatedly for staining the fresh pine with my tears over and over again. Once a crying fit started, I could not control myself. I nearly sanded that floor down to the spikes.
The day that the girls were born, I ran to the hospital to greet them for their first breaths. For more than six hours, she and her mother reminded me that only one person could be in the delivery room because the girls would be born in an operating room to be prepared for any complications associated with a multiple pregnancy. When I could take it no more, I asked what they wanted and she told me that she preferred her mother be in the delivery room. Who is going to fight with a pregnant woman in the middle of delivery? I conceded. Her mother was to video tape their births for me. When it was all done, she exited and handed me a video where I could not see either of my children but heard the first words out of their mother’s mouth: what color is she? The nurse was thrown by the question, stumbled, and returned a response that alluded to all babies being red when they first come out. I was appalled, but scolded by her mother when I asked if she had actually said that because there had been complications and she required a blood transfusion. She should be the priority at the moment. Not my feelings. She had commented to me that she would be unable to raise white babies. I certainly was not black – creamy, at best. Their donor was Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, and Filipino. Had she hoped that they would develop her skin tone in utero? Would she be able to raise my children after all?
They could not take my parent bracelet away from me, so I was able to stay a few hours with my precious girls in the pediatric intensive care unit. The younger one had difficulty warming up and I sang to her, brushed her hair, and reminded her that she would never be alone. The one named for my mother was comfortable and I dressed her with the nurse and fed her when the time came. They would never be mine. My life was always going to be wondering about them, praying for them, and begging them to forgive me. I loved my girls even before they came into this world and they would be stolen from me forever. I knew it then and I’m living it now. I was born with a broken heart and it will stay that way until I leave this place.