Inside is a mile-long glossy bar holding up various suits and skirts and a slew of dewy cocktails. The light is perfectly dim and golden, flattering. Our friendly Australian bartender has moved on after having slung us five perfectly mixed martinis of the pink variety. We cheers and clink, smile for a photo taken with someone’s Crackberry.
I end up at the head of the table. We’re sitting on the patio against a black glass wall that shows our reflections like a mirror in a darkened room. I see one, two, four faces sitting opposite each other, mostly blonde, mostly under 35. They’re gorgeous. Smiling, warmed and slinky as the vodka hits their systems.
I feel myself withering under the glare of their confidence. It’s an entirely familiar feeling. I know with certainty that at least one of them will happily end up in the bed of a stranger tonight and I stare back at myself in the glass once again, wondering what the hell I’m doing there.
I imagine what Archie, Gabriella, and Ruby, the three other babies in our birth prep class, look like now. The ones who somewhere out there now walk and talk and giggle.
I think about their mothers, who I had grown so close to, so quickly. I had come to rely on them for distraction in the months leading up to Sadie’s birth. We would talk, drink tea, and eat cookies while we terrified each other with potential birthing scenarios. Once the kids were born we ventured out the first time together, navigating life with a tiny human attached to us, finally, on the outside rather than in. In my mind they were the ones I’d happily spend my years in England closest to.
Of course I haven’t seen them since. My choice, not theirs.
I look around in silence while I wait for my husband to come back from the bar. It’s the pre-concert happy hour and I’m no longer sure my long cardigan and high boots are stylish now that I observe the wet-look leggings and gladiator heels. Everyone is magically 23, chins held high, their hair intentionally tousled and eyelids perfectly smokey. I’m astonished at the ease with which they carry themselves and in that moment I feel three hundred years old. Have I ever looked that carefree? He hands me a drink and I can’t stop myself from thinking, “I could be singing a toddler to sleep at this hour.” I should be.
I shake it off and concentrate on the story he’s telling me.
Every new situation I find myself in reminds me in some way of how different my life is from what I believed it would be at this point. As I find myself reliving the lifestyle I was once so happy to leave behind, I feel stuck. I'm wedged between my life before and my life after what should have been.
Where does the childless mother fit, exactly? We’re strangely and so reluctantly responsibility-free. None of it gives me the satisfaction I need. Yet I can’t seem to push myself to move in the one direction that would change all of that. Knowing there's even a chance we could go through it all over again leaves me painfully idle, and angry at myself for not having the courage to move forward.
My crystal ball has apparently been lost in the mail.
How did you reconcile the person you were before your loss with the person you were forced to become?