I have not been very happy this past year. Just over a year ago, on an innocuous evening in June, someone knocked on my door while I was in the bathroom. My husband answered, and accepted a packet that an unfamiliar layman was delivering for me. My world changed while I was taking a piss.
The packet was a lawsuit; a motion for genetic testing to establish paternity. Had I answered the door, I would have been able to identify the layman who’d delivered it to my home address as the father of the man who physically and sexually abused me for four years when I was a teenager. The paternity suit in the packet was legitimate; my abuser fathered my eldest child, though he had been uninvolved in my son’s life for almost as long as my son had been alive.
The parentage suit, which was quickly followed by a custody suit, threw my world into a darkness almost as deep and suffocating as the four years of our relationship. I had to recount, and then defend, the worst instances of my abuse. My abuser submitted intimate letters and photographs, which he had apparently kept in his possession for ten years, with the seeming sole purpose of humiliating me. I was obsessively fearful for my son’s safety, especially because he is a non-verbal autistic. My PTSD was aggressively aggravated, and my lowest shames were paraded before my abuser for his amusement and use. On top of that, my beloved Abuelita (grandmother) had died just a month earlier, and I was struggling to recover from my PTSD related suicide attempt. The past year has been a hell.
But this isn’t a post about hell. This isn’t a post about the custody case. This post is about the little pricks of light that shone through the darkness of the past year, sometimes impossibly so; those fervent, stubborn moments of happiness and joy that kept me dragging onward through the fight. This is a post about happiness that chose to exist beyond all odds. Dissident happiness.
Let me just start by saying: Other moms terrify me. Even the cool ones. Even the ones I kinda want to be friends with. Maybe those ones even more, because I actually sort of care what they think. It’s as though, upon delivering their first child, all the other mothers in the world were provided a set of cute one-liners and social rules to get happily through a conversation with a stranger. And I was not. I don’t know, maybe the doctors were so freaked out by my delivery that they forgot to shove the information chip up there. Whatever the reason, I don’t know how to talk to other moms. When a mom talks to me, I basically curl into myself and begin spitting vapid responses through my grimacing parody of a smile. It must be a disturbing sight.
Despite all this, I have learned my lesson when it comes to wishing I don’t have to deal with other moms. When I was a twenty-year-old, newly single mama, just out of an extremely abusive relationship, and my son was just a babbling chubbins, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Fuck I hope he has no friends.’ I didn’t mean it. It was just a thought, a selfish, half-formed wish in jest. And of course I know that it really is paranoid magical thinking to believe that this small thought in any way contributed to my son’s profound autism which leaves him essentially with no friends. Nonetheless, I have learned my lesson. I am not going to make a similar wish, however lighthearted, about my daughters. I will, for now, only be grateful that they are both still young enough to get away with having birthday parties that only include family.
This year, on my daughter’s third birthday, family included my in-laws.