Jaclyn J. Reed: “I Can’t Bring Myself to Birth You Yet”

I Can’t Bring Myself to Birth You Yet

By Jaclyn J. Reed

The world is not ready for you. Neither am I.

I’m not the woman I wanted to be at 27. I’m still learning to reread my story without reliving it, to write a better tomorrow without losing today, drowning in yesterday, obsessing over what may – more likely, may not – cross my path. I don’t yet know how to replace my broken parts without ending up in pieces – to keep despair from decaying into despondence. Even if I can call myself sane, what then? Where do I fit in when each morning I wake, watch the news, wonder if our country still stands? If, when I find it does, I’m disappointed, frustrated, exhausted by the convenience afforded deviants with deep pockets keeping us apart?

My mother raised me to do / be / experience more than her, so I trek life the long way round, ease into things, cross my T’s and dot my I’s, say please and thank you and apologize – own my shit. Where her wings were built of distressed leather and aluminum, she built mine from steel; knew life would temper me, the way it tempers us all, the way it will temper you.

I do not want to temper you. I want to coddle you when no one else will, lend you my calm when the world gets too big, too polluted, too unfair. Not to shield you from modernity or harsh eventualities, just equip you for real life, provide weapons for an arsenal I hope you’ll never have to use.

You must choose the hills you die on carefully and be brave enough to let things go. Take on midterms, toxic masculinity, racism and bigotry, erratic hormones, and palatine adults with a pleasing smile, a daring gaze, a quick wit. As quick as your draw, if they still wish to fight. You’ll learn that coming to the table cannily creates more conflict than it solves, that intolerance must be intolerable if we want justice / peace / equity. There’s a whole world outside your bubble, and the truth is: people are usually better than they believe themselves to be. Your peers’ personas on playgrounds – virtual and in the real – just shadows on cave walls, more fearsome than the ones projecting them, the children just as dazed and disheartened as you will be.

You’ll be from a different generation than me, see things I haven’t, pick up tricks that took me eons to grasp. You’ll grow up too fast. All I ask is that you take up space and build boundaries of rose bushes, not bricks. Know what you deserve, trust yourself enough to accept it. Being yourself is a constant effort, as is any love – so much harder than hate, so much easier to waste. Do not define yourself by ideas and ideals; such idyllics always let you down. Question your perspectives, the filters through which you experience, the trauma in which you are rooted, the moments that make up your foundation. People change so often, and why shouldn’t they when life grows stranger by the hour?

Fluidity is how humanity survives. I’ll do my best to help you flow, teach you how to move again after long pauses, how to wake up the day after devastation and reintroduce yourself in the mirror without shattering the glass. And when inevitably you cut yourself, I will be there to help you embrace the scar.

But first the world and I have to stop falling apart.

About the Author: Jaclyn J. Reed received her MFA in Writing from Carlow University and her BA in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Adelaide, Northern Appalachia Review, The Sunlight Press, and Prime Number Magazine, among others. She works in e-commerce merchandising and lives across the way from a Hershey’s Reese’s factory.

Image Credit: Mary Cassatt “Susan Comforting the Baby” (1881) Public Domain image courtesy of Artvee

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