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Phantom Baby, Motherless Daughter photo

When I was 24, I flew home for Thanksgiving and announced to my family that I wanted a baby. Every day, I would stare at my body in the mirror. The pregnancy already there in my mind. A phantom limb inside my uterus. When I close my eyes, I can see myself at seven months, and it feels real. The hips, the boobs. I punish myself for these parts of my body, as if I could will myself into a child sized tee shirt. The body of the daughter I might’ve been.

You were meant to be the mother, my body is saying. The body doesn’t lie. Primal wound, motherless daughter. I should write a book about it.

Sometimes I think I won’t understand what it is that I’ve lost until I have my baby. Sometimes I think I won’t understand what it is that I’ve lost until I write a book about it.

There was one time I think I understood. My fifteenth birthday. Over at a friend’s who I'd known since I was five, a few weeks after my mom died. “Happy birthday, sweetie,” her mother said, like she was genuinely proud of me.

My body goes unconscious when I think about becoming pregnant. In a college lecture hall, I pass out reading about what it would feel like to get my IUD placed. My professor calls an ambulance, worried I might be concussed. Worried like a mother. Worried as my in loco parentis.

“I just didn’t eat breakfast,” I told the EMT as he applied EKG stickers to my chest.

I’m fairly certain I won’t understand any of this until I give birth. The depths of my own sadness. How lonely for it to be that way. Even if the baby never asked to be born. Even if she was created in her grandmother’s image just so her mother could write her book and understand and feel okay.