Do I Have To Be A Mother To Feel The Acute Pain of Child Loss and Suffering?
It started with a conversation about a poor innocent 15-year-old, Lesandro Guzman-Feliz — who was brutally murdered by a gang of assholes. It was later revealed that aside from the extreme brutality of his demise, he ended up being the wrong target.
The incident happened at a bodega in Bronx, NY, and the circulating video captures the horrific moments that led up to the teenage boy’s violent encounter with street gangsters.
The video was particularly jarring because of the nonchalance of witnesses, who basically watched gang members haul out a child from the tiny store where he may have been hiding to escape his fate.
The store owners and the guys loitering about weren’t motivated to intervene for the sake of a young boy who was surely going to die at the hands of thugs with machetes.
The incredibly disturbing incident broke my heart in two as I contemplated the state of affairs that regulates us into bots with hearts of steel, who are incapable of saving the life of a boy who didn’t want to die.
And his determination to survive was documented in the aftermath — when he returned to the bodega — covered in the blood of his fresh wounds.
You don’t have to be there to figure out that he was desperate for assistance after the shock of being brutalized. Sadly, he was out of luck as it was clear that none of the adults were willing to offer the dying teen the humane treatment he deserved, the store owners ran him out.
That was when the tears began to sting my eyes as I imagined the mangled boy racing for his life through the traffic of vehicles and commuters — until he collapsed in front of the hospital that couldn’t save him.
When I learned that he passed — I had immediate visions of grazing the bodega that failed him to the ground. How can these bastards take money from a community — and then turn the other way when one of the youngest members begs you for help — in a life and death scenario?
I later texted a good friend of mine who happens to live in the Bronx, and she responded with the same helplessness and horror. She grew up in the borough, and she was familiar with the neighborhood where the attack happened.
It’s not that far from where she and her small family live, and the notion of that frightens her.
She has two children, and as a mother, her heart bleeds for another mother who lost her son in such a violent way, and now has to bury him along with her soul. She described having sleepless nights right after the news broke, and again highlighted the bond of being a mother who won’t be able to survive such a senseless loss.
I immediately went into defense mode and pointed out the fact that not being a mother doesn’t prevent your heart from hurting over something so unbearably tragic.
I didn’t outrightly choose not to be a parent, and there’s no doubt that I’m still grieving over the reality of my challenging status, which could change, but when your body betrays you so early in life, the consequences are cripplingly devastating and final.
Of course I understood why she resorted to the privilege of motherhood as a way to emphasize her personal struggle with internalizing a terrifying incident that she hopes to God never befalls her. If I were a mom, I would probably feel the instinct to do the exact same thing.
And if I were a decade younger, with the possibility of joining the illustrious club of women who’ve been blessed by the universe, I wouldn’t have felt a kick in the gut from the reference of how mothers share a special kind of heartbreak that can’t be felt by their deprived counterparts.
But, it hurts to hear that my pain can’t measure up to mothers who develop a specific brand of grieving for dead children, because of the rights that come with giving birth.
It made me wonder if I really do have to be a mom to feel the acute pain of child loss and suffering?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but what I’m certain of is that my love for children is instinctual and pure.
I can’t stand coverage that includes images of inconsolable parents and emergency staff retrieving infants and toddlers from mountains of debris in Syria. Whenever I scroll through timelines and stumble upon the headlines of babies that either drowned or ended up in the hands of a psycho with a knife, I also toss and turn in anger and pain.
It’s upsetting that such highly sensitive content streams through with casual negligence. I haven’t gotten to the place where scrolling and clicking allows me to dwell in a space that isn’t threatened by the infection of being too human.
I have a vivid imagination, and the nightly torment incites self-produced horror flicks — featuring the moments when toddlers silently fall into the pool and flap around before sinking. I imagine the poor children lying in the dark with strangers as they starve out of fear from cruel separation. I think about the war-ravaged children — who have spent years vomiting at the sound of bombs and now have to contend with a missing limb or stolen eyesight.
The sound of a child crying is like a physical and mental beat down and the music of a baby laughing warms my frigidness. I can’t breeze through Instagram without videos of cute as pie tots, who are filmed at their best and worst. I follow the updates of the precious girl who was born deaf and finally had her cochlear implant — and her progress is the gift that keeps on giving.
I didn’t meet the dude who would knock me up in my prime and allow me the pleasure of lovingly devouring a child of my own with all the emotions that I’m currently bequeathing nieces and children of strangers.
And while I can’t control the need to be the mother that I’m not — I also don’t want to be shamed for the emptiness I often feel when I’m subtly reminded of how insignificant my grief is compared to those who have the endorsement of birth certificates.
When, White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, was put on the spot by reporters who questioned how she could support an administration that mandates the separation of migrant babies from their mothers, when as a parent she should be publicly against such cruelty — there was a feeling of irritation that overcame me.
What if Sanders wasn’t a mother?
Would her appalling indifference and support of her conniving boss’ contribution to the immigration crisis be more acceptable? Is it assumed that not having the experience of parenting a child would explain the heartlessness of a woman who isn’t losing any sleep over her participation in crimes against humanity?
I guess my point is that just like women who give birth and struggle to locate their maternal instincts — there are women like me who are childless, and overflowing with the very instincts that our luckier counterparts wish they had.
I refuse to believe that my lovely friend— feels more empathy for children in peril — or is tortured more by the cold-blooded killing of a teenage boy compared to my level of emotions that can’t quite attain the tempo that’s reserved for women with kids.
It’s absolutely not a competition, and yes, we get the judgment of obviously not wanting a child bad enough to actually make it happen. My response lies in the love for the child I never had, that propelled me to not selfishly force a situation that’s far from ideal — in a quest to fulfill my unrelenting wishes.
My hope is that women without children are given the benefit of the doubt about their status — instead of being burdened with the reflection of how society views us. Yes, there are some of us who choose not to go down the path that entrusts us with lives that we’re not willing to sacrifice for.
But, the remaining population that share my fragile disposition, with symptoms that creep up unexpectedly — need to be treated with care and consideration because we are emotional enough to visualize the missing joy of the child we didn’t have.
And that’s the pain that unites us because loss is real — no matter what form it’s delivered.