Posted by: alegra22 | June 11, 2011


Distracted, I step off the curb. A monarch butterfly is pinned against the tar seal. Its colors bright and undamaged, its wings spread as if caught in flight. I glance up to see a car, light refracting off its windscreen, turning toward me. The buzz of fatigue hums as I pick up my pace, making note to pay more attention when I cross the street. I walk past young women who stare through me. In my paint-splattered yoga pants, boots, unfashionable sunglasses, messy hair, I’m nothing but a ghost on their horizon. A whisper of things to come, futures they can’t imagine. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine the freedom of invisibility. Less and less do I find myself smiling out of self-defense, more and more I smile from a place of gratitude and appreciation. My smile is turning inside out. It is no longer a show of teeth. It is a glimpse of my heart.

I turn into the shopping plaza. The surface of everything is slick with rain. Shoppers move from sale to sale. I glance at the pretty clothes. Fabric is fondled, hangers pushed aside. Women and daughters stand, arm to arm, pulling at the garments, examining them, discussing them, letting them go.

At the paint store, I bypass the masking tape and choose the square speed painting brushes. This small indulgence pushes aside my fatigue, renews my determination. I am dehydrated, hungover from paint fumes and sleep deprivation, but as the walls transform before my eyes, I imagine a calm home, happy children, and I know this is one thing I can do. I can paint their rooms and give them a special space.

Last night, at three a.m. grief washed through me. Wave after wave of it. It surprised me. I allowed it to move through my body and transform into relief. It had been set free by the people around me. Messages from friends after reading my recent blogs. A conversation with my father. The support in my mother-in-law’s voice on the phone when she called me. The concern in my friend’s face as we visited on skype. Adam had stopped me in the middle of my apology for going on and on. Adam said, “This is a big deal, don’t try to minimize it.” I thanked him and then glanced away for a moment, searching for something to fill in the way I felt naked and silly, my pride kicking in that this is even an issue. I said, “I know in the bigger picture, it’s really a blessing. This nothing compared to what so many other people face.” He repeated his point about not downplaying my experience and I smiled, trying to accept the kindness. I made a joke about toe nail polish and needing to pluck my eyebrows. We segued into the mating rituals of fireflies, a discussion that led to the gruesome ways many female insects consume their mates after the deed is done. “Females are brutal,” I said, wrapping my arms around my legs and grinning at the video feed. “Yes, which is why I’m gay!” Adam quipped with a perfect hand flourish to accompany the punchline.

But later, curled up in bed and stained with paint fumes, I couldn’t segue. There were no funny stories to tell myself. I admitted the thing I’ve talked about plenty but never really accepted. My beautiful first-born boy is challenging. He is smart and sensitive and I worry that I am failing him.

As I return home, I pass by the butterfly again. I’ve traded in my delicate and eye-catching wings for three beautiful children. I’m no longer fragile or easily swept away by wind. I am no longer a flower, blossoming and fading. I am rooted, strong. Every day I reach toward heaven a little more. I spread my branches in the hope that I will become shelter.

This is my grief – the realization that with my firstborn, the challenges aren’t something I can control. I didn’t cause them. I watch Joaquin and Zaviera blossom in the stability of our home. Every morning, their raucous joy spreads around them. Explosions of wildflowers rise up in their laughter. They bicker, test boundaries, and do all of the things they are meant to do, but their days are mostly defined by a lightness of spirit.

I open the gate to our yard and I think: If this were about me, it would be so much easier. I can drive myself to change, I can try and try harder. If I were doing something wrong, I could fix it. Problem solved.

Outside, the world grows dark. The paint is dry on the walls. It is time for me to apply the next coat. This is what I can do – I can build a place of shelter for my child. I can search out what it is he needs to grow.

I will love him, whether brightly colored, or a solemn silhouette rooted in a field of green.



  1. I am taken aback, such strength in your words. A Mother’s love knows no bound’s. I believe you prove that in this piece, no matter how hard it get’s you are there, swallowing joyously your precious children, wrapping your love neat, tight around them. XXXX

    • Thank you so much. It has been so helpful just to get the words and feelings out on the page and to be received with support.

  2. It is so very hard to accept that there are some things a Mother’s love can’t fix. I understand the feeling of grief. It is a physical pain. Keep writing.

    • You’ve said it perfectly.

  3. keep loving, mama. that cannot, cannot fail.

    • I am investing everything in that belief! xx

  4. I am sorry for whatever you are experiencing with your boy, I can only imagine the challange of having three small children and for Sol being so serious and emotional about things. I have heard that children choose their parents so you are a blessing to him just as he is to you. He has you as a mother, a good home, and a loving family.

    • Jen – someone said that to me recently about children choosing their parents (and you know me, things come in a series of three and I perk up and pay attention). It really gave me pause to think about it in those terms. It also encouraged me. The last few weeks have been a challenge because of the room switching we are doing and it was important and good because it brought all of this stuff to the surface and really made us address it. Just in the last few days, we’ve been actively putting some things in place and it’s made a real difference. I also think just the act of confronting and accepting has shifted something.

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