Third-Generation Bastard

Around lunch time on a clear spring day, my elder son stood on one side of his partner and I stood on the other and together we helped her struggle through the end of a hard, hard labor, her small, 19-year-old body pushing out a strapping 8-pound baby girl. A third-generation bastard. And the first generation to be truly welcomed into the world. 

Like a lot of adoptees, I had a son at almost exactly the same age as my mother had me. My Mum and Dad were mortified. When I told him, Dad first offered me a cup of tea and then, as he put the warm cup of solace in my hand, offered me an abortion. He was trying to save me from the hardship of being a young mother. And he was trying to save us both the embarrassment of my being the bastard who was having a bastard. You now, the apple doesn’t fall far and all that. And in those early years of my son’s life, his embarrassment blocked him from really accepting us. 

So when my son came to me, telling me he was going to be a father, at 20, of course, which is the same age as I was and my mother was, I was, at first, devastated. I didn’t want him to have to have the hardship of being a young father. And then all the old feelings resurfaced. Those feelings brought along friends I hadn’t even known existed. I wallowed around in my own feelings of illegitimacy, of shame surrounding my own pregnancy, of my Dad’s embarrassment, of abandonment. I hadn’t been welcomed into the world. And my son hadn’t either, not by his extended family. There was only me, seeing someone to whom I was actually related for the first time when he was born. 

Gradually, I began to see the opportunity for healing through this birth. Here was a chance for me to be all the things I wished I’d had and that I wished my son had had. Here was a chance for me to welcome this new life. It took me nearly all the months of the gestation to be ready. And it was tougher than getting ready for the births of any of my three children. 

But that spring day, amid all the sweat and tears, I found myself truly ready to reach for my granddaughter and hold her and say welcome to this world, this life. In the back of my mind, I added, you lovely little bastard. Because although I’d really like the turn-20-and-have-a-baby gene  to take a sideways turn for the next generation, I have a tremendous amount of hope that we can finally get things right — that this child knows she is welcome and worthy and that we will be able to help her find her gifts, untainted by whether she was planned or legitimized by anything outside our family.

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