I realized that as a girl and as a woman I had always existed but the moment my son was born - the mother in me - entered the world too. I was as fresh as my baby's bottom and my emotions were held in check while he struggled to breathe - his cord was doubled wrapped around his neck. I looked on in terror as the nurse whisked my newborn from my body - rushing him to an oxygen machine. My questions of “Is he okay? What's wrong?” were met by my pediatrician, “Just relax he'll be fine.” Her eyes told a different story. At last, I heard him.
My stepbrother, Dell and my husband, John stood back from the baby.
Dylan Thomas Bocanegra's first sounds were that of a small goat - "baa".
When he was finally placed into my arms I knew that I would never be alone in my thoughts again. I had it all - a husband, a swell of new love that coursed throughout my body that I couldn't describe yet and a semblance of healing within the dynamics of my own family tree for a very short time.
Dylan was loved by the staff - he was so quiet - the opposite of what he was with me daily in my stomach - kicking - doing somersaults - jabbing my ribs or my bladder - always letting me know he was there. I rang for him but the nurses loved having this calm baby in the nursery - until he came to visit me and found where the food was. For the rest of the stay in the hospital - they brought his crib into my room and left him with me because he screamed to be fed every few hours and was waking the other newborns. I knew at that moment that he was a fighter.
My paternal grandmother died giving childbirth to my father – altering his perception of family dynamics when his own father gave him to his brother-in-law to raise him. My father’s biggest fear about my being pregnant was that I would die – I also had surgery on my cervix only a few years prior and Dylan was considered high risk. I – on the other hand – continued to ride horses for work up until my fifth month and took on other part time jobs while reading about this butterfly that would grow into a person. I knew when he would be born because I felt his conception and as time went on told everyone I could that he was a boy – no girl would beat me up that much on a daily basis. My stepbrother had taken a week off to be here for the birth and Dylan came right on time – the day before Dell had to leave.
Within 4 ½ months of that December day before Christmas our lives changed when Dylan’s father died. After the funeral I kept waiting for him to come back – I didn’t know anyone who could relate to the loneliness, heart ache or the many questions of what comes next? Few knew how to talk to me in their own grieving process. We aren’t taught to lose – we’re taught to win and it wasn’t in the cards for me to lose someone that early.
The phone stops ringing and the realization that – the government recognizes in alarming numbers that grow yearly - young widows/widowers continue to be treated differently after their child reaches age 16. The government dictates that we're simply widowed no more until we reach age 60 - unless we remarry. Every year - while raising Dylan - I have had to work within government guidelines if I wanted to be a present parent. Meaning I had to give up a burgeoning career as a writer/actor to be out on the field - at games or school events or doctors - so he wouldn’t be the latchkey kid. Am I saying that I had it worse? Hell no! I’m saying that there are hundreds of thousands of men and women that go unrecognized as ‘solo’ parents who are doing what they can to better themselves and the lives of their children with very little assistance or acceptance.
I’ve raised Dylan in the belly of the beast where only the moon howls and coyotes run our streets in a town that has helped show me the many places he could have mentors and I always told him to keep his dreams no matter what a teacher, a friend or relative said to deter him. His dreams will come true as we all deserve hope in our dreams. I believe it’s why we’re put here – to fulfill our potential and to help.
If it hadn’t been for a group of anonymous people I may not have made it through his school years and even now I look around and see little in the way of extending hope to kids who are different. I see many separate sandboxes still and am keen on making one large one where I can invite people to come play so that we might as artist and human beings unite and have fun again.
I’ve been turned down by local jobs for years everything from local supermarkets - to restaurants to department stores – maybe it just means I’m not meant to work there? I’ve managed to get a job here or there that just covers my rent and in all honesty – I know what I would like for Mother’s Day.
It’s not the white knight syndrome placed on both men and women - but an opportunity to become a part of my community and Industry again as a writer/creator/performer. As my boy challenged me last year to do my own art show by making “Shorty & Morty” a short film – I challenge myself to keep dreaming that I will have my voice heard and that I no longer will be kept separate from but accepted as part of. When we gift opportunity we gain so much more.
To be heard, to have good friends, to love and nourish while accepting that back is a universal thought I’ve given to my son and his friends while growing up and to anyone in need who has asked. We all deserve to remain visible in an ever changing world that can make us feel smaller. With the recent recall of the riots of ’94 against the visit of an incumbent president – I admit I got misty eyed, a lump in my throat but felt hope was here for a short while.
I may have mucked up a few things in my life, we all do to some degree – however - I parented my child to become who HE wanted to be, free to choose, free to work hard and never allow others to deter him from his vision of what he desires to become in life. And for me? The realization through all my years of mommy combat I can now sit back and say I’ve also been working on parenting me. Wow, what a concept.
I hope that schools will realize that our children’s future should not be taken lightly – and entrust that they can get accolades while small and teach us that they can make the right choices given the tools to learn and make decisions.
I knew that when my husband died all of my years of training and dreaming of my chosen profession would force me to make a choice that I've never regretted - one that placed me foremost as my son's mother.