A Letter to Peter: I Feel Capable

19-year-old Mary Alice pregnant with her first child (1972)

June 12, 1986

Dear Baby,

Today you are a reality. I know I am pregnant. My period has not started which is ample proof for me that there is a life growing inside me. You are beginning to develop in my womb. My body in changing in ways that will ensure that the next nine months of your growth inside me are nourishing. When I give birth in March, I want you to begin life outside the womb with the best possible chance of success.

Two weeks pregnant my body already knows that you are a boy. Very soon I will have two sons. Your brother Andrew is 11-years-old. The name I would have chosen for you is Peter. I have already told your sisters (Hannah & Sarah) and brother about you. They don’t really understand what it means for me to be a surrogate mother. They are so young and I am not showing yet.

I don’t expect to have any morning sickness, cramping or spotting of blood. I have never had any problems while pregnant. One of the best side benefits of being pregnant is no periods. I have always felt more alive when I am pregnant. It has been almost 10 years since I’ve felt the feeling of my baby’s first kick from inside.

You will swim in salt water as you grow. I never really learned to swim well but I love being by the ocean, river, or lake. Oh, I can dog paddle. I learned to stay afloat in a pool while a girl scout. Your grandma loved to swim, there is a great photo of her in a bathing suit on a New Hampshire beach. Mom has told me many times the story of saving her sister Jacque from drowning when they swam in a pond in New Hampshire as girls. I would like to learn to swim better. I am an otter at heart so being in and around water is important to me.

I am working tonight. I’m resigning soon from my nursing position in labor and delivery and switching to an antepartum nursing position in Pasadena. I’ll still be working nights but I’ll be closer to home. I seem to make changes frequently in nursing. Seems to spice things up a bit and I may find a better fit for myself. I’m hoping to be enrolled in a masters program soon, which means even more change and a pretty demanding schedule.

Right now I am okay knowing that you are growing inside me. I don’t feel euphoric. I don’t feel panic. I don’t feel joy. I feel capable of carrying you inside me.

I haven’t given too much thought to what’s ahead.

I started to see Carol in psychotherapy, the woman who in nine months will be your mom, because it felt like something was missing. I am working but my salary doesn’t even begin to cover our expenses. I’m not happy in a system that is abusive to the nurses who work there and the patients who seek our care. I’m feeding my children, your brother and sisters, a lot of scrambled eggs and spaghetti with canned sauce. My former husband is not paying child support. I find myself stalling on paying bills, wondering where groceries are going to come from. One morning as I left the hospital to go home for sleep after working nights, I found bags of groceries on my car in the parking lot. One of the nurses I work with left food to help me feed my children.

I am not asking your adopting mom and your father for any money to be a surrogate mother but they have to see I am struggling. Of course, Carol knows all about my financial concerns. Being pregnant is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how to make it all work as a single mom who is now pregnant, working at night as a staff nurse, raising 3 children, and possibly attending a new school program.

I need to keep persevering. I’m pushing myself forward and waiting.

Love, M.

This is the first letter I wrote to Peter. I really hadn’t given any forethought to what life would be like after conception other than what I had experienced before in pregnancy as a mother of 3. In December of 1986, I turned 34 years old, idealistic, naive, and often ready to forsake my own needs for the needs of others. To give away too much of myself.

Memoir Project — You can find the Preface and Introduction to my memoir, I Would Have Named Him Peter. I am re-writing my edited memoir manuscript as I share ongoing ‘writer’s notes’ with readers and receive comments.

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