A Motherhood Out Loud Experience

By David Johnston

I am currently in rehearsals as the lone male in the Invisible Theatre’s production of “Motherhood Out Loud” in Tucson, AZ.

I have to begin by saying I have never been to a table read for any other play where we had to stop four times to pass around the tissues.  Not because it is sad-quite the contrary-because it is filled with so much heart.

I have two monologues that are so close to my own story I feel as if they were written with me in mind.

10 years ago I was to be the sperm donor for my sister and her partner’s child. My sister-in -law was to carry and I could make their child genetically linked. I went through a battery of tests-only to unfortunately find out I didn’t have very active swimmers.  We went to plan B which involved invitro with an annonymous donor.  I was now just on the perifery but I was going through the excitement with my sisters.  My sister-in-law got pregnant and only carried 12 weeks.  The emotions ran high for months.  She endured several more attempts-getting pregnant each time and each time losing the child at about 12 weeks.  The added difficulty of miscarriage is how unfeeling others can be.  “You can try again”, “It wasn’t meant to be I guess”.  Those are comments from people who knew she was with child-because she never got to the point of showing.  The private mourning became too much for them.  They discussed switching to my sister carrying a child but decided they did not want to deal with one partner being able to do what the other could not.  They decided to adopt and/or foster.

They were on several lists and had all of the items needed for a toddler in their home.

One morning,  they got a call from a hospital telling them there was a newborn available for adoption but they needed an answer in twenty minutes-there are others waiting to adopt as well.  My sisters of course screamed yes and went directly to the hospital.  They brought their daughter home, wrapped in a tablecloth-the only thing resembling a baby blanket that they had.  They were well prepared for a toddler but had nothing for a newborn.

The following morning, all of their local friends were lined up at their door with everything they needed. “Brave new world”!

Knowing how much they wanted a child and what they were willing to go through to be parents, it takes my breath away to think of a surrogate offering to help create a family.  What a loving thing to do.

My mother fell getting out of an elevator about 8 years ago.  She hit her head and needed stitches.  Did she trip, have a stroke or get dizzy? We don’t know and at this point it doesn’t really matter.  It was the first sign that things were changing.  My parents then moved to Tucson because I live here and would  be available to keep an eye on them.  They were young-68-active-they walked everywhere-and healthy.  Other than her accident, my mother had never been in a hospital except to deliver each of her 5 children.  I was invited to have lunch at their condo one day and Mom had set the table.  Each place setting had three pieces of flatware and they were all spoons.  My father held up a spoon and said “I need a fork” my mother responded “That is a fork”.This sign was clear as could be.  Her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s came shortly after.  I recall her frustration when she could not find the right words and just shouted “shit” instead.  I remember her saying she was now broken.  We went through the ginko and the garlic and curry and the crossword puzzles and favorite old books.

They had to move out of the condo when Mom could no longer manage the stairs-she developed a visual aphasia-her world was tipped to one side.  They moved to a senior living environment.  This was a big help.  It gave Mom  social opportunities and got Dad out of the kitchen because meals were prepared in the dining room.

As the child living near my parents, I became the eyes and ears for my out of town sisters.  I tried to keep them informed as the disease progressed with detailed e-mails and phone calls.  Mom was able to stay with Dad for about a year in this new environment.  I was called upon multiple times to calm her down and talk her through some issue.  She was convinced that my father was having women over “when I am not here”.  Seeing as my parents were always together, it was clear that there was no time when Mom wasn’t there-at least physically.  I had to convince my father that the best way to calm her and move forward was to appologize and assure her it would never happen again.  He said “I didn’t do anything wrong”  I explained that in her mind it was all true.  It broke my heart to watch him tell her how sorry he was and that he would not upset her again.

We ended up placing her in care about three and a half years ago.

As of today she is blind, wheel-chair bound and basically does not speak.  She has not known me or my father for about 2 and a half years.

I visit once a week and sing to her.  She recognized my singing voice in a crowded room about three years ago-if she on some level knows that I am there I am happy to sing for her.  I always sing the same song-”Over the Rainbow” because that was the song I sang the last time I knew she knew who I was.  My mother taught me compassion for all living beings.  If I can live my life with that compassion and share it with others-I can honor her.