Hey Mom, Sorry About Killing You

Photo: Vicky Jirayu / Shutterstock
sad woman in hallway

Those that know me know that I was adopted after my biological mother died unexpectedly on August 17, 1971. That was 3 weeks after I was born. The circumstances of her death were unknown to me and apparently everyone else in my life. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get answers.

Perfectly healthy 25-year-old women just don’t go around dropping dead for no reason, not even in 1971. I needed to know why my biological mother died for several reasons.

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First and foremost, if there had been something wrong, a disease or something, I have a right to know. Not just because she was, for a short time, my mother, but because family history is such an important risk factor in many illnesses. If I should be looking out for something, for myself and my kids, I have the right to know.

But the truth is, I had another, more pressing reason for my continued snooping. It’s not the prettiest reason and frankly, it’s likely a character flaw more than anything. But I can’t stand being lied to and that’s all I’ve ever gotten regarding my mother’s death for over 50 years: lie after lie after lie.

Some lies were well-meaning, I think.

For example, there’s the big story one aunt and cousin told me about how my mother was dying of cervical cancer yet opted to give birth to me anyway. They even gave me a little pendant they claimed she gave to one of them to give to “the baby” (me) should something happen to her.

But I knew the cervical cancer explanation wasn’t true.

First, that would have been an easy explanation that everyone would have known and happily provided. It’s a great tragic story about a young beauty who gave up her life to bring a baby into the world. People love telling crap like that over and over.

Second, my mother bore three children before me — children she presumably bonded with. It makes zero sense to me she’d want to leave something behind for a baby she never met to remember her by and nothing for the other kids? Something smells off to me.

And then there’s the fact that my biological mother's death came as a surprise to them too. I know, because I asked her sister, who’s 95. She wrote me a letter from the nursing home she now lives in and told me her sister was always healthy.

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But, I get it. Some relatives wanted to give me solace. They wanted to make me feel better, to give me a nice, heart-warming story that would both answer my nagging questions and make me feel wanted and loved.

But I find no solace in lies.

Then there were the other stories about why my mother died: A botched hysterectomy, something left inside of her from an appendectomy 20 years before, oh, and the kicker, “the baby” (again me) killed her.

That last one always stung.

It was the tale that was told over and over again to my biological sister.

Fifteen months my senior, my sister wasn’t adopted —she was permitted to remain with our biological father and has resented me for a lifetime. No wonder. If you tell a child over and over that their sister killed their mother, that child isn’t going to like her sister, now is she?

Funny thing is, I might very well have killed my biological mother.

I mean, it’s not like the pictures she likely had in mind — an evil Chucky-type baby with a knife —  but still.

I had to just keep snooping.

I knew my home province’s Vital Statistics office released death certificates to their online portal after 50 years. It’s been almost 51. They’re a little behind on uploading.

But a week ago, I poked around. I typed in various spellings of her married name because it’d been spelled incorrectly in previous documents. And there it was:

Her cause of death was an acute intestinal obstruction, which allegedly presented from at least July 29, 48 hours after I made my appearance into the world.

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So, I did a little research and it turns out intestinal obstruction is a complication, albeit a very rare one, of vaginal delivery.

A healthy young woman, a baby born, and 48 hours later she’s complaining of something, discomfort, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Seems I did, indeed, kill her.

Okay, not in a deliberate or direct way, but, connecting the dots, if the obstruction was indeed a result of childbirth, I was the child that was birthed, ergo, killy, killy.

I wasn’t prepared for the answers I’ve wanted for so long.

Yes, I’m glad to finally have the truth in black and white. I’ve always said I can handle anything as long as it's the truth. And I can.

What I’m struggling with is a strange sense of guilt. It’s twisted because I know on an intellectual level I didn’t kill my mother. I was an innocent baby. There was no intention. As the American lawyers on TV say, “No means, motive or opportunity.”

I just showed up. It was apparently one baby too many and with that, a beautiful young woman with dreams of being a nurse was gone.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder “what if.” What if she never had me? Would my siblings have had different lives? Would she and my alleged biological father have stayed together? Would she have become a nurse?

Or, what if someone looked a little further into her complaints before it was too late? Would she have loved me? Or would she have hated the little girl that became the closest thing to a mirror image of her?

Those are questions I’ll never have answers to.

And honestly, as bad as it sounds, I’m glad I’m here.

I wish I didn't have to take her out to do it, but as horrible as my misplaced guilt tastes, I know that life tastes better.

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Misty Rae is a mother and writer. Follow her on Medium. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.