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On this special day, so many years after my mom had me, August 13th, I thank her. Even though I don’t look so grateful in my photo from the day itself, below, on my first day on earth as Jennifer, I think I was probably just stunned.

Light. Air. All the mom-ness so far away that used to be all around me. I was truly happy to be here as long as she was close, from what I remember, and she told me so many times how I didn’t cry, as a baby.

August 13th J.J.Brown Birth

That my mother was hoping for a boy, who she would name Romeo (my older sister was Juliet), when the second child was on the way, was no secret. When she told the story, which was pretty often, my father assured me he wouldn’t have let her do that even if I’d been a boy.

I’m about to be swallowed by my older sibling Juliet’s affections in the photo below, with my maternal Grandmother, Thelma Woods, intervening.

August 28, J.J.Brown family

My mom tried to bend and shape me into a stronger individual than I was at every turn in the road. I’m grateful for this too. But I wasn’t a Romeo. Looking back, I may have tried to fill the void she felt, but not very well. While I played with trucks and my father’s tools, went all-out for sports (even football), and got in fights regularly, the femininity flowered all over the place and couldn’t be tamed.

I got secretly married twice in kindergarten, to the same boy beside the school trailer, and even worse, vowed to have a big family.

That kind of thing horrified my mom. She did her best to teach me about the big feminists, the value of higher education. She also made it crystal clear that she was a supporter of using birth control, or even abortion.

The photo of my mom below is from when she was about 50, so happy and vibrant, on a rare trip back home – taken by my first husband, photographer Joe Sorrentino.

Bonnie Potter Brown, J.J.Brown family photo by Joe Sorrentino

I wonder, if my newborn photo were today would I be in it?

Would she have chosen a girl, if she had the tests to show our gender early on, or would they have tried again for a boy? Would she have wanted me if she had the genetic screening and knew I carried an inherited genetic disease I would pass on to my own two daughters? Would I have made it from in-mom to this lifetime?

If my mom were here today on my birthday, I would tell her, “I’m so happy to be alive and in this world. Thank you.”

J.J.Brown Queens Botanical Garden

Writer’s note: I write about mother’s love in my book, Death and the Dream, and in my novel American Dream. Read more about my books at my official author website.