I am a girl with relationship problems. I’ve been doing some pretty deep soul searching lately, trying to figure out why I can’t seem to figure out this part of my life. What I’ve found is that in order to go forward, I first needed to go back, to my very first relationship, the one with my mom.
Mom and I have had a pretty rough relationship from the start. I was her second child, weighing in at eleven pounds six ounces. The delivery was completely natural. I can not fathom the damage that my fat little body did to her, on my way into this world. My baby pictures look like a Michelin Tire ad.
I found out later on in life that I was supposed to be a twin, but I fucking ate it or something. I had to have little pieces of bone fragments, from my twin, removed from my tailbone. So I basically cannibalized my sister. I also completely rejected my mom. I was actually allergic to my own mother’s breast milk. It’s no wonder that our relationship has always been in despair.
My mom is somewhat robotic in nature. She operates like a machine, navigating life with more logic than emotion. I am more of a dreamer, but growing up with her, I was taught to bury my emotions and then punished for not having the correct ones. I’ve spent the past few years trying to get back in touch with my emotional self, but I’ve been branded with a crippling fear of vulnerability about them.
The contrast between my mother and I grew deeper during my late teens. She was very traditional, always trying to project the image of perfection. I have always been much too rebellious to sit quietly inside of her box of expectations. The harder she pulled on the reins, the harder I pushed back against them. I pushed myself into some pretty dangerous situations. Places that would break my heart if my own daughter strayed there.
When I was twenty years old, I found out that I was going to be a mother myself. I was terrified. I had poly cystic ovaries, so I didn’t think I could get pregnant. It was quite a shock to me. The second blue line on the test nearly stopped my heart. I didn’t think that I was capable of being a mother, because I never had a good example. I could barely take care of myself back then. I was living in a small apartment above a bar with some college friends and a few cats. I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off. But I knew that I had already fallen in love with the little creature growing inside me, so I knew I would figure it all out.
When my mother found out about my unplanned pregnancy, she begged me to have an abortion, citing her embarrassment of me as her number one reason. When I refused to abort my baby, she demanded that I get married. I really wasn’t ready for that either. I had only been dating the father for about six months. Finally, her last attempt at bullying me into an abortion, she told me that my bastard child would not be welcome in her home. She told me that I would be doing the child a favor by not having it, because I was incapable of being a good mom.
Her words, as they have always done, cut me open and bled me out. I was different after that one though. It was a time in my life when I was terrified, I was going through the most significant experience of my life. I needed her to do her job…to be my mom, to hold my hand, to support me. But she was more concerned with what the neighbors would think when they found out her daughter was a whore, as she put it.
Looking back, the saddest part about this story is the fact that I believed her. I was haunted with doubt in myself about raising my daughter. I remember holding her in the middle of the night, after her father had lost his temper and punched a hole in the wall because I had the audacity to ask for help. I was exhausted from the night feedings every two hours. I remember crying while I fed her, wishing so desperately to turn back time and pick out a different dad for her. He told me that if I didn’t want to get up and feed her, I should have had the abortion. It killed me to hear him say such hurtful things about my baby, this tiny person who had completely engulfed my heart with her first breath. I remember holding her tiny sweet body in my arms, making a promise to her that I would try harder to make sure she had a family. And I did try harder. I gave everything I had, everything I was, to creating a family out of the remnants of my bad decisions. I remember feeling like I needed to stay with the father of my child as a punishment for getting pregnant.
The combination of shame from my parents and doubt in myself led me to the failed marriage that I walked away from eight years later. I knew we were a horrible match, but he was the father of my child and I did learn to love him. It felt like the right thing to do. However, it was definitely not the right thing to do. Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different, had I grown up with a supportive mother.
Over the years, things did get better, though it was at the cost of my own sanity. I gave up my rebellious heart for submission. I stopped trying to swim against the current that was pulling me down. I surrendered to my circumstances.
We both grew up a lot. He wasn’t a great husband all the time, but I do believe that he really did try. He actually turned into a really good dad. For a few years in the middle, I would even say that our marriage was good. We had a second daughter and for a brief moment in time, we were a perfect little family. My mom came around too, and has always been a pretty good grandmother. She still criticized me constantly, but was always respectful to my girls. I learned to just keep my head down and take it.
I spent my twenties morphing into everyone else’s expectations. It wasn’t until I went through therapy during my divorce that I finally took back a little bit of the self esteem I had lost. It came back in subtle waves. It’s still rolling in. Being a single mother has been a surprising source of strength for me. I am raising two girls all by myself and I’m handling it just fine, most days.
I have been haunted by the fear that my relationship with my daughters would turn out like the one I shared with my mom. But I realized through everything that I had been through, that I don’t have to be chained to those fears. I have taken back my rebellious heart and decided that I can do motherhood in my own unique way.
My oldest daughter is now fourteen years old. We do argue occasionally, but we have a very close relationship. She told me that her friends don’t talk to their moms like she does with me. And I believe we are both really proud of that. I was so afraid that she would hate me, especially after I dragged her out to the little house in the middle of nowhere. I thought she would never forgive me for failing her when I made some big mistakes. But I have somehow managed to pull off that delicate balance of being her mom and her friend. And what she doesn’t realize, is that her precious relationship with me is actually helping to heal the rocky relationship I have with my mom. Knowing that my daughter and I are so close has brought so much contentment to my soul. I have sort of risen above the need to be right, allowing me to have conversations with my mother. And when she criticizes me, I just smile, knowing that she will never understand the depth of my love for her, darkness and all.
I know that my mother will never be my best friend. But I also know that if she had been a better mom to me, I would not have focused all of my energy on being a better mom to my children. I’ve learned to love her, in the same way that I’ve learned to love myself, wholeheartedly. I understand now that my mom can’t show her emotions. I understand that this pattern has been ingrained throughout our entire family history. And I understand that I am kind of a hero for breaking that pattern. Moving forward, the women in my family will be loved and cherished. Every step I take in these new independent shoes of mine, is being watched by two little girls who will know what feminism looks like. They will have watched me make my big mistakes and then treat myself with kindness and acceptance after. They have watched me fall, but they have also watched me fight vigorously to stand tall again. They have also watched me forgive my mother and offer her the unconditional love that she really does deserve. My girls might not have a perfect little family, but they have a perfect example of how to be comfortable with imperfection. The matrilineal line is strong here.