Monday, March 4, 2013
I'm reflecting this morning on motherhood and what type of mother I'll be. I really want to approach this time with hope and not fear. Most of my life was filled with fear. I grew up in a home where I was seen and not heard, as is the way in most Caribbean families. Needless to say, this is NOT the way to raise a healthy, whole child.
My parents took it upon themselves to argue and fight throughout most of my childhood and on more than one occasion my father would beat my mother..in the car, in the bedroom, in the living room...I was relieved when they finally divorced when I was 15. My mother immediately married a man who clearly wanted a green card. Being the intelligent child that I was, I told her this might be the case only to be laughed at and accused of trying to ruin her relationship. So I sucked it up, put on my big girl panties and said not a word for three years as he moved in and tried to become my father. He would harangue my brother and I about cleaning, laundry...anything really and then he would take pictures of us. Clothed pictures of us but pictures while we were sleeping. I never really knew why but I have my theories. After listening in many a hushed conversation between this man and his lover, he was finally caught cheating, but not before I would have to stand between he and my mother as she tried to stab him with a butcher knife or deal with the fall out as my brother began to act out. By this time she had given birth to another child, my youngest brother. He was the only good thing to come out of the marriage but you wouldn't know that by the way my mother reacted to him.
You see, my mother simply did not know how to be a mother. She was comfortable with having babies but did not know how to relate to children once they began to talk. As my youngest brother grew, she changed her nursing schedule to overnight, which meant that she worked all night and slept all day. I was left to be both mother and sister to my brothers. I ironed clothes, packed lunches, checked homework, taught them how to read. And listened patiently as my mother told me seriously that she hated my brothers, especially my youngest one. I was shocked. Did mothers say these things? Was this allowed?
When I was 18, soon after the divorce from her second husband, she promptly sent my younger brother to live with her relatives in her home country. Out of sight, out of mind, right? I hated her for this. How dare she break up my family? And really, it was my family. She blamed me for her decision. If I wanted him to stay then why didn't I give up living at college and stay at home with him? I didn't bite. I was 18 and freedom was in the air. I was selfish for the first time.
I am thankful to my mother for many things. She kept a roof over our heads, she fed us and clothed us but that's where the mothering ended. We were accessories to her. To be taken out and shown off at her leisure. She never took us to the movies, or to the zoo, or ice skating, or to the park. That was my job.
During my time in college she would manipulate me into coming home for the weekends so that she could go out and get drunk with her friends. She used the funds I had made from a summer job to put a down payment on our first house. She called me unmentionable names at work when I refused to co-sign a credit card application with her. She used the money I'd been saving up for a trip to Italy to put a down payment on her second house. She sent me nasty text messages during the week of my wedding, calling me every name in the book and still showed up at the wedding and smiled for the pictures. She manipulated me into co-signing on a mortgage for her current home. What wouldn't a daughter do for her mother?
I've had years of therapy trying to come to terms with my mother loss. It's an entirely different kind of mother loss. My mother is alive. She is here, and at the same time, not here. I haven't spoken with my mother face to face since my wedding day two years ago. Every now and then the tentacles of our past together will get tangled and I'll receive a phone call from her asking me if I've paid a student loan bill. A student loan bill and a mortgage is what we have between us. It's sad. It's devastating. And I wonder how I can mother through that lens.
Before our struggles with infertility I wondered whether I could be a good and capable mother. Yes, I mothered my siblings but I did so with resentment and anger. With such an example of motherhood, Would I love my child? Could I love my child?
I'm blessed to say that this is no longer a concern of mine. I believe God has given me this struggle so that there will be no doubt in my mind when I hold my child in my arms that he/she will be safe, loved, cherished, mothered.