I have never felt close to my mother emotionally. I feel I was a motherless child. Although I was born to and raised by my biological mother, she never felt like a mother to me. In my despair I turned to spirituality and discovered other forms of motherhood which undeniably led to a huge soul growth.
When I look at a picture of a mother and her child, I see the mother’s love for her daughter or son. I see the admiration that the daughter or son has for the mother. I see love and feel the warmth of this motherly love filling my heart. When I look at my mother, I do not see love. I see distance between us, loneliness and feel cold. Here is my story. The due date was February 26 my mother once told me. I was born on January 31. This was the seventies. The place was a mid-sized town famous for its steel mills, chemical plants, and oil and gas companies. Most residents there lived in lower-middle class housing. Most of them never graduated from high school, barely got to see the world, and were buried in the downtown cemetery. Being born prematurely meant being placed into an incubator. I often wonder what babies think. My mother also told me that, according to her, I looked angry when I was born and screamed a lot. I don’t remember this now of course, but perhaps I was a baby thinking that I did not want to be born this way and in this time and place. Perhaps I could instinctively feel what kind of life I was about to lead. Perhaps I thought that this was a cold and sterile world in this incubator. It was probably not cold in a physical sense, rather in a mental or emotional sense. Perhaps I did not feel the love of a mother the way I see it now in certain pictures.
My mother never breastfed me, and never touched after my birth. Perhaps the medical staff did not allow her to do that due to the fact that I was premature. Perhaps she did not want to touch and hold me. Over the years, I started thinking that perhaps she never really wanted me. Yes, she wanted a child. She told me that she had tried for three years to get pregnant. However I have never heard her say “I love you more than anything in the world and I would never want anyone else as my daughter” or something like that. Perhaps she wanted a child but one that came with so many problems. I remember her telling me once that she pushed so hard to get the delivery over as soon as possible so she could have lunch. This is who she is. She wants something (such as a baby) so badly but then doesn’t take the responsibility to care for it with unconditional motherly love no matter what. Who cares about lunch when your own child is being born? Whether she was allowed to touch and hold me or not, she did not do it. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a sterile environment where babies find themselves surrounded by tubes. Scary equipment, sensitive little beings and rushed doctors and nurses, might not be the coziest nursery. Because research shows more and more how the immune system develops in babies and that skin contact encourages the strengthening of such, it is recommended that the mother touches and feeds the premature baby as much as possible. However, in the seventies, this was not the case just as fathers were usually not allowed or as common in the delivery room as today.
As an adult today, my immune system is very weak especially when I am stressed at work or during seasonal changes. I used to catch the common cold several times a year. I had everything from scarlet fever to stress related dermatitis. Then I developed allergies. Still up to this day, and I am in my forties now, I often look at my body in the mirror and wonder what allergy, symptom or disease I would get next. All seem to be related to a weak immune system. In addition, over the years I have been suicidal, depressed, and too emotional. I cry easily and have a very thin skin as I get hurt very easily and take everything personally immediately. I am convinced that my first few months lacking a mother’s touch contributed to my weak immune system.
A year after I was born I still had not grown to a normal height and weight for an infant that age. I was considered too small and underweight for my age of one. The diagnosis was a hole in my heart that made my breathing shallow and made it difficult to supply my body with sufficient oxygen. This was likely the reason for my slow development. The open heart surgery was not available in my town so we had to travel to a specialist at the largest hospital of the country. The surgery was successful. However, once again, I meant trouble for my mother. She saw moving to an apartment next to the hospital and visiting me daily as a burden. Although she was there for me, I did not feel her love. For months I was too weak to move and, once again, surrounded by tubes in a sterile environment. Once again, my mother could not touch me or hug me. Perhaps, once again, she was not allowed to, or, she did not want to as, once again, I meant trouble that she never signed up for.
My first day of school was a day of celebration. I had overcome many of my health related challenges. In addition, as an only child, I looked forward to making many friends. I could play with, at school. However, it turned out differently. One of the schools admission criteria was a minimum weight and height. Due to the fact that I had been born premature and had had heart surgery, I was a few inches shorter than the average six year old, and I was underweight. Normally, that meant that I would have been denied until I would meet the admissions criteria. However, fortunately, exceptions could be made if one could proof that the child is mature enough and shows promise intellectually. After running a few tests, the principal gave me her approval stamp. She even told me that she had never seen such an intelligent and talented child! She told me that what I missed in terms of height and weight, I would make up for in my mind. I was considered smarter than all the other kids at that school. I was thrilled of course! Finally, I would be able to show the world what I could do. Finally, I thought, I could make my mother proud of me. The other kids did not see it that way. Instead, I was bullied and told by groups of children that I was too small and I would not belong there. They told me that I should return to kindergarten. I suppose that they noticed how smart I was and felt threatened by this small, underweight, little girl. In addition, my mother – now working as a secretary – grew more and more distant to me.
After school I would come home and do chores such as start preparing lunch while waiting for my mother. There were many issues in the family that created tension and reasons for arguments between my parents such as money and relationship issues. My parents argued and fought many times over what I thought trivial things such as which brand of butter to buy. For me things like that never mattered. After all, I had survived much bigger things. I could hear them shouting in the kitchen while I held my rabbit, my beloved pet, tightly. I was an only child caught in the middle of parental fighting. Sometimes the fights became so bad that I started thinking about what I would do if my parents would ever get a divorce. Despite the fact that my relationship with my mother was not as close as I had wished, I often said that I would want to go with her in case my parents would separate. I longed for a mother’s love.
The next few years, as I grew into an early teen, were very difficult for me. My parents drank alcohol, mostly wine, by the bottle every day. I did not know it back then, but later I realized that my father was very close to becoming an abusive alcoholic as there were times when we disagreed on something and he would get angry, get up, run after me into my room, pull down my pants and beat me. Where was my mother? My mother was sitting in the living room doing nothing. She usually did not drink as much as he did but she did. Perhaps she was drunk herself in that moment. Perhaps she felt helpless. Perhaps she would have wanted to help me but did not know how. Perhaps I was too much trouble for her once gain and she simply did not care. We never talked about any issues back then. We can still barely talk about my childhood now. I don’t know why she did not help me. All I know is that I missed a mother’s love. I missed a mother, who would come to my room, take me into her arms and tell me how sorry she was for all this and that everything would be all right. I missed a mother, who would defend me. I missed a mother, who would love me. I had a mother but that was only a biological fact or so it seems. This is why, when I talk about my mother, I call her biological mother. We are related biologically. My real mother is something else.
Lonely as never before, I must have been around ten or so, I needed to find a way to cope. I grabbed my bike and rode to my grandparents’ home where I would spend most afternoons. It is hard to believe that my grandparents, my mother’s parents, were often the opposite of her. My grandfather could be very cynical himself so that is probably where my mother got it from. However, my grandmother has always been like the best friend one could come to with anything. Still up to this day she is a very patient listener to problems. She gives me the biggest hugs one could imagine. She tells me that she loves me. I really think she does. Although I had my lovely grandmother as my rock in my life when growing up, I was searching for more. This search made me turn to nature.
My grandparents had a huge garden with a huge lawn to run around on, several fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and a small swimming pool. I remember the hot sunny summer days when I picked raspberries and blackberries. I looked up into the sky and let the sun warm my face. I watched the birds fly high in the sky thinking how lucky they were to fly so freely and seemingly happily. I marveled at the beauty of a butterfly and was astonished by the complexity of a rose. Running water in the fountain was music to my ears and made me feel good. I did not know it at the time. All I knew is that I felt good. All I knew is that, for the first time in my life, I felt really, really loved. I know now that I had discovered spirituality. My grandparents’ garden and the nature I spent my leisure time in was my spiritual sanctuary. I consider it a spiritual experience because I believe that I had tapped into the eternal motherly bond, which creates and sustains all forms of live. I had connected with another mother – Mother Earth.
One day I will share more of my story – about my realization that I have more mothers than one and that I am loved.
Copyright © 2015 by Barbara Bullock
Photo credit © 2015 by Barbara Bullock
http://americanpregnancy.org/. n.d. Internet. 26 October 2015.
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