A Mother’s Lament

Where do I begin?  You may notice I haven’t posted on my blog in some time.  I’m posting today because I have to tell something and this is the only place I may be heard.

When my children were babies mothers had so much responsibility and often little help from our mates.  I’m so happy that today’s fathers, at least in my family, are so much more involved in the care of their infant children.  What happened to me so many years ago was perhaps partly because of the times.

Did you know that a baby who is not held and cuddled often refuse later attempts to be cuddled, holding themselves rigid as if made out of wood?  Did you know some babies are even “allergic” to their moms?  Pushing her away when she held them?

One of my babies spent her first three weeks in an incubator and though I visited to look through the window, I was not allowed to hold her (today health professionals know better). When I brought her home she also had a feeding problem they warned me about.  She put her tongue over the nipple and the formula ran out the side of her mouth.  They told me to just jerk the nipple out and replace it until she finally got it right. It took me a long time to feed her.

Combine this with the fact I had three other children under four years of age and I was one tired Mom.  My husband (the father) never helped, not even to give a bottle or change a diaper (and in those days we used cloth diapers).   For her refusal to be cuddled I searched for an answer.  We had no Internet back then but I found an article in Psychology Today about “institutionalized babies” who stiffened up when you tried to hold them, because they weren’t held in those first crucial weeks.

So, obviously we didn’t bond.  She also developed an attitude of resentment toward me.  I couldn’t win.  She was only about three years old when I heard her tell a little friend: “My mommy’s stupid.”  A word I never used and I don’t know where she heard it but even at that young age she sounded hateful.

As I’ve often done I tried to understand the problem by writing about it, discussing pros and cons.  In something I wrote during this time my daughter found what I had written about her refusal to be cuddled and decided I didn’t love her.  I didn’t know this until years later.  At our ages it’s too late to “fix” the problem.  We’ve been estranged (her choice) for some time.  And to tell the truth, I’m resentful, because she treated me badly growing up, cutting me out of her life.  And that of her children.

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7 Responses

  1. I just want to say that as an infant who was removed directly from the hospital after birth and a few days with my birth mother, I then went to an orphanage and/or foster care until at 3 mos. of age I was adopted by a new family. It has always made me wonder how that type of thing affects an infant. More and more studies are being done on babies to see what these effects are on their brains and later behavior.

    I’m not sure if I bonded to anybody in my life as a child. I felt terribly alone. Especially after about the age of 10. But I didn’t hate my adoptive parents at all & I did like being around them. Still I felt disconnected from them almost all the time.

    When I had a child of my own – I had a c-section – and other than the time it took for them to sew me back up, I was holding my baby girl. She was a Mama’s girl when she was little. Very clingy.

    But something happened later on and I’ve always wondered what in the heck it was. In her teens and 20’s she seemed angry at me all the time. I have asked her several times during discussions and she’ll say “you did this or that or whatever”.

    It’s always something that happened long ago and there’s no way of going back and changing it. So she hangs it over my head and there is never a time where she can just let it go. It’s true I wasn’t the perfect parent. However, I know I tried my darndest.

    I made some mistakes. However, in talking these things over with other folks they don’t think the things my daughter talks about are that horrible. It wasn’t like I did drugs or was an alcoholic or that I robbed or murdered somebody & went to jail. Or that I didn’t work and provide for my kids.

    She just decided that everything was my fault and that she needed to treat me accordingly. This hurts so very much. One because I had dreamed of having a daughter to be close with and Two because I didn’t know of anything I had done that would make her so hateful towards me. In fact my goal back then was to be the best mother ever. I read lots of parenting books and was open to learning how to discipline (not punish) and things of that nature.

    As a child if she fell and hurt herself – she did not want consoling. She didn’t want any help or hugs or anything. If I made an attempt to be loving and caring – she would rebuff me. I mean, she would yell at me and push me away. It felt so odd to me. But I learned to hold back to avoid a blow up.

    This year she will be 38 yrs old. She’s not married and has no children. She’s always been very self sufficient and I’m very proud of her. She has gotten better at being nicer to me. However, sometimes she is still disrespectful and argumentative.

    I have since realized that this is something that is ‘different’ about her and that has nothing to do with me. But we Moms tend to blame ourselves if something is ‘different’ about our children. One thing I know is that she acts this way to other people too.

    I’ve even had a therapist that asked me if she might be on the Autism spectrum. I don’t know about that. She does have learning disabilities – dyslexia – but worked hard to get good grades even with this problem.

    She rejects anything else that might make her seem not normal. I know having a reading problem and having to be in special classes for reading, made her feel bad about herself. But she’s a talented artist and a really hard worker. I always compliment her on her achievements.

    I think sometimes Moms just have issues with their daughters. Who know what causes it. I sure don’t. And it is so very painful to admit this outloud or in black and white. It’s not a proud moment.

    As for your story Amanda – I’m wondering if the way your daughter treats you is similar. Maybe there is some unknown reason why she acts like she does. It could be a not bonding issue. Or something completely different that you haven’t even thought of.

    Maybe she doesn’t know either? What I’ve learned from living both with an adoptive family and finding my birth family – a lot of things come down the genetic pike so to speak. You never know what you’re going to get.

    I don’t think it’s ever too late to ‘fix’ a personality difference or a trauma that happened between people. But it does take 2 to work on it. One person can’t do it alone.

    By withholding her children from you & not allowing you to be a grandmother – she is also hurting her own children by not letting them have you in their lives. She is using her own anger to get back at you instead of acting like an adult and trying to set aside her feelings and doing what’s best for her kids.

    And then, by not talking to you to get this all straightened out – she is hurting herself and you. It seems that she is very much into a hurting rut and can’t extricate herself long enough to take a step back and see what she’s actually doing.

    The way I try to get my daughter back on track when she’s upset at me is to tell her that I will not listen to things she says that are negative about me or our past. I tell her that I will talk to her about any current issues and that’s it.

    If she acts disrespectful then I refuse to talk to her & hang up or leave. She seems to know this now, and that it’s not acceptable and that she’s not going to get away with mom-bashing. I also reinforce and remind her of all the times I have come to her aid or done nice things for her. I want to make sure she doesn’t forget how I have loved her – as a baby, a child and as an adult. I tell her stories of how thrilled I was to have a ‘girl’ baby. I try to share with her various episodes in my life that she wasn’t aware of. This is kind of like re-bonding I think.

    Well, sorry it took all these words to respond to your writings. However, I wanted you to know that you are not alone. Love – CA

  2. Christie, I can’t tell you how much your reply means to me! I’m so glad you shared your story. Like you, I kept trying to understand what I had done wrong or why this daughter seemed to hate me. She blamed me for anything bad that happened to her, everything was my fault. It finally reached a point a few years ago when I gave up. I quit trying, refused to be treated with such disrespect. I have more to say but will have to wait until later to write it. We must stay in touch about this. It does help!, Love, Amanda

    • Hi Christie, I’m back! Once more I don’t know where to begin. It’s overwhelming and I could start at the beginning and write a book. But here’s the “rest of the story” about this particular chapter of my life-. When I was pg, I “threatened” to miscarry and felt if I did I would lose 2, that I was pg with twins. The doc only heard one heartbeat and ruled that out. Surprise! As soon as the first dau was born, he said “there’s another one!” However, there was no labor but the sac had broken and the second child was feet-first breech. While he struggled to get her out I found myself in the corner of the room looking down. He called “Mother!” and I was back in my body. He got her out but broke her collar bone for which he apologized, but I knew he had saved her life. Let me tell you that OOB experience was something else! For a few seconds I understood everything, the mystery of Life, all questions answered – I was exultant. And yet I couldn’t tell you the answers, I just KNEW. The second baby’s weight was over 5 lbs so I was allowed to take her home (the first baby weighed slightly under 5 lbs and her body temperature was low which is why she was placed in an incubator.)
      Back then we placed babies on their tummies to cut down on gas but due to the broken collar bone I had to keep the second baby on her back. She developed colic and I had to walk the floor with her (no help from my mate). Luckily in this case the first baby seldom cried. Except during the night, until the second baby awoke and cried and then she stopped, appearing to enjoy listening to her twin. They were also fraternal twins, one with blue eyes one with brown eyes. I would feed the second baby first, which only took a few minutes and the first baby took so long to feed, but she didn’t seem to mind waiting.
      I also had a 3-1/2 year old dau and a 14 month old son when the twins were born, and as I said before, no help from their dad who figured his only job was to bring home a paycheck (and mine to handle the bills while he made demands and I did everything else.) No more about that (we were eventually divorced).
      Yes, there was jealousy from the first-born to the second-born twin but I tried everything to overcome it, to be fair to the first-born. Which was hard when nothing I could do would appease her. She was convinced I favored the other twin and felt justified in her treatment of me. They are now 53 years old and the break-up between myself and the first-born twin happened more than ten years ago now. My grandchildren are grown and have children of their own. My house was in the flood of 2008 in Cedar Rapids and virtually destroyed. I’ve lived with the second twin and her wonderful husband and two loving grandchildren ever since and they do not consider me a hardship (and never did, were always loving and kind as that’s the kind of people they are). Love, Amanda

      • Oh Wow – I didn’t know you had twins or that your story pertained to one of twins. That is really amazing. I honestly don’t know how to managed with all those small children that need so much attention. God Bless you Amanda. It’s good that I didn’t have that kind of stress, I would’ve broken down. As it was, I think I had some postpartum depression with my daughter. This was in 1980. My son was born in 1978 and I didn’t experience that with him. So I’ve always wondered if that had something to do with things. I loved both my kids and was so happy to have one of each. Yet, after her birth I wasn’t as jovial (in general) as I had been. Their father did help out with changing diapers. But I did breast feeding and so he couldn’t help with that. Also there was another traumatic event after she was born – I was carrying her down the stairs (in an old house with very narrow stairs inside a wall) and I tripped on the 2nd to last step and fell. I landed on the floor with her in my one arm (like I was carrying a football) and she didn’t get bumped or squished or anything. But I sprained my ankle really bad and had to go to the ER to get an x-ray. I came home with it all bandaged up. The next morning it had swollen over the night and was so painful and I could barely walk. I was kind of whining about the foot and my lovely husband yelled at me. He says “Don’t you even think that I’m going to stay home from work because of this”. I was stunned. I hadn’t even thought about him staying home much less asked or implied in any way. It struck a big cord inside me. One that said – get out of this relationship. You don’t need a husband that treats you this way. I made up my mind that very moment that I was done with him. In looking back now I’m not sure I made the best choice. However, about a year later we were separated and going our own ways. I’m sure all of this had a negative impact on both my children. And perhaps my daughter, being so young, got her bad impression of me afterwards due to things she heard or anger she felt from her father and me. The sad thing is that we just don’t know how these things impact our kids. Some are more resilient than others. Anyway, I think you’re awesome and it’s sad to think that your estranged daughter is missing out. Does she ever see or speak to her twin sister? I’m glad you live in a loving environment these days with your other daughter. At least you have that. The man that I live with hasn’t seen one of his daughter’s in over 20 yrs. The other one he is very close to and we see her & the kids all the time. He has no idea what he did to make the other daughter so mad and to hold a grudge like that for so many years is kind of crazy. I told him that I wish she’d just write a letter and give a reason. If I was her mother I’d stand in her yard and scream at the top of my lungs until she came out and gave me at least some kind of explanation. But of course he would never do such a thing. So, see…it happens to men too and I’m thinking this is probably much more common than we know. I have a FB cousin who also is not having a relationship with her daughter. I forget how many years it has been for her. But she too, said that this girl blamed her for everything. Maybe it’s this generation of kids. I truly wonder about that. Well, I need to go take my morning pills that I forgot and it’s now 1 pm. And I guess I should get off the computer and do some chores too. Talk to you more later on. – C

    • Yes, we can email each other, or talk on messenger, or even call each other. Let me know what’s good for you. This topic is something I have not spoken publicly about because of course I don’t want her to see it and then think I’m saying bad things about her to others. However, when I read your article here – I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut. When you don’t really have anybody to talk to about certain things in your life you end up swallowing it down. Which is not a good thing. And I truly think that unless you’ve had to deal with a particular issue yourself it is hard for others to really understand. I truly felt like you would ‘get it’. And now I’m positive that you do. It is such a painful thing. One time when my son was about 4 or 5 our dog died and in trying to describe how he felt, he said “Mommy, it’s like getting spanked on your heart”. And that…was exactly right and exactly how I feel about my only daughter that I love so much. Why can’t she see it?

  3. I thought I sent the following comment to you yesterday but today I don’t see it! Wonder what happened! Well, here goes again.

    Christy – It’s so great to have someone who has been through the pain and to know you understand. Many years ago when my daughter was in her early twenties I read a book by Nancy Friday called “My Mother Myself”. The author had done research and interviewed many girls and women about their relationships with their mothers and shared the results in the book. One thing I remember is that she learned the ones whose mothers had been stay at home moms often wished their mothers had been career women (as a role model I suppose) and the ones who were career women wished their mothers had been stay at home moms. In other words “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” seemed to be the rule of the day. There was one thing in the book I thought my troubled daugher. should read. It said daughters who had troubled relationships with their father often blamed it on their mothers. Since my children’s father was very stern and unloving, yelled a lot and neither she nor her sisters were treated like “Daddy’s little girls” I mentioned that to her. Whether she read the book or not, she later told me several times “The only thing I have against Daddy (the kids all called him Dad) is he knew about my problem with you and he didn’t do anything about it.” One time I heard from my eldest daughter when she was in a mood to be nice to me (which wasn’t often) that she and the same twin were complaining to their dad about me (I believed they agreed on one thing which is that they felt I “favored” the other two). And she said he told them I was a good mother, “the best mother he had ever seen.” He could be nice sometimes too, which kept me holding on. I talked to a psychologist once who told me a lot of men hated women but because they need them they do just enough to keep them hopeful. As time went on he got more and more negative and verbally abusive, acting as though the children and I were burdens. I believe there are so many women like us and another problem is if you’ve stayed home a few years to rear your children you lose your power in the job market. It’s like you have to start at the bottom again, but that’s another story. Besides the daughter I live with I have a wonderful son I give thanks for every day. There’s no doubt he loves me and he’s done well with his life. I’m just so grateful he’s done so on his own as he had no help or encouragement from his dad.

  4. I realized after posting this that yesterday I forgot to click on “post comment”.

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