Mother did not know she was pregnant with me until I crowned in the car as Father rushed her to the hospital. It was a family secret until her confession to my sister Bridget, several years before she died. Bridget kept it from me until after she was gone. Mother did what her mother did. My grandmother was hospitalized with depression and psychosis. She told her psychiatrist she had two abortions, one before my mother and one afterwards. She never discussed it with Mother. The same theme. Undigested emotional material related to invisible, unwanted babies.
It is a mystery as to why she did not know she was carrying me. To this day I wish it wasn’t. I ask myself, “Was I a twin inside her womb carried in a separate sack and she miscarried the other fetus? Perhaps with post-partum depression? Was she in a disassociated state, and input from my father and those around her did not register?”
In the months following my birth great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins joyfully welcomed my arrival. Cards and gifts were given to me. The cards spoke of the joys and blessings of having a baby girl. The gifts included a little stuffed tiger with a red ribbon around its neck. I named him Tigey. He had a plastic face painted with big eyes that were closed and had long eyelashes. His mouth was painted as if he were smiling in his sleep. He had a music box that played Lullaby Baby.
I imagine my arrival was a shock and Mother was reeling from it. Guilt that she didn’t know. Her inability to feel leaving her at a loss to process it.
I felt her disconnect from the beginning and believed my existence was a mistake and in jeopardy. The pain of this rejection was unrelenting and unbearable. Every day. No escape. Mother’s emotionally absent presence served as a constant reminder.
As a child I could not tolerate the disconnect. After all, I depended on Mother to stay alive. I needed her touching me, holding me, cuddling me, snuggling me. I have no recollection of that with her. I needed her sight; looking into my eyes, smiling back into my eyes in response to me, gazing at me with warmth and tenderness. I needed her sound; crooning, softly reassuring me, expressed excitement and pride, sweet tones of love. I needed her scent; enough of her physical closeness so that I could smell her and remember her inside me. I needed her for taste; a closeness of her essence touching me so I could taste it. I have no recollections of any of that with her.
I had a constant longing for her to feel my presence inside and outside of her womb. I needed to feel her inside my body. Instead my longing was met with an emotional deadness from her. A blankness. A cold concrete wall that had a bashing effect on my heart and mind. It obstructed my ability to see my value in myself or my value to others. An obstruction where I could not understand there were people in life who wanted to meet my needs without a narcissistic agenda.
Father was different than mother. In my earliest years, I developed an attachment to him. I could feel his warmth, his hugs and cuddles, his eyes merry with joy as he watched me. There were pictures of him, happy, next to my bassinette as I smiled at him holding Tigey. I could feel his excitement as he read to me and encouraged me to explore my environment. His rough whiskery face and the scent of his skin when I explored it. I was fascinated as a child in its textures and how his flattened lips sat somewhat saliva soaked on his face. Those positive interactions with him were pervasive until I was about four.
Then began the episodes of detachment, dismissal and raging projections of his reactions toward his sister or mother thrust upon me. With intermittent normalcy sprinkled in. The raging responses to my interests that did not meet his expectations, or set off his sexualized impulses, were in full gear by the time I reached seven. His delusions of grandeur became more prominent. His mental health had significantly deteriorated. I was a severely depressed, terrified child spending a lot of my time trying to avoid his pathological line of fire.
In today’s world my condition would be diagnosed as Childhood PTSD.
When I was four, I realized I lost Father and did not feel loved by him anymore. I was acutely aware I was now orphaned and starkly alone in life. I knew my childhood was different now. Depression and hopelessness set in.
I could feel the lack of attachment to my mother more acutely. A deep insecurity set in that our family was disintegrating, and danger was looming. A deep fear set in that I was more likely to die. I desperately needed comforting when fears worsened at night. I could hear my parents murmuring in conversation in the kitchen downstairs. I wondered if they were talking about how much they hated me. I cried every night, hoping one of them would hear me and want to show me love and offer me comfort.
It never happened.
About the Author
My writer name is Suzanna Birdway.
I am currently working on a memoir. My background is clinical social work and I specialize in grief and loss counseling as well as trauma. I belong to several writers groups in my area and am keenly interested in developing my craft. I am fairly new to the field of writing.