Mother As Place of Attachment

It’s already been eighteen months since I last wrote about what I read in The Emotionally Absent Mother. Still, the book hasn’t just sat there. I struggled to move on from Mother As Source. The next section is titled Mother As Place of Attachment. Somehow, this is a really hard section. I don’t really know why. I mean, yes, part of the reason I struggle to move on in writing about this book, is that I do it publicly and what if my parents read this? Then again, I don’t really care. I’m in groups on Facebook for childhood emotional neglect and emotional abuse survivors too. Though the member list of private groups isn’t available to non-members, I’m pretty sure they know somehow. Honestly, regarding this, I care more about my husband’s opinion than my parents’.

But there’s something specifically about this section that is hard. I’m not even sure what. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have a lot of early memories of my mother. I attribute this to my father being the homemaker and primary caretaker in our household. But fathers can “mother” too.

The first question asked in the section on your mother as place of attachment, is to rate your sense of connectedness to your mother on a scale of 1 to 10. The next question is how your sense of connectedness evolved over the years.

Well, with my mother, I am generally at a 5. I don’t feel she “gets” me, but we do get along okay. Like I said when discussing mother as source, I don’t feel that I’m made of her, but she isn’t from another planet either. Or maybe she’s from Venus. I mean, we’re not constantly disconnected.

Over the years, my sense of connectedness to my mother has stayed the same. I never quite felt like we had a strong bond, but I didn’t feel totally alienated either.

My father is a different story. We had a strong connection, maybe around 8, when I was a child. Now we’re at a 3 at best. Like I said in my mother as source post, as a child, I saw my father as the embodiment of intelligence, success and well what other positive characteristics are there really? When I got to question his having sole ownership of the truth at around age 15, things started to change. Or did things change earlier on? I’m not sure.

Another question is about bodily contact. This is where I get to question whether the schism occurred earlier than age 15. When I was a young child, my father definitely did give both my sister and me lots of opportunities for bodily contact. I remember when my sister and I were little, my father would wrap us in a towel and drag us to our bedroom. He called this “swordfish” and my sister always asked for “sordsish”.

My mother says that, around age 7 or 8, I stopped wanting to sit in my parents’ lap. From then on, bodily contact like hugging or good-night kisses was very ritualistic. I remember around age 11, being forced to read a certain number of pages in Braille if I wanted a good-night kiss. This at the time felt very distressing. I haven’t studied emotional development except in the context of intellectual disability, so I have really no idea whether it’s normal to still want good-night kisses at that age. I guess not.

As a side note, I did initiate physical contact such as hand-holding with practically every adult until I was at least 12. In my psych eval report from age 11, the ed psych notes that I claim not to need a cane but grab her hand immediately anyway. That first bit was no doubt related to my difficult accepting my blindness, but I don’t think the second bit is fully. Even as an adult, I truly crave physical contact and am a bit indiscriminate in who can give it to me. I mean, I am pretty clear that no male staff can provide me with physical comfort (or help me with personal care). With regards to female staff though (and the entire current staff of my home is female), I do accept physical comfort. I honestly don’t know how my husband feels about this.

PoCoLo
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

A Phone Conversation with My Mother

Last Monday, my mother called me. She rarely if ever used to call me when I still lived with my husband, but now she’s been the first to attempt contact a few times already. I don’t know whether I need to feel bad about not contacting her first, as conversations usually get uncomfortable for both of us.

Like, on Monday, I had just been in an angry outburst when she called. I couldn’t avoid telling her, as I needed a few minutes to regroup. That caused the conversation to center on my (perceivped by either of us) problems and my mother’s attempt to solve them. She was offering me all kinds of advice. If I just stop panicking at frustrating situations or learn to cope with unexpected change, I’ll be able to live with my husband again. I never even said I want to leave the care facility. Of course though, I’m supposed to have this as my ultimate goal anyway. Who, after all, would choose to live in care if they didn’t absolutely need to?

I was terribly triggered by my mother’s unwanted advice. When processing this conversation with my husband yesterday though, I was reminded of her perspective.

You know, I was born prematurely. My mother already feels guilty about that to some extent, as if she was the one kicking me out of her womb. Well, obviously she wasn’t.

Then in our discussion, I disclosed to my husband that I was most likely exposed to valproic acid, an anticonvulsant, in utero. My mother isn’t certain of it, as she took different anticonvulsants for her epilepsy over the years. However, all valproates and most other anticonvulsants have some risk of affecting the fetus when taken by pregnant women. The realization that this might’ve contributed to my developmental disabilities, didn’t happen right away even though in the 1980s, valproates carried warning labels already. It probably came when I was last assessed for autism in 2017 and my mother was asked whether she took any substances or medications during pregnancy. At around the same time or shortly before, there was an article in the newspaper my parents read about large numbers of French women being given valproic acid during pregnancy as late as 2014. This lead to over 4000 children having serious birth defects and even more having developmental disorders. Up to 40% of children exposed to valproates in utero are autistic.

My husband expressed that this may be a factor in my mother’s trying to deny the significance of my autism. After all, if she did something to contribute to me being disabled, she’d have to deal with immense guilt if admitting its full significance. Then it is more understandable that she’s in some denial. It may also explain, I now realize, why she’s trying to “fix” me. I told her she doesn’t need to, but she remains my Mom.

For clarity’s sake, a pregnant woman getting a seizure may be harmful to both mother and child and my mother said this risk was fairly high in her case if she didn’t take meds. I don’t know, as my mother has been seizure-free for 30+ years and off meds for as long as I can remember. However, I mean this to undo the blame. The doctors did what they thought was best, at least that’s what I assume. My mother and I have some questions here too, as my mother also took part in a trial of aspirin to prevent premature birth, which obviously didn’t work. My mother at least did what she thought was best. She never intended to have me early or cause me fetal anticonvulsant syndrome. More importantly though, there’s no need to fix me. I’m content the way things are right now.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (September 15, 2019)

Hi everyone, how are you? Let’s catch up over a cup of coffee or once again green tea in my case. I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week was full of ups and some downs, though the downs weren’t as low as I’d expected. As regular readers of this blog know, I will be moving to the care facility in Raalte in eight days. My staff, my husband and I have been doing some preparation in regards to my leaving my current day activities and going to start up in Raalte.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I finally told my mother I’ll be going to the care facility. I sugarcoated it a little, saying I’d be staying at my care agency in Raalte during the week and going home to my husband on week-ends. As a result, at first she wasn’t sure I’d be actually sleeping at the care facility. After a little “but I thought you were doing so well” and all, she wished me good luck at the place.

I am not 100% sure how to feel about it. In a way, this seemingly supportive attitude contradicts my memories from years before and that is hard to adapt to. However, I’m trying to be gratefulfor her support. I haven’t talked to my father or sister about it yet.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my sister gave birth to a baby girl, Janneke Sietske, last Tuesday. She is named Janneke after my sister’s and my grandma who died last year and Sietske after one of my brother-in-law’s grandmothers. Janneke had some health issues early on and we haven’t been able to visit yet. We’re planning on visiting her next week though.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that today, my husband and I made some small banana soaps for the staff at day activities. I’ll give them to them on Friday, when I have my leave-taking party.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my last appoitnment with my nurse practitioner went okay. He has referred me to the mental health agency in Raalte. I haven’t seen the referral letter, but he said he’d written about my trauma but that, for now, here and now work is most appropriate for me. I did try to get it through that ultimately, I do want to process my trauma. I’m not sure that will happen, as most likely I can’t get trauma therapy without at least a C-PTSD diagnosis if not DID/OSDD. Precisely getting my trauma-related issues assessed is a huge trigger for me.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I finally finished The Fault in Our Stars, which I started reading already three weeks ago. I will hopefully be able to finish at least one more book before the end of the month.

What’s been up with you lately?

Mother As Source

I was finally able to read The Emotionally Absent Mother again, since transferring it from my computer to my iPhone. Until I did this, I was unable to read any of my EPUB eBooks, because the program I used for it was no longer supported by my screen reader. I missed reading this book in particular, since it had a lot of eye-opening questions in it. I last wrote about it last August, when I shared about good enough mother messages. Now, I am moving on in the book and starting with the roles good enough mothers have. The first one is mother as source.

This section starts with the assertion that mother is what we’re made of. It goes on to assert that, both literally and on a more spiritual level, we come from mother. Literally, we come out of her womb. Spiritually, nature is often seen as coming from the ocean, which is in mythology seen as a mother goddess.

This whole assertion seems a bit off to me. Like I said in my post last August, I was raised primarily by my father as a child. Obviously, I came from my mother’s womb, but this is hard to imagine.

One of the thought-provoking questions in this section is to imagine yourself in your mother’s womb. If you can’t imagine this, you are encouraged to imagine being engulfed by her energy. This gave me uneasy feelings. I have never felt able to see that I come from my mother. In fact, my parents used to joke that the neonatologist brought me into the world, not my mother.

Good enough mother-sources are able to create a positive and welcoming environment for their children with their presence. They make the child feel proud to be of her. As such, the next question in the book is whether you wanted to be similar to your mother or as different as possible (or anything in between). If someone were to say you’re so like your mother, would you be proud?

I have to clarify here that my mother herself didn’t and still doesn’t have the healthiest self-esteem. She used to say, and it came across only half jokingly, that I inherited all my bad characteristics from her and all the good ones from my father. As untrue as this is, I didn’t grow up feeling proud to be like my mother, because she didn’t convey that she had any characteristics to be proud of.

With respect to my father, who primarily raised me, I wanted to be like him as much as possible. Until I was an adolescent, I saw my father as the ultimate embodiment of success and every other positive quality. Then I started realizing that he too has his flaws. I now feel more closely related to my mother than to him.

The next question is whether you can imagine being proud to be of your mother. Do you identify yourself in relation to her? My short answer to this is “No”. I identify myself more in relation to my mother-in-law than my own mother.

In short, I do not feel my mother was able to be a good enough source. Of course, physically she wasn’t, by no fault of her own. By this I mean that all her pregnancies were complicated and the one with me ended in my premature birth. I don’t want to say that somehow she rejected me, because I know she didn’t. Once I was born, in fact, I was more unconditionally – or should I say less conditionally? – welcomed by her than by my father.

Of course, the stress of having had four pregnancy losses prior to being pregnant with me, could’ve caused her body to be less welcoming to a fetus. That, however, and I want to be very clear about this, isn’t her fault, or anyone’s fault. There is nothing my mother did to cause my premature birth!

Angry

Hiya everyone,
My name is Kelly. I am 10-years-old. I am so angry now. I wanna call my mother and shout at her and all that, but the grown-up people say I can’t. I am angry because my parents say I’m angry too easily when in fact it’s them who do stuff like tough love.

I mean my mother says “So you wanna go residential at Bartiméus?”. That’s the school for the blind we go to. So if I’m not being good she’s gonna send me away. She also throws out my toys cause she says I’m defiant because I have too many toys.

Oh and Mrs. B our low vision teacher doesn’t want me to do low vision anymore. Well I don’t care what people think.

I was typing up this memory thingy but then my Internet crashed and I lost the piece I’d written. I will try to share again.

One day a social worker comes by my house to talk to my parents. I dunno who wants it my parents or the social worker. My mother says the social worker had said I’m angry too easily and I need play therapy. I go there during biology class, which is the only interesting class in school. so it sucks. I gotta play with this grown-up man I don’t even know. I wanna flood the water tray and throw out the purple dolls in the dollhouse because ya know, dolls can’t be purple. I don’t know why but my parents take me out of this therpay after four sessions. So why the fuck did they put me into it? I mean I’m not supposed to magically snap out of my anger by four sessions of stupid play therapy am I?

I’m confused now. Yes I’m angry. My parents say I wanna make them miserable. I have stopped caring. They’re gonna put me in residential if I don’t stop playing with my toys anyway and yet I’m suppose to play with this grown-up during biology class. I’m so angry. I don’t know why, cannot write it in English or maybe not even in Dutch either. I’m just pissed off.

Good Mother Messages

I am currently working in the book The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori. My first response to it was: why mothers? I was, after all, raised primarily by my father in my early years. Since my mother didn’t breastfeed me, I’m not even sure she was there much at all when I was an infant. Besides, I spent the first three months of my life in hospital, so didn’t have either parent as a primary caretaker then. As such, my main reason for downloading the book was to work through emotional hurts from my past regardless of which parent inflicted them on me.

In the first chapter, the author talks about “good enough” parenting. She goes on to list “good mother messages” children raised by good enough mothers received. Today, I want to share these and my thoughts on them.

1. I’m glad that you’re here. This message shows that as a child we’re wanted. It isn’t black-or-white though, since many children feel unwanted at times, but this message can be countered by a greater sense of being wanted. Some clear memories pop up into my mind now. The countless times my parents, mainly my mother, threatened to institutionalize me when I attended a school for the blind as a non-residential student from age nine to twelve. Also, when I was fourteen, I was rejected for a summer camp and had a meltdown. At some point, my parents were angry and so was I. I said they’d just as well put me in a children’s home, at which point my father said: “None wants you.”

2. I see you. This message is conveyed through our parents knowing what we’re interested in, how we feel about things, etc. I am not sure about this one. On a deep, emotional level I feel consistently unseen, but no clear memories pop up. My father was relatively tuned in to my interests.

3. You are special to me. The author points out here that this message needs to be paired with us being seen for who we are. Yes, so true. I was seen as special, a genius even, by my mother, but only for superficial achievements such as calendar calculation. I hated this.

4. I respect you. God, this one strikes a chord. The author explains that a parent who sends this message, allows the child to discover and express their unique self rather than having to conform to the parents’ blueprint for them. One particular memory comes up, which isn’t a traumatic memory but is a funny example of the larger scheme of things. When I thought I was a lesbian at age fifteen, I tried to figure out whether my parents would be open to this before coming out. My mother said: “I accept you as you are, even if you turn out to be a conservative.” Well, that said enough: she didn’t accept me as I am.

5. I love you. As the author says, some children hear this multiple times a day, while others go a lifetime without hearing these words. They also need to be felt as sincere. In my case, my mother would often say “I love you” when we’d just had an argument. She was physically affectionate, but it was usually in a ritualized way. Like, I was given a goodnight kiss each night until I was at least twelve. One memory in this respect, happened when I was around eleven. My parents required me to read a certain number of pages of a Braille book. If I didn’t finish them, I could go to bed but without a kiss or any affection. This is probably a relatively minor incident, but it is again a sign of how affection was used generally.

6. Your needs are important to me. You can turn to me for help. This one is a mixed bag. I was helped, yes, sometimes too much so, but I wasn’t taught how to do things on my own. Then once I turned eighteen, my parents expected me to be fully independent. My needs are currently definitely not important to my parents. As I sometimes half-jokingly say, they fed me for eighteen years and then they thought their job was done.

7. I am here for you. I will make time for you. See above. Until I was eighteen, my parents were a relatively consistent presence in my life. They never actually institutionalized me and they’re still together. Then when I turned eighteen, they said I had to take care of myself and more or less vanished. This was clear to me from an early age on, too. As my father at one point told me, a family is like a business, it has to be run efficiently.

8. I’ll keep you safe. I am not sure. This one feels odd on a deep, emotional level. One memory that pops up though, is my parents consistently blaming me for being the victim of bullying. My parents also were pretty much the opposite of helicopter parents. Like I said, they were hardly involved in my life past age eighteen. Not that I care much now, but it feels as though I was hardly protected by my parents. The author says that those who don’t receive this message, feel small and unable to explore the world. Yes!

9. You can rest in me. I’m not sure. I don’t understand this message really. It conveys feeling at home with your parents. Definitely not. However, I don’t feel like I can be at home with anyone.

10. I delight in you. This one is mostly conveyed in non-verbal ways, of which I’m not aware due to being blind. As a result, I’m not sure of this one.