Lately, when I look in the mirror I see my mother’s face. I see her mouth, her eyes, the pores of her skin.
I don’t hate my mother, nor do I resent her. But I see my relationship with her more clearly now.
As a child I felt flawed, like a mistake inside me made me unlovable. She was distant and cold.
As an adult (and I’ve been one for a while now) I realise that my relationship with her is the same.
And I’m still taking the blame for it. I’m older now, I have the life skills to really create a proper close relationship with her. And it’s just not happening. I’m waiting for her approval, her interest.
She’s a new age hippy type. She loves crystals and talking to angels. But her heart is closed. And I am confused.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been waiting for her to save me from drowning, but her back is always turned. She’s looking the other way.
And so, I’m letting her go. Which is strange, as I see her everyday as I put on my makeup, as I do my hair.
I don’t feel bad, or sad. I feel free. And maybe she does too. Maybe the burden of my expectation has been weighing her down. Maybe she just wants to fly away.
Fly away mumma. It’s ok.
Sometimes self harm looks like suicide.
Typically we cut and there’s blood and making yourself bleed means you want to die. Right?
Then it’s very small leap to make to think that instead of just self harming, you really do want to end your life.
I remember, not long after my eldest child was born, sitting in the bath as he screamed in the next room. I remember my husband treating me with disdain as I asked him to help me with the baby.
“He’s your kid” he said. “You wanted him”
I remember feeling confused. Wasn’t he the same man who openly wept as he held his tiny child for the first time only weeks before?
Entirely hopeless, my mind buzzed as I broke open the disposable razor. I hated the sensation of the sharp edge against the thin skin of my wrist. I hated the sting.
But the red blood signified something. It offered something tangible.
“This how I feel!” Help me.
And in the other room the baby still cried, and somehow that lonely noise pulled me out of myself.
He was alone too. And whatever I was doing there in the bath, in my despair, placed him at risk.
What if I did kill myself. What if I died and he grew up to blame himself?
That was not a burden I could put on him. I was hopeless and floundering, but I couldn’t abandon my helpless child.
The blood didn’t mean I wanted to die. It meant I needed help.
It would be a long time coming.
Last night I dreamt about my parents
I was visiting with my kids and we were all walking by a large pond of water. The water was clear and I could see large objects, covered in green leafy matter, sitting on the bottom. As the kids ventured close to the waters edge I asked my dad
“What if there’s crocodiles in the water?”
My dad shook his head and said “nah, crocs would be on the surface.”
In an instant, one of the objects rose to the water’s surface. Not a crocodile but a huge basking shark. It’s mouth was constantly opening and closing as it ate anything and everything that was in the water.
I called my children away, warned others to stay away from the edge.
I called to my mother – “be careful!” It was suddenly so noisy.
“It’s fine she said, you’re over reacting”
“I’m just trying to be cautious” I pleaded. I was standing so close to her, shouting in her face. “That’s what you do for people you love, you look out for them. You be concerned!”
But she just looked at me blankly, and in my dream heart I ached.
Later, knowing she had hurt me, she offered me endless beautiful silk scarves and gifts she had picked up in her travels.
I rejected everyone.
It was too late. I was already packing our belongings to leave.
I was going away.
I was already gone.
How do you balance being the person you are, right now – with the person you were raised to be?
You see, I am who I am. A grown woman with three kids on her second marriage. The choices I’ve made have lead me here. Every choice I make counts.
I get that. I get it right down to my bones.
I hold myself responsible for everything.
And yet in kindness, I can see a small lonely frightened child hidden away inside.
And that child has also directed who I am and where my life has gone.
Can I escape being the kind of wanker who blames everything on their unhappy childhood?
Can I continue with this introspection and still retain a shred of dignity?
When will enough be enough? When will I know when I’m done?
Right now I trying to hold myself in this place of no judgement.
Right now grown up me (the mother) holds the scared child close and tight.
I love her unconditionally.
But one day, I hope to be able to let her go so she can journey on her own.
On the day I was born, the room was heavy with student doctors. Young men in white coats all peering at my young mother’s area, observing her like a curiosity.
They spoke about her, not too her. An object to be discussed and critiqued.
As my crowning moment arrived, Dr Khan stepped in the room, resplendent in an expensive cream coloured suit. The room watched on in awe as he snapped on his gloves and gave my mum a knowing tap on the leg. He smiled briefly over is shoulder to the student cohort. His face said it all – “Watch the master do his thing”
My mother strained, clutching her own mothers hand and blood from my birth gushed from her opening. And as the young students watched on, Dr Khan’s suit was spattered with bright red blood. Not a spot, not a drop, but a gout of blood – like a cut throat.
Exhausted and clutching her precious daughter, her legs still spread from the exertion my mother lay there as Dr Khan, with beautiful coffee coloured skin, screamed at her.
“I’m sending you the dry cleaning bill for this!” Then turning on his heel, stalked out of the room, leaving it’s occupants in stunned silence.
This is the story of how I came to be. A baby born. A baby that from its very first breath on earth, refused to be ignored. Refused to be an object.
A baby who grew to be a person who struggled every day to feel worthy.
It’s been almost 44 years since. And that dry cleaning bill remains unsent. Unpaid.
I came into the world under a cloud of fear and shame and rejection.
Conceived to an unwed mother and a married man (whose wife just didn’t understand him) in 1970’s Australia, the world was a place of control and disapproval.
Babies were taken from mothers deemed unfit. Women and girls left hospitals, their breast full and their arms empty, passing corridors of crying babies.
And the men who created bastards were often let off with barely a slap on the wrist. They went back to the pub and their roast Sunday dinners. They watched the news on the T.V. every night and raised families that were fractured without ever knowing it.
You see, it was ok for an older man to seduce a very much younger woman/girl. It was ok that he was worldly and she was not. It was ok because he paid for dinner and the motel room. It was ok because it was her first time.
It was ok for him to call her a slut when the seed was sown. It was ok for her to be alone.
And so a baby grew, inside a heartbroken terrified womb.
There were arguments. Shouting from her parents about a man who would never be seen again. A man who denied the very existence of a life he created.
It’s almost impossible not to be affected by that kind of rejection. That even as a tiny unborn soul, that kind of hurt must scar.
It seeps into your DNA, marking you like dark indelible ink, directing who you are and what you do forever more.
That’s what I think.