Reason #759 I’m Glad I’m Not My Mother

Just the other day I was combing through the Dollhouse archives. And if you’ve been blogging as long as I have (since 2003) that’s a lot of combing.

Someone had approached me about linking back to my blog tales about my infertility journey. There aren’t a lot of black infertility bloggers and many sistas tend to feel that infertility is the thing which shall not be named. So, I was happy to help out here. The problem was that when she looked through the infertility category in my archives, she didn’t see a whole lot of my story written there. Of course I was confused by this as I had documented everything: 9 IVF cycles, my trips to South Africa for donor eggs, my miscarriage, my hopes, my realizations, my woes, my miseries and how I finally came out on the other side. As I scratched my head I wondered where had all the words gone?

Turned out to be a pretty simple answer. When I imported my blog from Blogger to WordPress, the categories from the old posts didn’t migrate here. So there were a zillion posts in the archives all listed under the clear as mud category of Uncategorized. Sigh. Thus my new chore became recategorizing these old posts in order to catalog my journey from infertile to infertile mom.

The funny thing is that it is rare for me to go back and read my old posts. Something about picking at scabs that have finally begun to heal, I guess. But I started with postings in March and April of 2005. That was the time of my last Hail Mary IVF cycle with my own eggs and the beginning of the path toward donor eggs. Seems like a million years ago.

I also realized how much I posted about my mother. I suppose that isn’t surprising. You are trying desperately to become a mother and you do a lot of reflecting on your relationship with your own mother. Well as most of you know, my relationship with my mother has always been…hmmm, how should I put this? Challenging, I guess. My mom was a strange person. Narcissistic yet self-hating; a person who set the bar high for herself and everyone else around her. She loved us in her way, but she was broken. Something inside her was definitely broken such that nurturance, support, warmth, and compassion were anathema to her. But after a zillion years of therapy I do realize that she did love me the best that she knew how. And even when she (finally) admitted the many wrongs she committed against me, I had to accept that no apology from her would take away the brokenness that she caused. My brokenness was now mine to fix despite its origins, and her brokenness would forever be a part of her since she had no desire to change.

All of these a-has came through serious therapeutic work done during my 20s and 30s. Though she fought hard against it, we did manage to forge a decent adult relationship before she died in November of 2005. My major theme with her was that we needed to accept each other as we are and not as we expect or want each other to be. It was hard for me to let go of wanting her to be the mother I thought I deserved, just as I assume it was hard for her to have a daughter who was so inscrutable to her. (My inscrutability was not from playing my cards close to the vest. It had more to do with my mother’s tendency to live her life in Ericka World where everyone thinks, acts, and reasons as she does. Every other behavior/ideology is simply wrong.) But we were mother and daughter. We could either shut each other out or learn to appreciate the unique gifts (and challenges) that we possess. We opted for the latter.

This is not to say that our relationship became smooth and peaceful. Get the fuck outta here! When wounded child and insensitive mother come together, there will always be drama. Yet at least for my part, I did better in seeing the drama as being about her brokenness and not about my being an unlovable daughter.

Which brings me back to my old posts. I found one entitled Spawn of a Loon yesterday. Uh oh, I thought. This can’t be a good memory. Not with that title!

It turned out to be a quasi-funny quasi-sad treatise on my dear Mumzie and her looniness. But the part that struck me the most was the discussion we had about infertility and motherhood:

So anyway, I go on to tell her my news about finding a great center for egg donation in Cape Town, South Africa. This place seems ideal. They have many black donors and include airfare, lodging and all the costs in their one fee. Other programs cost $25,000 for one cycle. My local center costs between $8,100 and $13,815 depending on whether you share eggs with another woman. And the woman running the program seems so nice and caring. It all seems so fabulous.

“Guess how much it costs?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied wearily.

“C’mon guess,” I wheedled.

“$500,” she said.

“How could it cost $500 if other programs are at least $8000?”

“Well you were building up like it was some great deal…”

“OK, I’ll tell you. It costs $10,000! Isn’t that excellent, considering?”

“Still more money than I would pay.”

“Well how much would you pay to be a mother?”

“Not one dollar,” she said with finality.

“What?!” I shrieked.

“If I couldn’t get pregnant, I would accept that I wasn’t going to be a mother and move on. It isn’t a big deal.”

I sat in the car shaking my head… Were we actually related? How could I have such powerful feelings about motherhood and to her infertility was just something you got over. Proof positive, genetic ties mean little.

My mom is a loon…and I’m her spawn.

Needless to say, that was a conversation with my mother that I had put out of my head. (And according to AdoringHusband, I would have done better to not have remembered.) There were so many feelings that I had when I read those old words. The first was WTF? Was parenthood really such a no-big-deal thing for her that looking back on it, she really would have been, oh well, can’t get pregnant. I’ll move on. Then I remembered this was my broken, out-of-touch with human emotion mother we’re talking about. Whatever.

Since becoming a mother, I have yearned to pick up the phone and call Mom up in California and tell her all the things that Zara’s been doing. She wanted me to become a mom. One of her few nice things she ever said (I can count them on one hand) was that she thought I’d make an excellent mother. Even when she was in the hospital with the illness that killed her, she wanted to know what we’d do if the donor egg process didn’t work. “We’d adopt,” I said with complete certainty. She smiled, well pleased.

So it’s hard to reconcile the I’d just give up personage with the woman who wanted me to become a mom, and who I think would be thrilled to see me as a mother. But that was my mom: a study in contradictions.

I have to admit that it has been much more peaceful in our family since Mom’s passing. She was the dark sun (or sucking black hole, to quote one of my therapists) that we all orbited. And now, without being subject to her ups and downs, anger and love withdrawal, we all seem to be finding our footing and connecting with each other in a way we never did before. And for my brother and me, we’ve learned to be parents that bear no resemblance to our own parents. He asked me the other day, “Liana, you know my memory from childhood has a lot of holes, but do you remember Mom getting down on the floor and playing with us when we were kids?”

“Wait…you mean our mother? On the floor? On purpose?” I asked, incredulously.

“Yeah, M (his wife) asked me about that and I couldn’t remember any times. I wasn’t sure whether it was my memory or whether it never happened.”

“Boy, it NEVER happened! It wouldn’t even have occurred to her to do so!”

“Oh, I didn’t think so,” he finished sadly.

Get on the floor and play? Act silly? Give us a hug when we needed it? Not her parenting style. Uh, uh. No way, Jose. But I am so not my mother. And though this journey to parenthood was emotionally, physically and financially costly, it was worth every freaking cent to be here at this place with this fabulous kid who steps on my last nerve, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Published by: teendoc on August 4th, 2009 | Filed under family, infertility, memories, motherhood, parenting, talk therapy

12 Responses to “Reason #759 I’m Glad I’m Not My Mother”

  1. Mary Says:

    Just picking up on the conversation with your brother – I too have a LOT of holes in my childhood memories. I was already in my 30s when I realized that not everyone does. I truly thought most people just “forgot” huge swaths of time from their childhoods.
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..The Number Seven – Happy Anniversary to Us Edition! =-.

  2. teendoc Says:

    I lived with my grandmother for my first 7 years so I had some grounding before going to live with dear Mumzie. As such I wasn’t blessed/cursed with the holes that my brother has. I wonder if my sister has them as well? She had a different role function for my mother, so her coping might have been different. My husband has tons of holes in his memory as well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. StillaMomma Says:

    Now, over the years, your posts have made me laugh and cry…THIS one has me BALLING! I can relate to the I am no my mother in so many ways. As a black woman who is infertile, it is always refreshing to know that you “get it”.

    Thank you for this. ZiZi is one great little girl and you’re a hell of a woman.

    How is the photog class coming by the way? 🙂
    .-= StillaMomma´s last blog ..Protected: Momma Madness =-.

  4. teendoc Says:

    Oh no! I didn’t want to make you bawl! But it’s good to know how much this post resonated for you. I will jump off the Ben Franklin before I begin to inflict on Zara the type of pain my mother inflicted on me.

    And the class I’m taking now is all Photoshop editing. I’ll probably post my latest creations today. 😀

  5. sqpeggy Says:

    Thanks for sharing! Z has already off to such a rich and wonderful experience. Your mom was right about that. Z will hopefully only spend half as much time in therapy 😉

  6. teendoc Says:

    If I have my say, Zizi will only spend an 1/8 of the time in therapy that I have. Good lord have I been messed up. But regardless of who caused it and why, I’ve had to dig myself out of the nutzone and learn to heal. I know that Z will have her own crap, but I will not inflict any of the level 10 crap on her that my dear mother did with me.

  7. Aunt Becky Says:

    Man, this really hits home to me. Really close to home. Thanks for the post, my friend. I needed to hear it.
    .-= Aunt Becky´s last blog ..Blogging In Harsh Daylight =-.

  8. teendoc Says:

    I’m glad it resonated for you.

  9. deathstar Says:

    I had no idea you went to S. Africa for donor eggs. Wow, you really went to the wall, girl. In truth, I think I’ve only seen about 2 other blogs from infertile black women, so it does give the impression that we’re a rare species. I think all the deep thought that we give our relationships with our mums really does highlight how strong the urge to have and raise children can be. There’s a component there that is like a yearning for healing by confirming a strong connection with our mother or a chance to NOT be like her.

    I was particulary touched when you said that after your mum’s passing that life in our family was more peaceful. In my case, I think without my mum, the rest of us wouldn’t be connected at all anymore.
    .-= deathstar´s last blog ..Protected: Lots of stuff =-.

  10. teendoc Says:

    Oh yeah. I went all the way to the Motherland, twice. You know that I am nothing if not driven (or damn stubborn!) 😉

    And you know what? I thought that after Mom died we would all drift apart because she was our glue (in a crazy-ass way), but somehow we looked around and realized that we were all we had. And because of that we needed to remain in touch. And we have. It’s not like we talk every week, but it is better than before and it feels more honest because when we do call, we’re calling because we want to call and not because of Mom. Does that make sense?

  11. DoctorMama Says:

    “If I have my say, Zizi will only spend an 1/8 of the time in therapy that I have.” I love that! Such a precise number!
    .-= DoctorMama´s last blog ..Running for the Schedule- and Sleep-Challenged =-.

  12. Kristen Says:

    Wow – this really hits home for me. I also went through infertility, and also have a mom who is very narcissistic. I know the wounded daughter/insensitive mom dyad all too well. (And have also had lots of therapy 🙂 ). Here’s hoping our own daughters know our love for them without any doubts!
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..The Lazy Mom’s Guide to a Great Vacation =-.

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