I came out of the womb already a bit of a tortured soul, and my relationship with my Mum was fractured from the start. It was more than what I had done to her youthful figure, she just wasn’t that pleased to see me.
Post natal depression is a shit of a thing. Something they never tell you is that sometimes that bond just never arrives. Now, my Mum was not the worst mother. I’d argue she maybe wasn’t the best person in general, but she wasn’t abusive. Controlling, vindictive and at times jealous, but not abusive. She made a lot of sacrifices for me that I’ve only grown to appreciate with adulthood. She just sorta wished that I hadn’t been born.
You see, I was the accidental baby, that was kept to save a doomed marriage. My hippyish Dad from poverty and my conservative Mum from money, well I have no idea what they were thinking, but it was not with their heads. Of course their marriage failed. But, then there was me. My Dad loved me from the moment he knew I was growing in the womb, he quit his pack a day smoking habit and drinking immediately and instantly transformed into Dad. Mum, eh. Not so much. But she was pretty much stuck with me now.
After leaving my Dad, I became her weapon. I was a pretty big inconvenience for her but actually I turned out to be a really good way to hurt my Dad. I don’t know really what Mum was so angry about, my Dad had loved her. But, my Mum had some shit of her own she was dealing with and she used my Dad to unleash all of it. For years the custody battle played out, with some very dirty tricks thrown in for good measure. It went on until my Dad ran out of money and the child psychologist appointed by the court said enough was enough. Dad walked away under the advice that one day I’d return on my own accord (they were right). Not gonna lie, he’s my hero.
I understand this sounds like a tragic way for a child to start a life. But it is nothing unusual. So many of us are from broken homes and the mother-daughter dynamic is rarely straightforward. This is a happy story, keep reading.
I never understood my Mum. She was a guarded, cold bitch with no friends, who worked hard to provide for me but never knew how to show love. She hurt me, emotionally, in ways that I think I’ve only just recovered. A mother’s love is fundamental and honestly I felt she loved our pets more (I did inherit her love for animals) than me.
A few years ago, after we hadn’t spoken for close to 5 years, I found out through a friend of the family that Mum had nearly died. Nearly a year beforehand, she had collapsed and undergone lifesaving surgery to fix an aneurism in her brain. She’s riddled with them. She nearly died and I would never have had the chance to say goodbye, and that would not be the first time for me.
Angry that my family never told me but also upset, I made contact with her. My own mother told me she’d kept it secret because she thought I wouldn’t care. It’s a deeply sad way to think, but our relationship was so fractured that it was assumed I did not care if she lived or died.
I did care, and I went home to see her. What I saw in front of me was not the strong, rather scary woman I remembered. She was frail, unsteady and just seemed incredibly small. It scared me to see how much her illness had taken from her. Our relationship began to grow, and she didn’t once say a horrible thing to me about my weight or my love life as she normally would. Her illness seemed to make her aware of her mortality, and the reality that she only had one child. She may not have wanted me but I was there regardless.
Today I get off the phone to her, we’ve been talking for over an hour. She’s been pottering around the house and knitting some booties for the children’s ward. She asks me about my cat, she loves him, and she asks me about how work is going. She asks me if I’ve been busy or if I’ve met any nice boys (or girls, she adds).
I wonder how it would have been, if she hadn’t fallen ill. If she hadn’t been widowed and left a sickness beneficiary, I don’t know if she would like me all that much. But her illnesses and her deeper understanding of the complexities of life have made her a much better person. My Dad forgave her a long time ago, and is just pleased that after 30 years, she’s allowed herself to truly love her only child, even if that child isn’t quite as she’d hoped.
I think about that this Christmas, as everyone gets excited and spends time with their close families. My Stepdad died at Christmas time and there’s a lot of emotional stuff that I sift through every year. Not just with his death but the many Christmases I was forced to spend away from my Dad, and the many Christmases I spent not talking to my Mum. I don’t feel the same about Christmas as most people. But I feel very blessed that my Ma survived her near death experience and I was able to have a second chance at having a mother. That’s really the best present I could have ever hoped for.