Do you know how many years I wasn’t very fond of this word? It brought up all sorts of negative connotations for me. It’s not a positive word. It symbolizes anger, frustration, and irrationality. It symbolizes criticism and madness.
It was everything I didn’t want to be.
I held onto obscure hopes for a while. Maybe having a grandchild would change her, make her more open. Maybe it would make her forgive me for whatever perceived wrong I’d done to her. Maybe it would make her love me for who I am.
I was wrong.
When I was in tears three days post-partum, who did I call? Not my own mother. I called my mother-in-law. She was there. She listened.
You know the saddest part? I didn’t even think to call my mom. Not once.
If I call my mom, my dad picks up and I can hear her in the background telling him to say hello and that she loves me. But she never picks up the phone. Too busy rearranging piles of junk. Can’t be bothered with the sound of her own daughter’s voice.
I brought this up in a conversation with my dad recently. “Why doesn’t mom talk to me on the phone? She doesn’t even care,” I said.
“She cares,” he said. “She cares about you and loves you, but I understand why you think she doesn’t.”
Umm. Yeah. She has a funny way of showing affection. In the off chance I actually see her, she’s all smiles and hugs and wants to give us presents. But when there’s physical distance, she can’t be bothered. If there isn’t a “Thank you mom for being so thoughtful and buying me this stuff,” to be doled out, she’s not listening.
So the day after I gave birth, my mother-in-law came over and helped me learn how to breastfeed. I sat there, in a pretty vulnerable position, and she helped get my baby to latch on. I mean, this isn’t something I would have ever dreamed happening. But motherhood changes things. It forces you to be more open. To let your guard down. Emotions bubble up to the surface and you have to find those you can trust, otherwise you’ll just be lost.
I never once thought to call my mom. Because she couldn’t help me. I couldn’t even talk about the birth with her. Her experience was so horrible, I guess she couldn’t bear the thought mine was positive. Maybe if I’d been torn to pieces, I’d have gained her approval.
I wonder if she’ll ever know these things, the things I can’t say to her. I wonder if it would help if she knew.
But experience tells me the truth is something she likes to hide from. It’s something she doesn’t want to know, and when faced with it, lashes out in anger at me.
Always at me.
Because I was the only one in that house that ever spoke the truth. Maybe that’s why the sound of my voice offends her so. She’s afraid of what she might hear, and worse, that she might actually listen.