Adoption, Angie Mabry-Nauta, birth mother, blogging my book idea, child neglect, childhood abandonment, childhood wounds, Colorado River, Family, Hoover Dam, Judith Viorst, Mama Taboo, Mother, mother wound, motherhood, Parent
Maybe you and I have something in common.
I am a grown adult woman with two daughters of my own, and yet I ache for my mother.
Don’t get me wrong, she is still alive. We talk on the phone almost every day, and she comes to visit me and my family at least once every quarter, if not more. We have fun together, and we especially enjoy sharing holidays and birthdays, if her schedule permits.
It’s just that we never quite connected emotionally, at least from my perspective. I have a theory why, but I hesitate to reveal it because it is primarily my mother’s story, and therefore not mine to tell. Suffice it to say this: I believe that my mother shut down her feelings during her childhood in order to survive it. I also believe that when she did, it was a forever kind of deal.
You might say that I lost her before I was born.
Author Judith Viorst calls the loss of the mother-daughter connection Original Loss. “It is our first loss, and it tilts us in such a way that future losses will involve more risk” (91). Viorst writes:
Severe separations in early life leave emotional scars on the brain because they assault the essential human connection: The mother-child bond which teaches us that we are lovable. The mother-child bond that teaches us how to love. We cannot be whole human beings — indeed, we may find it hard to be human — without the sustenance of this first attachment (92).
As painful as this was (and still is) for me, Mom was (and still is) there for me. I do have good memories of spending time with her throughout my childhood. And, she performed the foundational parental duties of raising and providing for me well. I mention that last fact not to insult my mother, but to set up a contrast. Some people would consider themselves beyond blessed to have a mother at all; to have Mom present; to be with their birth mother; or to have a mother who simply functioned.
The Mama Taboo keeps children of any age muzzled. We do not, we cannot speak openly and honestly about painful experiences with our mother. Perhaps we have stuffed the truth of our reality so often and so deep that we do not recognize it. We find the idea that our mother may have wounded us absurd. Sure, Mom blew it from time to time. She’s human, after all. But, emotional scars? Nah.
For me, the Mama Taboo felt like the Hoover Dam, and my emotions the Colorado River. The pressure to hold back was enormous, and my pent-up hurt, fear, anger, and tears raged against my fabricated blockade. All my feelings wanted to do was flow as nature intended. But, years of intelligent engineering served me well (or so I thought), and I stood fast. I just about drowned.
Even so, I can’t imagine what the Mama Taboo feels like for people whose situations are far more complex than mine. How does a person allow herself to admit that Mom failed to love her when Mom couldn’t help her situation? How does that person, as an adult, break the Mama Taboo, and express the grief, anger, and hopelessness that naturally come with Original Loss?
Is it right to rail against a military Mom who was deployed for not being there? Can one honestly be angry with Mom if she died early in a child’s life? How is the adopted child to sift through his emotions knowing that his birth mother gave him away out of deep love because she knew herself to be unfit for motherhood? What if Mom is chronically ill, and her maladies make it difficult merely to function, much less care for her children? Is a child ungrateful because he wanted his single mother who worked two jobs to keep the family afloat to be with him?
I’m not sure which Mama Taboo is more suffocating, honestly. Is it “worse” when one’s Mother is in her life, and Mom makes difficult choices that in effect abandon and neglect her child? Or does not having a mother, either figuratively or literally, take that cake? Is it harder to speak truthfully about a mother wound caused by a present-yet-neglectful mother, or a mother wound caused by circumstance that is equally painful nonetheless? Which child would be more recalcitrant to own her pain, feel it, process it, and eventually heal from it?
I don’t know the answer, and I’m honestly asking.
What say y’all?
“Blogging my book idea” is series of posts. Only God knows how long it will last, and how the posts that emerge will relate to one another. I invite you to engage with me, and walk the path to publishing with me. My guess is that the book, whose ultimate purpose is to serve God’s plan by touching readers, will be that much stronger because of your input.
Judith Viorst quotes appear in her book Necessary Losses. Text drawn from Jasmin Lee Cori, The Emotionally Absent Mother: A Guide to Self-Healing and Getting the Love You Missed (New York: The Experiment, 2010), 91-92.
- Blogging my book idea: What is the Mama Taboo? (revangiem-n.com)
- Blogging my book idea: Do you hate Mother’s Day? (revangiem-n.com)
“Family Bucket List” E-book Giveaway Winner
Please forgive my oversight, as I totally forgot to announce the winner of Lara Krupicka’s new e-book, “Family Bucket Lists” on Monday.
Congratulations to Andrea DeWard! You will receive a copy of “Family Bucket Lists” compliments of the author!