Healing the Mother WoundPublished 12:49pm Friday, November 9, 2012
That day something changed inside of me. Her words carved a wound in my soul that left me writhing in emotional pain and self-conscious whenever I spoke up. I was afraid of what others might think of me and certain my mother would pop out of the woodwork exclaiming, “Liar!” should I ever speak the truth about my childhood. She succeeded in shaming and silencing me.
My parents divorced when I was 10 and my mother married Mike a year later. At 15 I invested in an alarm clock that woke me instead of his wandering hands. Like many children of divorce I became a pawn in verbal battles and messy court hearings. When my father refused to pay child support (which was often) my stepfather would bark, “They ain’t my kids! Let ‘em starve!”
I was 16 the first time I told my mother he molested me. “You don’t even know what that means,” she coolly replied and continued mopping the dining room floor without looking up.
I cried myself to sleep many nights. I begged God to make it stop and followed it with a statement, “When I grow up my life will be better.” I hated my life. I didn’t feel like either parent wanted me.
Thankfully, there were always neighbors, counselors, teachers and other adults guiding me. I believe this was how God answered my plea. Junior year, my sociology teacher sat me down, opened a reference book of colleges and told me, “You’re going to college.” At that point, it wasn’t an option, and with his guidance I graduated in 1985 with a double major in Interpersonal Communications and Psychology from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
I believe our traumas become our passion. And when we heal them we find our purpose. That’s what happened for me. In my mid twenties I entered therapy. I developed an insatiable hunger to understand the emotional life of a child. I was determined to break the cycle of abuse and abandonment and give my children a better life. I binged on self-help books, seminars, and personal retreats. In 1993, I earned a master’s degree in Humanistic and Clinical Psychology where I authored a thesis on infant trauma and bonding.
In the mid nineties, my two children, Nate and Jenn, were born. Although exhausting, I loved being a mother! How wonderful to give them the care and attention I never had. Somehow in that, I felt a healing for the little girl I once was. I learned so much in the five years before they were born and I implemented all that I knew. One of the things I learned was that well bonded infants were calmer, happier and had better developed brains, so our babies slept with us and were carried on our bodies. When we fed them they faced us for eye contact. That way they’d bond with us, not the ceiling or television. They never cried it out, and I never threatened to leave them during temper tantrums because I knew the frontal lobe, responsible for reasoning, wasn’t developed until 16 to 21 years of age. I don’t laugh at or ridicule my children, I stop when they say stop, when I’ve hurt their feelings, I say I’m sorry. I speak kindly and respectfully, and expect the same in return. I don’t grab or hit them because I want them to know their bodies are to be respected and that’s how I want them to treat others, and I don’t send my kids away when they show feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m a perfect parent, but it is a priority for me to parent consciously.
Six years ago we moved from Livonia, Michigan to Fergus Falls. I gave up my license and psychotherapy practice of 13 years to become a stay-at-home mom. What a shock! I’ll never forget the day in 2010, driving down I-94 toward Fergus. I’d done the stay-at-home mom job for several years and felt the pressures of society to go back to work. I spoke out loud, as if God occupied the seat next to me, “You haven’t opened any doors. Is this it? Is this what you want me to do with my Master’s degree?” I sat for a moment in the quiet then heard a whisper, “You did it. You broke the cycle. Now relax and enjoy the life I’ve given you.” I felt this peace swirl inside of me. I didn’t realize I was using my training everyday in my family to undo the wounds of generations.
Of course my mother telling me I would hurt a lot of people as a therapist on that spring day in 1993 also subconsciously affected me. Recently, in a healing mediation, I revisited that conversation as I sat before God. His cloud-like hand lifted me high off the ground and brought me face to face, His deep blue eyes fixed on mine. “It isn’t that you’ll hurt people,” his gentle voice resounded. “It’s that you’ll force them to look at the dark places. I’ve put you on this earth to illuminate the darkness.” I smiled. I got it. If people can hear me, great. If not, that’s okay. And from now on when I speak I will do so with authority. I know what I’m talking about. I’m not lying. And in that moment, nineteen years after that horrible day, I decided that my mother’s voice would no longer silence me.
Present Day, 2012
I close the front door behind Nate and Jenn as they leave for the first day of school. I smile at the intelligent, creative, witty, and loving teenagers they’ve become. My thoughts drift back to the past 17 years: cuddle time, love notes, outstretched arms and running feet that bowled me over in a hug, and more recently, heartfelt talks about changing friendships and the pets we’ve loved.
I settle into a sling chair that overlooks Ten Mile Lake. A fall breeze catches the tire swing that hangs from one of the 47 oaks in our yard. I open my journal to write this article and listen. There’s no voice. I don’t hear my mother. I lift my eyes to the blue, blue sky. “Thank you,” I say out loud. And I realize the words I recited through my tears at night, so many years ago, have come true; I do have a better life, I will no longer be silenced, and the pain of generations ends here.