Monday, July 02, 2007

On my mother, part I

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, the following will not surprise you: when faced with a new situation, I go into research mode and read everything I can. And so, even before I got pregnant with Scooter, I had already started the research, starting with a book on conception and pregnancy that was written by a lesbian. Once I was pregnant, I bought a couple more books and got even more out of the library.

As I would devour them, one topic that always came up would give me pause: the change in relationship with one's own mother. Most books suggested that pregnancy and early motherhood would be a time in which I would gain new perspective on my own mother, usually with the optimistic belief that it would deepen and strengthen that relationship. Only the book written by the lesbian suggested otherwise. She discussed the fact that lesbians are frequently isolated from their families of birth and that there can be additional difficulties with the parents of the non-biological mother; however, she also included anecdotes from various women about how parents would often come around after the baby's birth.

We had no concerns about Trillian's parents. They'd been dropping hints--not even subtle--about grandchildren for some time, and I suspect that they know their daughter well enough to have known she wouldn't be the one carrying the child. And it's not that I was particularly estranged from my own mother, not in the "I refuse to acknowledge my lesbian daughter" kind of way, at any rate. But no matter how much some part of me fervently hoped these books would be right, I knew I shouldn't get my hopes up.

Nonetheless, I made a few extra attempts when I was pregnant. I remember one phone call I made, ostensibly to get some family health information and ask about her pregnancies and deliveries. It was a pleasant enough conversation (and included some helpful information about a trend towards normal pregnancies with unproductive labor), but such moments only occurred when I initiated them. And let's face it, by the time I got into the third trimester, I was too overwhelmed with getting things ready at school for my maternity leave and preparing the baby's room--not to mention freaking out over the idea of having an actual baby--to make the gesture.

My becoming a mother didn't improve our relationship either. When she and one of my sisters did visit, around the 8 week mark, they picked the week before the one I told them would be most helpful (when I would need to attend a few meetings at work--I was allowed to bring the baby, but thought it would be easier if I had even a little time there without him). During their week at our house, they didn't do any dishes, laundry, cooking, anything. I had actual work to do at that point (grading exams, figuring final grades, writing comments), plus I was having to play entertainment coordinator. They did babysit one afternoon when Trillian and I went out for a movie. But overall, I would have been better off if they hadn't visited at all or had only come for a day or two.

Before Scooter was born, I worried about what sort of mother I would be. Looking at my own mother as a model, I was concerned that I might be distant, withhold affection, shrink from hugs, be sparing with words of affection. But as soon as he was here, I discovered just how easy it is to cuddle and kiss; "I love you" tumbles out of my mouth many times a day of its own volition. And so the fact that I am (and have been since day one) so in love with my son and being a mother--his mother--has only served to make me more critical of my mother. Why was it so hard for her to show any of that to us? I have to wonder.

Trillian's mother is wonderful; she's more than willing to share stories of her early experiences as a mother and listen to ours. I have several aunts who are similarly great. But as much as I enjoy having that sort of relationship with them, I can't help but think that there would be an added dimension if I could have such a relationship with my mother since she is, after all, the woman who was actually there during my childhood and would know more about my own experiences.

So this is a wound that reopens as I work on of my current conception efforts.


crazymumma said...

oh mouse.

family. the cross we bear and the wings we wear. Sometimes they just make us crazy. It is wonderful to know that you love loving your son.

metro mama said...

This is such a complicated, fascinating topic. I've been reading a lot of fiction on this subject lately. Let me know if you want any recommendations!

Aliki2006 said...

Have you ever read Judith Arcana's book "Our Mothers' Daughters"?

It might be out of print (don't know) but it really helped me think in a less emotional way about the difficult relationship I have with my own mother, and with my own sense of defining what mothering meant to *me*.

Lisa b said...

It is just sad. There are so many ways to analyze it but it just comes down to that.
Sometimes I think of the obvious excuses but they don't explain it all. I just worry that I also will be unable to give my children what they need. I know what I needed as a child but maybe what they need is different.

Raji said...

Your relationship with your mother is one of the many things I relate to on your blog, and I think I have posted once before in a response.
As lisa_b said, it is sad. I wonder too whether I might not end up being like my mother in some way? Critical and difficult to please....the thought scares me deeply, I so much want to be the encouraging, optimistic and supportive mother I never had.
I'm glad you love loving your son :)

Metro mama - I would love to hear your recommendations