Had a FB convo recently that started off with one member of the group talking about how, as a baby, according to the advice of the “experts” of the day, she had been left in her crib to cry — so she could learn “discipline” FFS — which has led to her having abandonment issues.
A second woman chimed in with this story:
My mother was in the hospital in an oxygen tent for the first 5-6 weeks after my premature birth, with spinal meningitis, so I was home with an incompetent, elderly, agency baby sitter who had to chase after my two older brothers, aged barely 3 and 1.5 yrs old! So I spent most of my time in the crib and I REALLY had abandonment issues!
I am guessing that my early infancy was much the same, unfortunately, as far as the lack of attention goes. “You had diaper rash so bad that your butt was bleeding,” was one of the few things my father ever told me about that time.
After some conversation about other horrible advice given to new mothers back then…
(side note: about breastfeeding, etc. One amazing example:
[my mother] was instructed that she had to wash her breasts with soap and water before each feeding, and then dust them with… wait for it… hexachlorophene powder!! So maybe it was a good thing she didn’t continue nursing either him or the rest of us– Hexachlorophene was one of the earliest antibacterial agents — doctors went nuts with it– insisting hospital nurseries be scrubbed with it, babies be bathed in it, hands be scrubbed with it– It turned out to be carcinogenic! And also toxic in too high quantities. There was a cluster of neonatal deaths at one of the hospitals through which my father rotated as an intern or resident, which was traced to excess hexochlorophene being used and not rinsed off the infant bassinets and incubators.)
…the convo then turned to frequency of pregnancies back in the 1950’s days of Catholicism and little-to-no birth control. I mentioned my mom had had her first three kids in 4 years. The woman whose mother was hospitalized with meningitis after her birth had this to say about her extended family:
There were 5 of us born in 6 yrs, and when I was very young, I was always afraid one of us [me, the only girl] would be left behind– at gas stops on family cross-country car trips, after my father’s massive annual department picnic, after shopping, etc. Recurring nightmare, even. I never put the two issues [early infancy abandonment and later abandonment issues] together until much later.
But she went on to say:
It’s not like I can think of a brother I would trade for anything in this world to have made the circumstances less crowded or under-cared for. I love all my brothers fiercely. And I learned that rationalization from my mom’s baby sister, who learned it in turn from HER mom, who was her parents’ 12th child in 20 years! when she [my much neglected aunt, along w/ some of her over-worked “little mothers”/ aka older sisters] would have their moments of “Jeez-Louise, Ma, why the heck did you and dad have to have so dang many kids, anyway?!?
Grammy would then say,
OK, which of you all would you have wanted me to ‘send back’?
Of course, this question is the sort of thing that would be asked by a mother who — despite having a similar background and many of the same issues as my own mother, or worse — promoted not resentment but unity and togetherness — who really DID practice her religion and honored her wedding vows and “accepted children lovingly from God” — who loved ALL her children, and whose children thus ALL genuinely loved and cared for EACH OTHER.
The answer to the question is meant to be an unthinkable choice, one that no one could possibly make…
…but in my fucked-up FOO, there is an answer to that question — “Who do you want to NOT BE HERE?” — and it’s me.
(Incidentally, there’s also someone to put ALL the blame on: “Look what your father did to me.”)
Logically, I have the ability to look at what all horrible choices were made, and the dysfunctional things that happened as a result, and say, in all honesty, that my FOO would probably have been better off if I really HADN’T been born.
But that idea, that because of the inconvenience to everyone else that I represent, I really am not wanted — or at least, I am not wanted badly enough for anyone to actually show some backbone on my behalf and hold other people responsible for their shitty actions to me —
“well, we will let you join us as long as you’re no trouble, but on no account expect us to do anything DIFFICULT for YOUR sake now (because we did enough for you already back then, REMEMBER, WE CHANGED YOUR DIAPERS!!11!!)”
— that still hurts me deeply, sometimes.
Especially when I get a glimpse, through someone else’s words or pictures, of what “healthy” could have looked like.
One of my knitting friends once inadvertently did this when she asked how old my sister was when I was born, and I said “17”, and she said, “at that age she should have been head over heels about you.”
That idea, or the idea that anyone in my FOO could love me “fiercely” is just alien to me, except for my dad. And now that our parents are gone, they all still have each other — as it ought to be, only I should have been included.
For me, the only one who really loved me, and would have done anything for me, is gone. Those who are left obviously won’t, and thus I no longer have a family, and they no longer have a little sister — but it’s clear that this doesn’t matter as much to them, as long as mom’s “real” family, The Triumvirate, stays intact.
They got their wish. I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of mine.