Her Bad Mother

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How Far We Have Not Come

Last night, I cried. Big, fat wet tears.

While blogging.

I almost never do this. I tear up from time to time, at the occasional post, moved by its language or its imagery or its story, but I almost never get to the point where my heart presses hard against my chest and my eyes burn and the tears spill hot and wet no matter how hard I blink to hold them back.

They spilled last night.

Last night, I read and re-read the beautiful comments to my post of the other day, the post in which I expressed my concerns about my ability to write about - and my comfort in writing about - my physical love for my daughter and in which I asked that somebody, anybody, join me in trying to overcome fears of inadequacy and fear of being misunderstood in order to express this love. So that I might be inspired and encouraged. So that I might understand my own hesitancy better. So that I wouldn't feel alone.

I followed the links that some of you had left, links to the posts that my post had inspired, or to posts that you had already written but which nonetheless answered my call, posts that I promised to (and will) pull together with my own thoughts in a post that will celebrate this amazing, complicated love. I read these posts, and I felt overwhelmed, in a way that I've never felt in the short time that I've been part of this community (more overwhelmed than when visiting the hundred some-odd Mommy Blogger Love-In posts. Yes.)

I felt overwhelmed because the full force of what it means to be in community, to speak with and listen to and have conversations within a community, struck me while reading these beautiful posts. Other women were writing my words, speaking my feelings. These complicated feelings, feelings that I expected other parents to share, but that I did not, I suppose, expect to see shared in the same language, with the same depth of complexity, with the same unabashed and unrestrained amazement.

You know how I feel. You have these feelings, too. You are not afraid to speak these feelings. I knew all of this, of course. But last night I saw it living and breathing on the page. And I thought, how silly to have been afraid. How silly to have thought these feelings, these ideas, unbloggable, unwriteable. How silly to have felt fear in such a community.

And then I received this in my inbox:

As the "Other Mommy" in a two mommy household I have to say that I could NEVER write such a post. I would be too damned afraid of the authorities coming and taking my child from me. Ever since he came into this world the one thing that has terrified me the most is that someone might come and take him from me - because of my sexual orientation, because I'm not the "real" mommy. I lay awake nights thinking about it even though I am on his birth certificate and have adopted him... I am constantly censoring myself to make sure no one can say I'm not a fit mother. Am I touching him for too long? When I change his diaper am I wiping for too long? Don't linger with that kiss on his cheek, etc. Every scratch or bruise he gets because he is an extremely active young one, I obsess over because someone might call Child Services to report the "evil lesbians".

I love my son more than I can adequately express but frankly I would be afraid to even try. Losing him would kill me and I just won't risk it.

And tears came.

I cried because I was right to be afraid, and because I couldn't see beyond my own privilege far enough to imagine that the most serious implications of those fears might not apply to me. Because I was cocky in stating that I didn't care if some self-righteous puritan thought that I was bad mother for talking about sensuality in relation to my child, because I have the luxury of knowing that as a white, married, heterosexual mother I can stand up to anyone who questions my mothering. Because although I need to worry about the pervs out there, I will probably never confront, in any serious way, the soul-wrenching possibility of being seen as a perv myself.

Because we live in a world where that's a real fear for some women, and for many men.

Because I prattle on about the amazing, empowering possibilities of this virtual space, where women and men speak their truth to power and empower and inspire one another, and I forget that that inspiration and that empowerment does not come easily to all of us.

Because I speak with the voice of privilege, and I take that voice for granted.

Because one woman out there can't speak her love for her child in all of its force and complexity, for fear of the unimaginable, and because while I want to say that that's one woman too many, I know that she is just one of many women. And men.

Because I lack the words to express my frustration and my rage and my shame, at this.


Okay, so maybe I'm overwrought with the whole white/hetero/liberal guilt thing. But still. Words fail, and I feel terribly that words fail me here.


All that I can think of, as a response, is to ask that you respond. And that you keep shouting out your love for children in all of its messy glory, so that we make one small stab at demonstrating how ordinary, how natural, how good is that extraordinary love. (And if you'd prefer to do it in the Basement, anonymously, I'd be honoured to host.) I am more determined to pull this all together, with my own thoughts, into a post about this love.

I don't care what it looks like, how you speak it. Just speak.


Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

That brought back the memories of when Adam was tiny....newborn....I couldn't get enough of touching him..exploring every little part of him....fascinated by this beng that was really still part of me.

But yes,...those niggling worries of impropriety would drift through and I would back off.

It kills me.

I LOVE touching my kids (not in THAT way) but just marveling at the miracle that they are...every little part of them.

I know my husband used to worry too..was terrified when he had a baby girl.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

I loved your post. I've often struggled to know how to express the depth of the love I feel for my daughter. I just posted this AM about my heart being broken for the first time on her behalf...and how it's such a new experience, and so filled with tears and mystery and hope.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, loved this post. I haven't mastered it yet and you have come very close to speaking from my heart. I have had a post started on this very topic for a while - I think I might be able to finish it now.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

You're right, we write from a position of privilege in all sorts of ways - having enough money to own a computer, enough time to write, having healthy children and so forth. It's so easy to assume that the world is as we (not you and me specifically) are and that there are things we take so easily for granted that are not available to everyone.

The last thing I would have expected on this list is the ability to speak effusively and freely about parental love. I thank your reader for opening our eyes to another perspective and to you for passing it along, as painful as it was for you.

We do have a long long way to go. Lead the way. I'm right behind you.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Just...wow. We do have such a long way to come. But I'm coming with you.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I wrote a post a while back about how hard it was to separate from my 21 month old at night. I was somewhat embarrassed to mention how much the smell of her means to me. I could smell Allison all day and never be satisfied.


2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever read Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy?

No? You have to. (This is part of my ongoing campaign to make sure every english-reading mother on earth has read it. It's that good.)

I remember in one part she reflects on how physical love for babies is probably older than sex, or enjoying sex; and that sex in fact is probably built on the physical love a mom has for her kids.


I am going to blog this one, but I'm not going to like it.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kiss and hug my kid all day, even when he annoys me with the crying. I love him and plan to be affectionate forever. I think people know that this will be motherly love.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

I have made my humble attempt...


2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I try not to take things for granted, but I (we) get wrapped up in our own druthers, it's hard to empathize with others.

As someone who worked with only children with disabilities for years, I know how hard it can be (at least parts of it) - and I know that in many ways, I have it easy.

Thanks for sharing that - it's those reminders that keep me in check.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all good,

But I really need to get my dose of Wonderbaby's big eyes and sweet smiles.

Please post new pics of her face :D

3:02 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Oh my god...I cried reading this post. In fact I've now read it twice and hoped I could say something not rambly...no such luck.

I feel for that woman and for any woman or man who might be seen as strange or wrong or not okay for just plain old loving their child. There are things any good mother or father shouldn't have to think about and pure love is number one on that list. I am still working on my post.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't have trackbacks! I'm speechless.

It's up. It's not uplifting, but it's up.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Special, special irony: "In 82 percent of accusations [of child sexual abuse] recently studied the accused offender was a heterosexual partner of a close relative of the child's. Researchers estimate that between 96 to 100 percent of accused abusers are recognizably heterosexual."

This site cites an original study published in Pediatrics as its source for this assertion.

I am so sorry this mother faces such worry every moment of every day while caring for her child. As the daughter of a bisexual mother, I react to this mother's pain on a very personal level. My own father, who was severly neglectful to the point of abuse, used my mother's sexuality as a weapon against her in court to gain legal custody of my sister and myself and thus avoided paying child support for years (even though we lived with our mother, as he made no attempt to actually care for us full-time after the court decision; apparently his concern for our moral health extended only as far as his wallet). I mean, seriously. The man once accidentally left me at a truck stop in rural Missouri while on a road trip, and didn't bother to call the police to say I was missing until three hours after he realized I was gone. Yet the state court initally found him the fitter parent. WTF?

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

before my daughter was born i was all "babies should sleep in their own crib, no co-sleeping, blah, blah, blah...." she didn't even make it into the cot in the hospital, the nurses had to put both sides up on my bed so she could sleep with me. i can't even explain it to my husband who adores her....she's delicious, i love summer when she's naked so i can see all those perfect limbs and the joy she has in her own body. yum.

5:09 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

"messy glory....." Love that.
And I can understand why the tears came.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I did my best, and still, it doesn't do her justice. But here it is:


5:54 PM  
Blogger Mouse said...

I'm still working on mine, have been slowed down by the silly little fact that I promised my supervisor a rewrite of a good chunk of my current project. But this weekend...

I needed to comment, however, because the email you quoted brought up something I had never thought about in regards to my wife. For all I know, she might have written that--she reads this blog as often as I do, and I haven't had a chance to ask her yet. Our son and I have always had a more physical relationship, but I attributed that mostly to breastfeeding. It makes my heart ache to think that she might feel this way. My wife is, and knows that I think she is, an amazing mother. I don't think she could love him more than she already does; it doesn't matter one iota that she does not have a biological tie to our son. And he knows how muchshe loves him and that he is hers.

Heavy discussions in our household tonight.

6:49 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

My heart goes out to that mom. I am so saddened that she doesn't feel she is allowed to revel in the glory of her child. I am so angered that anyone should be forced to feel worried about losing a child for no reason worth mentioning. I am so ashamed that in our society she could still be seen as a threat, that her concerns may be slightly exaggerated by her anxiety, but are by no means unrealistic. Lift up our voices ladies, and let us sing the song of our motherly love.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Just another reminder that life is unfair and mean people suck. Simplistic, yes, but true. I'm trying to write a post about my deep feelings for my daughter, but this has reminded me that I'm lucky to be struggling over it. At least I have that right.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

I hope my love shows in my actions because I don't express it well in writing.

I'm not bad at ranting though which is what I want to do every time I hear or read about parents such as the lesbian who wrote.

Those adoptions are legal in California; nevertheless fundamentalists are working overtime to change our laws and my gay and lesbian friends worry about their kids.

It's monstrous.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That breaks my heart. I understand her reticence, but that understanding doesn't keep me from agonizing over how unfair it is.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

it makes my heart hurt to know there are people who have to worry about loving *too* much. love should be the answer - not the problem. at the same time, as a nanny, i've worried, at times, about loving my charges too much. i don't want to overstep my bounds, but at the same time, would they really want me not to love their child? how much is it okay for me to love a child who's not my own?

but these are my own issues, and totally minor compared to what other people are dealing with. so sad, for love to become a bad thing...

10:47 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Wow. That's sad. And happy too in an odd way. But I'm an eternal optimist, so I see some happy things in your reader's words...

Thanks for writing on this so eloquently.

11:46 PM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

The blog writing forum is so interesting in its ability to accommodate the marginal. Stop apologizing for the failure of words....! It is intrisic to this banter that no standard is in place for completeness or perfection.. or even strict coherence.


7:34 AM  
Blogger Miguelita said...

The words of that mother have stayed with me since I read this yesterday. I never appreciated the luxury of being "normal" ( I am doing the air quotes as I write this, with not a small bit of sarcasm).
I am working on my piece. Slowly.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Kelly Wolfe said...

I think that was such a beautiful way to describe how you feel and I can so relate. Thank you for writing it.


9:53 AM  
Blogger Namito said...

How truly awful for her. If you are reading, whoever you are, my wish for you is that you can someday hug that child close with no interferance.

And HBM, I've spoken.


1:47 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

After reading your initial post, I was in the park with Ada. Another mom was talking lovingly to her daughter about her belly. Ada (a belly lover if there ever was one) crawled over to check out the girl's goods. The mom and I talked about babies, and bellies, and how we can appreciate something (like a big belly) on a child that we'd hate on ourselves. We talked about how beautiful children's bodies are and our love for our children. Reading your initial post gave me the courage to have such a conversation with a stranger in the park. Your ability to talk about it is certainly assisted by your priviledge, but you still broached a difficult to address topic, which helps.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Miguelita said...

I did it. I cried. I still havent said everything I want to say.

Here it is

I Got Two, Babe: It Becomes Me

2:26 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Oddly, I struggled with this issue as the caregiver of Infants.

I had one mother ask me to Not kiss her son. He was 4 months old.

How do you care for a baby and not hold and kiss them? What message does that send to the baby?

But, sigh, HBM, I have had long discussions with friends who are lesbian parents about these issues. And it makes me angry and sad and ....well, riled up.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Miguelita said...

Dawn -
I would kiss that baby anyway. I know the mother has the right to ask you not to, but wouldnt it derail the bonding if you werent affectionate with him? He needs to bond to you as well as his mom. It was hard to admit that to myself with my boys but they are infinitely better off loving their day care lady too.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Mayberry said...

I am stunned silent, truly. Thanks to your reader for sharing her thoughts, and to you for sharing them with us.

I don't think I can post on this topic. I am a coward, and not for noble reasons like yours and your correspondent's. I just don't think I can translate my feelings into words in any articulate way.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Slackermommy said...

Wow, I'm so open minded and obviously blinded by the reality that there are people who think you are more likely to be a pedophile if you are gay. I would like to tell your reader to love, smooch, carress every succulent inch of her baby. They both need it.

Growing up my mother hardly touched us because of sexual abuse she endured as a child. She had learned that ALL touching was bad. So sad, because as an adult I'm uncomfortable with affection. I have no problem being affectionate with my babies but I have to work at it as they grow older. I do my best to not perpetuate my mother's issues.

Thank you for bringing this topic to life.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a lesbian mom, I felt I should write something. It's long and rambling but the best I could do.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

That just stinks.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

We do have a long way to go and you and your reader were so right to raise the issue of privledge.

There are so many others too that we often miss as we write from our own experience.

7:37 AM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

I got me a fundamentalist in my comments ....scary stuff

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just posted on a related topic here: http://www.muchmorethanamom.com/?p=318

Someone left me a comment to come check you out, so here I am! Come check out my post and maybe we can help each other understand or come to grips with the amazing thing that is a mother's love.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Mouse said...

I have composed the 'eros' post:

Now, of course, I want to post something on the conversation my wife and I had over the non-bio, lesbian mom email.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to try to do this. I think it's a powerful and amazing idea.

I am sad for the mom who e-mailed you. And sad for the caretakers like Dawn who are not allowed to show love for the kids they care for just because of other people's insecurities and hangups. It's the kids that suffer when we cannot find ways to demonstrate the depth of our love for them and their incredible beauty that transcends the physical.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

I haven't the words.... I'm "just speaking." No. No words. Tears, though.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't do it. As a mother I understand it, but cannot articulate it in a way that isn't wrong to me. Painful memories of a father who "loved me so much, he couldn't help it" are too close to put the feelings I have for my own children in an erotic or physical tone.

But I understand it.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Angel Baby said...

Thank you.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Occidental Girl said...

This was great because of the connection. These feelings exist and it is important to highlight and give forum to, especially in light of those that can't.

My god, how heartwrenching!

My daughter has always been the tastiest morsel of babyfat ever tasted. Her eyes are full of life and her skin so new and precious. She's five years old, but the skin, it's new. Her mind puts together all kinds of amazing thoughts, and when her little hand pats mine...oh! I melt and am pieced back together again a million times in one second. That sweet hand.

It's weird talking about it, but then again not weird at all.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm Sara,
from UAE,
and I'm 21 y.o

Hi, All
I've studied English sinse Autumn.
It's very!
I would like like to meet peple and practisice My English with them.

Thank You

7:31 AM  
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8:40 PM  
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12:40 AM  

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