Learning To Be My Own Mom
Words by Chelsey Miller
Did she really just say that to me? What kind of mom calls her pregnant daughter "fatty"? I knew I wasn’t fat. So where was this coming from? It felt different than how she had treated me in the past. She never treated me well, but this was different. This felt like a direct attack on me.
From the very moment I told her I was pregnant our relationship changed. I was no longer her daughter and she my mom. We were now competitors in the competition called Motherhood. Everything good or bad that happened to me she had to one up me. I never felt any excitement for me from her. It was all about her getting a grandchild. She always referred to the baby growing in my womb as HER GRANDCHILD. There was a force behind it that made me uneasy. It was never my child. I was being taken out of the equation. Even my brother was uncomfortable by the way she talked. This should have been a big red flag but I just brushed it off like I always have.
My daughter was born on December 22. On Christmas Day we got the all clear and headed home. Despite having to go to the doctor almost every day the first week home, we were in a land of bliss. Everything felt so right as we got to know our new baby girl.
When Zoey was seven days old I decided it was time for her to meet her grandma. I was not ready to invite my mom to my house, though. It felt like a sacred space where her negative energy would do too much damage. I should have known at this point that something was really wrong. I thought my unease around inviting my mom into my home was just a new parent thing. So we met at Starbucks. Everything went fine. We said goodbye and headed home.
A few months went by and everything was going well. I was studying to take the Professional Engineers exam. My mom offered many times to come up and take Zoey to a local shop so I could have time alone to study. Great offer. Most people would take their parents up on it. I was afraid. Afraid of what she would do with Zoey while I wasn’t there watching her every move.
By the time Zoey was 4 months old I started having a feeling of fear in my body. I felt it all the time, but I really felt it when my mom wanted to see Zoey. I attributed it to Zoey being in daycare and the stress of preparing to take the Professional Engineers exam. There was a lot of change happening in a short amount of time. And hormones were still running wild in my body. But what I didn’t realize was that my world was about to be rocked. I remember the moment very vividly. I was driving east through the neighboring town and out of nowhere this feeling overcome me. I was absolutely sure my Mom was going to kidnap my daughter. I thought this thought came out of nowhere. But really it was the unease I had been feeling since I first found out I was pregnant.
I didn’t say anything to my husband for a while. I was afraid. Who thinks that of the person who raised them? Who birthed them? Eventually I had to say something. I fell into a depressed state and needed his help getting out. After I told him how I was feeling and all my fears around my mom, he encouraged me to do what I had in the past. I started going to yoga with Zoey and getting out in nature more. Nothing was helping. When we went to a regular checkup for Zoey her doctor recognized the signs of depression in me and got the ball rolling.
With the help of several caring professionals I was able to come to terms with my childhood. I had to learn to say out loud that I was abused and that my mom is a narcissist. I had to remind myself that there are many kinds of abuse. Telling my husband “I was psychologically abused by my mom” was terrifying. I was shaking waiting for him to tell me that I was making it up. He looked me in the eyes and told me that he knew and was here to support me as I went on the difficult journey ahead.
Learning to be a mother to Zoey came natural. I had most of the answers. Usually the boob would solve whatever was upsetting her. When I had questions I would turn to my mom, but she wasn’t there. Even before I booted her from my life. So I turned to the internet when I needed counsel from the wise. The internet had a lot of answers but it also held a lot of sadness. I saw so many articles about the role my mom should be serving in my life. The role she should have served as I was learning to become an adult. I saw all the ways she failed me. I saw how moms actually treated their daughters.
The biggest part of the journey was learning to be kind and compassionate to myself. I had to learn to trust myself. I no longer needed to beat myself up anytime I made a small error. The real test of this new knowledge came when I decided to go hiking with Zoey. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We left the truck later than planned. There was a thunderstorm building to the north. Despite all the negatives we were having a blast. Zoey and I were having great conversations.
I saw lightning strike the mountain above us and decided the smart thing would be to turn around. As we rounded the corner at the bottom of a hill I had an urge to look to the top of the hill. There I saw 3 large brown animals. A mama bear and her two cubs. My heart was racing so fast I couldn’t hear anything as I made eye contact with the mama bear. When our eyes locked there was a knowing acknowledgement. We were doing what was necessary to keep our cubs safe. I turned around and continued on my hike despite the thunderstorm threatening us.
After climbing several unplanned mountains in the rain we arrived back at the truck. Bodies tired and ready for naps. I got Zoey buckled into her car seat and took a moment before heading home.
What does it mean to be a mom? I still don’t know the answer but I do know I am strong enough to be a kind compassionate mom to myself and Zoey. I know what it means to love unconditionally.
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About the Author:
Chelsey Miller is a mom to Zoey and her 100 lb lap dog, Blitz. Together with her husband they adventure in the mountains and desert. She lives in a small town in the mountains of Colorado and works as a civil engineer.