As the years passed, I gradually lost respect for my mother as she developed a serious problem with alcohol. Even a new beginning for me at the age of 25 with marriage and a better childbirth failed to bring us any closer together. As that marriage collapsed some years later, in concur-rence with the death of my father, instead of mutual unconditional support between us, I was made to feel like a naughty teenager all over again, and was unable to reach out to my mother in those testing times.
Soon after, I set out on a journey of self discovery. I moved further away from her physically to give myself space to think my life through. The visits "home" became less and less frequent. During this period I tried to convey to my mother how I was getting stronger in myself and clearer about my mothering. But she just wanted me to move back closer, visit her more often, and continue being the same old daughter rather than a developing mother. My attempts at honesty between us were always seen as attacks, further widening the gap. After 3 more years of this, I realised that I had to cut myself completely free of our relationship so as to be able to become the woman I wanted to (and knew I could) be
Elements of my relationship with my mother may sound familiar to you. I know they have been for many women I have met. I use the story primarily as an example of how a breakdown in the mother / daughter relationship during adolescence can cause an unbridgeable distance later on, and how this can unfortunately lead to the loss of much potential maternal wisdom and guidance. But what actually appeared to be a breakdown between us due to an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 17, actually had its roots much further back in our relationship - as I later discovered.
I hinted all through the story that my relation-ship with my mother was always difficult. Right from the start, there was a great sadness and clash between us. Whenever she would retell her birthing stories, my birth was always described as the worst, even though I was the second and smallest of the 3 babies she had. My birth was long overdue; it was a long and arduous labour requiring an episiotomy and forceps; she had a lonely post-natal period in hospital; I wouldn't breastfeed; and, in her words - "You cried for the first 2 years". What a start to life! But also, what a history for her to bring to her first grandchild's birth, and for me to bring to my first daughter's birth. Why should I have been so constitutionally different from my brothers, who are seen in photos as chubby, happy babies, whilst I am barely visible? My own mother's birth holds yet another piece of
the puzzle as to what might have gone "wrong" between us - details of which unfold in a future section "Our Maternal Legacies", on page 179.
I have learned through investigations into my family history that because my mother was unable to come to terms with her own childbirthing experiences, and transcend a less-than-ideal beginning between us, our relationship was somehow locked into deep patterns of negativity. Like a house with bad foundations, there was an underlying structural weakness upon which neither of us could firmly build.
This lesson is one of the themes which run strongly through "Mother as First Guru" - that not only must we focus clearly on where we are going in our motherhood journey, but that we must also resolve within ourselves where we have come from and what has made us the woman we are today.
Women who carry the burden of disharmony with their mother, and who do not break free of negative emotional involvement as I did, frequently remain in very compromised relationships, driven by factors such as duty and guilt more than by respect and love. Where such a relationship is retarding the growth of the daughter into her own woman, and even her relationship with her own children, a break away can be a great tonic and clarifier for what needs doing. Sometime later, if / when the two parties have grown beyond their limiting patterns, resolution may be possible.