Maternal Neglect 1/5

I wanted to be parented as a teen, and my mom wanted to be done parenting. I don’t think she was ever particularly interested in the gig. To my knowledge she never daydreamed about future children or played house with her sisters. She had an unhappy, abusive childhood and the only way out was marriage. She wed my father at 18 and had her first child at 21. Birth control was sin in their religion. 

They were both young and disturbed, from violent and abusive homes. They were drawn to rigid, unforgiving, legalistic forms of faith that promised absolution through purity, through authoritarian obedience. My mother’s mother provided all the rules and structures they could want, and more. Dad ricocheted between strict Christianity and increasingly frequent drug binges while Mom stayed home with their growing family. 

By the time she was expecting me, they were already separated. Prenatal stress hormones can create a permanent anxiety disorder in the fetus, and sperm health and mutations are greatly impacted by drug and alcohol use. I have to wonder if I was doomed before birth to this nature. I inherited my parents’ unhappiness on an epigenetic level. It is written in my DNA. It is the story of my every cell. 

When my parents were first married they lived with other young people in a loft space over a Christian coffee house, the same one they first met in. I said it sounded romantic. Mom said it had bugs. Seven years later they were struggling to make rent in the townhouse apartment where I was born. Dad had been fired from his job managing a gas station and Mom was underpaid as a substitute teacher.

I cannot remember a time before I knew all of this, before I was aware of this narrative of unwantedness. When I was a child of perhaps six or seven, my mother found me sitting alone in the dark hallway closet. She asked what I was doing in there and I told her mournfully, “No one is enjoying my existence.” She laughed. She thinks this is a funny story, of her melodramatic daughter. 

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