Parenting With a Trauma History

This post is beautifully written by a client who shares her experience of childhood trauma and the lingering effects which went onto impact her experience as a parent…

“The birth of my little girl meant the end of my childhood and the beginning of hers; the highest form of catharsis. It is difficult to explain what I mean, really, only that I spent every waking hour before that exact moment nurturing the child inside me; raising her, teaching her right from wrong – or at least attempting to – reassuring her, attempting to assuage her self-loathing, her deep-seated fears of abandonment and loneliness. 

The day before the birth of my little girl, my mother and I made peace of this war waged over decades. Her seeing me, seeing herself inside me; and me fighting her, seeing her inside me – loathing her and missing her so desperately. Taunted by fading memories of her care for me with prevailing reminders of her abandonment of me coursing through me daily. A text with a few words: ‘I am sorry, I understand now’. She understood. Finally, she saw my pain for what it was, she internalised that these were not fabrications but things that actually happened and that, willingly and unwillingly, she not only participated in them but inflicted them on me. That night the headaches started and after a light swim the next more so did my contractions. My waters broke in the bath later that evening. Everything begins and ends with water for me.

My father was visibly overcome when he held my little girl. Overwhelmed. She is the first of my first, he undoubtedly thought, and I will be better – I will fight harder. I watched him at my bedside at the hospital staring at my little girl and again felt peace and perspective. Brutality and violence will sleep now. All of the violence between them (my parents) and me lay to rest somewhere. Resting (the dragon asleep in the middle of the volcano). I can still feel the after-burn (the singe that comes in delay after fire flays the skin). I can still hear his voice; his vicious chastisements and the illogical punishments that defied right and wrong. 

I wanted to be held and protected but that only made me more vulnerable to attack. 

Defend the fort. Defend. Defend. Defend. Hide. 

I am a victim of physical, emotional and psychological abuse. I am their victim; they that should have loved me the most. In relative terms, it could have been worse. In individual terms, it is a pain that still dominates my thoughts and defines my social interactions. It is my chronic heartache and the sieve through which I receive the rest of the world. I do not want to be a victim. I do not want to play the victim. I need the pity but reject the offers of help. 

The birth of my little girl was the highest form of catharsis; the ultimate purge. 

I suffered through another bout of depression before and after the birth as I ushered the little girl inside me into adolescence, kicking and screaming into maturity. I felt the weight of my fears at night as I watched her, hawkishly, sleeping counting my daily failings. I couldn’t feed her properly. I fell asleep with her in my arms and found her lying precariously at the edge of the bed. My husband wouldn’t touch me. I wouldn’t look at myself. Overpowered by the feeling of being both lost and found at the same time. I knew exactly where to find myself, but I was unreachable and too tired to extend myself any kindness or understanding. 

Here I am, on medication again. Too scared to drown and to fail her. It was too noisy in there, I couldn’t hear myself think anymore. All I could hear were the echoes of her cries over and over again – and if not hers, the echoes of that little girl inside me. Too much nurture. I needed to sleep, to rest, to be, to shower and to stop myself from repeating that her life will be no different from mine. I told her, ‘I am sorry your mother is crazy’ and apologised profusely for crying. I am sorry, I am sorry. I told herself and myself in myself. 

I was apologising for them. I was crying for myself. 

You survive the trauma. You survive the loneliness and the desire to be left alone. You keep fighting. You try to be kind to yourself in stops and starts. You remember but you learn to understand that they are just as fallible as any other person you know. But my parents were mythical to me, always. Larger than life – they still are. People you couldn’t write without veering into fiction, you’d think. I raised their children and now I shall raise mine. That was my reality. I wanted a different mythology for myself and to project to my daughter that I, too, bleed sometimes but there will be no other person in the world that will love her as unconditionally and with such complex simplicity as I do. 

Now to tend to this young adolescent inside me, helping her mature and moving past the past, carrying it with her without letting it burden her. I am her and she is me; without reconciling the two I can never look into the mirror without being overcome. Nor will these dark dreams go away.

I endeavour only to remember what their unkindness did to me and battle my fear of abandonment and failing. My daughter is a loved and happy child. She is a child that feels happy and loved. She is a child that does not feel lonely. That is all I could have wished for and my greatest achievement” 

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