When my friends in school would talk about their loving mothers and the love they shared between them, I would stare at them in disbelief because this wasn’t my experience with my mother.
My birth mother was a depressed, angry woman. She was unkind toward me and screamed at me on most days. Yet, there were also time times when she was extra kind toward me, helping me with my homework and cooking scrumptious dishes. Though a perfectionist by disposition, she had a creative flair in embroidery, displayed a zest for learning something new and had great sense of organisation.
She kept oscillating between these polarities and the entire spectrum. However, the child in me couldn’t comprehend such oscillation, especially when she would be verbally abusive, physically violent, and emotionally unavailable for me.
My mother wounds
Being a medical doctor by training, I speak to you in the language of wounds and healing, and what childhood neglect does to you. The shadow aspect of my mother inflicted wounds in me while the kinder aspects would soothe the wounds. Some days the wounding would be intense and there was no time left for the wound to heal. This way my wounds grew deeper and deeper. It was only a few years ago, when I was in my 50s, that I learned that these wounds a mother inflicts on the psyche of her child are called “mother wounds”.
My birth mother had hurt me so badly that subconsciously I developed an urge to become the best mother in the world. Yes, I dreamed of being a mother from childhood. I would wait for my breasts to grow, and when they didn’t, I would place tennis balls to mimic them and pretend I was a mother to my dolls, breastfeeding them, not knowing that it was my inner child who sought the nourishment.
As I grew, I became overtly maternal. I took it upon me to mother others. And I was attracted to mother figures. As I studied in a convent school I was surrounded by nuns and female teachers and the ones I loved became my foster mothers. I latched onto them and became really clingy at times. But at the first sign of loud voices or reprimand, I would shut them out from my life and wallow in my motherless soup.
Another consequence of my mother wounds was that they left me with deep shame for my sexuality and being a woman. I had low self esteem and a poor body image. I buried myself in my books and academics and disconnected from my body. With my mother, even the natural process of menstruation was projected to me as dirty, and therefore a valid reason to keep me trapped in the house and to avoid playing with boys. I was made to cover up in dresses that were ankle length, had collars that choked my neck and chest measurements that pressed the growing breasts, leaving them with a message: don’t you dare grow bigger and fuller.
When I started my healing journey, I began to understand that these wounds are festering deep in the tradition and culture of society. That is why my wiser adult self chose not blame my mother for she had perhaps been tortured by her mother, who was, in turn, treated poorly by her mother and so on. Blaming or punishing her would not help me heal.
So what did help me to heal?
How I healed from my mother wounds
The energy of the wounded child had to be released and set free so that I could be free from her shackles and limiting beliefs. I had to change her voice, her dressing, her mannerisms and bring her to listen to her inner self.
Each wound was healed with deep love and compassion in the loving, nurturing, sacred circles of women, in the arms of love, in the thousands of pages of journals that carried the weight of my wounds and in prose and poetry laced with tears. Creative art including voice exercises and dance movements helped me to express my angst.
Here are a few things I did to help me heal
- I took time off and went on solo holidays to work on my inner wounds
- To overcome shame, I started taking sessions for women where we talked openly about our bodies and celebrated our sensuality
- I used my voice to highlight the injustice in the system where women were made to disconnect from their bodies
- I worked with my body and my menstrual cycle and opened a new relationship with my physical being
- I cherished every new creation and found myself a team of cheerleader friends
- I fed myself wholesome and nourishing soul food; I cooked for me, sang for me, nurtured myself
- I took long baths with fragrant oils and bath salts; I massaged every part of my body with love and cried copious tears in the bathroom
- To release the shame some more, I danced to Bollywood item numbers in the privacy of my bedroom and only my mirror as the audience
Thus I birthed a new mother within me who is no longer like the meddling nagging mother from the fairy tales but the queen mother, the fairy godmother who has her daughter’s interests at heart and this inner mother has taught me to draw safe boundaries, speak my truth, be my authentic self and share my creativity with the world without inhibitions.
She is healing gently, the wounded daughter but this inner mother now stands tall by her side.
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