On Mother’s Day I’m Not Interested in Forgiving My Abuser

Tomorrow is my 4th Mother’s Day since disconnecting from my mother. Her final email to me two months after our last phone call reads, “well, I guess you have made your point….no more contact from mum…So, heaven knows that I don’t wish to make you angry but obviously I do so you have a good life in whatever you put your talents to…”

I read this email as a reminder of her inability to talk with me about our problems. She never asked me why I am angry. She never wanted to know why I wasn’t talking to her or how she could make amends. She isn’t sorry. She doesn’t believe she did anything wrong. This email is just the cherry on top of a lifetime of experiences, conversations, arguments, mental, physical, and emotional abuse, manipulation, and coercion that reminds me why forgiveness is not part of my healing. At least not her forgiveness.

Forgiveness and Love were tools of manipulation and coercion for my mother. Our church promoted the concept of “Turn the Other Cheek” as a way to lower yourself to the needs and abuses of others. When someone told you they were forgiven by God, it meant you automatically had to forgive them, even when they weren’t really asking you to. I mean, how do you argue with the forgiveness of God? It took me years to realize that this is a poor understanding of biblical forgiveness. Forgiving someone for actions against you means that you name that action against you, that the person seeks forgiveness from you because they realize what wrong they have committed. The act of forgiveness is a mutual act.

For me, forgiveness can not be granted unless it is sought and because of that, I have little interest in forgiving my abuser.

I know forgiveness has different meanings for everyone. The meaning that a lot of people I have spoken to use is one that allows them to let go of hurt, negativity, and pain. They tell me that they just needed to Forgive so that they could Move On. It is their act of letting go and trying to not let what was done to them rule their lives. I can appreciate this even if I don’t personally understand it.

That being said, I am not interested in forgiving my mother. Forgiving my mother continues to put the focus and power on her. I’m not interested in allowing her that kind of power anymore.

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“Expansion” by Paige Bradley

The person I need to forgive is myself. 

Mother’s Day reminds me of the mother I don’t have and all the ways that I couldn’t get away from the one I do. I remember the Mother’s Day I bought her a nice tea cup and delicate teas because she always claimed to love making and drinking tea. She politely smiled then set the cup aside, just as she did with every gift I ever gave her. That mug sat in the cupboard, untouched, for years. She doesn’t have a tea drinking ritual like she claims to. I remember all the gifts I gave her trying to make her realize I know her and love her. I remember all the ways I tried to make her proud of me, love me. I remember all times I should have stood up for myself or my sisters. I remember all the times I let her walk over my needs. I remember all the times I planned to run away but never did. I remember all the ways she made fun of me, belittled me, ignored me, abandoned me, hurt me, lied to me, manipulated me… all while claiming she loved me. All while making me feel crazy, unbalanced, difficult.

I need to forgive myself for all the ways I couldn’t protect myself as a child and even as an adult. Because I hate myself for not being stronger, louder, braver. I blame myself for the abuse and suffering that my sisters endured in our house because of our mother. I blame myself for the mental health struggles of my youngest sister. I have to learn to forgive myself for things that were out of my control. Because I am angry at that young girl for not knowing better. I’m angry at her for not having the resources to protect herself. I am angry at her for not fighting harder, even when her fighting was destroying her. There is a part of me that is even angry that it didn’t destroy her… maybe if all this had killed her, then her little sisters would have been saved and she would finally get to rest.

The forgiveness I seek is from myself so that I can move on. Forgiving my abuser is not necessary for me to heal and grow.

So, this Mother’s Day, I will try to hold even a small amount of forgiveness for myself. It isn’t going to come all at once. It might not even come tomorrow. I know I still hurt. I know my heart will feel heavy with every joyful post online and my anxiety will thrash against my chest. I will carry my sadness. But I will also be kind to myself. I at least have a better idea of what that looks like now. I will remind myself and all other survivors that we were brave. We survived. Survival was the strongest thing I could do and now I want to thrive.

You Are Not Alone: Lisa’s Story

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Photo by Lisa

This story is not mine. Is republished with the permission of my lovely friend Lisa. When she shared her story in full on Facebook this week I was so moved I asked if I could share this more widely. She is a warrior woman.

This is Lisa’s story of a miscarriage she experienced this fall. She was very open about sharing her pregnancy news early so that whatever may happen, she had a support system around her. Many women suffer alone and silently after a miscarriage – Lisa doesn’t want them to. 

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At the end of July of this year, I was very excited to find out I was pregnant. I was thrilled for my darling daughter to have a sibling, and to experience a pregnancy through her enthusiastic eyes. I wasted no time in telling those I am close to as well as all my coworkers. I was a little worried that maybe it was too early to announce, as I had experienced a miscarriage when my daughter was about 4 months old, but, whatever was to come, I didn’t want to experience it alone.

At 5 weeks I was already feeling nauseous and dizzy. By week 7 the nausea was interfering with my ability to function. As time passed I grew increasingly depressed as I was unable to perform my daily responsibilities. My daughter and I spent a lot of time watching Netflix while my boyfriend was doing my housework and taking our daughter on outings as I could not. I started to doubt that I could do this. How can I take care of a three year old all day when I can’t even take care of myself? How can I keep her in daycare when I’m too sick to work? My daughter is such a handful as it is, how is a newborn going to fit into my life? Will I have a life? How will this affect my relationship? Will my employer understand? Can I afford maternity leave? How much will a new baby cost? Depression sank in as my nausea and vomiting increased. I started to wonder, do I even want to have this baby at all? Would it be better to just end this all now?

At around 10 weeks, I saw an OB and she prescribed Diclectin for my nausea and vomiting. After a few days adjustment, I was able to function and feel human again. I started to feel more hopeful about the little being inside my swollen belly. My daughter would kiss my belly daily and look in my belly button for her sibling. It was incredibly sweet. I was excited but I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe I was not ready for this.

My doctor ordered my first ultrasound for just after my twelfth week. Finally, I was going to get a look at this little guy or gal causing me so much grief. My boyfriend asked that I be sure to get pictures and I excitedly told our daughter that we were going to see Mommy’s baby on the TV. I laid on the bed with a full bladder, jelly on my belly, my 3 year old at my side. The technician placed the wand on my belly. I saw the very little shape of a baby, it wasn’t what I was expecting but it was exciting none the less. I pointed to the TV exclaiming ” Look! There is Mommy’s baby!”

I saw a look of panic on the technicians face…I thought to myself “where is that flash? The heartbeat…maybe they have the sound turned down because I don’t hear it either?”

It turns out that although my belly was swollen, and I was feeling sick, my baby had stopped growing in the 9th week and had no heartbeat. This meant, that although I had miscarried, my body hadn’t realized it yet. The doctor explained to me my options while I stared at her in shock. I could let nature take its course, take medication to facilitate the expulsion of tissue or have surgery (dilation and curettage). I stared in disbelief as she explained what a D&C involved, then came the tears. I mean I had had my doubts about having another child but to have it taken away so suddenly was devastating.

I was mad at myself for getting excited, mad at my body for not being able to grow a baby or even miscarry properly, mad that I had been carrying a dead baby in me. I had been walking around like a total and utter fool rubbing my belly thinking there was a healthy growing child but instead it was just a lump of tissue and cells. I was so angry. I just wanted this to be done with it.

I spoke to my doctor two days later and I asked for the D&C. She strongly urged that I try the medication as it was a more natural approach, as the surgery could affect my fertility due to possible scaring. I told her I didn’t care, I didn’t ever want to be pregnant or miscarry ever again. She felt that in the future, my feelings may change. So I filled my prescription, and reluctantly took the meds the next day. It didn’t work. I bled but it definitely was not what I was expecting….a week later, my next ultrasound showed the same little figure attached to side of my uterus.

Nothing had changed. I was still sick, still swollen, bleeding, and my baby was still firmly attached…my OB could see the emotional toll this was taking on me. I was an emotional wreck. How much longer would this go on? She scheduled an emergency D&C and I was admitted to the hospital. When I woke after the surgery I cried. I cried with relief. This is finally over. I can move on with my life and have my body back. I was told to expect bleeding for about a week and then it would taper off. It didn’t taper. I called my doctors office repeatedly. I called emergency and telehealth and they all said it was normal….I knew it wasn’t. Every time I went to the bathroom I hoped the bleeding had stopped. “I don’t have time for this” I thought. “I have to go to work, pack, move, it’s Halloween and my daughters 4th birthday.”

I bled for four weeks.

Four days after we moved I decided to take my daughter to the park before my shift. We played for a bit and suddenly I realized something was wrong. I was wearing black pants and couldn’t see anything, but I could feel something thick and warm running down my legs. I touched my pant leg and my hand was wet with blood. I panicked. Will I make it home? Do I call an ambulance? What do I do with my kid? What if I pass out? I told my daughter we had to leave right away because I had to go to the hospital. She gave me a hard time and wasn’t ready to go home. I realized I’d have to find a house and ask for help. I stumbled across a man doing some work on someone’s house and asked for help. He got the owner who immediately helped me and my child into her house and let me clean up. She drove me home to change my blood soaked clothes and brought us to the hospital where she stayed with us until my daughters father could pick her up. How fortunate to have had help from such a wonderful and caring stranger.

By the time I got to the hospital the bleeding had slowed and I was not considered an emergency. I arrived at 2:45pm at the Gatineau hospital emergency, I was seen by a doctor at 8:30am. 17 hours in the waiting room and no sleep. I was about to leave when they finally called me in. They ordered blood tests and an ultrasound.

My pregnancy test came back positive and my ultrasound showed that my D&C had been unsuccessful.

How much more would I have to endure? Will this ever end? How can I move on? The doctor wanted to put me on the emergency list again but I was exhausted and wanted to see my daughter and well, sleep…she sent me home for the night with orders to come in the next morning for surgery. I went home, saw my beautiful girl and slept like I’ve never slept before. I went in the the next morning for my second D&C in a month.

I continue to be left with only questions: Will this be the end of it? I’m scared to go out and do anything. What if the bleeding starts again? What if this time I do pass out? Will my daughter be ok? Will I be ok?

This has been a tough few months. I wanted to share my story because only when I started talking about it did I realize that I wasn’t alone in this. I think it’s important for me to share my experience so that others who may have gone though this realize they are not alone nor are they at fault. I am feeling better, and am very hopeful for the future. I feel some relief and sadness at the thought that I most likely will not become a mother for a second time. But I am eternally grateful for my daughter, my life and the support of all my friends, family and coworkers. I’m still feeling scared. The experience was traumatizing, but knowing I am not alone gives me a strange sense of comfort. I am not looking for sympathy, just looking to share my story with someone who needs to hear it.