As I became a mother, a phrase entered my mind about the experience: “I was falling down the rabbit hole.”
I need to explain.
I did not attach to my own parents. In particular, I did not attach to my mother. In fact, part of my own work through the ten plus years in cognitive behavior therapy was to deal with my own attachment disorder. In addition, I have not had any contact with my birth parents in fifteen years. They have not met my child, nor will they. When he is an adult, he can choose whether or not to initiate the contact. But for now, I will not allow that happen out of protection for him.
My mother was not a woman meant for motherhood. When I was born, due to her untreated mental illnesses and various physical difficulties from my birth, I was given to various family members for care. Up until approximately the age of two, I was under the care of grandmothers and aunts.
In particular, one aunt provided extensive care for me. Later in childhood, my birth mother told me this aunt did not like me and gave disturbing details about my personal flaws that bothered this aunt. It was extremely confusing as I had imprinted this aunt as a caregiver. In fact, even the smell of grape juice reminded me of her. During communion at church when the smell of grape juice wafted through the sanctuary, I would think of this aunt as she served grape juice at breakfast. She always had it available. I would smell it and see the flower pattern on her carpet and think about the texture of her table. Then my mind would condemn itself for not focusing on God during communion and thinking about a woman my mother had told me hated me so much.
I know the truth now. This aunt was pained to see the situation I was in with both my mother and abusive father. But, families keep secrets.
When I decided to become a mother, I was certain that attachment was a priority due to my own pained journey. But, when you have not attached to your own parents, how does attaching to your child feel or happen? Simply, it is like falling down the rabbit hole.
For my journey attaching to my son, there was a pivotal moment. I remember my son being approximately two months old and I was changing his diaper. He looked up at me with his big, sweet eyes. And my heart stopped. I scooped him up with tears in my eyes and took him to lie down together. I cuddled him and softly cried. He fell softly asleep, secure that his momma had him. My heart felt so big and I felt so small.
Despite everything, my son and I are securely attached. We cuddle. He naps on me. He comes to me with his concerns during his toddler activities. He celebrates his discoveries with me. He expresses his frustrations at me. We are attached and continue on the attachment journey.
I have traveled down the rabbit hole… I have found aspects that have made me so small… and have been bigger than big.
You can attach to your child when you have not attached to your own parents. But, you have to be ready for that journey as it is a journey into an unknown world and down a rabbit hole.