December 18, 2006

I was born in 1976 to parents who were ill-equipped. My mother had a horrible upbringing and my father was raised in a “spare the rod, spoil the child” atmosphere. My older brother’s birth was traumatic, to say the least. I mention him now only because his birth seems to have had a profound effect on my life, which began 3 years later.

Daniel was a very large baby, and my mother was a very small woman. His birth involved forceps being unsuccessfully used at the last minute and what she describes as an abusive medical staff. She was alone in the delivery room because my father was in the military, and also because fathers just didn’t particpate all that much back then. He was too large for the birth canal, and when he came out, he had a gash on his head from the forceps and his eyes were both blackened. My mother’s pelvis was fractured. The doctors had decided against a ceserean for whatever reason. They compared the damage from the birth to a bad car wreck. I was told this story over and over as I grew up. My brother had some pretty severe learning disabilities, and he also developed epilepsy as a teenager. He went to different schools than I did, because our school district was not equipped to teach him. Even though we lived in the same house, I never really got to know him. Now, as adults, we are cordial and polite to each other, but really don’t have anything to say. It is a shame, too, because he is one of the nicest people I know.

When I was eleven, as I listened to my mother repeat the story of Daniel’s birth for what had to be the millionth time, she told me how lucky I was to have even been born.

“You know, we seriously considered having an abortion when we found out we were having you. You know what that means, don’t you? It means you would never have been born.”

Surprisingly, my mother never drank in her life. I think we all would have been better off if she had, though. Throughout the years, I have thought about that conversation often. My mother looked at me with a grave expression and told me about my near early demise, and I always felt as though she wanted me to hug her and thank her for not aborting me, promising to always be a good girl. I remember looking at her, feeling hurt, confused and at the same time, relieved. I finally knew that she didn’t completely want me, that I wasn’t just imagining the coldness and distance. It felt better to actually know that she was indifferent about my existence than to think I was crazy. The relief was a double edged sword, though. The other side was pure, razor-sharp pain.

I made up memories whenever friends would reminicse about their own childhoods. I would talk about happy days spent climbing trees and running through fields, skipping rocks in the creek and camping in the backyard. It wasn’t always a lie. I did climb trees. Usually, though, I was crying and looking for a place to hide. I ran through fields, too, but I was running from angry voices and fists. I tell stories of a bucolic childhood, spent picking blackberries in the summer, but I never mention how my mother would be apt to pummel me with her fists as I shielded my head and face if I broke her favorite berry bucket or ate too many while I was picking them.

When I think about my childhood, I always feel as though I am walking a wire. If I fall off the wire on one side, the hurt I always tried to hold down will break free and pull me into a mire of sticky blackness. If I fall off on the other side, I will just keep falling and falling into confusion and nothingness. Sometimes, I wish I would fall on the wire itself, and be cut into two pieces.

Most of my life has been spent doing just that…destructing.