A Disconnect

I’ve been reading about infant development lately in a book titled Healing the Split – Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill by John E Nelson MD. I often reflect on my own mothering of my daughter at the age of 19. Though the love was never lacking, I was not as good of a mother for her as I might have been, had I know how to be a good mother.

I believe some of that comes of the slight disconnect in my own parents as regards their parenting of us. It is not their fault, they were both adopted. Oh, they were good parents, not abusive, and we knew they loved us but there was something missing in them and it affected their parenting of us.

What was missing in my parents were their natural mothers, who carried them in their wombs and gave birth to them, may have breastfed them. I know that was true with my dad. I don’t have a record of that for my mom. She was taken to an orphanage for temporary care by her own financially desperate mother and put on a formula. My dad was allowed to stay with his mother and continue to nurse for some months as he accompanied her when she was employed by the Salvation Army, through who’s home for unwed mothers she had given birth to him.

I was reflecting on this as I sat out on the deck overlooking the field at my writer’s retreat. I was bundled up in a cozy jacket as the temperature is not more than the mid-30s and drinking warm tea.

I was thinking about how my mom took my bottle from me at 13 months to give to my newborn younger sister. My mom intended no harm, she didn’t know better. We can’t do better than we know how.

So, as I was drinking the warm tea, I imagined mothering myself. I imagined being warm and cozy in the soft embrace of my mother, drinking in the warm, nourishing liquid.

In that moment, I forgave my mom and had to extend that forgiveness to myself. I can acknowledge that I might have done better if I had know how to do better and in realizing that, I can acknowledge that my own mother would have done better had she known how to do better.

My late life sons (born when I was 47 and 50 years old) have benefitted from having a better mother in me. Certainly, I did have previous experience when the first boy was born and I had a huge amount of support from my in-laws who came every day for the first 4 months and only stopped when my husband begged me to ask them to back off.

My husband was always a good and nurturing co-parent as he did not become a father until he was personally ready to commit to that responsibility. When the second boy was born, he doubled down on the attention he gave the older boy, that he suffer less from the loss of attention of his mother, due to a newborn in the house.

It was a situation that I had to rectify when the younger boy was about 2 or 3 and the older one about 6 as he was acting out a lot to get my attention. With sufficient attention from me, that behavior quickly ceased and the younger boy benefitted from having more dad time.

Hindsight doesn’t replace ignorance but ignorance is not willful neglect.

A Perspective On Infertility

One of the hardest, most heartbreaking experiences that can come at a woman as she eases out of her thirties is to discover that she cannot have a baby.  The protagonist in this novel is Costanza Ansaldo, a half-Italian and half-American translator, who has traveled to Italy one summer to restart her life a year after the death of her husband, the famous writer Morton Sarnoff.  She is turning forty and has made an uncertain peace with both her grief and her childlessness.  Visiting the pensione in Florence where she spent many happy times as a girl, she meets Andrew Weissman, an acutely sensitive seventeen-year-old, and his father, Henry Weissman, a charismatic New York physician who specializes in—as it happens—reproductive medicine.  These encounters change the way Costanza thinks about herself—and, eventually, her future.

For readers unfamiliar with the experience of assisted reproduction, Michael Frank’s novel is an eye-opener. The ethics-straining extremes highlight the dire need to balance power between women and men.  The novel is a stunning reveal of the harrowing gauntlet infertile women go through to conceive. This is an intricate and dynamic examination of familial ties: both what strengthens them and what can tear them apart.

Scientific breakthroughs have caused the legal meaning of family to become detached from its genetic definition. The complicated family unit that ultimately forms is built on uncharted ground. When fertility treatments fail to produce a baby, adoption or surrogacy are often the next step in a family’s effort to form itself.  Both of these take a baby bonded in utero with someone else and place the infant in the lives of strangers.