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Her

Updated: Apr 13




Birthmom. Bio Mom. First mom. Mama.


When I was a very little girl, as young as five or six, I would play a strange, demented version of 'house'. I devised variations of the same script over and over and over. The 'mother' was not married but something awful had happened to her. I had no idea how pregnancy came about but I instinctively decided it somehow involved a 'bad man', so I would imagine (or require a playmate to play) the 'bad man.' In all the scenarios, the mother was only ever pregnant, keeping house alone. There were no other children, no family, maybe some friends of hers. Circumstances were dire, perhaps wartime, or lost in the wilderness - and when the time came for her to have the baby, something went wrong. She died. Or sometimes she lived a little afterwards but the birth made her too weak and she died holding the baby in her arms. That is how I always ended the game, always very abruptly.


I didn't keep playmates for long.


In retrospect, I was attempting to make sense of the traumatic mother loss I had experienced. Left to my own devices I re-enacted trauma over and over, all alone in my backyard playhouse.


I gradually kept such violent play scenarios to myself, sensing the reluctance of other children to participate in the peculiar pantomime. But the mystery and intensity around 'her' didn't fade as I grew, it simply morphed into other forms.

One afternoon, near my tenth birthday, my adoptive mother unexpectedly asked me, in her strange, slightly jealous way, if I ever thought of my birth mother. I quipped 'nope!' - because I thought that was the answer she wanted to hear.

Truthfully I thought about 'her' often, but only after dark, in the privacy of my room. If I had thoughts about her anywhere else, like in the middle of a Walmart or on a family road trip, I would feel my cheeks flush with shame. I would panic and look around nervously, thinking perhaps somehow my adoptive family could tell I was thinking of 'her'. There in the middle of the Walmart or cruising through some state park, I would frantically start mentally narrating the scenery around me to try and train my brain not to think of her. "Cereal boxes. Poptarts. Pricetags." I would hurriedly enunciate in my internal voice, "Pine tree, road sign, truck." I would think, forcing my brain to visualize the words.


"She wasn't real," I would tell myself. "This grocery isle is."


As I matured into my teen years my maternal ties become increasingly volatile and messy. I repressed any semblance of my true self to try and blend into the expectations of my adoptive mother. I took hints from her religious fervor and threw my entire energy into religious extra curricular activities. Although my adoptive mother never spoke about my birth mother that I recall, she spoke with a strange tone about 'unmarried women' and 'drug addicts' and 'messy mothers' in a way that made me understand she was somehow talking about me, about 'her'.


Desperate to distance myself from this strange and subtle othering, I curated my moral and emotional compass to tightly match my mother's own narrow views and rigid approach to daily life. I sunk into myself, purposely choosing clothing that muted my natural features and mimicked my adoptive mother's reserved and repressive fashion style. I was a bit of a prick, judgmental of anything that wasn't religious, quick to scorn people who didn't match the clean and uptight version of my adoptive mother. I desperately tried to become anything but 'her'.






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