• Stephannie Bramlett

Mother's Day: A Day I Once Hated

I feel the need to share some things as we approach Mother's Day and the celebrations that it brings for most. In truth, for years, I have hated Mother's Day. It was a source of great pain that I felt nobody could understand. I wanted to melt away and pretend the day did not even exist, even after I became a mother. Cab would try to celebrate me, and I would end up in a puddle on the floor crying. He always struggled to understand. I'll share some things that tell some of my story. This is not in an effort to shame or belittle those that were involved in my story. More, an avenue to allow any of our readers that share a similar path to find hope and encouragement that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of darkness! 

    My mom was 17 years old when she had me. My biological dad was forced out of the picture due to his family not agreeing with my mother to go through with the pregnancy. My mom left her high school and attended a program for unwed mothers several hours away so that she could finish High School. She placed me for adoption, but agreed to, instead, let my grandparents (her parents) get me after a couple of weeks from my birth. I lived with them for almost two years, until my mom met and married, who I now call my dad. They were young and had very little money, so an official adoption never occurred. Their relationship was....well, let's just say, turbulent. I have scattered memories of my youth, but most revolve around an over-the-top act done or caused by my mother. 

I remember being two and a half years old, and my mother refusing to get in our family car and causing a huge fight. She hopped out of the car at a red light and was screaming and fighting. Yes, my first memory. 

I remember being in third grade and watching my mother rage out of control throwing every breakable plate, bowl  or cup in our home on the kitchen floor shattering them into pieces while screaming.

I remember being in fourth grade and my mom sitting me down and telling me that my dad was not really my dad. She then sent me off to live with my Aunt and Uncle several states away, while they proceeded with a divorce. 

I remember her going to a counseling center where they begged to admit her for treatment and her refusing. The doctor was crazy!

I remember being in middle school and asking to meet my biological dad, and my mom barely speaking to me for months.

I remember my mom going to court and having all custodial rights stripped from my dad (remember, they never officially went through an adoption, so he had no rights) and not being allowed to see him as my brother went to go for weekends and vacations.  He was blamed  and I was made to think it was his choosing to not see me. While, all the time, she was using me as a pawn to hurt him. 

My mom remarried and I remember feeling so sorry for my step-dad as she violently yelled and screamed and raged with every single fight they had. She broke all relationships he had with his parents and siblings and they moved several states away. 

I remember finding an outlet in music. Singing was a gift God had given me as an escape from reality. I worked hard, earned solos, and the week of our big spring musical, she told me our family was going out of town and I would miss everything. She pulled me out of school and I missed it all. She quickly realized my love of music could take away from her, so she threatened to make me quit. In fact, she pulled me out and made me take an extra math class instead of chorus one year in middle school to prove how she was in control.  She used this for the rest of my school years. 

I remember being so afraid of her that I did not want to face her. I was scared because I had made my first B on a test. I came home and took an entire bottle of Tylenol so that I could sleep forever and not have to face her disappointment. I told my brother after I took them because I was so scared and we went to the hospital. She punished me after this for embarrassing her and did not allow me any time outdoors for weeks on end. 

I remember writing a letter to my dad in high school and her not speaking to me for months. 

I remember her threatening that she would take me to mental institutions and have me held there if I ever questioned her or spoke of either my dad or biological dad. She would claim I was acting crazy by wanting to understand. She had history of my suicide attempt and could use that against me. 

I remember her swinging her purse into me with full force multiple times, as I turned the opposite direction. I still have a scar from it cutting me. I was a senior in high school and she was mad that I didn't agree on what to wear for pictures. 

I remember her once taking me to my biological dad's house and dropping me off. She used him as a source of fear and punishment for me. She made him to be an enemy that abandoned me and used this to her advantage.  

     I graduated high school with honors, top of my class, wore every cord upon my graduation robe, had almost enough credits from college dual enrollment to have completed my freshman year before I even graduated high school, earned scholarships totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a multitude of schools, worked full-time, served on several leadership boards and committees, held the lead in the spring musical,  and was still told that I was a disappointment the day of my graduation. I knew I would never be enough. 

      I went away to college as soon as a possibly could. I enrolled over the summer right after graduation. I knew I could not be a statistic and fail out, as I could not go back home. And, there, moving away from the constant threat of disappointment and ugliness, I found my heart in a million pieces. For years, I worked to put it all together, and forgave so many relationships that she had torn apart. I realized the abuse and refused to allow it to continue. This was the beginning of the end of our relationship. Though, it would take many years to truly stop the hurt. 

     I struggle to share this post. After years of therapy and trying to understand the brokenness that comes from a poor parental relationship, I finally am in a decent place. My place isn't great, though. For instance, my marriage and my kids and our day to day life is pretty great. But, there is this darkness that creeps out from grief. It intersects our life sometimes with a screeching halt! So, overall- good, mostly great, with some yuck thrown in there from brokenness and grief. It is hard to explain. How do you grieve someone that is very much alive? How do you grieve the loss of a relationship that never really existed? How do you explain that your mother lives right down the street but has nothing to do with your family? How do you answer questions from people that "know" her from other encounters but do not know the truth? How do you not feel the tinge of jealousy over her relationship with your sibling? 

     A friend from our small group shared about her difficulties in her relationship with her mother and recommended the book: Stop Walking On Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder.  It has been such a great book in learning to deal with the relationship. I learned from the book that there was a time in my early teenage years that her switch flipped and I became her target. I was the source of a great deal of pain and disappointment for her, so I was the likely one to be targeted. 

     As I grew as an adult, she realized her stronghold was slipping. She expected to be front and center of all activities, and would pitch absolute fits if Cab's family or my dad would be invited to events. Events like birthday parties, t-ball games or dance recitals were not reasons to celebrate our children...they were supposed to be all about HER. Of course, I would invite all grandparents, and then I would receive calls or texts where she was so upset. Once, at my baby shower, she pitched a fit because my Mother-in-law was in attendance...of her own grandchild's baby shower! (She also did this for countless other events). Once, when she was responsible for mailing invitations, she intentionally left out friends and family members she did not want included, despite my list of names and addresses including them.

     Talk about being utterly mortified... I could not explain her behavior. Instead, I offered to go to counseling with her. She finally agreed and we went to one session.  She refused to go back. I tried. I apologized when she acted crazy. I did my best to continually patch the webs of hurt.

     On Mother's Day each year, all of her sisters and their children would go to lunch with my grandmother. My mom told me year after year, I was not invited because she (my grandmother) wasn't my mother...she was HER mother... and then I got to see the photos of all of the family there celebrating while I was not included. This became a source of deep hurt. My grandparents were a place of comfort for me. During my youth, I spent several weeks each summer with them. It was a time I will always cherish and the memories made were priceless and were some of the positive memories I have during my childhood. She knew the importance they held in my heart, and she used this as a way to hurt me. One Mother's Day she told me, " I wish I had aborted you when I had the chance." My Mother's Days were spent hurting over the relationship with a mother I would never have. 

    In the last season she was a part of our lives, she got particularly desperate. She threatened to take me to court, lied and manipulated so many of our family members, and threatened to take my children from me. She was spinning out of control. I was not sure how to handle her; she refused counseling, she refused to accept any fault in the storms she had caused, and she refused to be a rational adult.  It is a weird thing... I knew I was supposed to honor her. Biblically, I was commanded to do so, but the utter turmoil she was erupting all over my life had reached a level I could not handle. I prayed and prayed that God would mend it. I just knew he could fix her heart and heal mine. 

     At this point, I was incredibly pregnant with my third child. Mom had guilted me to include her in the delivery room of my first two. She was most certainly not a source of comfort during my deliveries. In fact, she caused several issues during both of my other deliveries, and Cab requested that we have the room to ourselves to avoid the problems. It could just be us and the delivery team. I went to dinner with her the week before my due date and explained our hearts and wishes. The day I actually delivered Chandler, the big girls had dance recitals. My mom did not show up. They had soccer games, she did not come. I went into labor late Saturday night, and my labor was swift! I delivered Chandler while still in my pjs in less than 10 minutes after arriving to the hospital. Cab texted out to all of the grandparents that she had made her arrival. We got a "congrats" text back. She never came to visit, never called, and blocked me on social media. It was as if God had taken the burden of cutting her out out of my hands. I'm not going to lie, it still hurt. But, it allowed me time to grow in understanding and healing.  

     It has now been four years and she has seen Chandler one time. My grandmother asked me to allow her to take the girls there for a visit. She offered my mom time to visit and even told her she would bring the girls there anytime she wanted to see them. My mom has never asked.  She has never written or called. She doesn't send anything to the girls for any birthdays or holidays. I, and her only grandchildren, are officially out of her life. And, she has found new targets. She seasonally picks a sister to isolate or even her own parents. The tears and sadness we have all shared is something that no family should have to endure. She is literally pushing every one away that does not allow her to control with her narcissistic behavior. Now, most of my grief for her is in what she is missing. What I mean is that in times when my children are doing something particularly precious, or times when I get to talk about something they have accomplished...she is missing that. She is allowing her pride and mental illness to rob her of the joy that grandchildren bring. I am thankful that they do not have to deal with the hurt and manipulation she spreads to everything she touches. However, I am sad for her because I know what she is missing. 

     Last Mother's Day, my 10th as a mother myself, was the first Mother's Day I didn't cry in grief. I allowed my girls and my husband to celebrate with me. I am very thankful for learning what kind of mother I will never become! I'm certain God is using the encounters and the hurts and my scars to mold me into the mother He wants me to be. I'm confident that my children are the greatest purpose of my life, and I will continue to help them pursue their hearts' desires and dreams! No longer will I hate Mother's Day! I approach this day with excitement as I celebrate my life's greatest accomplishment! For those of you with amazing mothers, I ask you to pray for those in your communities hurting as this holiday approaches. These words in sharing my story are not easily shared. I pray that in sharing my difficulties and struggles...my truths...that somehow, someone will realize they are not alone! You can become more than the sum of your hurts! Please feel free to reach out to me if you need someone to talk with. I hope that in sharing these details, I can help someone in the pits of isolation. If you have a broken relationship with your mother, I pray that you are able to find a way to allow yourself to be celebrated this Mother's Day!

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