My mother lives with me. For the last 15 years, in every home I have had, with every partner I have loved, she has lived with me.
It’s quite complicated.
My mother often spoke of being the black sheep of her family. She felt constant rejection from her mother and that pain translated into a life of addiction, self-loathing and toxic mothering to myself and my siblings.
When my mother was 18, she gave birth to my oldest sister. But in 1973 my mother’s parental rights were removed by the state and my sister was placed for adoption. I was born a year later and after me, my mother had three more children.
I distinctly remember 5 times that I lived with my mother when I was a child. Most of my childhood was spent in and out of foster homes where I endured additional physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
When I was 13 and living in a foster home, I met a 20-year-old man. Within a year I gave birth to my first child and we were married. I was 14 when I gave birth to my first child, 15 when I had my second, and 19 when I had my third.
After I got married, my mother lost custody of my siblings and she was ruled an unfit mother.
I married my children’s father to escape life with my mom. But the next five years were a mix of high school, term papers, diapers, bottles, control, manipulation, emotional abuse and a struggle to learn how to balance, survive and thrive in it all.
Despite, taking excellent care of my children, my ex-husband beat me down and convinced me that I was a horrible mother, that I was unfit and that he would take my children should I ever leave him.
When I was 19, I left my husband and more significantly, I left my children. After five years of being force-fed this message, when I left, I believed him and my children. Like my mother, I would carry significant guilt about how I mothered my children.
I did a good job of convincing myself that leaving them was for the best. I can blame him for this, but in the end, I couldn’t hear what I wouldn’t admit.
Listen to Michelle tell her amazing story….
Click to read the rest of the story originally published in The Strength of My Soul: Stories of Sisterhood, Triumph and Inspiration
Read more about Michelle’s Story, The Innocent Years, Part 1