Remember the Babble mom blogger who admitted that she liked one child more than the other a few months ago? It's hard to believe, but she has been outdone by another mom who wrote I've never liked my child in a very candid -- and anonymous -- Redbook article.
A mom writing under the pseudonym Jennifer Rabiner shared what most moms don't even think. At least I don't believe many moms think like that. Jennifer Rabiner disliked her daughter from birth.
She begins her essay by saying,
"Growing up, I had hoped to someday have a daughter, and I had a clear vision of what she would be like: vivacious, spunky, and whip-smart, socially savvy and self-assured. What I got was the polar opposite. At birth, Sophie was skinny and weak. She nursed poorly, and she cried so hard that she vomited -- daily. As a toddler, she was strange..."
Jennifer explains that she felt guilt for being repelled by her own child. She says that she knew something was "off" with her daughter, Sophie. Jennifer's sister, a developmental psychologist, even mentioned it. Jennifer contacted a specialist because she suspected Sophie's failure to meet developmental milestones was abnormal. However, after Jennifer received the paperwork and reviewed it, she felt like Sophie's issues didn't fit under any of the categories. Jennifer canceled the appointment.
Although Jennifer often wondered whether it was her issue -- was she missing the maternal instinct? -- she determined it was Sophie with the problem after the birth of Jennifer's second daughter.
"Lilah was exactly the baby I'd envisioned: strong and healthy, with a penetrating gaze. She nursed vigorously and smiled and laughed easily. She talked early and often and, even as a toddler, befriended everyone she met. When I hugged her, she squeezed back hard, and I felt my own heart beating in two bodies at once."
Eventually, one of Jennifer's friends called her to the carpet, insisting that as Sophie's mother, it was Jennifer's job to always support her, regardless whether she liked Sophie. Shortly thereafter, Jennifer heard of a workshop -- Loving and Honoring the Child You Have, Not the One You Wish You Had.
Hopeful that she'd found a place for answers, Jennifer wrote down a laundry list of Sophie's weaknesses, by her own measure. She was very disappointed because she was "expecting to hear a diagnosis that would finally make sense of Sophie's quirks and lead to an effective treatment." Instead, Jennifer was told she needed to work on bonding with Sophie.
Jennifer's efforts weren't successful and "only made her [Sophie] feel more self-conscious and anxious. And I continued to feel exasperated and annoyed. Why was my own daughter so difficult for me to parent? I gradually got used to the feeling, but I never made peace with it."
When Sophie was seven years old, she was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Her growth was delayed since birth and, according to the doctor, Sophie was three years behind in speech, motor skills and social maturation.
"My first reaction was relief — a diagnosis! Then hope — help is on the way! Then guilt," Jennifer wrote. "All this time, Sophie was struggling...She was coping with enormous challenges every day without a mother who believed in her. Even worse, I had resented her for letting me down, when it was I who was letting her down. I instantly regretted scads of horrible things I'd said to her over the years and prayed that the damage wasn't irreparable. What a wake-up call."
Jennifer explains that the diagnosis made her kinder and more tender toward Sophie. And the treatments have helped Sophie grow, become more socially outgoing and gain physical capabilities.
"I watch her sometimes, looking for clues of the emotional scarring I fear I've inflicted, but I see none," Jennifer says.
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