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Why My Childhood Means I’ll Never Be a Mother


Editor's Note

If you have experienced sexual or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I’ve always been motherly. Taking care of the people I love and care about is something I’ve always done, and it’s always come about as naturally to me as breathing. Whether it’s feeding someone when they’re hungry, massaging someone when they ache or holding space for someone when they hurt, I am a mother through and through. I dote. Sometimes, I hover and can be extra about it by being a bit… excessive. Possibly even smothering. I admit it. But at the end of the day, it’s just me being motherly because being a mother is what I do. But the concept of actually being a mother? Of having children and raising them and being a parent? That frightens me beyond all reason.

I love my mother. I do. But my mother will also tell you she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body. I didn’t grow up with a great example of maternal instincts toward children. I didn’t grow up with a mother who was protective of her children. My mother allowed for things to happen to me that left me with trauma so distressing, so damaging, I still fight to deal with it today. The things she allowed to happen in my life are things no child should ever have to go through, and should they be subjected to them, they shouldn’t have to go through them alone, unsupported by their family and unaided by the help of a professional. But my mother did allow these things, and I fear more than anything repeating the mistakes of my mother. I tell myself I never would, I don’t believe I ever possibly could, but the fear is there, and fear is still such a huge part of my life. Fear dictates so many of my decisions, and while I wish it were not that way, trauma makes fear, makes that perpetual fight or flight response, your best friend. 

I’m also terrified of childhood, of children. Not in a run away screaming kind of way, but in the way they remind me of my own childhood. I see children as reflections of myself at their age, and can only wonder what traumas and horrors they are being subjected to and not protected from. Childhood is a visceral reminder of where lifelong trauma starts. Where trouble in school, trouble making friends, trouble adapting to the world around you begins. Where the nightmares begin, whether you’re waking or asleep. Childhood is a time of formation, where the rest of your whole life begins and when it begins in trauma, you spend the rest of your life trying to fix it, sometimes to no avail.

I look at children, imagine myself with children, and fear that should I have them, I would not be able to protect them from the horrors of the world. I’m terrified of ending up like my mom, or so many other parents who just allowed abuse in their child’s life. I can’t imagine ever being that person, but fear isn’t always rational. I also fear, should I have children, my child ending up… like me. Battling mental illness before they even start battling puberty, and with a genetic disorder causing them immense pain all their lives. That thought is horrifying to me, and I absolutely will not. I refuse.

Between being sexually abused as a child, being a victim of intimate partner violence and having an incurable genetic disease that causes me immense pain every day of my life? I’m so traumatized that the thought of bringing a child into this world isn’t even an option for me, even though I’m one of the most motherly people I know.

So please, eat your vegetables, put on a sweater before you go out and let me know if you’re going to be home late. It would make me feel better if you did. Because, you know, I’ll always be motherly. I’ll just never be a mom.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash