When I was a young woman I learned that breastfeeding could provide immunities and other lifelong health benefits to an infant, and I wondered if I had had that benefit as I had no recollection of it. I asked my mother if she had breastfeed me, her firstborn, and she shuddered, she actually shuddered. Then she looked away from me and softly, heartlessly asked, “Like a vampire sucking my blood?” I was shocked but not surprised at her unnatural feelings. I knew my mother very well. She was an atheist, a nihilist, a poo-pooer of occultist nonsense, and she was speaking metaphorically, but it still hurt me that she did not nurse me. In fact, I have no recollection of my mother, or my father for that matter, ever holding me, not even so much as holding my hand, not once ever in life.
To be very generous perhaps my mother had had first-time mother difficulties. When I was very little, I remember being teased by my father, who would pretend to admonish me, apropos of absolutely nothing, saying “Suck don’t chew.” Then my parents would laugh together. Later in life, my father complained that when I was a newborn my mother had run away from him leaving him alone to care for me. Toward the end of my mother's life I thanked her for being my mother by saying, “Well, Mother, I don’t mind changing your diaper, you did the same for me when I was little.” and she contradicted me sharply from the depths of her dementia, “No, your father did that.” He did not deny it but he looked embarrassed, as if it had been an unpleasant and inappropriate task.
It is unwanted insider knowledge like this that gives me forbearance when I glimpse inside marriages or other family structures. Unless one is highly trained, or studying deep inside of family structures, it is not easy to know what odd behaviors sustain them, who is to be praised or blamed for the wheeling interactions.
This is probably a good place to mention that when I was in late middle-aged I told my parents that I planned to write my life story someday, after they had passed from life, and I warned them that things they did with regard to me would probably be in it, the good and the bad. I gave them an opportunity to limit what I wrote, a chance to include something nice that I have forgotten. They made no comment other than mild interest, perhaps because they did not recall what I recall, perhaps because they knew that I am honest and fair, perhaps their reasons are simply not knowable. I do know this, often the one who is blamed for chewing is not the one at fault.
Caption: Inside Family Structures
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018