In my earliest memories, I remember my mother telling me that I was her Miracle Baby. I was the magical child that she was told she could never have, and yet, here I am.
As I grew, my mother went to extreme lengths to constantly remind me how valued I was as her baby girl. “The most important thing in this world is you, your brother and your sister.” My childhood, especially the early years, was rife with assurances of unconditional adoration. To this day, my mother calls me every year and tells me the story of how I was born.
Being told you’re a special snowflake from childhood can damage a person. Thankfully, this notion set me up with a deeply rooted feeling of being loved by my mother. For all the shit that has happened to me, and all the mistakes I might see, my mother made certain that I knew I was loved. I never doubted that my mother loved me. I was an extremely fortunate baby.
One July 30th, I was born in Gretna, Louisiana. (lol I’ve never started a story like that before. I feel so cliche and writer-ish.) I was due for August 31st. My father had attempted to plan myself and my siblings according to what astrological sign he’d wanted us to be. I was meant to be a Virgo. I am, in fact, a Leo. This was just the first of the struggles between my father and I.
I didn’t cry upon delivery. Most newborns cry, and doctors like that, because it shows functional lungs. I was awake, eyes wide, watching everyone silently. My mother also recounts my lack of hair, which continued for months after birth. “I was so worried, I thought you’d never have hair!” The first couple weeks of my life were spent in the neonatal nursery. I was brought to a home containing my father, my mother, their seahorses and angelfish, and Serena, the Himalayan cat who had just had her own babies.
Seventeen months later, my sister became my favorite thing. Shortly thereafter, my brother arrived. My mother’s world was us kids, and Allison and Alex were my world, too. I was a constant companion to my mom, and so I was an excellent helper.
Despite knowing how desired we were as children, things at home were not peaceful. Alcoholism, addiction, and undiagnosed mental illness were present. I remember watching Mom and Dad pull Allison across the passenger seat of the van one day, fighting about her riding along with him. I know I was buckled into the front seat more than once as we left in the night. Abuse thrives in secrecy, and my family contains some of the most adept liars and deepest-denial-dwellers I’ve ever known.
My mother eventually divorced my father. My mother, my siblings, and I all relocated to southern California. In about 1990, I started to have visitations in Louisiana every summer and school years in California. I was the oldest. I was the biggest. I felt responsible.
At four years old, I flew alone (save Brownie, my teddy bear) from New Orleans to San Diego to start kindergarten. When I came home after that summer, I started having trouble sleeping. I had night terrors. So did my siblings, once they arrived back home. I remember getting a blue flashlight for Christmas that year and keeping it under my pillow, to read during the dark hours. I rarely slept as a child.
Life continued on in a pattern of change and confusion for several years. During that time, I was shaped into the woman I am today. Over the last thirty years, I’ve had experiences that have helped form who I am. I am in a place where I love who I am. I’m not perfect, but I’m good. I like me. Even the bad parts, the scary, over-shared, humiliating parts. All the parts of me make me into a whole Brittany. Over the next month, I’m gonna write some of these lessons down. Feel free to follow along.