My mother told me throughout my childhood that I was such a terrible disappointment to her and such a terrible baby that she had nothing to say in a baby book about me. She told me that although all my siblings had baby books, that I did not have one.
This idea was so firmly planted even in the minds of my siblings that when my mother died in 2002 and various baby books were uncovered in her belongings, when my older brother’s was sent to him, he threw it in the trash. He told me that if I didn’t have a baby book he didn’t want to have one, either. His wife pulled it out of the garbage and hid it. A few years later when I traveled to visit my brother and his wife, she brought the book out and we sat on the couch and looked at it, reading aloud the notes written inside.
My brother and I thought little about the ‘tone’ of her writings, but my brother’s wife commented that they at an eerie tone of hysteria in them. I thought it was even more eerie that my brother and I, both having been immersed in my mother’s world, did not notice — though my sister-in-law was exactly accurate in her observation.
The stranger thing was that I DID find my baby book among mother’s belongings. It was the first that anyone other than her knew of its existence. At some point I will scan its contents into the computer. At present it is being held in safe keeping by one of my daughters — held against the possibility that I might have the urge to destroy it if it were in my possession.
There are certainly strange things written in there. One confirms the suspicion that I had that my brother (mentioned above), who was 14 months old when I was born, was actually the person who taught me to talk. In my baby book mother writes that my first words were echoes exactly of my brother’s voice.
She also writes that my first sentence was, “I didn’t mean to.”
I did make a copy of a photograph of me at 11 months old. I am dressed in a frilly dress with a bow around the curl at the top of my head. I wanted to be able to see over time what the ‘happy Linda’ looked like. I knew this picture was taken during one of my mother’s ‘public times’ when she would never have shown anyone her hatred of me. It seemed in the picture that I was hence able, still at that time, to feel ‘true happiness’ as my face is radiantly beaming with joy.
Over the next two years that I had the picture on my wall here, I eventually came to realize that the brilliant happiness visible in my ‘over joyed’ eyes is disturbing to look at. I can see the over stimulated intensity there that indicates to me that my baby brain was not able to regulate emotion correctly — a consequence of an infant who has been over stimulated during the first year’s formative development of the right brain limbic emotional center. My brain and my body had already been overwhelmed by the time I was 11 months old.
I can no longer look at that picture it is so disturbing to me. I see in those eyes that dissociation was already built into my brain’s processing capabilities. That intensely over joyed infant was also the same one that experienced absolute pain and terror at the hands of its mother. My feeling states were already divided into categories that to this day are not related to one another inside of me.
There are also many pages cut out and removed from my baby book. That doesn’t surprise me at all. I know she wrote things about me in there that her ‘public’ self was not going to risk anybody else ever reading.
Why she insisted during my childhood that I had no baby book I will never know.