I would have to say it was around age three when Sophia first yelled at me that she hated me. Being so young, she had not learned just how hurtful the word “hate” could be. I know a lot of women who have gotten upset, practically in tears, when their young toddler spews forth, “I hate you, Mommy!” For me the tears didn’t come. I knew she was just mad that I told her “No” for doing something wrong, or for not buying her something. Was I wrong not to care? How come I brushed it off so easily? How come the bridge of emotional stability did not collapse me into tears at the uttering of “I hate you, Mommy!” like with other mothers?
As an adult, I understand how hurtful the word “hate” can be. I continuously tell Sophia to never say that word, to always replace it with “dislike” or, in certain circumstances, “extremely dislike”. “Hate” implies bigotry and prejudice. We can’t hate something anymore, the word has become a swear word, something evil.
But, I can say without a doubt, I hated my daughter in her infancy. Only three weeks after she was born, I had racing thoughts through my head on how I could rid myself of her. I never wanted to hurt her, I just wanted to remove myself from her presence. I thought over and over again about running away. Leaving in a car, train, plane or even a Greyhound bus… something that would take me far away where her cries didn’t echo in my head like a Mandrake plant from Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets (See video here). I pondered hurting myself so that I might have to be in the hospital for weeks or even months. I even dreamed of being put into a psychiatric hospital (which would occur). Anything to get me away from her, because my hatred of her was so strong.
Of course I was ill.
My daughter is my only child. She is the child I suffered severely from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety with. She is the child I grew to hate in her first few weeks and I have told her this. I have sat her down once she reached age eight and explained why Mommy is, well, a bit different. She had seen my crying outbursts, my running sprees to the bathroom to dry heave, my clawing at my head, the constant rocking back and forth and my 2nd hospitalization. I didn’t have to go back to the history of my Postpartum days, but I did. I wanted her to know everything. I wanted her to know about how an illness can change the way you think. And I wanted her to know that now, I love her, as I constantly tell her, “to infinity and beyond!” (Thank you Toy Story!)
But when she uttered those words, “I hate you, Mommy!”, it didn’t faze me in the slightest way. Why? It was so easy for me to hate her but so hard to believe that she could actually hate me. Believing that she had innocence on her side at age three. The moment she said this, I instantly thought of the 7th Heaven episode (Season 2, Episode 9) where Ruthie tells her mother “I hate you” for the first time. She’s around 4 or 5. The mother loses it. She’s crying her eyes out. She seriously believes her child hated her… and for what, yelling at her for coloring the walls. It made me wonder if a child so young could actually understand the affects of saying the word “hate”. But the episode continues to teach us about the connotation of the word “hate” with the story of a WWII Concentration Camp survivor.
I haven’t thought much of “I hate you, Mommy” since, until someone I know recently was in this situation and because it was the child she suffered from a Postpartum Illness with, she took it more to heart and was deeply upset that that due to their rough first few years, there was indeed still a separation amongst them. I thought about this. With all of Sophia’s knowledge of my Mental Illnesses, when she tells me she “hates” me now, does she really mean it? I’ve been so honest with her that I am sure there will come a time when she really does hate me. Who is to say she doesn’t now and, in some ways, she has every reason to. She knows I have actually hated her. She knows my presence in the first year of her life was more robotic. She knows she was ignored while we were fostering a child, my Tyler. She knows I have missed moments in her life because I was stuck shaming myself for what happened with Tyler. I have hurt her. I have hurt her so much. Am I wrong to assume that eventually she will hate me?
“I hate you, Mommy!” has been said to me so many times in Sophia’s almost ten years of life. It is usually followed an hour or two later with “I love you, Mommy!”. At what age does that change for us? At what age does our innocence fade and we learn how hurtful words really can be?