I saw my mom’s name on the caller ID and felt a familiar knot. I was five months pregnant with my first child, and yet had only spoken to my mom a handful of times since I had found out, one of those times was to tell her, as my body flinched, that I was pregnant. Her persistence in calling me told me she was incensed. I could feel it. I was sitting in my one-bedroom apartment where I thought I would be able to escape her verbal abuse finally, but she called a second and third time. Finally, my whole body flinching again, I picked up. I can’t remember why she was so enraged. But I do clearly remember the following words said in Spanish, which no amount of flinching could’ve protected me from:
I wish you weren’t my daughter.
It felt like stabbing. I broke down and felt mostly frustration at myself for letting myself become this affected. I audibly apologized to my baby. I’m so sorry, I will be different, I promise.
When my daughter was born I couldn’t imagine ever being that cruel to a person, much less to my child. Shortly before that, it had been made clear that there was a wide open sore in my soul. At the time I could only trace it back to the hurt my mom had caused. I resolved to heal my Madre Wound. Though at the time, I just called it pain.
Over time, I discovered that so many women shared this same open wound. I began learning more about the Mother Wound. I joined Facebook groups of wounded daughters and discovered they too found their spirits bleeding out because it had been important to them that they felt love from their mom, but they didn’t either. We were isolated, unsure of ourselves, and seeking some kind of progress or closure.
I learned I didn’t have a “Mother Wound” because my mother is not quite like the white mothers that I would hear about. Some of the behaviors matched, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that my mother was a Brown immigrant and that the histories that led to their disconnection to themselves came from completely different in-roads. My Madre Wound, and my madre herself, carried the implications of a deeply seated harm via colonialism, migration, racism and white supremacy. All these wrapped around the primary fueling agent of our mother wounds: patriarchy and its interpreter, machismo.
My Madre Wound showed up as the shameful belief that I was a burden when asking for help. It showed up as feeling not as good as others, or better than them. I would feel it in the tension I felt around older women. It would be the heart pounding sensation when authority figures called to discuss something inconsequential. That panic was programmed. “What the hell is wrong with me?” I would ask in my head. I knew the action and reaction were worlds apart from being a match. But the head isn’t always connected to the body. In fact, that’s one of the core aspects of the Madre Wound. It has disconnected us from our bodies and sees us as machines. It values rigid constructs of right and wrong. It places the decision making power in the hands of patriarchy. It is modeled, and most often unconsciously, by our mothers and the adult women in our lives.
Although patriarchal societies in general feed off of the oppressive ideas all women have been trained to hold about ourselves, women from Latin American countries like my mom have borne the brunt of assimilating while sustaining a culture that has put immense pressure on them to be subservient to machista men, and project their powerlessness as power over their children. There’s an expectation they train their children to adhere to them, to other authority, to God, and somehow overcorrect their own losses. We, their daughters, are born into the shackles of our expected gender norms in the form of pierced ears as babies and parentification of our younger siblings. This can make us feel unsafe to speak, and in many cases it makes us feel unsafe to be or be seen.
If you are a Latina mother, you are invited to take a good hard look at the way your Madre Wound shows up in your life. Do you compare yourself to others? Do you feel shame or discomfort in using your voice? If so, the following may be an starting point to slowly begin to heal your own Madre Wounds:
Acknowledge and Hold Dualities
Once we can accept that our mother was a victim of the above and also that we too were harmed by our mothers, we can begin to separate our own identities from theirs without so much guilt and shame.
Do Not Allow the Madre Wound to Claim You as a Victim
Be encouraged to see the bigger picture and know that alongside you there is already a collective of women who no longer want to operate from the Madre Wound. Knowing we are not alone in this can help us feel less victimized by this wound.
Reparent Your Inner Child
We can take our Inner Niñas and tend to them with compassion and care, with discipline and discernment. Establishing this connection could be bumpy but will be liberating in the long run.
Do not expect yourself to suddenly become immune to your mother’s actions or words. You may have days where you feel more tender than strong. This, as everything else is a process.
Develop a Relationship with Your Inner Madre
The beautiful part of healing our Madre Wounds is that we can develop a relationship with an Inner Madre who is not punitive and not wounded like the mom we grew up with, but is open to unfolding confidently into who she was created to become.
As with everything, this journey contains beautiful mountain peaks and cold, dark valleys. Do not be discouraged when you feel the familiar pain of the Madre Wound. Recognize what it is and find community around it. We can do our best not to pass this on to our own daughters by remaining conscious of it and transcending the rigidities it holds for us. As challenging as it may be, it will be liberating for us and generations to come.