I was raised in a strange interfamily dynamic in which I was given “temporarily” to an aunt at 3 weeks because my biological mother was mentally ill and did not want me. I remember my early childhood being a happy time, but at age 7 I was asked if I wanted to join my two siblings and live with my biological parents. I remember all of them staring at me.
I’d been told all my life that my birth parents were these distant people I barely knew, and I thought the idea of living with these fun older siblings sounded like heaven.
During my time with my birth parents, I was told immediately that Santa did not exist, my brother— 7 years older—attempted to molest me, and I was made to clean a carpet with a toothbrush on Christmas Day because my mother had decided we were all lazy and the house wasn’t clean. Never mind that arduous chores were a daily affair. She decided I was too skinny, and she needed to fatten me up. However, she would starve me after school. I was constantly told I was clumsy, which made me certain to drop everything I touched. By then, I was so paranoid.
After almost a year in this environment, I begged the only people I’d known as mom and dad if I could please come back home. I wouldn’t know until I was in my 40s that my nonbiological mother had not wanted me anymore since she was pregnant. However, my nonbiological father, who remains my hero, had demanded it.
These are the things that I repeatedly heard between ages 8 and 17:
“You rejected us!”
“He’s gone because of you!”
“If you and your sister had been boys, he never would have left!”
“You should never have kids; they might be sick like your mother.”
“Are you having an affair with your (nonbiological dad)?”
“You’ve led me to believe something was going on.”
“You should be grateful we took you in.”
The above set a foundation for me to have no self-esteem; more so, I believed that I was inferior, even biologically flawed. I remember getting angry at age 16 and telling my mother, “I’m so sorry I’m damaged merchandise!”
Now that I’m past middle age and have engaged in counseling, I know that having a child in limbo, who bore only pain and strife, evoked the hurt and emotional harm that these adults could not manage and caused their anger to be directed at me. I also know now that the tendency of such a child continually inflicted with these types of criticisms is to take the path of a scapegoat or empath or become a narcissist for survival, and the most significant risk can be choosing a partner (spouse) who is a narcissist, because criticism feels safe to us.
As an adolescent, I despised the horrible feeling of being rejected by people who were supposed to love me.
I remember longing for what things might have been like if I was simply an orphan.
I yearned for the benefit of nothingness, in which my future wasn’t already been decided for me. Who would I be without all these dark shadows, and how bright would my light be?
Oh, Orphan, I covet thee still.
Jen Moore is a graphic designer, writer, and artist living in the metro Austin area. She has two grown boys and a spoiled pug named Ella. Jen founded a nonprofit named Data Angels, which seeks to collect data on the biases in damaging family court abuse scenarios. She is the author of one book, Road to El Roi, a memoir about emotional abuse to support spousal victims. Jen loves disaster movies, making artisan jewelry, Top Golf, and drawing grackles.