*Sluggy talks about her life.* These are my thoughts and attempts to work through issues in my life. I may express personal views I held at certain periods/ages throughout my life in these posts. How I saw some events that transpired in my life were obviously shaped by my age and mental abilities at that time and the society I was living in. What I experienced may be very different from how others involved experienced the same events.
In many ways I am "lucky" to be here. Here meaning both alive and living the life I currently have. Looking back on the unvarnished facts from my birth until today, I can imagine a much different reality than what came to pass.
I went paging through the family photos I've digitized so far looking for one of my entire nuclear family.
I had to go all the way forward to 1969 to find one with both my parents and my brothers and I in it.
It's a classic.....an Owen Mills portrait which no doubt cost a pretty penny. This may be the prettiest my family ever was as a group. Note that at this point both my brothers were sullen non-smiling teenagers.
There was one other taken at Easter with all 5 of us in it, dating from 1959, but this one works.
I have(or had)two brothers. They were born 13 months apart in the early 1950's. Not quite twins and very different in personality too.
I came along in 1959, so I am 6 and 7 years younger than them. Being the opposite sex and basically born at such a great time interval from them, I feel as if I was raised an an only child. We never "hung out" together as kids unless they were forced to be in the same room with me by the grown-ups in our lives. Often when the younger of the two was forced to be around me, I was made to know he was not happy about the arrangement and he made me suffer for it. We have never had a close relationship.
My brothers memories and experiences of my parents and family is very different from mine.
Our family was low income mostly while my brothers were young, but by the time I was at the same stages of growing up as they had been, our family was middle class. One of my brothers use to joke(I think he was half joking)that I got everything lavished upon me as a kid, while he, at that age, was lucky to have a stick and rusty barbed wire to play with. But I digress....
My father had always wanted a girl child, or so I was told. If he had had his druthers, my oldest brother would have been a girl I was told on more than one occasion.
My parents were thrilled when my mother finally gave birth to a baby girl.
Now I don't know if this was the truth or they were just blowing smoke up my fancy drawers in an attempt to raise my fragile girly self-esteem, but it's what was regurgitated to me through my younger years. This was one of the few things said to me by my parents that actually made me feel better about myself when I was growing up.
The day I made my entrance into the world, Cecil B DeMille left it.....
And Alfalfa was murdered in an armed fight in Hollywood, California.....
My birth was uneventful. I was born near my due date and was a normal size, except for my ginormous head. I did have the audacity to be born quite early in the morning which did NOT please my mother.
My mother reminded me of the early hour and never forgave me for waking her up in the morning, as she was not a morning person. Really. Not.
I suppose that all those times she said she blamed me for waking her up the day of my birth, she was joking. But my young child self didn't fully understand that she was joking(if she was). Intellectually now I realize she was being sarcastic, but I still feel weird about it.
Another thing that was blamed on me by my mother was that my birth was the cause of her taking up cigarette smoking. Evidently, child #3 and the ensuing responsibilities was enough to drive her to smoke to relieve her stress and anxiety.
Again, these stories were both regurgitated to me often as I grew.
Now my question today is, why would a parent tell their child they were so wanted to the detriment of their oldest sibling and then turn around and blame them for having taken up an addictive habit and losing some sleep one night/early morning the day they gave birth?
Before you say that my parents were obviously joking with me, let me tell you that there was very little levity displayed in our household.
The day of my birth was a Wednesday. The "Monday's Child" poem over the years has proved to be prophetic for me.
- Monday's child is fair of face
- Tuesday's child is full of grace,
- Wednesday's child is full of woe,
- Thursday's child has far to go,
- Friday's child is loving and giving,
- Saturday's child works hard for a living,
- But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day.
- Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
After a week's vacation from cooking and cleaning and taking care of her family, my mother and I were released from the hospital and my parents took me home.
Back in that time and place, new mothers were encouraged to be modern and take advantage of the "advances" in technology and take care of their babies the new ways and leave old fashioned practices behind.
The modern way was to use disposable diapers if the budget allowed it. Very few families in the late 1950's/early 1960's could find the extra money for those, including mine.
The other big advancement was feeding your baby with formula and not breastfeeding. The Modern Woman of the 1960's was told that feeding your infant formula was doing the very best for your baby.
Similac had been reformulated in the early 1950's and Enfamil came onto the market the same year I made my debut. Manufacturers, besides having magazine and print ads, now had that most powerful marketing tool of Television, to convince the "hip" mothers poised on the cusp of the Space Age that feeding formula was superior to feeding your child as they had been fed for a millennium or two.
My mother so wanted to fit in into the Modern Society and had so little confidence in her abilities as a mother, to know what was the best thing to do for her child, that she stuck a bottle of formula in my gob.
I'm sure her decision also was based on the ease of bottle feeding, as a harried woman of 25 with 2 grade school boys, an infant, 2 guinea pigs, 1 dog and a demanding husband who never lifted a finger around the house to help out.
During the second week of my life, my world turned on it's head. My mother went to check on me one evening and I was barely breathing. My face and fingers were blue. 10 days old and I couldn't breath.
A panicked ride to the hospital's emergency room ensued and I underwent days of testing.
The eventual diagnosis was Asthma brought on by severe allergic reactions.
More weeks of allergy skin tests ensued. My mother never shared with me the whole list of what I was allergic too(and it was long), but I do remember the ones she shared--chocolate, sweet potatoes, animal dander, assorted plants like ragweed, flower pollens, hay, everyday household dust, and the big one......cow's milk. Back then they didn't know it but it's the protein in the cow's milk that children with this allergy can't tolerate. It is the most common food intolerance known to man.
I was allergic to the formula keeping me alive.
So the doctors said to feed me goat's milk instead.
The goat milk took a bigger bite out of my family's income and worked.....briefly.
Within months I had built up an intolerance to goat milk too.
The last resort they offered up as a solution was soy milk.
This was not something readily available in that time in the South.
And once my parents located a source it came at a dear price.
So this is how I came to be the most expensive baby on my block.
I had an expensive diet and started taking pricey allergy shots every 2nd week, before I turned 1 year old.
My maternal Grandmother had to pay for my food and my shots as my parents couldn't afford either.
Imagine if my grandma wasn't a great saleswoman with the funds to bankroll my lavish lifestyle!
Even with the shots, I was still at risk of having one of my allergen triggers set off an asthma attack at any moment.
This photo pretty much sums up my life until the age of 2.......
The doctors told my parents that in order to keep me from dying of an asthma attack, our home had to be cleaned thoroughly every 24 hours. Since that was impossible for my mother to do and take care of everything else and everyone else each day, I was confined to my room every day except for brief periods of time when I could be closely supervised for warning symptoms of an impending attack.
I was a prisoner and my room was my jail cell.
The house was stripped of carpets and pets were banished or made to live outside. My room was also stripped of curtains(blinds attract less dust) and furnishings. I was allowed only a few toys and my bedding was washed every day and my room was wet mopped and wiped down every day.
I had few interactions with other children except my much older brothers those first years and this was my view of the world.
My mother entitled this photo in the scrapbook, "Happy Baby". I had just passed my first Birthday. I suppose since this is the only life I had known, I was a happy baby. It goes a long way to explain why I have always felt comfortable being by myself. I crave alone time. I was groomed for the solitary life as a baby. A happy baby alone in her room.
Happy except for the gastrointestinal distress I felt every day of my life while being fed soy milk. I couldn't articulate to the grown ups around me that the soy milk was causing me pain and I was always hungry as it ran right through me. I suppose they either didn't notice the distress I was going through or they just chalked my discomfort up to some of the foods I was eventually introduced to that may have caused a mild allergic reaction but did not triggered an asthma attack.
Turns out that fairly recently scientists discovered that while the protein in cow milk is ranked the most common cause of food intolerance, number 2 on that hit parade is.....soy protein!
This goes a long way to explain why a baby allergic to soy who is fed a diet of soy milk as an infant grows up to have eating and weight issues. Being constantly hungry as an infant and toddler must have had a psychological effect on me in regard to my relationship with food.
The body image issues came later thanks to family members, the media and society.