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The Mother Wound-A Hidden, Festering Pain

Although the intent was not conscious, in truth, Blackbird and its three sister novels turn out to be a personal case history of what is popularly called the Mother Wound.

According to Bethany Webster, who coined the term, Mother Wound refers to "the pain of being a woman passed down through generations of women in patriarchal cultures. And it includes the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that are used to process that pain."

Moreover, Ms. Webster states, "Difficulty and challenges between mothers and daughters are rampant and widespread but not openly spoken about. It’s generally considered taboo to acknowledge and discuss painful dynamics with our mothers. This silence about the truth of mother-daughter relationships is part of what keeps the Mother Wound in place, keeping it hidden in shadow, festering, and out of view."

Writing Blackbird is the hardest thing I've ever done. Facing what I had gone through with my mother took courage. For years, I had tried to bury the memories and pain. The resurrection of the past was threatening.

To ease my anxiety, I created Jane Bertram, a fictitious character who could take my place. Even so, I sensed I was breaking a taboo by writing about the abuse Jane suffered at the hands of her mother.

I cried as I wrote Blackbird. I was crying for Jane—and for myself. But the tears were cathartic. At the end of each day of writing, I felt wonderful. I'd leave my office feeling freer and lighter.

The second book in the quartet, My Mother's Daughter, reveals how Jane's unhealed Mother Wound plays havoc in her and her children's lives. This is followed by the third novel, The Perfect Mother, in which Jane finally comes to terms with her mother and begins the process of healing.

The final book in the quartet, The First and Last Lesson, sees Jane break through her fear of intimacy.

Jane's first lesson in Blackbird was to insulate herself from others. She learned to live as a feral cat, meeting her needs as best she could in the privacy of isolation. And for much of her life, Jane coped by retreating into her personal wilderness when she sensed danger.

But with aging comes the inevitable loss of independence. The feral cat that Jane has always been must be domesticated. She must learn to trust and to give and receive affection. That is Jane's last lesson.

Now I may need to write a fifth book, one that helps us understand and forgive Jane's mother, Gladys. Once we see how unfairly life has treated Gladys, we understand her anger. When we learn about her abandonment and hardships, we know why Gladys takes her rage out on her daughter. It is neither safe nor possible for Gladys to focus her anger where it belongs.

Leo Tolstoy said that "One must put oneself in every one's position. To understand everything is to forgive everything." That will be the theme of the fifth book. Retroactively, I want to heal Gladys’s wounds. I owe this gift to my mother.