Friday, March 29, 2013

Group Therapy

Stacey of Stacey’s Writing Moments chose Erma Bombeck’s Motherhood, The Second  Oldest Profession. Your line for this week, to open your stories, is….(drumroll please!!)

“One of the biggest complaints of motherhood is the lack of training.”

"One of the biggest complaints of motherhood is the lack of training,"  Abby Farnsworth spoke with authority. She was the oldest woman here. We all turned to listen, and the hush that fell over the room was reverent.

"Oh, we try to pretend like we know what we're doing," Abby continued. "We all played with the dolls when we were kids.  We pretended to feed them, burp them, and change their diapers with the pretend poop--what the hell was that stuff, anyway?  Never could get that crap off the wall.  No, taking care of dolls was lousy training for being a mother."

Abby paused, coughing delicately into the tissue she always kept in her sleeve.  Myrna offered Abby some of her water, and smiled broadly when Abby took a sip from the proffered glass.  We waited for Abby to collect her thoughts.

"And those parenting classes that they made us take when we were in high school?   Child development books?  Bah! Bunch of poppycock.  Filled us full of a false confidence, those did. Why, we came home from the hospital with our babies thinking that we knew it all. We go home thinking that everything will be perfect."

Abby's head hung low, her chin on her chest, staring fiercely at her lap.  Her voice was soft, but there was an intensity that held us captive.

"Nobody talks about babies born deaf or blind.  There's no class where they talk about that, tell you what to do, how to cope.  There's no book that describes the despair a mother feels when her baby won't eat, or when the palate is cleft. Nobody tells you about the baby who doesn't want to be touched, or cuddled, or cooed at. Nobody talks about the imperfections"

"That's when the real mothering is required, the kind they don't tell you about."

Abby glared at all of us.

"What's a woman supposed to do?" she hissed. "They don't talk about it, and it ain't in a book, but everybody knows.  It ain't right. Our men leave us. Our other children are moved to new families.  Everybody looks away and expect us to take care of the problem on our own!"

"And when it's done..."  her voice hitched, and a final tear rolled slowly down her cheek.  "Only after we've done the very thing that tears a piece of our soul away, only, when we give them what they wanted, then are we are allowed to return to our homes?  No. They bring us here, to rot. No husbands and no babies, imperfect or not. We die here alone. " 

Abby lapsed into a morose silence.  We all sat, lost to the world, remembering our own decisions, mourning our own children.  Several small sobs broke loose from the oppressive silence.

"Ladies." The pale psychologist who was supposed to be in charge of the group therapy quietly cleared his throat.  "Our time is up for today."

As the group shuffled out to head back to their rooms, the psychologist rubbed his eyes, as if he could scrub them clean, then wrote out his session notes. 


  1. This piece has potential to become something larger. Abby is strong character, although after 2 readings, I'm still not sure what the setting is or what exactly they did to their imperfect children or why they were abandoned after the child was born. It only needs minor tweaking and that would be easily solved. You could give us the location (is it a jail or an asylum?) and go into more detail about what they did with the unwanted children. I really enjoyed the tone of the story, however, and reallly think you could go dark with this one and it would be even more delightful than it already is.

  2. You are right, of course. I started off picturing one location, and then four other places popped into my head while I was typing. That muddied the waters a bit. I appreciate the concrit. Thank you!

  3. I agree with Sam. Fantastic concept for a greater story. Makes me a bit sad though, because I have always said that no one tells you what to do when your child is on the autistic spectrum... or has bowed legs... or doesn't fit the conventional mold of what a kid should be. Oh yes, everyone will tell you what you're doing WRONG... but no one will tell you what to do right.

    1. That is what I was trying to get across, those mothering situations that nobody every tells you about before you have children.

  4. This was sad. I'd like to know more of the back stories of the women and their families as well.

  5. The dark days, even with children who are typical. I am always amazed by parents who manage every day with children who have severe and significant needs.

  6. Oh so sad and so tragic. You really captured the emotions of the women well. I can only imagine how isolating it is to have a special needs child and I applaud all those mothers who raise them. Very well done.

  7. heartbreaking---i esp. love the touch with the therapist trying to rub their eyes clean---lovely writing!


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