The absence of attunement and attachment in our early bonding, and the subsequent overcompensation and guilt for that is what has led me to this passion.
My parents were divorced when I was 4. In the years prior to their divorce, my father was largely absent, and he was also cheating. My mother was stressed already prior to my birth.
It is now understood that the state of mind of the mother, and her stress levels, during pregnancy, affect the cocktail of hormones that a developing baby is exposed to. We also know that this cocktail of hormones is crucial for the development of the child—and yes, we do know today for a fact, that you can be XY or XX and be exposed to a cocktail of hormones which interfere with the natural genetic expression of your genes. That is how and why we are born non-binary.
And while I can honestly say that being non-binary has been at times pure agony, the ache that it causes is so deeply beautiful and fulfilling. [I wrote about that here]. I know that being non-binary has affected every aspect of my life, starting with how I looked on the world around me from the moment I was born. Nature or Nurture? If genes are nature, what of the cocktail of hormones the developing baby is exposed to in the womb? A bit of both? Regardless, we do not become non-binary, we are born this way.
Conversely, and this is conjecture not fact, I believe that sexual orientation is learned. It may be learned very early, but I do believe that the things that arouse us stem from what we are exposed to from birth. Please correct me if you think I am wrong here.
I wrote previously about the things we find erotic. [You can find that post here]. I very much believe that our bodies and our subconscious minds find expression through the erotic, and what we find erotic is a reflection of our needs for human connection (in whatever form we desire), but also as a way to process trauma, as a way to attract or please.
And it may be a little too Freudian, but I am sure that we are primarily fixated on pleasing our mothers and fathers at birth and in the early bonding years. A baby needs to have its needs met. It is biologically programmed to do that in whatever way it can. If those needs are met easily and successfully, then a baby develops in a way which is consistent with their biology. If a baby has to struggle to get their needs met, and for these I am thinking specifically of affection, warmth, human touch, then a baby learns to behave in ways that will attract the attention of the parent.
I mentioned on a previous post about my recent home move [you can read about that here], and the discovery of a letter that my mother wrote to me many years ago. In the letter she apologises for not being a good mother, for not being available to me, of thinking only of her own needs. I cried like a baby when I read it again, because there was so much pain for her and for me—but how could I blame her, I just needed her. I needed her as a baby, and I still needed her growing up, but I understand why she wasn’t available—she was struggling financially and emotionally and having kids as a single mom made it even harder for her to find a potential husband.
Gabor Maté in his book Scattered Minds [reviewed here] makes the connection between ADD and a mother-child relationship that is poor in attunement and attachment in those critical first years of life. While the absence of this mother-child bond is no guarantee of ADD (because you also have to have the predisposition for ADD, which is a genetic disposition to heightened sensitivity), it is a common characteristic of those who are diagnosed with ADD. Between my own diagnosis with ADD as a child, my mother’s admission of her absence from my emotional life, there is no surprise that attunement and attachment between us didn’t happen as it should.
My mother was not able to breast feed me. She had no milk. Breastfeeding is the prime moment when a baby attunesand attaches to its mother. We never got this intimacy. Her own stress about life and her relationship with my father meant she was not able to do this for me.
[As an aside, I had a nanny who bottle fed me…and I wonder if this is why I was always so drawn with “baby” feelings to our maids and nannies, and why I still have fantasies about this. Most likely. I will have to write one of these fantasies down one day.]
So, what happened? I missed out on the formation of the crucial bond with my mother as an infant. That created a need and desire that didn’t go away just because I was older than 1. I still needed it, so I still looked to her for it—taking the attention and affection I could get when I could get it. As I grew up, this evolved into acting out, anything to get her attention, to see me, feel me, love me. The thing is, she also needed it. A mother knows. She can sense if she doesn’t make that bond too—because just as a baby needs to connect to its mother for its fulfilment, so too does a mother seek and need to connect to her child. In my mother’s case, she knew it was missing, and this created a sense of guilt, the one that led to many things that were inappropriate and which found expression in the letter she sent me.
I was looking through some family photos over the past few days, and all of this came to the fore. The absent connection with my mother engendered two inappropriate responses. First, because her life was so stressful, she imagined that me staying as a baby, completely passive and silent, would make her life easier. And that meant that she tried very hard to keep me as a baby for much longer than is normal. She was very controlling, almost treating me like a doll. I was still not dressing myself and was wearing baby clothes, real baby clothes, when I was 4. She made me little outfits because they didn’t make them that big in the shops. She gave me baby toys to play with, encouraged me to keep my “baby blanket”. I slept with a pacifier in my mouth until I was 7. The child’s need? Mother’s approval. The mother’s need? Overcoming her guilt at not connecting with me as a baby by overcompensating and babying me when it was no longer appropriate. And because my siblings were so much older than me, the dynamic of me as the “baby” was so much easier to reinforce.
[Separately, and equally inappropriately, my mother’s desire for a girl and her belief that a girl would be easier (a lament that she frequently made as I grew up all the way until I moved away from home) also meant that she dressed me like a girl until I was 5 and started going to school. It also meant a very weird psycho-sexual dynamic developed between the two of us which persisted until I was able to break free from it in therapy as an adult—but it also meant I couldn’t spend time with my mother without feeling really, really drained.]
Okay. So I was treated like a baby, kept like a baby past the age where this is normal. Any confusion I might have felt as a child—and I surely noticed just as I see in the photos now how different a romper suit is from jeans—was overridden because I desperately wanted my mother’s approval, as does any child, so I played along. Between my need to feel her love, and her desire to control me, or keep me as a baby, I acquiesced, because it was my way of getting the affection I needed. But at this age, a child needs to assert its independence. This is critical for its development. But what my mother was doing to me was just the opposite—she was inadvertently working against my developmental needs.
As time passed, this became a source of rebellion, and I both rebelled against her controlling me in this way, but also my need to feel her validation—it bothered me that I needed it. Even as a child I understood that it was “wrong” to be with my mother this way. But I also think back to some of my most poignant and conscious memories of motherly love, and it came from times when she treated me like a little. As with so many confusing and intense feelings that arise as a child, this tension became eroticised. Today, what I feel when I am triggered in many different ways, I go straight to this little space, where I so want to feel a mother’s acceptance and love but am also fearful of it. And the triggers need have nothing to do with little space or any of the accessories that we associate with ABDL. As an example, the other day Mistress temporarily restricted my ability to breathe, and while she did it I felt this feeling of intense submission wash over me, and I told myself “let go, she won’t hurt me, she’s taking care of me,” and when she stopped I turned to her and called her “Mommy” from some place deep inside—the name came out from some place in my psyche, not from my rational mind.
Is it any wonder that the thought of someone holding me, looking into my eyes, and feeding me a bottle is so deeply fulfilling? It goes straight down into my depths. And why do I find it erotic? Because my psyche needs it. That’s the way it works.
You see, there is nothing prurient about the world of the ABDL, and I am sure every one of us has their own version of how we got there, but the broad strokes are probably not too different. We’re just trying to find our way to something we never really had when we needed it.