Friday, April 30, 2010

...Shown To The World...

Though I detest confrontation most of the time, for my children I will never back down. I never mentioned to her the hurt she imparted on me. That was not new. I asked her about the attempt on my children's emotions. She was either in denial or oblivious because surely one could not be so aberrant to grandparenting. Never receiving an answer, I hang up with her, more upset than before and let the tears come. I could not let her harm my children. I would not.

The next few months were a time of grieving for me. I grieved for the mother I thought she was, for the mother I had always wanted and for the mother that I had. Saddened by the events that which had brought me to this place, I sought within myself for a strength to understand what had happened and why. I could not grasp why hurt was such a strong weapon. Words that bore into my soul and actions that brought back flashes of memories I wanted to stay buried. Why would a mother do that to her child, to her grandchildren?

My husband was my stronghold throughout this time. His parents were my anchors. Without them and their support, my reckoning would have drew every ounce of self-preservation I had left. With them by my side, I began to heal. His parents supported and loved me without faltering. Our marriage finally blossomed the way a man and wife should cultivate their blooms. We found our partnership knotted at the core, stronger than ever, just when we needed it the most.

...Received By the Broken-Hearted...

People will never cease to amaze me, but my naivety may be a factor. While meeting our son, she used her words to hurt not only my husband but to hurt my parents-in-law. She couldn't believe I would marry him. Thankfully, he married me. With my roots, it became increasingly surprising that his parents did not forewarn him away from me.

The holidays were fast approaching. As time grew near, something inside me was silently preparing me for what would be a Christmas I would not soon forget. Broke, she said, and wouldn't be able to get our children anything for gifts. I assured her, that was fine, they needed nothing, just to spend time with their grandmother. She wanted to pick them up something, however. Oh, and she had some things of mine to bring to me as well.

The time for visiting arrives as does she and his parents. She begins early asking me to look through the things she brought. I do, but do not tell her. There are photos of him in the items she brought. I begin telling her I will look through them after gifts, just to put her off because I do not want to deal with it. I want to enjoy our Christmas.

She apologizes for not getting the kids much. It's fine, again I assure her. She begins discussing what she bought my sister's daughters, bragging, even. Not to me, but to my daughter, the oldest, who can understand what it means to feel jealous. Thankfully, she does not care. I feel every cell in my body beginning to coil for strike. She will not hurt my children in any way, with her touch or words. She will not.

Many other hurtful things are talked about by her before the end of the evening. I hold it in, not wanting to cause a scene on Christmas in front of my children. I will discuss it with her later, privately. Maybe. Will I be able to pull those strings hard enough until they break to force her to relinquish that hold? Can I really assert myself enough to show her that she cannot hurt me anymore? Am I strong enough?

...Manifested Through Love...

I'm growing as a person, a mother, a wife and a daughter. I've found a valuable friend in my mother-in-law. She's a constant. She's faithful, loyal and loving. She is what a mother should be. I can see that now.

My husband's parents are generous enough to bring her with them when they drive 5 hours to see us and meet our son for the first time. I'm not sure why, but I had hopes that she would do nothing to hurt me, though not physically, but emotionally, this visit.

Physically she had not harmed me since I had left her abode. Words, though, formed a two-edged sword with which she continually lashed me. I was the "bad" kid. My siblings who struggled with habitual drugs, lying, alcohol and countless acts of infidelity were definitely better off than me. I had never touched drugs, smoked cigarettes, cheated on my husband yet I was the one who was a disappointment. I wanted to please her, to be the good child. I wanted acceptance. Too late did I find out that no matter how hard I worked, I would never be good enough for her.

My exterior must have been hardening; she didn't seem to affect me as much as before. I did not come out unscathed. Committing fraud is a serious act. I knew and had reported her for doing so. Babies are in-utero for approximately 9 months. For most people they are not a surprise. Before leaving, she hands me a $50 and says something about hoping she has enough money to eat for the week and that she thinks she'll be ok, but that she hopes we can use the money. I try to return it to her, because we were blessed enough to not need it. She wouldn't take it. In my brain, I knew that she had money and would be ok, but in my heart, I could not stand the thought of someone going hungry, not even her.

...In The Believers Heart...

Our son was the only child to be "over-due". He came one day after my estimated due date. After having two hospital births, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a birth center. However, it was everything I had hoped and more.

Even after his glorious arrival, he still did not have a name. We just could not agree on anything. I wanted desperately to give him the same first name as my husband, but he was adamant that was not going to happen. Finally, eleven hours old, he had a name, but no decision on the circumcision.

At ten days old, he had an appointment with a Urologist to be cut. By nine days old, I was still unconvinced. In the end, I told my husband if he wanted it done, then he could be the one to take him. Of course, he wasn't fond of that idea, so I just cancelled his appointment less than an hour before having it done. Intact he would be. I must say, I am happy with the decision. I couldn't imagine amputating such a fragile part of my son, especially without his consent.

...Though Present Always..

I would finally have the birth I always wanted! I attended a birth center for all prenatal care with our youngest child. I had become such an advocate for natural child-rearing that having birth with no interventions shook me to my core with excitement and contentedness. No needless interventions, no medications and a very private event were of the utmost importance to me concerning this labor.

We agreed on girl names almost instantly. This was the first clue. When discussing issues about having a male child, we never agreed. Of course, we should have been prepared when the news came. Boy it is. We were having a son. Girls were easy; I knew how to mother girls. Boys, on the other hand, I knew nothing.

I began diligent research about how to raise a good man, just like my husband. Men were still slightly terrifying to me. What if I failed him? What if I smothered him? What if he hated me?

Not long after the declaration of gender we began discussing the issue of circumcision. I was against it, he was for it. I did as much studying about it as I could, and asked as many other mothers who had experience that were available. The majority were for it. I viewed photos of how the process worked, but could never click "play" on any of the videos available to me.

Having a birth center birth with a midwife made this decision a little more difficult. I would be staying at the center only 12 hours postpartum. No doctors, unless medically necessary, would be available for circumcision until he was home. This decision would be one of the first we would make in his lifetime that would either affect him positive or negatively. How could we decide this for him, when he was unable to tell us what he wanted? These are the moments, as parents, where making those difficult decisions for your children can either leave you with the feeling of guilt or the feeling of accomplishment; sometimes, no matter what you decide, you will feel both.


During the trying time with our second daughter, God decided to bless us with another little one. Unplanned and quite the surprise, I found myself fretting over how we were going to afford another child. My husband was there by my side to assure me that everything happens for a reason and we would be fine. Words did little to vanquish my worries, however.

At the same time, we were planning to move nearly 5 hours from where we were living at the time. Suddenly there was so many changes happening; changes which should have been happy, joyous even, but like everything I'd encountered with her, they, too, were dampened.

She knew once I was that far away, her hold on me would become weakened. She was right. Guilt trips abound, even she could not stop our family from relocating to a more affluent area. This move was not just a physical one. Transitioning locations did not only part our bodies, moving also separated those binding chains she had wrapped around my every being since birth. Soon, wonderfully soon, I would be free. I did not realize how so very soon my eyes would open to the bondage she had created for me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Faith Is...

Our second daughter came with her own set of challenges. She is very stubborn and just like her birth, does things in her own time. I had decided to continue breastfeeding both girls until they self-weaned. I was constantly questioned by her about if I was hurting either by doing so. Of course not! Hurting them was the exact opposite of what I was doing. I was reducing theirs and my risk of multiple cancers, giving them the best nutrition available for them, increasing their bond, and many many other gifts for free. I loved my daughters, more than anyone could imagine you could love someone.

Having children isn't always easy on a marriage. Love isn't always enough. There were times when we thought we were at the end of our story. Those heated moments can mean the end of a marriage or a beginning of a new era. We both knew which path we wanted to take, even in the toughest of times.

Having control issues in an infant can be very trying on a parent. Our daughter had issues with bowel movements which resulted in her being medicated with stool softeners. Many tears were shed by both she and I throughout her journey. Finding the medium to help her learn was trial and error. It's never anything but heartbreaking seeing your child suffer in pain. At such a young age, she was unable to understand why, which made it even harder. The next year with her called on every mommy-ability I had. By the grace of God, we prevailed. No more blood, no more tears and no more pain in the bathroom for her!

...Through Faith...

Our second daughter's birth was rapid. She was breathing in my arms so quickly that we had time to call no one. My husband arrived at the hospital minutes late for her arrival. Once we called everyone to announce her arrival, most were overjoyed. Except for her. I was in tears after our phone conversation. Still emotional from the rapid events of the day, and surprised she thought I didn't care enough to let her know. My body still aching from the wondrous event, my heart shriveling from the hurt she had caused, I phoned my husband and through the tears relayed the words spoken from her mouth. Anger pulsing through his words, he tried to console me.

Giving birth to a perfect little gift from God should be a joyous time. I can't help feel that some of that was stolen from me that night.

...Is Possible...

As I learned more about mothering, I found myself reading everything I could get my hands on about anything to do with the psychology of raising children. I breastfed her on demand with child-led weaning. We co-slept. Attachment Parenting was our philosophy. It wasn't long after her first birthday we discovered God had blessed us with another little one. We weren't quite ready for her, but God knew what he was doing.

The Father had always knew what he was doing. Although I had suffered many hurts as a child, I knew that God was there for me. He loved me when it seemed no one else would and protected me when my earthly parents failed. I know had it not been for his reasons, I would not be alive today. There was a song a lady in church sang in which I found comfort. About a ship in a stormy sea, I felt connected to the song. The song spoke of knowing God who can calm any storm and the sun will shine upon you once again. "Master of the Wind" brought peace to my soul many times from the mouth of a lady who shares my name. I can still hear her beautiful voice now.

With the upcoming arrival of our second daughter, I was becoming more confident in my ability as a mother, yet still very much so apprehensive. All I could do is trust that God had a plan and know that my husband would be there by my side because I was terrified that somehow I would repeat those mistakes of my adult caretakers.

NOTE: This is the wonderfully talented lady I referred to in this post. She has been extremely kind enough to record this video of her singing. I am beyond pleased to share with you!! As a child, I heard her sing this almost twenty years ago. Here she is, just as beautiful as ever in a church in rural West Virginia.

...Rediscovery of One's Self...

Not much time passed until she even tried to control my marriage. Fearful of her abandonment and still wanting to please her, unknowingly I let her have still that small power over me. It took nearly four years for me to see her for who she truly is.

Within the first year of our marriage, God blessed us with a wonderful daughter. She was absolutely beautiful, perfect in every way. I hadn't intended on being a mother. The thought frightened me beyond belief. One day, expectantly, he melted that corner of my heart.

As I watched him with a friend's daughter, I saw the great dad he could be. How could I take that away from him? I couldn't. I loved him too greatly to even consider it. If he could do it, and would be by my side, then so could I. Through him, I found the strength to overcome the fears bore deep inside me of being the same mother to our children as mine had been to me. Six months later, a tiny little heart grew deep inside me. In my belly, our daughter began to flourish.

God had blessed us with a beautiful baby girl. Each day I learned more what it was to be a mother than the day before. Each day I realized that I could never hurt her like I had been hurt. Each day I began to understand that it was not my fault. Each day the darkness faded more and more.

...And With Time...

Courtship was tumultuous; Because she disliked him, things were difficult for us. I didn't understand because prior to my interest in him, she had no qualms about even the worst boys. He was good, great even. I fought daily to spend even a few moments with him.

My battles were his battles. He asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes! When she tried to separate us, he was there for me. I still do no understand why he stuck it out. I know it was very difficult for him and most would have split after only a few episodes of her drama; he didn't.

I applied for early graduation from high school. I had a perfect 4.0 and all the credits I needed for graduation. I was granted my request.

My 18th birthday seemed to crawl closer and closer. We had planned to marry privately with the Justice of the Peace. She said the least I could do was permit her to see her baby get married. It worked. We planned around her and my sister's schedule and was married in a preacher's living room. Finally, I was free.

...Hurt Heals Slowly...

She hated him. I'm not sure why, but she did. I had never disobeyed her so much. I would sneak to see him. When she found out, my nose would bleed. I loved him, that was certain, and there was nothing she could do about it. He only wanted me for sex, she would say. Of course, since to her I was a slut, this made sense. For the first time in my life, I knew from the pit of my being that she was wrong. He loved me.

Or so I thought. He said he was confused. He didn't mean to hurt me. He only talked to another girl. He was scared, he said, because he never felt this way before. I saw the honesty in his eyes. I forgave him. It was hard, but I did. I'm so glad I did.

Though Time Passes Quickly...

High School begins and I'm tarnished. Forbidden to speak to many of my friends, I'm now very much on the outskirts of my social circle. I never let grades plummet, and never harm myself with any substances. No drugs ever pass into my system. In that aspect, I am as pure as ever.

The internet is becoming increasingly popular. I find solace in planting myself in front of the screen for endless hours, where I can be whomever I want. I am no longer bound by what my life has become to strangers on the other side of the connection.

Instant messaging is a growing trend. One particular service was extremely popular. This is where I found my Prince. He was different than any other male I had met. He was wonderful to me. He felt right.

...And Yet Ignored...

This secret was something that I was terrified to share. It was, after all, my fault. She did have a gun, and thought I was jealous of her. What if she were to use it?

My first boyfriend was the person I confided my burden to. He urged me to tell her. She should know, he said. I didn't want to tell her, but maybe he was right? Tearfully, I went to her with her and asked to speak with her privately. She says that whatever I need to say I can say with her newest beau present. So I begin to tell her that he hurt me. "I'll kill the son-of-a-bitch" she proclaims while going for her gun. Terrified, I yell "No!". Crying over the next minutes, maybe hours, I'm terrified that what he said will become true.

Sensitive to the emotions going through me, her beau returns to his home so we could talk. What ensues is just shattering. Instead of hugs, or reassurances, I receive something entirely different.

With tears still streaming down my face after taking such a huge step and saying the words allowed, she looks at me and says "You shouldn't have said anything in front of HIM! That makes me look bad!" She rants about what if he tells social services and they take me away or make me live with my father. "You'll lose all your friends and have to move and then I couldn't pay for anything for you because we wouldn't have child support anymore".

Telling her did nothing but hurt me even more. Maybe she already knew.

...Lost and Found...

He didn't stay with her much this time. Their relationship was over much faster this time. Things didn't quite return to as they were this time. I was overtaken in darkness that no one seemed to be able permeate.

When puberty began, so did purging. I would eat as little as possible and vomit it back up. I weighed less than 100 lbs at 13 years old. The lowest I weighed myself was at 92 lbs. I was healthy at 115 or so. No one knew, but I was slowly killing myself from starvation. When slitting my wrists didn't work, purging became my outlet. When I became too weak to purge, I would cut myself. Anything to numb the pain I felt inside.

However, nothing worked. There was the dull ache, always there. I was 13. Boys began noticing me. I wasn't sure how to acknowledge their attention. So I became promiscuous. I hurt people who genuinely cared for me. I lost friends and myself.

...and Innocence is Forgotten...

Weeks passed without much mention. One morning I woke and he was gone. Gone for good she said. Too much pot, apparently. She liked me then. We cooked together, every Sunday afternoon after Sunday School. Breakfast on Saturdays. Life was fun again. Puzzles were a favorite in front of the old coal stove on cold wintry nights. A year had went by before I had realized.

He started phoning her. I hated to hear his voice on the other end of the phone. They went on dates. I acted like a child and kicked and screamed and begged her not to go. She said "Quit being jealous". Was it jealousy? Did I not want her to be happy? No, that wasn't it. I was scared. Scared he'd return and hurt me again. Scared I'd disappoint them again. Scared to feel dirty again.

Only a few phone calls and dates later he was back. This time, he only rarely touched me, though many times in front of her. How did she not see? Maybe she did? The puzzles were permanently put away, the Sunday School Brunches stopped. No more Saturday breakfasts for us. I felt myself spiraling back into the darkness, desperately wishing for someone, anyone to care.

Monday, April 26, 2010

...The Innocent...

I stuffed the shirt in the furthest corner of the lowest drawer I could find in my bedroom. I never wanted to see it again. I wanted to shred it, but that would only bring me more hurt from a belt.

Belts or "switches", small flimsy limbs from trees or bushes, were her favorite. Whenever she would hear me crying after he was finished with me and returned to her bed, she would leave belt buckle marks on my back, hidden where only I knew they were there.

Hate is such a strong word, especially for a child so young. One day, my heart turned black and it wouldn't begin to heal until many years later. This was a day, just like many days, when he would stay behind while she went to bed and hurt me. Once he was finished and retreated to their sanctuary to have with her, I found myself trying desperately to scrub the dirtiness from my skin again and again. I must've been crying loudly, because she did not come to mark my skin, but sent him to do so. Why was he so angry? I did what he wanted me to, and I hadn't told her. Those marks were there for a long while. I can still feel them on my back now, stinging, aching from movement swollen for anyone to see. No one ever did, of course. I didn't want them to see what I had caused. It was all my fault. If only I had been quieter, more respectful. If I had behaved better, this wouldn't have happened.

Friday, April 23, 2010

..To Hurt...

When a child spirals into darkness, it is tragic. Childhood should be full of life, love, wonder. Something inside you changes when you've been robbed of that. I began struggling with depression and guilt as well as a cocktail of other emotional issues at such a young age.

For my 8th birthday I had a sleep-over at my house. New Kids on The Block were popular. I had the t-shirt, the sleeping bag and the cassette. Even that was tarnished for me. It was a t-shirt with all their photos on it. Hand-prints and screened-on signatures adorned the back. It was my favorite thing to wear.

I didn't think he'd be home that day. He was gone on a 2 week hunting trip and shouldn't be back until the following weekend. Something happened and he came home a week early. She went to nap. He said he'd be there in a minute. I knew what this meant. I found myself trembling on the corner of the couch while he moved my clothes away. This had happened before, many times, however the feelings I felt only grew stronger, darker, more pronounced. This time was different. He didn't stop like the other times. He exposed himself to me. Frightened as a child, I did not understand. He said he needed a kiss. Terrified as I was, something inside me at that moment and I was NOT going to kiss his I bit him instead and grabbed his testicles and pulled. He jumped back and bent over to me on the couch and said "Don't tell your mom about this. She has a gun. She'll shoot us both." He turned and walked off. Moments later I heard them having sex. All I could do is scream and cry and scrub every inch of my body. I was so dirty.

...And They Lived...

One thing was certain. She loved him. She loved him unlike any other. He was a former minister in a local church who had "lost his way" with alcohol and other substances. Many days passed, though they all seemed to fade into each other. They would have me nap with them. He would hold her in his arms whilst I laid beside my mother he would use his hands to slowly strip every ounce of innocence left from my callow body.

As much as I was permitted, I attended sleep-overs and stayed with other adults. My older brother and his girlfriend began to be a refuge. When I was no longer allowed to stay with the nice lady or my friend, I would retreat to his home, wherever that may be at the time. I was safe there, even though drugs were a regular occurance; HE couldn't touch me there. There were times, however, when I had to return home. Thankfully, during the hunting and fishing seasons, he remained unseen. It was those times when he returned that I dreaded most.

Found her Prince....

Who was this man? With his Budweiser in hand, he said "Good morning." She peers around from his right, says "Meet DC." I'm a polite child, I say hello and return to my bedroom. He never leaves. He now lives with us. It wasn't long before I realized this man was no man, he was a monster.

She says "He's a good man, treats me right". They drink often. Party much. Marijuana is often in his pocket.

I find safe havens at a school friend's house or with a nice lady named Terri. I like going to their homes. I have fun and everything seems so carefree.

He likes to hunt and fish. Oh, and drink too. One time, after much bantering from her, he takes us to a cabin with him. Somewhere along the way we stop so he can have a drink with someone, a relative maybe? I'm not sure who. It was late and I was tired. I'm sitting in the floor listening to them discuss something I don't quite understand at the age of 7.5 years. She leaves the room. He looks at me and says, "My feet are cold. Come sit on them." I do it. I just didn't know why he wanted me to. This was the first time he violated me. I didn't understand what he was doing, or why his hand so forcefully held my shoulder down to keep me from moving away from his feet. Even after she returned to the room, this did not stop him. She sits beside him on the couch while his feet are under me, causing feelings of shame and dirtiness in me that I've never experienced in all the other dark events in my young life. We leave. I huddle in the backseat, crying tears of emotions that are far beyond my years.

..The Evil Queen

The house was burning. The call came in the darkness. Our home was smoldering in ashes. The walls would no longer bear those horrific stains. Returned to the earth as mere particles of dust, however, the memories still remain.

We lived with her sister for a little while during our search for a new home. Only one event during that time bears mentioning. I met my father at age 7. My brother concealed the meeting. I received one folded $5 bill. It was nice to see him again.

Over the next few months she purchased a home and slowly refurbished it. Something in her changed over the next few months. I didn't see her often. One night she left, the next morning I woke to find a new man on the couch. This event would alter the course of the rest of my life.

Once Upon a Time..

Life seemed limitless. Summer days were spent in the sun and dirt with untamed possibilities. Noon would come and go without so much as a hello. Those days are vague in my memory. Not because many moons have passed, but because those days were soon replaced. You see, my tale is one that needs to be said. The words have far too long sat in my mind and wounded my heart. It is, with a heavy sigh, that I begin this knowing full well that by the end I will have cried every tear again and felt every pain once more. I just hope that somewhere along the way that my hurt can begin to heal and somehow ease the ache inside me.

The year is 1988. I'm yet a toddler, still unable to speak words though I remember those spoken to me on this day. It was an unremarkable day, in my life anyway. That is, until the moment she yanked my arm and said "Let's go!" I cannot tell you for certain the events of this day. I do, however, remember as a child huddled in the floor of an old car how I felt. The moment was terrifying. I was unsure what the yelling and cursing amongst me was about, but I knew that I should be scared. This was the day, the very last day that I would see my father as a child.

She drove me to a bar, a place where I knew she went to drink. Back then, there was no car seats for children in vehicles. I sat in the floor. She was angry, no, furious, over something. She leaves me in the car and goes into the bar yelling, but who was she yelling at? Oh, now I see, it's my dad. But why? Why would she yell at him? It's over too soon for me to understand. I'm sitting behind her seat, crying because I am scared. She turns around to drive in reverse, sees me in tears, and says "You're never seeing him again that piece of shit!" I cry more tears. Her words sting like a million bees all at once. I'm sad to see him go.

The year is 1991. My sister, whom watched over me while she was gone, leaves home this year. She graduated from high school and high-taled it out of town. Who could blame her? I cried so many times to go with her, but I knew that I couldn't. This is the year I became familiar with drugs. Did I use them at such a young age? No, but everyone who lived around me did. Once my sister left for college, my older brothers took over watching me while my mother was out. She was "out" quite a lot. Either at a bar, drinking, or out of her mind on whatever substance was available. I have three brothers. The older two would take me on drives in my mothers old Ford pickup. I sat in the middle while they passed their white powder between themselves getting high. I was just happy to be with them. I didn't know they were slowly killing themselves. It became my job to empty his pockets out at the end of the day. It was like a rainbow inside. Red pills, green and white pills, powdery pills. I never knew when I would find every color in the Crayola box.

One evening he came home. His pockets were particularly full this night. Something was not quite right. Was he angry? No, that wasn't it. After pocket cleaning, he sat at the kitchen table eating smashed cornbread in milk. It was his favorite. The tranquility soon faded and became replaced with yelling. She yelled, he yelled, they both yelled some more. Happening so fast that I couldn't comprehend the actions around me, I was in the truck racing across the bridge and down the road before I understood what it was all about. Something wasn't right. I was scared.
We arrived at her boyfriend's home. She called him. No answer. The next few hours are a blur. I'm not sure how I returned, but I was back home. There were lights everywhere. Screaming. What had happened? I was crying. Someone was holding me. I looked through the window of the door. There was red everywhere. A gun. I saw a gun. He was there, only it wasn't him. His face was missing, or not missing, just splattered on the wall. Everything was black. Was it day? Night? I'm not sure.

The funeral was closed-casket. There was a photo of him in a white button down shirt. He was smiling, happy even. His death was the first I experienced related to drugs, heroin I believe. Those smiles slowly faded away and were replaced with glassy eyes and empty stares. He became a shell of the once vibrant person his life had begun to blossom into. Replaced, instead, with a closed box too gruesome for grievers to view, and pieces of skull embedded in walls in the home we returned to. No amount of scrubbing could ever wash away those stains on one's memory. They're permanent, there for all the days of my life.