Sunday, April 7, 2013

Trial by fire

When I was a teen, I was raped and became pregnant. That child was placed for adoption with family members and I am able to see her grown and doing well in her life, but I lost the ability to be her mother. All I wanted in the aftermath of that experience was to be a mother. This was actually what left II and I vunerable to the Quiverful mentality in the first place, this deep desire to be a mother after that loss. Thus, we made a choice to not wait when we got married, but to have a child as soon as we could acheive that goal.

We actually did the very non-fundamentalist choice of trying to get pregnant before we were actually married. I make no regrets for that choice. I was tired of the garbage religion had thrown at me which had only left me hurting and vunerable. Except, our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage almost 14 weeks into the pregnancy. We were both completely devestated. To make matters worse, we were on our honeymoon as I miscarried. I didn't care about waiting or anything else at that point. I wanted a baby, and II's desire was as strong as my own.

E was concieved a mere 10 days after we lost that first baby. She was then born two weeks early and exactly 38 weeks after we got married. It was close enough for ultra-religious friends to leave us alone, but as soon as possible for me to hold a baby in my arms and not give it awway. I got a bladder infection in the pregnancy that never fully resolved and spent most of those months sick, vomiting and simply biding my time until I could hold my sweet baby in my arms. Her birth was more traumatic than I ever anticipated. It was the beginning of LMB's using my pregnancies and childbirth to sexually assualt me when I was most vunerable. She cajoled, harrassed and demanded I do what she said the entire pregnancy and birth. She went with us when I was in labor and badgered the doctors and medical staff so that they took their irritation at her out on me. Even the first pictures I have of E are her in LMB's arms, with me next to her, a look of longing on my face. I had not learned to find my mother's voice that day. It came very quickly after that point, though. When faced with a world that wanted to control, dictate and judge this little fireball of a child, I was fierce, fiercer than I ever knew I was capable of being.

E was different from very early in her life. I could never put my finger on it. She was colicy as a newborn to the point that the only way we got her to calm down was we took turns dancing her to loud music all night while the other slept. She was strongly opposed to sleeping in the bed with us, and threw fits if we attempted to co-sleep with her. It was not until I put her in her own bedroom at nearly a year in desperation that she slept peacefully and allowed us to do the same.

By 12 months, E was throwing temper tantrums that everyone swore were impossible for a child her age to throw. The only way I could ever describe her behaviors was by explaining that E's mind was so far advanced of her body's capabiliies that she frequently threw tantrums because she could not make her body keep up with the desire of her mind to move at lightening pace. By 18 months, I was desperate enough to do the biggest mistake of my mothering. I put her into a highly punitive method of discipline, with spanking and no room for grace for her baby girl mistakes. I had read Ted Tripp and James Dobson, and the women I had sought for support had insisted I had to spank the rebellion out of her, that if I spanked her the first time, every time, she would conform and would stop her constantly exhausting challenges to life, to me, to boundaries.

I do not believe I created E's sruggles. I accept that E has genetic factors at play which cause her to have high anxiety and a very atypical form of Asperger's which caused us to not pinpoint exactly what it was until she was 13. However, I believe that those six months of treating her so negatively absolutely contrbuted to her struggles. I accept in this time and place that E must make her own choices for her life, and while those choices are hard for her, she IS progressing and making wiser choices. However, her younger years of struggling with violent behaviors would be a completely textbook case of all of the research compiled that argues spanking creates aggression and violence in children. The only defense I can give for those dark six months is that I woke up and saw what I was doing. I stood over that sweet little girl one day around the time she turned two and I continued to do exactly what the Christian parenting experts told me to do. I spanked, and I spanked, and I spanked, and I waited for her to conform. It was about the third spanking I performed that I looked into that baby's eyes and realized what I was doing. I was not going to bend the will of this child. I was going to break her, and I would never be able to fix what I broke if I did so. Futhermore, everything I was struggling with from her were the PRECISE qualities I wanted her to hold onto as an adult to help her thrive and be strong as a woman one day.

That was the day I stopped. I no longer cared what the so-called Christians told me I HAD to do as a good Christian mother. I no longer cared what these experts said would happen if I walked away, nor did I care what their promises whispered if I continued to stay the course. I could see that in six months of this garbage, I had hurt my sweet little girl. I had not made her less stubborn, less strong, less determined. I had pushed this nightmare of discord between us and made myself unsafe for her. I picked up Raising Your Sprited Child that day and discovered that there were better, more loving, more honoring ways to parent a child. I never looked back.

E is stubborn. When that girl makes up her mind on something, wild horses cannot convince her to alter her course. Yet, I know that she will never be one to confirm to peer pressure. That some day when she is fully grown, she will stare down any man who dares to tell her what she can and cannot accomplish and will do the exact opposite to prove she can too. She is courageous. She has never found a challenge she cannot stand against if she chooses to do so. Fear is not an option she allows herself to consider when she sets her mind to something. She is brillant. Truthfully, she's a capable of straight As in school, but like her father and oldest brother has decided that "mostly As" is good enough for an academic record. She grasps mathematical concepts that leave my head spinning and she does them for fun.

Yet, when it comes to people, E is clueless. It was not until we got her diagnosis of Asperian that she and I were able to find a method for me to help her script and see social relationships outside of her own set prejudices of how people function--which had no baring on how people truly function. Even so, she has extremely extroverted. Her lack of grasping social graces meant that only once did the disapproval of others stop her from assuming the best of everyone around her. In fifth grade, we attempted putting E in public school and she lacked both the social graces to know what bullying was, and the experience to protect herself. That disaster was the nightmare that landed E inpatient in the hospital. We nearly lost her to the bullying. Once she was aware that it was bullying, she had no idea how to survive and get away from it. It was that which cranked up her anxiety to a choking level. It has taken years to help her heal.

On the other hand, because she lacks that understanding, she had no qualms about running for student council in a new school she had attended for all of three months. She ran for President and lost by a narrow margin. She invokes admiration from others for her courage and determined persistence regardless of what people think of her. She now has many, many friends, and has been through a slew of boyfriends, primarly because she doesn't grasp disapproval, or if she does she doesn't care and carries on with her intentions anyway.

I have always said that my mother was formed in the fire of mothering E. I have always meant that. Only Micah could rival the tanrums of E's younger days. Only Micah was harder to parent, threw more tantrums, displayed more anxiety and resorted to violence worse than E. Yet, despite all of her challenges, the beauty that E shines forth reminds me every day that challenges can be overcome. From a place where a fifth grade bully informed her that the viral infection she suffered which was causing her checks to be overly red made her look like a pig and thus he was going to give her extra bullying to last her for the summer, to this young woman who has a constant entourage of friends and boyfriends, this child has never let the world and it's opinions hold her back.

She had reached a point where she did not struggle and needed next to no extra help....and then Micah died. E finds herself in the disorienting Asperian dilemma of not liking emotions, yet being a hormaon female adolescent who cannot avoid emotions. The emotions of losing her little brother made her feel guilty, angry at me for not saving him, and devestation that she must even acknowledge and address these emotions in the first place. We work with her to process her grief in therapy and to focus on her outlets when she is not actively in therapy but struggling. Her path forward will be rocky as she integrates her pain into her soul. She's strong enough to find a way.

While this precious child works to find her equlibrium again, we supply her with the artifacts she desperately needs for her coping skills. She creates. When E hurts, she creates. She bakes. She cooks. She writes. She crochets. She sews. We provide kitchen supplies, yarn, fabric and agonizing reminders that she must clean up as well as create, as no one else needs to be required to live in the mess she leaves in the aftermath of her creative spurts. Between being a young teen, and trying to work through the loss of her brother, outsiders see the beauty of E these days, and we see her struggles. We continue to support her through this, as I know the beauty she shows everyone else is just as real as the pain she shows up, but hiding that pain to the world exhausts her right now, so all she has left for us to see is the pain. We have to help her feel it, process it, use it for good, but not spew it upon all of us to try to rid herself of it. It's a slow, painful process for all of us, most especially E.

E's dream is to be a special education teacher. When I finally helped her stop being anger at Micah for all of his struggles and she could grasp why he struggled, she discovered that she alone had a talent to reach him inside of those struggles. She could reach Micah's heart and help him walk through his struggles to calm down, to feel loved. This disocvery led her to realize that she has an amazing talent. She is close enough to what it is like to have these struggles, that this she can understanding. Yet, she's strong enough, smart enough, stable enough that she is not mired in those struggles. She can translate these special children to the world that does not always know how to reach them, and she can translate a world these children cannot understand into an explanation that helps them at least feel safe and function to the best of their abilities. She did several internships and volunteer work with Micah's last teacher because of this discovery. That teacher tells me she has never seen someone like E. When E works through her own adolescence and her own grieving process, she will be the most amazing women. That her journey is not as easy as most does not mean she will not arrive there, but that I beleive she will treasure the accomplishment, and hopefully will retain her strength when she gets there. Twelve years ago, I made a promise to a little girl that I would never again attempt to break her, but would consider it my sworn duty as a mother to guide her, to protect her and to help her arrive at the end of childhood with all of her strength and all of what makes her so beautiful still intact. It's a long, hard road to navigate when the final outcome is to ensure all of her strength remains with her. It's one I believe we will both absolutely reach in one piece, better off for the journey it takes us, even though the journey is harder than any of the other children I parent to get her there.

E made me the mother I am. I hope that I can help her become the woman she was meant to be as well. It has been a priviledge and an honor to be her mother. I'm not sure she will ever understand just how important she was in fashioning me to the mother I am and the things I have been able to accomplish with so many siblings who needed the strenght only E could show me was inside of me too.

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