Trauma is like Peeling an Onion

“Trauma is like peeling an onion

Recovering from child sexual abuse doesn’t happen in a methodic gradual process. They say, the healing process is really more like peeling an onion.

Trauma forces a victim to disconnect. Disconnect from mind, body, heart and soul. The brain may take a traumatic memory and hide them, until the victim is properly equipped with the tools to survive while remembering them. This is the brain’s survival mechanism. The brain does this to protect. To survive.

Abuse adds a new layer of negative beliefs, fear, shame, etc. With every touch of the abuse the victim will disconnect from reality and move farther away from their truest self. Every action of abuse adds a new layer of self loathing, stress, and toxic beliefs.

In my daughter’s case, we were almost year out of her trauma. We believed she told us what happened to her, in it’s entirety, but there was more. Just like the onion, my daughter had more layers to peel through. With every layer she peeled through, it was healing. She grew with each detail she shared with me. At the same time, with every new layer, her parents would be traumatized again with details of her abuse.

A few months after my daughter’s abuse, she developed a phobia of mushrooms and rattlesnakes. She had no issues with mushrooms in the past- unless they were in her food. She had never seen a snake in real life, outside of Petco. So, these were obvious illustrated interpretations of her trauma.

A few months after that, she would cry daily of being wet in her vagina. She changed her underwear constantly. Finally, she started wearing toilet paper and eventually women’s menstrual pads. She was embarrassed of this and it made her insecure in the bathroom and the pool. This was a daily reminder of what he did and said to her during her abuse.

Next, she would confide in me that her vagina feels like a fruit is stuck inside of it. “Like a banana” she would say. This was her physical interpretation of the sensation she felt during her abuse.

Almost a year and a half after her abuse, she would work through more layers.

Getting her into bed one night, she began to cry out that she was wet and she hated that Michael did this to her. This wasn’t unusual and would happen every other night. As I always did, I went on and explained how the female body works and that every woman’s body does this. “Not like this,” she said “I am just weird.” I had told her in the past that what Michael had done to her, was done to me. So, I told her that growing up I felt the same way. This time, she interrupted me and asked where I was hurt. I said, “my vagina, just like you.” She would go on to explain to me that Michael held her down with his hands and put something in the middle of her vagina and butt. She said it hurt her, but she was brave and didn’t cry. Just like that, my Daughter had just voiced to me that she was raped. Almost immediately after that talk, she stopped wearing pads and toilet paper entirely. When I asked her why, she proudly explained to me, “I just don’t need them anymore.” A few weeks after that, she would perform her first ever solo at a friends birthday party. The girl, who just weeks ago, couldn’t do a class presentation in more than a whisper was singing proudly in front of an audience. The song was “A Million Dreams” from the Greatest Showman movie. I felt every word of that song in my soul. Her Dad and I cried watching this beautiful moment. Our girl was literally healing in front of our eyes. When she finished singing, she ran right into her Dad’s arms and consoled him. Like she knew, he needed her.

A month or so later, during a meltdown one day, we were in the car and she told me she hated me. Once she calmed down, she confessed that she was lying and doesn’t hate me. By now, she was able to articulate that she had anger inside of her that couldn’t control. We made a promise to each other, that she would never lie and I would always believe her. Then, she said she lied about Michael. My mind raced at what she could have lied about. Just like with every other layer, I braced for the pain I knew was coming. She would go on to say that Michael was also “mean to her” at a party that her Grandma took her to. This was before the event I knew about, so I asked her how he was mean to her. She responded that he hurt her there too. I probed a bit more and she confirmed, the abuse started before I knew.

A year and a half after her abuse was brought to light she was just starting to open up to me about the details. I felt like a total failure. I let her down. I felt like I didn’t actually know my daughter as well as I thought. My mind went over all of the possible feelings she had to struggle with alone. My sweet girl with her secret. I worried about the future and what else would undoubtedly be shared, as she healed. What secrets was she internalizing right now? How could I help without probing before she was ready? It gives me a better understanding of the fight and internal strength of my girl. It gives me patience as her mother and as a human for anyone dealing with their own trauma. It really does take time to process and heal. YOUR TIME TO PROCESS AND HEAL. Every single person is different. It took me 30 years and my girl has taken almost 2 years to really start peeling the intricate details of her story.

To any survivors, victims, and loved ones of survivors or victims; know that no timeline is wrong. Its not too fast or too slow. Please remember that your best, is always enough. Try to find beauty and strength in the breaking. Try to remember that everything can be healed with love and patience and never underestimate what you can overcome.

Don’t judge yourself by what others did to you.

C. Kennedy, Ómorphi

Repressed memories *Trigger Warning*

If you had asked me two years ago what my thoughts were on repressed memories, I would have told you they were total…. bullshit. I would have told you repressed memories only occurred when a girl had regrets for her lapse in judgement the night before. There is a whole bunch of holes in that statement, but I would learn repressed memories are very real.

They shake your confidence and make you question what you know to be true.

What are they? Repressed memories are defined as memories that have been unconsciously blocked, due to it’s association with a high level of stress or trauma. This theory suggests that even though the individual cannot recall the memory, the memory is still affecting them consciously.

I remember exactly where I was when I had my first repressed memory recovered. It was a normal day…. well normal for us. We were at the lowest of low points for our family. My daughter was deep in processing her trauma. She was changing more and more everyday. More anger, more outbursts. She never seemed happy anymore. Nightmares, phobias, bed wetting and all the effects of her abuse were at their peak. Her behavior was a constant reminder of what happened to her. Her Father and I both were working high stress level jobs. Her baby brother had just turned one. We were both desperately trying to understand and help our daughter and everything seemed to make it worse. Our plates were over flowing. To top it off, we couldn’t articulate our grief and heartbreak to each other, so our relationship was suffering. We both were very much alone at a time we needed to support each other more than ever before. We shared the same goal, but we didn’t know how to come together and unite. This started a cycle of resentment and more isolation.

One night, the kids were sleeping. Their Dad was watching television in the living room and I was sitting on the bed in our bedroom. It was a warm day, so the bedroom window was open to allow the coastal breeze to flow in. I was reading on my phone when I could smell a faint smell of a cigarette. This time, the smell of the cigarette made me feel anxious, dirty and shameful. I instantly had a memory play in mind. This memory had familiar players and places, but the memory itself was brand new. This memory was of my abuse, but abuse I had never remembered until now.

I was in the teal room at my Grandparents house. I was wearing my two piece flowery pajama set. My Dad was laying next to me rubbing my back, then he moved my underwear and pants down to below my knees and began to molest me again. He was laying behind me, with his hands reaching around me and his mouth by my ear. His breathing is deep, wet and slow. His smell is a mixture of alcohol and cigarettes. He got up and began to touch himself, in front of me. His breathing is louder and faster. He was aggressively pleasing himself. His face was scary to 5 year old me. Demon like. He asked me if I liked it. I didn’t. I was scared. I wanted this to stop. I don’t know how a 5 year old has the courage, but this time I let out a very timid “no.” He continued. I stayed frozen. Then he stopped. He got on top of me briefly and molested me again. then he rolled me on my side and got behind me. I remember staring at the hall light in an attempt to disassociate from what was happening to me. One single light surrounded by the darkness of the house. I felt him penetrate me. It felt gentle. Gentler than the way he was touching me with his hands or touching himself. I stared at the light until he was done. He left the room. I don’t remember him saying a word. My underwear and pants still at my ankles, I pulled them back up. I was wet, sticky and alone.

This memory was new. I had never had any memory more than my Dad touching me. My Father had raped me. I kept this new memory inside for months. I saw the replay in my head everyday. Multiple times a day. It felt like it just happened. Again. I googled repressed memories. I read about the theories on whether or not they are real. I doubted myself. I fell hard into isolation and hating the world for what happened to me and then my daughter.

Finally, After another day and night of fights. Fighting with myself, my partner, my daughter, the neighbor- really whoever fell into my path of toxic energy. I hit rock bottom. I wanted to die. I no longer saw myself of any value to my kids, my partner, my friends and family or the world. I didn’t want my daughter to end up this way. To feel this kind of hate for herself. This forced me into therapy. I couldn’t use the words to tell my therapist what happened. I had no problem explaining the molestation, but explaining the rape was different. I just couldn’t get the words out without feeling immense shame. It would take 6 months for me to be able to tell my therapist and my partner. Saying it out loud was the turning point for my healing.

The day I told my therapist the words of what happened to me, was the day I finally allowed myself to FEEL the abuse. Feeling the sounds, the smells, the physical pain… They all were in a section of my brain left untapped for almost 30 years. The trauma and pain of these memories had changed the way I processed interactions in all relationships.

Now it was time to fight.

Triggers on a Tuesday

The word trigger is defined as a small device that releases a spring or catch and so sets off a mechanism.

We are all aware of emotional triggers and you have probably experienced them.

Triggers suck and I don’t mean the slur that is used to describe the lack of emotional intelligence in the younger generation. In some way, we have all experienced an emotional trigger. Maybe, you were out with friends and one makes a comment or joke that fucked you up for the rest of the day. You felt attacked, disliked, shamed, or a host of other negative cognitions about yourself. We all have these. We were all once children and likely all had traumas or mini-traumas and didn’t have the tools to properly process the trauma. In adulthood, when we are reminded of these painful memories, we cope with the pain.

Trauma triggers are things that remind us (on either a conscious or unconscious level) of our original trauma causing us to feel similarly to how we felt at the time of the original trauma. Trauma triggers can be debilitating for the victim and extremely confusing for your loved ones. A trigger can be caused by feelings, actions, smells, objects… you name it.

One example for me is, as an adult, the smell of beer on someone’s breath reminded of my Dad and how I felt during my trauma. It brought on flashbacks and negative thoughts about myself.

Childhood traumatic memories, that are so paralyzing, are not processed normally by the brain. This prevents victims from having the ability to subjectively tie the traumatic events, or the feelings associated with them, to the past event. Due to this faulty processing and storage, when a trauma trigger reminds us of the original trauma, we feel as if we are reliving the trauma in the ‘here and now’ and our reaction is likely to hit us hard emotionally. The responses can be physical/biological, emotional or both. Biological responses can include headaches, stomach aches, nausea, increased heartrate, etc. Emotional responses can include flooding of toxic thoughts, fear, shame, and flashbacks.

In my daughter’s case, her trigger symptoms were both biological and emotional. She would get stomach aches and headaches. She would also scream and cry, bite herself, violently hit herself between her legs, and was checked out. When she got to that point, we could hold her or talk to her. We didn’t understand, I started to think these were some kind of psychotic episode. I talked to her therapist and asked if she thought I needed to see a Psychiatrist for my daughter and explore medications. She educated me on triggers and eased my mind that this was a PTSD symptom that would pass.

I went on a mission to begin to identify all of her triggers. If I could identify them, I could avoid them all together, right? Wrong. I quickly learned a trigger could be something as routine as an ambulance passing by, because maybe, she heard an ambulance when he was hurting her. I thought I could talk to my daughter and she could tell me what her triggers were. Unfortunately, my daughter was 5. She would describe a trigger similar to how she would describe her hate of peas.

We learned that our parenting style would have to change. It would require more patience and talking. Her responses to triggers are sometimes heard as disrespectful- we would have to figure out a way to provide her tools to cope with the trigger, while also teaching her respect and boundaries.

This was hard and a shit show.

We tried a lot of tactics. Most made things worse. What we finally learned was if we gave her a “Relaxation Gummy”, the chewing worked to ground her in a meltdown. Once she is able to calm down, she is apologetic and we are able to talk about what she was/is feeling and what we can do different moving forward. This also fixed our issue with discipline and disrespect. We were now able to calm her before things escalated to a point of needing any discipline. Between you and I, a relaxation gummy is nothing more than a gummy bear. There is nothing in it to make her “relaxed”, but it works for us.

In my case, my triggers impact me with headaches and stomach aches. I also would get depressed and start a toxic coping pattern of unhealthy eating (usually not eating at all) and negative thoughts about myself. My daughter and I started EMDR Therapy (which I will cover in another post) which has significantly helped with the triggers. They are still there, but through therapy we have corrected the processing of the traumatic memories and developed skills to correct the toxic thinking patterns.

I’ll share more on our recovery and coping in other posts as well as therapy. Therapy is not a one size fits all, but I do encourage the act of therapy. Whatever method you choose, I believe you have to FEEL in order to HEAL. To feel you need to become a master in self care. I found that through meditation, journaling, exercise and doing exercises that actively changed my toxic thought patterns.

November 2019 will mark our 2 year anniversary of my daughter’s trauma. We still have some type of reminder everyday of our traumas, but we get better everyday.

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.

Abraham Lincoln

What is Justice?

When we feel pain, we demand justice to those who wronged us. As if that justice will make us feel any better after what happened to us. Over time, as anger sets in and hits it’s peak- the lines between justice and revenge get blurry.

In my case, I never got justice in the literal sense of the word. I was interviewed by detectives. The detectives advised my Mom that going to trial would be additional trauma for me and they didn’t recommend it. She settled on supervised visitations, believing my father would never actually pursue supervised visits. I would see my father a few times after the abuse. My Mom believed he had changed. I desperately wanted my father in my life and openly voiced that to my mom. I know now, that her allowing him in my life added to my internal distress and toxic belief system. I shouldn’t have been given a choice to see that man again. This man had shown no remorse or even admitted to his actions. I continued to blame and hate myself. I questioned my own memories of the events. He called me a liar, maybe I was. I mean, when I saw him, the abuse was never mentioned. For everyone else around me, it was like it never happened. Over time, I turned him into the victim. I believed it wasn’t his fault that he hurt me. I made up a scenario in my mind. I believed he was abused, so he knew no better than what he did. Being allowed to see him again further instilled this belief. The anger I had for what happened to me now had no where to go. I struggled internally. I started displacing my anger on myself, my Mom and everyone else closest to me. This cycle would continue into adulthood. My dad went on to live a very miserable life. His parents died a few years after my abuse. His contact with his siblings, nieces and nephews ceased. He was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Later he would come out as Gay and in even later years, he would transition into a woman. Was this why he did what he did? Were his “wires crossed” from the beginning? Was he Gay and now Trans because he was victimized? Did this change his perception of what his sexual and gender identity should look like? For a time, I put Gay men and transgendered people in this box. Sick dangerous men who had a sick fantasy of children. Predators. I was open and vocal about this hate. I used the Bible to cement and glorify my hate. Another way of displacing my anger. As time went on, and I was more exposed to the LGBTQ community, I knew it was bullshit and I was an asshole. I realized how ignorant and hateful a belief like that is. Mindless, misinformed, toxic beliefs like this take place on minorities everyday in society. Traumatizing good people. There are bad and good people everywhere, all creeds and races. Why, in the actual fuck, should one bad person’s actions define an entire group of people? I’ll say that a bit louder for the people in the back….

Why, in the actual fuck, should one bad person’s actions define an entire group of people?

Stop being stupid.

At the age of 30, I messaged my dad. I sent him a message of forgiveness. At the time, I was trying to prove to myself that forgiveness means healing and I was healed. Right? Right! He responded to that message with a meme. A fucking meme. A cartoon teddy bear embracing a heart was what my abuser responded to my act of offering forgiveness. I maintained casual conversation with him through social media over the next couple of years. As if we don’t already know how ass backwards this is- Let’s think about this. He could see my Facebook Profile. He could see pictures of my children and my family. What a cluster fuck… but in my mind we were both victims of this cycle. Believing that was easier than thinking he was just born with that type of horror in him and the possibility of those horrors living in my gene pool too.

For my daughter, she spoke her truth to detectives the Monday after her abuse. I was sitting next to her when she bravely faced a 6’4, shaved headed, UNIT of a man with a gun on his hip, and spoke that truth. This time, when she was asked if that was the first time Michael had done this to her, she would say no. She would tell him it actually happened three times on the same day. He showed her a picture and asked her to point on the part of the body where he hurt her. She pointed at the vagina, chest and butt. I opened up a CPS investigation as well as the police investigation. I was determined to get justice for my daughter. At the time, I would have told you justice would be him serving time for the horrors he did to my daughter. His parents would feel the pain of what their incompetent parenting had caused. Weeks…. then months went by. My step-sister, for one reason or another, would make up a different excuse each time and keep Michael away from the detectives. By now, my demand for justice was all consuming. I thought about it every day and every night, but it no longer looked the same. Now, I needed him out of that house. I need him out of a house that would surely lead him to more self loathing, more violence and more hate. In that house, Michael was always treated poorly, surely now they have a reason to treat him poorly.. maybe worse. I worried he would hurt more children. I worried he would go further. He needed help and protection from his parents and his self. His siblings and society needed protection from him. I called the detective everyday for status. I reached out to my step-sister directly and was greeted with “fuck you.” I reached out to my step-sister’s mother. By now, I am in tears. I am begging her to help me move this forward. I remember her asking me, what exactly I expect to happen to him because “CPS already closed the case.” I responded with, I want him out of that house and away from the children. I reminded her that he was not in a position where he could get treatment. He was in a position to be groomed, even if not of intent of his parents, to turn even more violent. Murder. School shootings. I apparently touched a nerve. I was called various disgusting names, told “fuck you and your family” then promptly blocked. I had no way of communication at that point with Michael’s family. It would ultimately take almost 5 months before Michael sat down to speak with the detective. He would be accompanied by his step-mother, my step-sister, and would say a very different story than his 5 year old accuser. The detective told me he believed he was lying and believed he was coached by his step-mother, but he had done all he could do and would proceed to submitting the case to the District Attorney. The DA would review the case and decide whether or not to proceed with charges. There was nothing more I could do, but wait. The detective advised me that this could take months and to be patient. Patient.

As months continued to pass, there was no change to Michael’s life, but the changes to my daughter we quick and they were drastic. I barely recognized the girl she had become only 6 months after the abuse. The once outgoing girl was now so shy and fearful of everyone. She struggled with family and friendships. She no longer had interest in hobbies she once enjoyed. The once curious and adventure seeking girl was now was riddled with fears, anxieties, and phobias. The once affectionate girl, now didn’t hug or acknowledge most family members. The once healthy girl, now suffered from constant stomach aches and headaches. Lastly, the girl who was once had no better friend than her Daddy now seemed like she hated him. It was agonizing to watch their relationship change. Her Dad was and is an amazing Dad. She didn’t want to do much with him. Would rarely hug him. She grew an unhealthy attachment to me and her Dad didn’t understand why. He went through the motions of pain, anger and blame. It had a huge impact on him, on us and our family. The thought of being patient made me furious and I became desperate for revenge. I thought it couldn’t get worse, but it could and it did.

By the one year anniversary of her abuse, we hit a peak of pain and chaos. My daughter was on a path to fail 1st grade. Her confidence was shot and learning new things made her disassociate or go into her episodes. Every morning she would cry when I left her at school. She had no friends and struggled to make them while her phobias of mushrooms and snakes threw her into panics. She would wet the bed, have nightmares or cry in her sleep every night. The memory of what he did now had physical effects on how she felt. She would break down because her vagina “felt wet” after what he did. Sometimes she would have a full blown meltdown because she couldn’t get it to stop. Some days she cried because she felt like a fruit was stuck inside of her, like a banana, she would say. Headaches and stomach aches were an everyday, multiple time a day, occurrence. Her emotions were all over the place and the slightest thing would set her off into her episodes. She would scream uncontrollably, bite herself and hit herself in the vagina. She called herself negative things. She was in therapy, but therapy wasn’t working and we were on our third. Her Dad and I were considering custody options and living separately. We were both in immense pain and we weren’t communicating. I was also in survival mode. I was trying to survive and still be the best parent I could be, my relationship was the last priority at that time.

Fast forward to now. My Daughter is finally with a therapist that she loves. Her treatment is successful and we are seeing signs of healing and growth. I began EMDR therapy about 8 months ago and it is showing successful. Her Dad and I are more committed than ever to making this work and for the first time ever… I believe we can. Our family is strong.

Michael is in a facility. We told my daughter he was in a “Hospital Jail” to help his brain heal. We told her that because of her bravery, he would get help and not hurt anymore girls like her. That made her proud, but she cares deeply about his well-being. We’ve assured her he was well treated and told her he can visit his family as often as he wants. She wanted to write him a letter and we allowed her to. Her letter to him was forgiveness and it was unprompted. She would say in the letter that she was sorry he was in Hospital Jail, but that he will get better soon. This letter would go on to say that she forgives him and she is not angry at him anymore. I had mixed feelings about her letter, but I pretended to send it anyways. I don’t know if it is healthy for her to no longer be angry with him, but I also know anger is unhealthy to carry. In truth, we know nothing about where he is at or the help he is getting. We just know he is in a facility. We also know he will never receive any letters from her and he will never see her again.

Knowing he is in a facility doesn’t change my feelings over this whole situation. It doesn’t take away from the emotional, physical, mental and financial burden this has had on my daughter and my family. I do, however, have a different perspective of justice now and I do feel like our family is getting justice. Our justice is love. Our justice is healing from a trauma together. Our justice is no longer questioning why and no longer seeking revenge. Our justice is allotting only so much time (eventually no time) to being angry and spending time on things only within our control. Our justice is a stronger us. I really love us.

There is no such thing as justice- in or out of court.

Clarence Darrow

Moana Found Her Voice *Trigger Warning*

It was the day after Thanksgiving. I was hungover and still reeling from the night before. I had no idea how to approach this situation. Should I ask her directly? Will asking her directly form her memory of what actually happened? Did anything actually happen? Will I just know something is wrong? Will she form a negative opinion or feeling about herself based on my response? my expression? my body language?

My Daughter woke up around 8am and came downstairs. She sat down next to me and cuddled. She was a bit clingier than usual. I thought maybe she was tired? She became defiant and disrespectful to her Dad. Still trying to tie her behavior to being overly tired, when a nap didn’t work, we took the kids out. We went to lunch and then to Color me Mine. (A place where you paint different types of pottery). She was quieter than usual. Clingier than usual. A general sadness was on her face. In her eyes. We drove home. Her, her Dad, her baby brother and myself were in the car. I decided I would ask an innocent question and see where it leads.

What were all of you playing in the backyard last night, when you were sitting on Michael’s lap?” With more detail than a 5 year old typically has, she explained to me what every other child was doing in the backyard and exactly where they were. I instantly knew, this was too much detail for a random day. Something traumatic happened. Something so bad that she focused on everything going on around her, to escape from what was happening to her. She wouldn’t say what her or Michael were doing. I decided I would talk to her alone.

We got home and I convinced her to come to the store with me. I got a couple blocks from the house and decided I would try one more time.

What were all of you playing in the backyard last night, when you were sitting on Michael’s lap?” This time her response was “I didn’t want to. I told him to stop.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I did everything I could to focus all of my energy on HER. Showing her love. Showing her support. I couldn’t let her see the rage and pain that was inside.

I asked her directly, if Michael hurt her. She replied that “it hurted. He wouldn’t let me go.” She started crying and said “I wanted to tell you but he told me I couldn’t tell you and Dad. I was scared.” I asked her to show me where he touched her, she pointed to her vagina. I asked her if it was under her panties or on top. First, she said under then said, “I don’t know.” I knew at this point that any other questions I had, would have to wait. My daughter was vulnerable right now, but incredibly brave. She needed to feel safe right now.

I pulled over.

I told her how proud I was of her. I told her she will never, ever see him again. I thanked her for telling me. I told her how brave she was. I think I said I love you a hundred times. I told her I was sorry. In my daughter’s stoic fashion she replied “it’s ok, Mom.”

I started driving home. I needed to get out of her sight. I needed to break down. My pain was becoming palpable and I didn’t want her to see or feel that. I told her I forgot my wallet and we had to stop at home. I left her in the garage. Then I went inside and broke her father’s heart with 4 words.

“He fucking touched her!”

I remember he was holding the baby. When I told him his face went white. It was a heartbreak I have never seen on this man. I told him I needed to leave and pull myself together. He agreed. We both knew her seeing me in that state would risk negative feelings about herself and her actions. I didn’t realize until later what incredible strength and love it took for him in that moment. To be completely selfless. To have 5 seconds to hear those words and then comfort his daughter. To allow me time to break, before he could. When we both needed to.

I drove a block away and parked. I called my sister-in- law. She was at a party and shouldn’t have answered… but she did. I’m so thankful for her and the strength she gave me in that moment. I cried and screamed into the phone explaining what happened. I kept saying how my daughter “would never be the same.” My worst fear had just materialized. My daughter has fallen victim to the same trauma that has controlled me for most of life. She would never be normal. Her life would be hard. It wasn’t fair. My anger and heartbreak were palpable. My sister-in-law listened. In a shaky voice she responded that we would get through it and my daughter would be OK. My sister-in-law was able to get me to a place where I could go home and comfort my child.

I came home. I hugged my daughter again. and again. She went up to her room to play in her castle tent, which would later become her safe place. A few minutes later, I went up to check on her. She was still quiet. I reminded her again, how brave she was. She asked me if she would ever see Michael again. I said, no. Then, she asked if I was going to tell Michael what she said. I wasn’t sure how to answer that question, so I said “I don’t have to tell him.” I told her she could choose. I said, “I can tell Michael what you told me and you can never see him again or I can not tell Michael what you told me and you will still never see him again.” She thought about the choices for a few seconds. Then she looked up at me, smiled and said, “tell him Moana is very upset with what he did and I never want to see him again.”

I was blown away by her response that night. She was the victim. She was five. Her abuse had just happened. A day earlier! Somehow she already knew he was wrong. She already had anger for what he did. She had an old soul with a resiliency and heart that I was so proud of. I knew her anger was a good sign.

After she went to sleep that night, her Dad and I finally got a chance to speak candidly. We both agreed, before going to the police, we should call Michael’s parents and let them know what she had told us. We finally spoke with Michael’s mother. We told her what we were told and got silence for a few moments. When she finally responded, her response was not apologies or empathy. She would go on to tell us that she doesn’t trust him alone with her daughter. She has alarms on his doors to hear him if he gets up at night. In an effort to explain his actions, she went on to say that he has the “mentally of a six year old and may be autistic.”

Let me be clear. What he did to my daughter was not curiosity. He was not playing Doctor. His actions were predatory. He held my child down and hurt her. He threatened her not to tell her parents.

I was angry. Did she know he was capable of this? Why didn’t she tell us? If she wanted to protect him and keep his issues confidential, why didn’t she watch him? As parents and as mothers we should be in this together for our children.

I went to bed that night heartbroken and angry. Toxic negative thinking controlled my mind. I kept thinking about what my daughter went through and how her father and I were only a few feet away. heartbroken over what she would face moving forward.

Somewhere in between all of the heartbreak was pride.

I was so proud of my daughter.

Her courage. Her bravery.

I was proud of her parents, because together, we made sure the first people she told believed her and allowed her to regain her feeling of safety.

I still had so many questions. We still didn’t know exactly what he did or how far he went. I would learn later that we will likely never fully know what he did. With no experience or comparison, a five-year-old cannot articulate sexual abuse. Over the next few months, we would get grim clues. Her triggers and feelings months after the abuse would lead us to believe it was more than touching.

Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.

Danielle Bernock, Emerging with Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, and the Love That Heals

The Day Our World Changed

It was Thanksgiving, 2017. I had a 5 year old daughter and 5 month old baby boy. Thanksgiving would be held at our usual spot, my Mom’s house, with the same family that we have spent Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas with over the years.

The car and kids were loaded with dishes, infant necessities and water toys (November in California was unusually hot this year). We got there before the rest of the family arrived. I watched our son while his Dad cooked and my daughter played in the kids pool we had in the backyard.

Around 5pm, the family showed up. The family would be my deceased Step-Father’s Dad, some of our close friends, my step-sister, her husband and their 5 kids. Their 5 kids included 4 boys and 1 girl with ages ranging from two years old to fourteen years old. The kids all immediately started playing. Michael, the oldest son of my step-sister, came to me and eagerly asked to hold my son.

Michael was the son of my step-sister’s husband from a previous relationship. Over the years, we always felt sadness for Michael. He seemed to be the one singled out by my step-sister… Never abusive, but definitely borderline abusive. When we saw him, he was a good kid. High energy, but very eager to gain approval and acceptance of the adults. A few years earlier, on Christmas, Michael had actually asked if he could go home with us. To this day, that memory haunts me. I wish I had probed a bit on that question, but I assumed he asked because we had such a good time playing games, laughing and enjoying all the Christmas magic that night.

I let Michael hold my son. My step-sister came flying around the corner and told Michael to give her the baby to hold, but gave him a look of disgust or anger… I couldn’t tell what it was or why. It was just weird to me, but my step-sister always treated him poorly. At some point, the kids all made their way into the very large backyard. The sounds of hide and go seek, tag and children’s laughter filled the backyard. Soon, dinner was ready. I opened the sliding glass door to tell the kids it was time come wash up, for dinner. I saw my daughter sitting on Michael’s lap in the dark corner of the patio.

I will never forget the look on my daughter’s face when we locked eyes.

Her look was fear and shame. I knew that look. I felt it in my soul. I instinctually knew he did something to her. I yelled at both of them to get up and come inside. I still regret yelling at them. At her. My entire life, I had grown used to ignoring my intuition, but this time it was blaring. My frustration, fear and countless other emotions took over and I yelled. If I knew then what I know now, I would have ran outside, I would have protected her and held her.

Once the kids were inside. I pulled her Dad aside. I told him what I saw. What I felt. What I thought happened. He quickly assured me that this was in my head. Nothing happened. Nothing was going to happen. He told me we would keep an eye on them, but not to worry. I continued to worry, but attempted to use my mind to outweigh my intuition- just like I always had. I couldn’t this time.

Her Dad returned a few minutes later. He said he believed that Michael was trying to hurt our daughter. He said he did not believe anything had happened, but he did not trust Michael. I would later learn, that her Dad had lost sight of her. He looked for her and found her in the front yard with… Michael. Michael’s hands were on her shoulders and he was trying to convince her to stay with him and not to go inside. Her Dad confronted Michael at that time, he threatened him. “If you look at or touch my daughter again, I will kill you.” Michael asked him if this was “because of what I’ve done at school?” Not knowing what that was, her Dad just said yes.

We watched the two of them throughout the night. Adamantly. I would have periodic bouts of tears and anger, but no outlet. This kid is 14. I have no evidence or proof anything happened. My daughter was still seeking him out to play and keeping them apart was a constant battle.

At this point, Michael’s parents had left to take her Grandfather home and had been gone for almost 2 hours. I noticed at the time that they left all of the boys with us, but took their daughter. Their daughter was 2 and this was uncharacteristic of my step-sister, who typically took every opportunity to leave her kids with a sitter. When they finally returned, they loaded up the car to head home. Michael came to me and said goodbye, but this time he called me the wrong name. Something about this triggered something in me. I had known this kid since he was 6, he’s always known my name.

The drive home was somber. Both kids fell asleep. Her Dad and I continued to try to convince ourselves that nothing happened. Her Dad mentioned that saying goodbye to Michael was a little weird this time. This time Michael would grab his had and firmly shake it, all while maintaining a smirk that her Dad didn’t understand. I still remember her Dad saying on the ride home, “it was creepy.”

We got home and unloaded the car. Both kids were in bed and their Dad had passed out on the couch. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t shake the feeling I had. I still can’t put into words what I felt like that night. Its like I knew that day would change our family. forever. I decided I would make a drink. Self-Medicating is how I got through all the hard things in my adult life. I drank a lot. I drank all night. I couldn’t get drunk enough to stop feeling what I was feeling. My intuition was tired of being silenced. Tonight it would be heard.

I finally managed to fall asleep. The next day, my daughter would tell me what I knew. She was hurt by Michael.

Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive

Kesha- Praying

Blessing # 2

It was 2016. I was training for my 3rd half marathon. I took my pre-workout and headed out for my maintenance run. I went 1/3 of a mile around the corner and through the gate that housed the park. The park had a good trail run circling it, that totaled 3 miles. I felt great. I got to the entrance of the trail and saw an old man picking a wild flower. In my mind, I pictured him being a loving husband picking that for his loving wife of umpteen years. I cried. Wait. What? Why am I crying. I don’t cry. I tightened my ponytail and went on my way up the trail. At the top of the trail the sun was mid rise. I saw a man kneeling to pray facing the sun.

::::Its Happening Again:::

The water starts flowing from my eyes and nose. The sounds begin. Its hiccupping sobs. I am freaking Kim K crying again? I KNOW this cry because I only cry like this in death and in pregnancy. From the trail, I ran to the local grocery store, which was on the way home. I purchased a pregnancy test. An hour later, it was confirmed

Boom. PregnantAgain

Baby # 2 was unplanned. That’s right. At 32 years old, I now will have not just one but two unplanned babies. This was a completely different time in my life. My relationship was stable. I was financially stable. I had been at this “Momming” gig for 5 years now. Going into my 2nd pregnancy was much different than my 1st.

I showed early with my 2nd. So, speculations started when I was 7 weeks pregnant. You read right, people actually asked me if I was pregnant before I had even seen a Doctor. Now the fun pregnancy announcement we had planned would not happen.

PSA FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO BE REMINDED DO NOT ASK A WOMAN IF SHE IS PREGNANT. EVER.

THIS WILL INSTANTLY MAKE YOU AN ASSHOLE.

A few weeks went by and it was time for the gender ultrasound. My sweet daughter had already named this baby Khloe. She would tell everyone about the sweet sister she had in my stomach. She was so excited to have a little sister. Imagine her excitement when the Ultrasound tech said, “see that thing right there! Its a boy!”

As soon as my 4 year old daughter heard that she fell to her knees in agony.

“BUT I WANTED A SISTER NAMED KHLOEEEEEEE!”

Weeks went by. She would beg me daily to have a girl. Every day she would tell me all of the reasons having a girl is better than a gross boy. Daily she would throw a temper tantrum over the fact that I was still pregnant with a boy. Every. Fucking. Day.

After a few months, my daughter would come around to the idea of having a boy, though she would always make it known that she wanted a sister named Khloe.

Your second child is so different than your first. Your busier, so you don’t find the time to bond with your little growing baby. I worried if I would love him, like I love her. How could I love anyone the way I loved her. I didn’t feel close to him, like I did with her.

Months went by. I got bigger and bigger. I was pregnant FOREVER. Seriously. At the time, the world was anxiously awaiting April the Giraffe to give birth. I was due before her. She delivered before me.

I had reached a point in my life where I was jealous of a Giraffe. In the last months of my pregnancy, everything hurt and getting up came with sound effects. His movements would hurt my small frame. His Dad would watch him move at night and one night he would ask me, “Does that hurt you? It looks like it hurts you. I can’t believe how uncomfortable that looks” There was literally no more annoying question and observation than that at that time. Yes, it is really fucking uncomfortable. My body was broken and I would be pregnant forever…. FOR-E-VER (in my best Sandlot impersonation)

In the last few weeks leading up to my due date, I was doing all of the labor inducing tricks. You name it, I tried it. Pineapple. Walking. Labor induction salad, Twerking til my water broke… which it didn’t. I even wrote him a letter to kindly GTFO of my uterus.

A week past his due date. I woke up and rolled my self out of bed to pee. Just then my water broke. I woke up his Dad and excitedly shouted “It’s happening! My body is not broken! My water broke!” We both got up, showered, did some laundry and prepared my hospital bag. My cousin showed up to watch my little girl and I proudly headed to the hospital feeling on top of the world because, hey, girl HEEEEY, my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to do. I arrived at the hospital and proudly announced to the nurses, that MY WATER HAD BROKEN. They took me to a room and tested me for amniotic fluid, to ensure my water had actually broken. The nurse proceeded to tell me that many women come in thinking their water broke, but they had actually just urinated. I laughed. I laughed at how much it must suck for those women to think they were finally going into labor, just to find out they pissed their pants. Must suck to be them….

15 minutes later the nurse returns. My test showed it WAS NOT amniotic fluid and I must have urinated and confused that with my water breaking. Obviously, the test was wrong! I demanded they test me again. 15 minutes later…

Boom. You pissed yourself.

I was a hot mess at this news. I was angry that I was not going to have my baby today. I was embarrassed because we sent our families text messages that my water broke. If I didn’t give birth within 24 hours, the jig would be up! The whole family would know I peed my pants. After a few laps around the hospital and a call to my Doctor, they decided to induce me. I was a week over my due date and dilated to a 5. It was sweet, sweet victory! The whole family would not know that I had just pissed myself and in a few hours I would have my baby.

I labored for 4 hours. I got the epidural, so my labor was again filled with popsicles, social media updates and rest. Around 6pm the nurses brought my favorite littlest cart that held the tiniest diaper and tiniest hat.

I pushed for two hours. Nothing. This was very different than my 15 minute push with my daughter. He was big and my frame was small. His delivery was filled with suspense and fear. I was approaching the danger zone. FINALLY, he made it out at over 8lbs. He was perfectly healthy and he had the most beautiful red hair.

A few hours later, his sister came to meet her baby brother. She jumped on the bed with me and excitedly put her arms out to hold him. We placed him in her arms and she said with the sweetest voice, “we have to keep this baby forever, right? Cuz this is our baby.”

And just like that, my daughter was promoted to big sister and we were now a party of four. Our family felt whole and for a few months, life felt perfect.