This is the Roar in My Head

I’ve hit a wall.

There are so many issues going on around me right now in the world, I don’t know how to even begin to process them. There are so many things running through my mind, I can’t even begin to name them all, much less think clearly about one issue before another had crowded that one out. My mind is like a hurricane, never a lull in the pounding of thoughts and questions and just stuff.

I’ve tried to sit down and write at least five times in the past two weeks, but something called generalized anxiety disorder has sort of gotten in the way. Do you know just how utterly exhausting it is to feel multiple times in an hour that feeling like something big is about to happen, you can’t stop it, and that chill/stomach dropping feeling hits you over and over and over? That’s been my life over the past three weeks. And you know what the worst part is? I have no clue what I’m anxious about. My therapist told me that that’s why it’s real anxiety because there is nothing causing it, so to speak. Depression has been there, but it’s been up and down. Besides the anxiety, everything else has been smooth. That’s one of the hardest parts, I feel fine otherwise, I feel happy, content, and mostly pretty good, except for the moments of this jittery, stomach dropping feeling which is just confusing, a little terrifying because I have no control over it, and I don’t like it, I don’t want to feel like this, I’m not choosing to feel like this.

Ender is one of the easiest babies I have ever seen and yes, I know, I could jinx myself, but I’m not taking anything for granted. Today he is easy, yesterday he was easy, tomorrow? Well, tomorrow he could be really fussy and I could feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m taking each day as it comes with Ender, and I’m loving watching him grow, discover his tongue, fingers, and watch the understanding glow in his eyes as he turns his hands in front of his face. I love watching him clutch his blankie to his chin with both hands clutched in fists and the little contented look that comes over his face is enough to make my heart melt. All of the things I adore about caring for Ender and being with him doesn’t change the anxiety, it doesn’t change what goes on in my head all. day. long.

Any sort of postpartum depression/anxiety is not something the general public really seems to take seriously nor do they understand it. I’ve been having a few flashbacks to last year’s really bad depression. I know depression, I know MY depression and I’m grateful I haven’t hit depths this summer like I did last year. I haven’t talked about what I’m feeling because I know it’s the pre-programmed response of most people to just write it off as “baby blues” which I know this isn’t. I don’t want to be dealing with this but I am. It is really uncomfortable to not feel like myself and to feel this close to how I felt during last year’s darkness  It’s the dark not-fun side of motherhood, recovery, and it’s real. To brush it off as only hormones would only serve to diminish a legitimate thing our bodies do, and it’s an insult to what I and so many other mothers deal with.

Phil keeps mentioning how quiet I am. I don’t really have the words to explain accurately to him just how many things are roaring around in my mind. I don’t realize how quiet I’ve gotten because it’s awfully loud inside my head. I think I’m quiet because I’m trying to keep everything under control, all of my energy is going to trying to contain the hurricane in my head. After writing my last post about the testimony of an un-christian, I’ve become aware with such clarity about where I stand. I’m standing at a massive crossroad, or rather, I’m walking towards the path I know I will choose, but I’m having to make decisions and choices as I walk. Decisions about my faith, belief system, my past, my present, my future; all of these are also adding to the already loud buzz in my head.

I don’t like being so quiet, but to open my mouth and talk about what is in my head is more frustrating than staying quiet. Everything is connected but it would take hours and very very careful explaining to piece everything verbally together. Imagine feeling like there is a lock on your mouth and you are the only one who can unlock it but the key is nowhere to be found. The frustration I feel as I stand in church and wonder why I’m there other than to just have some sort of social interaction, the paranoia/panic when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t hear my very soft breathing baby. The frustration I feel when I see, hear, anything about god, the bible, or see verses quoted. That frustration is a special kind of frustration and one I’m not ready to talk about with anyone other than Phil and one of my closest friends and my therapist.

Another part of this big crossroad is what I am going to do with my blog. With where I am emotionally and mentally these days, I’m not sure I have the words or if I even care enough to keep writing here. I think I’m waiting for something, and I think that something is a hopeful move to California in the coming year. I am done with the culture, environment, and just the people on the east coast. I want a new start, I want to be able to breathe without fearing the retaliation of those around me to the direction I know I’m going in and the decisions I’m going to make.

So yes, I’ve hit a wall, I’m in a holding pattern, waiting, trying to wrestle with the roar in my head all while dealing with exhausting anxiety that I don’t want to be feeling but can’t seem to shake. In the meantime, I don’t know how often I’ll post. A lot of the past year has involved increasingly inward processing and I’m only writing when I’m confident with what I’ve decided/chosen, and only then will I post it publicly. I think I will get to the point where I will be able to fully disclose what I’ve chosen and why but I’m not in an area where I feel safe doing that, nor am I ready to fully disclose where I’m heading because I can’t handle the lose of what I’m going to loose when I do do that.

This is me.

Me and the roar inside my head.

Testimony of an Un-Christian

Trying to pin down a topic long enough in my brain to get anywhere with writing it out has been almost impossible. Ever since getting pregnant and now being a mom, I’ve been painfully aware of just how busy one’s mind can get. My mind bounces around over hundreds of topics and it has only been in the past week where I have finally felt the ability to properly organize my thoughts return to me. So please bear with me as I work through the jumble of thoughts I have as I try to write this post out.

I was sitting in the nursing mothers’ room at church yesterday and half listening to the baptisms that were happening downstairs while nursing Ender. Something caught my attention as those being baptized gave their testimonies. All of the three testimonies I heard started out with “I was raised in a Christian home but I _____(fill in the blank),” consisting of having wandered, or messed up, or slept around and became a single mother with no money or job, or something along those lines. I listened as these people described becoming a Christian and turning their lives over to the Lord. The only thought in my mind was what would it be like for someone like me to give a testimony. What would it be like for someone like me to give a testimony about going in the opposite direction than those being baptized?

Ever since I first walked into that office a year ago April and wrote “I just need help” on the form for my therapist, I have been slowly unraveling and accepting the questions that had built up inside for years. Some weeks it’s felt like I have had more breakthroughs than my mind can handle, and at other times, there’s been nothing but silence for months. When I wrote my Goodbye Christianity posts, I had just gone through several series of hard breakthroughs which included realizing that I was okay with not calling myself a Christian anymore. I’m still in that spot and perhaps I have even gone beyond now.

I have been having a lot of difficulty understanding why I once “believed” what I believed. I don’t understand how I could have been so blinded or brainwashed.The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think I never really did believe what I thought I did while growing up. I worked hard to keep the doubts and questions below the surface, but I think they have always been there, especially as I remember clear moments throughout the years where I distinctly felt uneasiness.

I have reached the conclusion, for myself personally, that a lot of Christianity exists for finding peace of mind. Praying, for instance, is something I do when I am uneasy about something, such as hoping Phil gets home from work safely when there are several massive thunderstorms coming through. I do not see any other purpose to prayer other than giving yourself peace of mind. I pray so that I can create a sense of peace for myself. I don’t really believe God, as Christians believe God, exists. I do believe there is a higher being of some sort, everything around us is proof of that. But, I don’t believe there is a god who answers prayers. I’m not willing to blindly believe or have faith in a god I’m not sure actually exists. Too many things have happened in my life that if there really was a God and he was the loving being Christians make him out to be, I don’t believe he would have allowed those things to happen. I don’t agree with the “all things will work out for good” line of thinking anymore, at least when it comes to God causing all things to work out for good. I believe life happens and it’s up to us to make our experiences worth something.

I don’t believe anymore in the idea of God having a plan for my life. I don’t understand and cannot wrap my mind around the two conflicting ideas of God somehow knowing everything I’m going to speak, do, think, and the idea of free will. Those two ideas do not go together and please don’t try to give me a theological argument are why they do, I don’t believe they do, and that’s enough for me. Free will does not happen when a puppet master controls the strings.

I really do wonder what it would be like for someone who has gone the opposite direction in faith and beliefs than new believers to give a testimony. It is weird to sit there and hear someone talk about, sometimes with great passion, sometimes in a strained monotone, the things I used to believe in and then to look at where I am now.

I am someone who doesn’t believe in a god who controls every aspect of my life. I don’t believe in prayer as something that a god will answer. I am an un-christian and frankly, I don’t even know fully what that means or where I am going. Most of all, I’m completely okay with exactly where I am and I feel no rush, no pressure, and no urge to move in any direction other than the one I am going in wherever that may be.

I am regaining my grip on who I am and this is only the first part of many parts to come.

 

Holding Onto Me

I have a one month old. I have been a mommy for one month. And for one month I have already felt the wrestling in my spirit as I try to maintain hold on ME and not let being “Ender’s mommy” become my whole identity. I did not expect to have to fight or be so quickly sucked into me being drowned out by being a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I adore being this little magoo’s mommy, and I love seeing how he loves to be near me and in my arms. I just can’t afford to lose myself just because of this new experience. I fought too damn hard and long to get to where I am now just to lose that ground by falling back into a preset box.

I sat crying in front of my therapist last week about how numb I felt and how scared I was that I was losing me. I told her I knew I would excel at being a mom because that’s what I’m good at; I take on a challenge and I excel because that’s how I’ve learned to approach life. There is no excuse, I have to do my best. The challenge of motherhood is something I dove into with all I am. She flipped it around on me though, she said to see this as a challenge of holding onto me, holding onto who I am and adding motherhood to my identity.

So since then I have been mulling over how I can maintain my grip on my identity and how I can add motherhood to who I am already without allowing it to completely overcome me. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I know it’ll be a challenge and I like the sound of that.

My first big step towards maintaining my identity will be taking charge of my fertility. In a few weeks I will be going on birth control, and I can’t explain just how excited I am about that. It has been so irritating watching the continual arguments going back and forth across my facebook feed about the whole Hobby Lobby debacle and while I do not have the energy or time to put into expressing my thoughts, I will only say I am so glad I have the option to get birth control and my insurance will pay completely for it. I have seen so much slut shaming going on towards women who have chosen to use birth control simply because they don’t want to get pregnant. I am adding myself to those crowds of women as I have no medical reason to go on birth control. I just want to have sex with my husband without worrying about getting pregnant again and I am not ashamed to admit that. I want to have sex without “consequences” and I’m very glad to have that option available to me without extra costs.

For my own mental health and safety, I can’t even think about getting pregnant again any time in future without starting to have a panic attack. While being pregnant was something my body did incredibly well, mentally, it was ten times more rough. I would rather be mentally healthy and physically healthy and only have one child than be mentally on the verge of a total breakdown and a house full of kids. I practically raised most of my siblings, I nannied, I have had my fair share of raising multiple kids, I don’t need to experience that again to know that isn’t for me. I love the idea of being able to love, care for, and raise Ender, and only Ender. I want him to experience the things I never did, and both Phil and I are totally okay with only having one child. Now, if that decision should change in say, three years, then we’ll revisit having a second child. But for now? It’s more important that I protect my mental health than expanding our family.

I have already had several people tell me that I’ll change my mind about getting pregnant again, but that’s not for anyone but me to decide. Where I am right now does not mean that I am incapable of making that decision with a clear mind and it certainly does not mean I will not stick with my decision because “things change.” This is me putting my foot down and maintaining my hold on my identity, this is me protecting me. This is me being responsible with my body and health because now is the time to think about this not when we’re accidentally pregnant again when I didn’t take the time to protect myself. This is me saying my fertility and sexuality are mine to do what I decide to do with it. My fertility is not something Phil can control or force me to do something I don’t want to do, my sexuality is not his either. This is me choosing to control whether we will get pregnant again or not because I value being all there mentally and physically for my son and my husband. This is me saying to every woman out there however you choose to live your life and hold your own body is up to you and no one else.

Now, excuse me while I go snuggle with a little munchkin. Being his mommy and not losing myself is a challenge I accept.

He’s Here!

Tiny little fingers wrap around mine as I hold the little being who looks like a perfect mix of my husband and I. Watching him sleep is just as fascinating as watching him while he’s awake. His little twitches, funny faces, random full smiles, smirks, rolls of his eyes, they’re all just so amazing it’s hard to want to sleep or doing anything else while he is awake or sleeps.

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Ender Flynn Royer was born at 11:45am, Sunday, the 15th of June, 2014. He weighed exactly 7 pounds on the dot and is a long 20 1/2 inches. I was scheduled for an induction on Monday morning, and when it was scheduled, I was done, I had an end day in mind, I had something to count down to. Phil kept trying to get me to go for walks, bounce on my exercise ball, do squats, but I told him I was done; I was done trying to go into labor, I was done pushing myself, I was just going to focus on counting down to Monday.

Friday we ended up heading into the hospital because I was pretty sure I was leaking fluid. I was sent home after an hour because the fluid test was negative. Friday night, after absolutely soaking through several pairs of underwear, I knew for sure my water was majorly leaking. I waited until Saturday late afternoon to call though, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle going back in only to be sent home again. I broke down on the phone with my doctor telling her I just couldn’t be sent home, I just couldn’t. She said she couldn’t promise anything, but she still wanted me to come in, she said this all sounded very promising. Once again, we packed up the bags, put everything in the car and headed to the hospital for the second time in as many days. Only this time, as soon as I had gotten off the phone, I started having a few noticeably strong contractions.

I felt numb as I sat there waiting to see if I would test positive for fluid this time. It took the triage nurse a long time before coming back with the results of the test strip, this time, my doctor was with her. “You passed! we’re going to admit you.” she said, big smile on her face. I asked if it was possible to get a room with windows, so it took almost an hour to get into a room, but it was worth it as the room I got was huge. We had a three window view facing east and it was so helpful being able to see out and not feel claustrophobic. By the time I got settled into the room it was about 8 in the evening on Saturday now, and it was starting to feel like contractions were picking up. My doctor came in to check me and at the same time broke the rest of my water. She didn’t even need to use that little stick tool thing, my water broke with just her checking me. I was 4cms and 100% effaced.

Contractions were obviously starting to pick up, still bearable, but stronger. Emotionally, I somehow knew I was going to have to buckle down and focus really soon. My dear friend Sherry showed up around 9:30 and just in time too, as it was like a switch flipped and contractions fell into a pattern, 5 minutes apart. There was this sense of relief as it suddenly dawned on me that the very thing I didn’t think my body was capable of was actually happening. I was actually in labor and I hadn’t needed to be induced. I had been in bed when she got there because having fluid gush every time I moved was not very pleasant. But as the contractions got closer together and I had to start seriously focus on breathing to get through them, I knew I had to get off my back. I had remembered from the tour we took that the hospital had birthing balls, so between contractions I asked for one because I knew that would help. It took three or four contractions before I was able to get out of bed and onto the ball. It helped, but the relief was shortly felt because every time I moved, another contraction would spring on me.

Three hours after Sherry arrived, another nurse came in to check me again and see where I was at. I had spent the past three hours losing myself and becoming a being only capable of deep breathing. I didn’t get any break between contractions, often having four or five right on top of each other, or having several that were over 3 minutes long. I managed to get back into bed, again, having to work through multiple contractions before I was able to actually lie down. The nurse’s face lit up with surprise as she checked me, “you’re at 9cms!” she said, double checking the chart, not believing I was already almost fully dilated having only been 4cms three hours previously. I barely remember it registering, I remember Sherry leaning over me and telling me how proud she was of me for having made it so far. All I could think was I had to get through this next contraction, breathe in, breathe out.

I’m told I actually seemed to fall asleep between contractions, even snored a little bit because of how much I was able to relax my entire body despite the intense, all consuming pain. I didn’t lose my grip on reality, but I lost myself mentally, withdrawing into depths of myself I didn’t know were possible to reach. Under everything else, I kept hearing breathe in, breathe out.

I reached 10cms and started pushing at 3:30am Sunday morning. I had been in active labor for 5 hours by this time. An hour later and I felt like screaming from the pain in my hips every time after I pushed. The contractions were coming even harder and faster, if that was at all possible. I had never felt pain like I did in my hips during that time. I couldn’t think of being close to being done, or that he was starting to slide down into place, I could only focus on breathing in and breathing out.

:Breathe In:

:Breathe Out:

I wasn’t able to make a whole lot of progress from my back, so I moved to a squat bar at the end of the bed, which helped some, but I had been pushing for 2 hours and contractions were 30 seconds at least a part with high spikes on the chart and long. I remember feeling numb to everything but the pain, knowing somewhere mentally I was utterly exhausted, but also aware of an intense focus to keep going and push through. Another hour passed, and I knew I was starting to fight myself, I remembered reading about reaching this point in labor. I had just about reached the end of myself, and I was still not able to get Ender down further. I could barely form full sentences, finding myself bracing as contractions continued to pound hard.

:Breathe In:

:Breathe Out:

Between contractions my doctor came in to see where I was at and talked about potentially putting me on pitocin to try to get the baby down further, but I said no, I couldn’t handle anymore pain. After several minutes of contractions and talking about options, I decided getting an epidural was the best thing at this point. I had now been pushing for just over three hours and I knew deep down my body was done, I couldn’t go anymore without getting a break. I got the epidural at 7 in the morning on Sunday, June 15th. I felt immediate relief, so much so I found myself coming back to present reality for the first time since active labor had started.

After two hours of resting and regaining strength, we got the doctor back in and said let’s get this baby out. I started pushing again, with the help of pitocin, started making significant progress. I could feel my legs, although they felt “floaty” like I could just float off the bed, and I could feel the contractions, but couldn’t feel any pain. I went from crying, not able to form words because of the pain, to cracking jokes between pushing. Another two hours of pushing, and the doctor came in to stay, they kept telling me “he’s almost here! he’s almost here.”

:Breathe In:

:Breathe Out:

11:40am rolled around, I had been pushing for another 2 1/2 hours and Sherry leaned over me as the doctor started putting the delivery scrubs on, “Caleigh, he’s almost here, you’re going to be holding him in just a few minutes.” I almost started crying but knew I couldn’t break yet. The atmosphere became super charged with excitement as activity sprung into life all around the room. Five minutes later I was holding my slippery, lanky son, his long arms and legs sprawled over my chest as the tears broke. The baby I couldn’t believe would actually come was finally in my arms, and I was overcome with relief knowing it was over.

I was done.

He was finally here.

I had made it.

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I have watched, held, and taken care of a lot of babies in my short life. It is second nature to me to take care of a child, it has been such a prominent part of my life. I knew taking care of my son would be easier because of my history, but what I didn’t expect was to be taking care of something who is so perfectly matched to me. He is really part of me and finding myself talking to him endlessly, cuddling, covering with kisses, laughing at his silly faces, calming down, as if it was something I have always done has made me want to pinch myself to see if it’s real. My son is extremely expressive, he smiles a lot in his sleep, and loves to sit with his daddy. He is a calm baby, and even at five days old, is already on a good schedule with nursing. Recovery has been ten times easier than I expected, and I’m already able to wear “normal” clothes, barely have a belly anymore. It is such a relief, I feel good, and even though I still cringe and don’t like thinking about how rough the past month was, I can move forward.

Ender, mama loves you, and you make the lack of sleep and losing track of time and days not matter.

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It’s Just the Hormones

I know I said I wouldn’t write again until my little boy was here, but hey, he’s taking too long and there are some things I feel I need to put out there.

Today looks like emergency appointments with therapists, emotional disassociation from feelings, a familiar but not felt in a long time severe up and down depression. My depression is not something that is just hormones, it is something I still deal with and I’ve been grateful that for almost the entire pregnancy I haven’t had to deal with it as much. Yesterday, I had a break down, a major one, and to blame it on hormones is not fair; not fair to me, to what I’ve been going through, and to pregnancy in general. Hormones, yes while natural evils within pregnancy, cannot nor should be used to discredit legitimate difficult times. I’m sure after a frustrated status yesterday, most people read it and their first thought “ah, hormones.” I even got a few comments saying the exact thing I expected. It didn’t even phase me other than cause me to just shake my head. I expect people to see any sort of emotional reaction through a “it’s just the hormones” lens.

Yes, I’m pregnant, yes, I am overdue now, yes, I have hormones, but I also have a history of severe depression, fibromyalgia, and have been told all my life any time I have an emotional reaction to something that it’s just hormones. I have had legitimate emotions discredited and ignored because my parents blamed hormones, I learned to ignore healthy feelings because I was just “hormonal.” But this pregnancy has not been a hormonal storm for me. Ask Phil, ask my therapist, ask my friends; I have been surprisingly even keeled emotionally this entire pregnancy. I credit that to having an amazing therapist who really helped guide me to a point before I got pregnant where I was able to start processing emotions and accepting emotions in a healthy way.

Why is that an undercurrent to this society whenever a woman gets emotional about something? Our emotions get written off because somehow it’s okay to mark women as out of control hormonal beings not worth paying attention to because hormones, and god forbid those emotions be anything other than hormones. It is so insensitive to tell a pregnant woman “oh it’s just hormones” when she has been dealing with the strain of pregnancy no matter how “easy” or difficult the pregnancy has been. It is discrediting and disrespectful to yourself to blame hormones for normal emotions, no matter if pregnancy is part of the equation or not. Not only that, it is dangerous to blame it all on hormones. Telling a pregnant woman “oh it’s just the hormones” is telling her it is okay to ignore valid emotions, feelings, reactions that left alone could turn potentially very serious. To dismiss emotional reactions as just hormones causes us to not seek help we may really need, and it prolongs situations into places that can be avoided. I know too many women who were told “it’s just hormones” who ended up with severe postpartum depression because they dismissed their feelings all because hormones. It’s dangerous, naive, and insensitive to blame the hormones and to laugh it off as such.

The past three weeks especially have been physically, emotionally, and mentally very very difficult. I have had more false labor starts than I care to count now. I have done everything the books say is supposed to kick start labor one way or another. When I say everything, I mean it, even castor oil. We’ve been walking roughly 2 miles every day, and my feet have paid for it. I haven’t been idly sitting by, clutching my box of kleenex, sobbing because hormones. I have been working my butt off because my doctors really believed I wouldn’t make it through this past weekend. I was making the progress they wanted to see, but still nothing. The past three weeks have raised ghosts of past struggles and to be haunted by the doubts while trying to work hard has been a little bit like being stabbed in the back more and more as each day flies by.

When I developed fibromyalgia, I watched with my hands tied as my body deteriorated from being the fasted kid on the block, an up and coming concert pianist to being barely able to function day to day. That was the first time my body betrayed me. That was the first time I felt like my mind was living in a foreign body, I no longer felt I knew my own body. I worked hard after I got married to try to connect with the body I lived in, but that started falling apart as I gained weight and my body changed again. I couldn’t accept the feelings I felt because hormones.

I made some minuscule progress because not only was I not able to accept myself as a whole emotional, physical, and spiritual being, I was also dealing with the crap from being raised under the purity culture [the female body is a stumbling block and to be blamed for men's lust]. Then we decided we wanted to start trying to get pregnant. With my mom’s track record, I felt confident somehow that getting pregnant would be “easy” for me.

Over a year and a half later, I found myself in a place of distrusting the body I was bound to for the second time. Irregular cycles like I had never dealt with before, doctors not really knowing what to tell me and not ready yet to start digging deeper, one miscarriage where I didn’t even know I was pregnant before the pregnancy left me. I fell into deeper depression, all of the feelings of not understanding my body again resurfacing from my battle with fibro. When I got that first positive pregnancy test, I broke down. “This can’t be real,” I remember thinking, so afraid to get excited because that seemed to guarantee loss of a pregnancy or anything good.

I am 40 and a half weeks pregnant. I feel like a fool for thinking, expecting, hoping, getting excited about having a baby early and wanting to follow, although not quite the same, path my mom had with every single one of my siblings and I. Not only was it my hope, but it seemed everything was lining up quite nicely to follow a very similar pattern as my mom. I wasn’t just pulling “I think I’m going to go early” out of thin air, even my doctors expected me to go before my due date. I am reticent to go outside or go places because I’m still pregnant and I don’t want to hear “oh, you’re still pregnant!” from the people I excitedly told I was hoping to have this little guy early.

For the third time I don’t recognize my body’s reactions anymore, I don’t understand why I’ve had so many moments of wondering and watching contractions start picking up and continue only to have them just stop. I don’t trust my body to be able to do what it’s supposed to and actually continue into labor. For three weeks I’ve had these constant moments of “is this…?” is it any wonder that I might have a breakdown after the most promising false start, after over three weeks of going up and down, getting excited only to not have anything happen? I’m exhausted; emotionally, mentally, and physically. I’m done trying. I no longer have faith in my body to work. I know this baby has to come, but I don’t expect to get that started naturally. And it is NOT just hormones, I am exhausted, and anyone who knows exhaustion would have a break down after what the past few weeks have been like for me. It is not unmet expectations causing depression, screw that, yes, I’m frustrated, but more than that I am beyond exhausted.

So pause a second before you talk to a pregnant woman and say anything neanderthal like “it’s just hormones.” You know what, forget about pregnancy being a factor at all, just don’t tell any woman it’s just hormones when she gets upset about something. Don’t pull the hormone card unless you want to make someone feel like their legitimate feelings are not worth noticing and should be ignored. And certainly don’t pull the hormone card on yourself; you are worth your emotions, and your reactions are valid, don’t discredit yourself just because hormones.

Coming up for a little air

This past month has been a new kind of rough for me. It all started really going downhill three weeks ago when I was woken up at 3:30 in the morning with really painful contractions. Those contractions didn’t stop until about 11 hours later when I finally caught a break after having been on the couch all day. From that point up to now, I’ve been on very limited activity and let’s just say that my timeline for finishing my to-do lists before my little guy gets here was cut in half. I have wanted to write, but frankly have been too miserable physically for much of anything other than sitting/lying on the couch trying to relax and avoiding stress as much as I can.

I have known a new kind of overwhelmed in the past few weeks as I tried to adjust to the new normal I’m living in right now. Trying to think of things to write to continue to my Goodbye Christianity posts has seemed greatly insignificant compared to the new issues I was and am still faced with. I found myself grateful for having written the things I have for that series and also for having gotten to a place where I am totally okay with not doing anything “religious.” Trying to wrestle with religious topics as well as trying to make it through the last few weeks with my body causing me a lot of discomfort would have been a personal hell. For the first time, I have finally felt okay with where I am with all things religious. I don’t feel any need to wrestle or make any decisions or even go back to anything. And guess what, that’s okay. It is okay if I never go back to Christianity, it is okay if I don’t continue going to church, or actively participate in any church. It is totally okay if I don’t open my bible again, it is okay if I never pray the way I used to. It is okay if I walk away from God all together. It’s okay because this is my life, my choice, and it is a decision only I can make and a decision others need to respect. You may not like it or feel sad, but it really is up to me and me alone. I don’t say that arrogantly or harshly, but it is what I believe to be true.

The thought has crossed my mind many times when it comes to my little boy and how we’re going to deal with religion with him. I know we have time before he would be able to even understand anything, but at this point, I’m not even comfortable praying over him, or even reading him bible stories after he’s born. It’s a strange mix of I know whatever happens will happen and I won’t be able to change it and maybe somewhere deep down I still believe there is a god and he is controlling the situation. Whatever Phil and I decide to do will be up to us and I don’t feel any pressure to do anything just because others think that’s right. Not feeling that pressure anymore is one of most relieving things I have ever felt. I never dreamed of how I would feel after I broke free from the chains of the legalistic belief I was raised with and thought I believed. I never could have foreseen how I would feel when I came up for a breath while going through all of the tears, wrestling, heartache, and frustration. This feeling of relief and weight being gone has been worth every tear, every moment of deep depression, and while I wouldn’t willingly go through all of that again, I am grateful for having gone through it.

Despite the physical discomfort and uneasiness I’m currently facing, my spirit is calm. I am ready to have this child of mine, and I am ready to work through whatever comes my way in these last few weeks. In a way I almost crave drama so I can have something to distract from the strange calm my spirit feels. It’s weird to not feel on edge, or to feel like I have to wrestle with something. It’s peaceful though and I think I’m actually enjoying this break. I think I’ve learned the calm of fully accepting things I can’t change and truly letting myself move with the flow.

Just so all you readers know, my next post will most likely be announcing my son’s arrival. I want to take these last few weeks or even days to really feel and relax into the calm I’m feeling. My social media presence will be even less than before simply for my own protection against the well-meaning people who somehow think pregnancies give them the right to share all their opinions as well as just mentally preparing for this life change. I also want to spend this time with Phil as just a couple and as he finishes his college degree and his first major video game

Farewell until our family truly becomes three! I can’t wait to introduce my son to you all.

then she stood by the brave

**DISCLAIMER: the situation you are about to read about is in good hands and I ask that you not try to contact any of my siblings. They are safe and things are being taken care of.

About a month ago I got a phone call letting me know one of my siblings was being admitted to the mental health ward. All I could think was when it is going to be enough, how many more of my siblings are going to suffer. Their story is theirs to tell, not mine, but I want to tell you about a story that has continued to unfold over the past few weeks.

Phil and I went to visit my sibling in the psych ward, and I saw my sibling relaxed, a little medicated, but they were relaxed, peaceful, and they were safe there and they knew it. We brought one of my other brothers in to visit our sibling and I found out that he had been faithfully visiting his sibling the whole time during their psych visit. This brother is the one I have had my spats with growing up, and in fact, thanks to him I have a nice numb spot on my hand from one of our fights. This brother is also the one I see holding one of the biggest, caring hearts I have ever seen. The fact that he would purposefully take time out of his day to go visit his sibling in the psych ward every day they were is a huge indicator of just how big his heart is.

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I am now barely 2 months away from having this child of mine. I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to stand firm with my boundaries when it comes to my mom and my dad. I somehow found myself in a position last week where I was asked by my mom to “draw out” my sibling who had been in the psych ward. My sibling had been asking to be admitted again that morning and wouldn’t talk to mom or anyone else about what was going on. Inwardly I knew my sibling was only going to talk to me and that’s why my mom was pushing me to talk with them. After spending awhile chatting, I knew what I needed to know and just let my sibling know that I was there whenever they needed me. The rest of my visit over there ended in me putting my foot down and being completely blunt with my mom. I told her my exact thoughts on how her staying with my dad was at the expense of the kids and how he wasn’t changing, how I didn’t believe her when she said he was, and just watched her shut down as I refused to let her screwed up logic change my stance.

In that moment I realized I have changed. I am no longer blinded by the manipulative logic my dad uses to control those around him. I could see right through everything my mom said and was able to see things I had known were there but had never been able to put words to. I am stronger, I am clear headed, I have changed, and yet, it became painfully obvious she hasn’t changed. She is still toxic to me, she is still clinging to some delusion that my dad is changing, and until she can let go of that and actually protect her children from that man, I have to be careful to keep boundaries in place.

It was encouraging to see how therapy has really worked and I have been able to break so many chains that had previously greatly bound me. I am also in a position now where when a sibling needs help, I’m one of the first people they call, and hell, I’m out the door before they can even coherently say anything other than to beg me to come get them. Which is what happened recently, and which included a visit to my siblings’ school counselor who after hearing our story immediately called Child Protective Services to make a report. I have proven to my siblings, the ones who need it most, that I am not the mean, evil older sister my dad makes me out to be. I am who I say I am and I will drop everything for them if they need me.

I sat in that office and watched my siblings find their strength as they stood up to the abuse they have personally suffered from our dad. My heart bursting with pride, I backed up their stories, and watched as they willingly gave information that will hopefully make a difference. I watched my siblings make very brave and bold decisions despite the possibility of facing retaliation. They are doing what I wish I could have done years ago, they are brave enough to stand up and say enough is enough and it hopefully will truly be enough. The little girl inside of me wept as I proudly stood by my brave siblings.

I felt like I watched my childhood come full circle. The shame of not being “strong enough” to stand up to my dad was put to rest as I stood there being my siblings’ support. I went through what I had to so that I could be there for my siblings when they needed me. I am stronger now, I have the strength they needed to be able to be brave themselves. I can validate their fears and tell them they’re not crazy despite what the man at home will say. I don’t know about you, but that’s quite a good reason to have gone through what I have if only to be the support my siblings need.

I’m feeling hopeful, I am full of pride, and so relieved I can be there for the siblings who call for help and I can be there to lift up their voices.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel