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Mmmmm….has parent changed me?

Do you want the short answer or the long one?

Based on a gloriously harmonious day or on a –stressed out, exhausted, I feel like a rag and I want to throttle you- days? …

Parenthood has defiantly thrown me to these extremes as well as everything that falls in between. So the short answer is yes, parenting has changed me tremendously from reacting with fear to responding with love. It has been the most challenging experience I have ever undertaken as well as given me a hearty dose of humility, empathy, and resilience. It has spiritually, emotional, mentally, and physically healed me.

The long answer: I was born hardwired for fear and hyper-sensitive. Experiencing or even witnessing violence, especially during the crucial period of brain development under age of five significantly affects brain development and can make a child feel scared, anxious, worried, confused, angry, and insecure. This list of feelings sums up my battles in life to a “T” and parenting triggered every one of these vulnerabilities.

You see, even with extensive experience working with children and degrees in elementary education, psychology, human development & family studies and marriage and family therapy, I still felt inadequate and unprepared for parenthood. I even had a self-imposed rule to wait till I was married for 5 years before having children. I began joking with my partner that we needed to have kids so I could have more credentials for my practice as I specialized in children and parenting issues.

After a snowball effect of interventions and traumatic labor, my first son was born 5 months shy of my 5th wedding anniversary, yet I was too tired and hungry to hold him. The natural concoction of bonding hormones was disturbed and my predisposition lead to post-partum depression. I spent a large part of his first year just going through the motions, feeling like a failure and even resentful. Then the anxiety and shame over what I thought I should be doing kicked into overdrive and robbed much of my joy.

During this time, I also worked with families involved with Department of Family Services providing in-home, intensive family therapy. After a couple miscarriages and another pregnancy, I took part in intensive therapeutic and parenting trainings that introduced me to how trauma affects brain development and regulation abilities in children. The light bulbs went off in my head like a fireworks display. So much of my life made sense and new connections made. Then I had another traumatic labor, this time ending with a stillbirth.

WOW…talk about turning your life upside down…try holding a dead baby…your baby.

Althou1935_1079097454232_8939_ngh this was extremely painful, the perspective it gave me toward life and parenting was astounding. You can read more about my processing of the stillbirth here. It encouraged me to truly process my grief, to dig deeper, try harder, and keep learning. I took more trainings on understanding brain development and healing trauma. Having a child actually gave me more compassion and understanding for the 24/7 demands of parenting and complexities of the parent/child relationship.

I chose to put my relationship with my child first and take responsibility for getting my own and his vital needs met.  I chose not to conceive again till I had no fears about the pregnancy and accepted the reality that I may never have another live birth. I did eventually go onto to have a positive and empowering birth experience with my daughter who I had a home, water birth with. I had to consciously filter out other’s opinions and outside influences to tune into my mind/body/soul connections and innate intelligence. I was better able to parent from my heart and less from my trauma.

My relationship with my children has been a mirror to my soul. The reflection is not always pretty, yet I can easily see when my intention, thoughts, feelings, and actions do not match and align them. I am blessed to have 4 angels, 2 children, a supportive partner, and a peacefully chaotic family. As the more I focus my energy on the integrity of my relationships, the more I have of the gloriously harmonious days. Now don’t get me wrong, I am human and still have those other days yet they have shortened into moments, happen less often, and are easily remedied with a hug, silly face, or a happy song. I can truly feel how every day is a gift.

This has been more like my medium answer because honestly, I could go on and on about how evolutionary principles, attachment science, quantum physics, and a love-based paradigm shift could maximize human potential and heal the world…But I’ll just leave you with my poetic version of how parenthood changed me:

lessons from my son meme

I strongly believe that where you choose to focus your attention and energy is what you will get more of. The past election was challenging to say the least. I have to focus hard not to fuel any more attention for “Zaphod Beeblebrox,” now #45 (my family’s way to say you-know-who with giving him as little as possible of our energy), I can’t help but get triggered by all the surrounding victim-blaming and crazy-making comments. I go right back to all the times it happened to me and the decades of emotional pain and suffering.

I feel rage and want to shake the world… You cannot possibly understand the layers of internal torment a survivor goes through before they even utter a word about one incident and I can guarantee that for every one incident there are plenty more. I was 11 years old when I woke up in the middle of the night at a sleepover being molested. I was 16 when I first told someone, 31 before I made a report. That is 20 years and the cascade of negative effects that engulfed me are beyond years or words.

I would wish everyday for it not to be true, well at least everyday I was conscious for and not a disconnected robot. When triggered, I would play every second through my head over and over again wondering: How can this happen?… But then again, how could it not…I didn’t even know that it wasn’t supposed to happen.  What I learned most from society, religion, and at home was that men are allowed to do whatever they want to get their needs met and women are meant to serve and be submissive. I never knew I had a choice nor had any skills to know how to say “no” even if I was known I had the right…

The daily battle of getting out of bed and desperately wanting to escape… the hypocrisy, the madness, the suffering. Then on top of it all, you are trained to put on a happy face and pretend everything is fine because god forbid you to call any negative attention to you or upset anyone. When you can’t sleep at night and the touch of anyone, even those you love, makes you freeze and want to crawl out of your skin… And then again, you still have to pretend; I a woman, this is the role I must play. It is the only life you know…

Thank goodness for graduate school and specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy that I learned that I had rights and the skills to stand up for myself. Reporting is one of the scariest things I have ever had to do. Fortunately, I discovered that often times the actions that are the scariest to do, are the ones that will eventually transform us the most. I started to make the biggest strides in my healing after I finally made the report in my 30’s.

I am dumbfounded that people can’t see how scary it is to report. You’re exposed again, reliving the assault yet this time magnified and re-traumatized. It is gut-wrenching enough within your own mind, body, and soul, can you even imagine your most vulnerable parts being broadcasted!?  I assure you, no amount of money or so-called “publicity” would every make up for this suffering.

When I hear a person share their story, I just want to hug them, listen with compassion, and hold their hand through this seemingly endless journey of being able to trust and feel joy and pleasure again.  I choose to put my energy and attention for empowering and supporting people. I want everyone to know that no one has the right to touch you without your conscious and informed consent and you have the right to change your mind at any time. I believe this video sums it up nicely:

 

I also believe that everything and person has value, so hoping that “Zaphod Beeblebrox” is a motivating force to awaken and elevate our collective consciousness for a compassionate and relationship-rich society where we are all responsible.

For more on my story and supportive links, read forgiving sexual abuse.

Yes, a trauma-informed justice system is greatly needed as jailing people comes at much greater cost than financial as being removed from your primary caregiver is the biggest trauma any person can suffer. These traumatized souls often have less resources and access to healthy outlets to process the trauma and heal, thus resulting in a society of traumatized souls exploding all over the place.

Calling for reform, President Obama notes the impact of incarceration on families.

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