Growing up I noticed mothers spending time alone with their daughters. I would see them at the zoo, at movies, or out on shopping sprees. Lunch without dad, so they could talk like best friends and tell about secret crushes. I grew up having a poor relationship with my mom. She kept a clean house, made dinner and did our laundry. Even though we were in the same house, she was very distant. When we did talk it was always negative. Telling me I should be more like my sister. Why can’t I get good grades like her, why my hair wasn’t as curly and cute?
I felt like in her eyes my sister was perfect and I was the black sheep. Anytime my sister and I would fight, I was always to blame. Mom was never interested in anything I was involved in. I never remember her helping out at our school, going to a track meet, or any theater production I was in. I found an article from Bustle.com, where psychotherapist Mayra Mendez states; “A child who does not receive praise, acknowledgement or acceptance, grows up longing for connections and seeking positive attention. Emotional abuse starves a child of necessary love and affection, often resulting in over-reaching for validation from others and excessive approval-seeking behaviors.” Looking back at my life I realized I consistently looked for attention from others.
While I was in high school, my dad took a job as a clerk at a hotel. He worked mostly nights so it was easy for me to just go out and stay out way past curfew. I did have some good friends that kept me out of trouble but then the summer of my senior year I was out late one evening and happen to meet a few new people and a guy, Todd, who took an interest in me. Previously I had been on a few dates, had a couple of boyfriends but had always seemed to stay out of trouble and they were always nice guys. They respected me. I was still pretty naive when I met Todd and believed anything he told me, learning later that it was all a con game. He was attractive, had money to spend and paid attention to me. He listened to what I had to say, seemed like he actually cared. I started spending all my free time with him. I got caught up in his world. My mom was never concerned as to where I was or who I was with. She never asked or even seemed to care where I was. I would just simply say I was out with friends, be back later, rarely a response back.
It had only been a couple of months when I was hanging out at my best friend’s house. Her parents were out of town and we invited Todd and his friend over. My best friend disappeared with his friend and we were alone in the living room. By that time Todd clearly made me feel like I was his only one and that he loved me. He pressed me several times about going ‘all the way’. That night I finally gave in. It was over before I knew it and I remember thinking, really, that was it? I didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t happy, sad, or mad, I was just numb. Over the next few weeks I would spend my evenings at his house. I gave myself to him whenever he wanted. I didn’t understand what sex was or how it should feel, all I knew was that he loved me and I thought I had to keep doing it to keep him. At the end of August I noticed I was three days late for my period. I knew in my heart that I was pregnant. I am ashamed to say I didn’t know anything about how babies were made or anything about sexually transmitted diseases, so no precautions were taken. He was older and more experienced, I believed him when he told me he couldn’t have any kids. After speaking with him about being days late I told him I might be pregnant. Surprisingly he was very happy to hear the news. He suggested getting tested just to be sure. I went to Planned Parenthood to take a pregnancy test to confirm. I went by myself and remember sitting in a waiting area with a TV playing a video about abortions. The next thing I remember was a confirmation of the pregnancy and having a paper thrown into my face. The paper had a prices scaled down by months to show the sooner you have your abortion the lower the rate. Then being told, ‘Well what do you want in four years, your college degree or a four year old kid? Those were the only options they gave me. In a state of shock I walked out and never followed up with them. I never gave abortion a second thought. As much as I didn’t understand what had happened, or what I would go through I knew that was not the right thing to do.
I know these were my choices and I did wrong in God’s eyes, but I didn’t have any idea at that time that God would take my poor choice and make it something amazing. Todd didn’t disappear like I thought he would. He was still very excited and introduced me to his family. He told his family now I had to tell mine. I had the difficult conversation with my mom. She was in her room, sitting on her bed and I said I needed to talk. I could barely get the words out. ‘Mom, I am pregnant.’ She turned away from me, started crying and said ‘what will they think of me at church’. I reached out to her but she shrugged me off. She was so ashamed and more worried about what other people would think then how I felt. No hug, no grace, nothing to show that everything would be ok and that I could count on her for help. As the days passed, she pushed me further away so the closer I became with Todd.
A month before I was due I moved into an apartment with Todd. I didn’t have a car and had to rely on Todd to get me to work and school. There were several days where I had to call my dad collect from a pay phone for a ride home. I would wait for hours hoping someone would show up. Even though I lived with Todd, he would only come home to eat, sleep or shower. April 28th, home alone days away from my due date I went to bed. Around 2am Todd came home smelling like alcohol. He had been drinking. As soon as he lay down in bed, I remember waking up and feeling like my water broke. Todd got back out of bed and drove me to the hospital while still intoxicated from being out that evening. After arriving at the hospital I was told that I had only had a leak and my water had not broken fully. Good thing because once the doctor broke it, I was in full labor and the baby was on its way. The next morning April 29th at 10:55am I gave birth to healthy baby girl. She was perfect with red hair and blue eyes, 8.2 lbs. and 21 inches long. She was so beautiful. I regret that I was never able to enjoy my pregnancy and that I didn’t have anyone that I loved other than Todd with me during the birth. He said he called my family but no one showed up at the hospital till the next morning.
A few days later after bringing Alex home Todd went back out to sell drugs, drink and hang out with his friends. I rarely saw him unless he needed something. I was alone and postpartum depression set in. I would look at Alex while she cried and couldn’t figure out how to make her stop. I would just sit there and we both would just cry. I called my mom asking for help but her words were cold, “learn how to deal with it.”. I used to wonder how Alex made it through so well for the first year while I was a mess and had no clue what I was doing, but I know now that God was right there with me.
Over the next three years the relationship with Todd became unhealthier. He was still dealing drugs, getting caught and was in and out of jail several times. He could never keep a job and was always trying to con someone out of something. Todd became more controlling and abusive. Many times while I was in bed after a long day of work and taking care of Alex, he would come home late, jump on the bed and expect sex. He felt like I should be available to him whenever he wanted it. He never understood or cared that I was exhausted and needed his help. Some nights I was so tired I just gave in and some nights I tried to hold my own and stand up to him but then we would fight for hours. Screaming and yelling at each other till I couldn’t yell anymore. I still have memories of the nights where I would finally give in and remember lying there feeling like I was going to throw up while he was on top of me. He tried to keep me isolated from my family and friends. I really didn’t want to see anyone anyway since I was ashamed and embarrassed, and I never told anyone what was going on or asked for help. Whenever Todd came home and found me eating he would tell me I was fat and shouldn’t be eating. Then he would take whatever I had and eat it in front of me. My weight at that time was 115 pounds. I was a skeleton. This was just another way he controlled me. When I would push back it would spawn into a huge fight. Sometimes he would threaten suicide if I left. Other times he would keep me from taking Alex if I tried to leave with her.
I developed a low self-esteem growing up from the way my mom made me feel. I was the black sheep, not smart, not pretty, just there. It just got worse throughout the years with Todd. When you are in an abusive relationship things are really ugly in your world, you stay there because your first thought is, if anyone knew all I am going through no one will ever want me. If they knew I was 17 when I had my baby and had to live off welfare they wouldn’t want me. If anyone knew that Todd forced himself on top of me night after night and I thought of sex as an act of violence, they would not want me. If anyone knew the unhappy, depressed person I had become, they would not want me. Who wants trash like that?
The day I left Todd was a blur. I had enough and all I can remember is my mom coming over and helping me move stuff out. I didn’t have anything planned; I just knew it was time. Looking back I believe God was there telling me it was time to go. I took Alex and we moved in with my dad. Started life over and began healing.
After my first encounter I developed a stronger, deeper relationship with God. I did Bible studies and joined a small group. However I was still holding on to something that kept me from fully knowing my True Worth. Something that I let define me for years. It was something that always stayed in the back of my mind that kept creeping out every time I felt like I was finally over the past. At my second Women’s Encounter I picked up a piece of paper, I prayed and wrote down the word rape. It was something that I never admitted to myself. Todd raped me, over and over.
Psalm 139:13-14 says: Surrender your identity to who Jesus says you are. You have true worth. God refused to let my past define me. He refused to let me think I was dirty and gross. He said put your burdens on me. Lay them at my feet. I felt the relief of letting go of my pain, knowing that my past does not define who I am. My mom does not define who I am. Todd does not define who I am. The world does not define who I am. Only God defines who I am. I know my true worth through Him. I am loved, I am beautiful, I am strong, and I am HIS forever!
Looking back, God was there for me throughout my life. HE will always be there for me now and in my future. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I have found a new freedom in sharing it. I hope that it helps you in some way. God Bless!