About me

My name is Erika and welcome to my blog. I am a proud wife and mother to 5 beautiful children. Four sons and a daughter. My husband Matt and I recently celebrated 11 years of marriage. My oldest son has been diagnosed with Austism (he is high functioning) and severe ADHD and we are on road of overcoming and learning together. My daughter is next followed by our 3 youngest boys, the youngest 2 being fraternal twins. Twin mom isn’t a title I ever realized I would have. I’m a lover of books, cooking, baking, scrapbooking, coffee, hot tea, board games, drawing/painting and of course sewing. I grew up in the oppressive quiverfull movement in a large conservative, homeschooling cult and am a survivor of extreme childhood abuse by my parents. I learned to sew by the age of eight due to this environment but decided to embrace it (the love of sewing). From my earliest memories, sitting in front of my sewing machine and creating was my escape from the horrible world around me. I view myself as an artist in my craft. Over the years I have worked to improve my skills and start adventures with that. Sitting in front of my machines and creating is still a form of therapy for me as I have been on this journey of healing from my childhood, learning to embrace new things, break abusive cycles, learning to correctly parent my precious children and learning how to have a healthy marriage. This blog is here because as I am about to start the deeper journey of trauma therapy to deal with my childhood, writing is a way that I process as well as sewing. So this blog will have some difficult posts, fun posts and probably some posts just showing what I’ve made. Honestly I’m not sure how this will look as it plays out. But I thank you for joining me for the ride.

The Story of Us (Part 1)

When Matt and I got married, we couldn’t afford anyone to record it but weren’t really concerned. I don’t really know when it became a thing anyway. About a week before our wedding though, Matt got the brilliant idea to use his video camera and stick it on a tripod and see what we got.

The tape got labeled and stuck in the safe with plans to do something with it soon…well life happened. Fast forward 11 years and he finally got it on his computer.

We sat down and started watching it, but I was wholly unprepared for the wash of mixed emotions that flooded.

There are plenty of things about that day that make us laugh, but in truth much of my mindset through that day was constantly reminding myself that the important thing was Matt and I would be married by the end of it and I would be able to walk away.

But I’m going to have to go back to the beginning before I get there. The beginning of our relationship.

We met at church. It was the church I was born into and had in recent years to this, become a popular church for many of the students from the local Bible college where Matt attended.

I had recently returned from 3 rough semesters at Pensacola Christian College where I had slowly come to realize that I had just traded one prison for another. I really wasn’t even planning on going back to that church, simply because when I had last been there, there was not a good ministry or group geared towards college and career/young adult age. I met with the man that would be my Sunday school teacher (and was someone I had known my entire life) though, and he assured me that things had changed.

There was a new leader, he told me (this new leader would end up being a really good friend and older brother to me and would be the one to marry Matt and I). He also made an interesting point that stuck out to me. I wasn’t sure why at the time, but looking back now, Matt and I are pretty sure he was attempting some sly matchmaking. He said, “there’s this young man in my class and he is very intelligent and is always asking great questions. His name is Matt and I’m pretty sure you two will get along.”

I walked away from that meeting willing to give it another try. After all, looking for a new church when this had been my church home since I was born, was scary.

My first Sunday trying the class happened to coincide with my older brother’s last Sunday in the states before heading to Japan with the military. Since he was selling his truck, he wanted to drive it to church one more time and I wanted to ride in it one more time (I love trucks for those that don’t know. Like…dream vehicle kind of love trucks), so I rode with him.

Neither he nor I thought anything of riding to church together, sitting together in service or walking to class together. I mean, we are siblings and had been at the church for over 21 years…everyone knew that. Well, except those that didn’t. The church had grown, but slowly enough that we really didn’t think much of it till between the worship center and half way to the class building we had been stopped THREE times with statements about how tough it must be for me being a military wife (my brother was in dress uniform).

It’s funny now, but that day we were so grossed out and quickly corrected any statement. I think the third time I almost shouted my “this is my BROTHER” simultaneously with his “this is my SISTER!” After that, he fell back and let me get far ahead of him so that we would not enter the class together. Then, we sat on opposite sides of the room as each other.

Our attempt failed though, and every single person in that room except the teacher still thought we were a married couple. Not only that, they thought we were a married couple in the middle of an epic fight since we sat so far apart. So there you have it folks, that was the first time I ever met my future husband. He thought I was married. To my brother. And that we were fighting.

I learned all this later though, after getting to know everyone there more and after my brother was gone. My first thought of Matt came as we were all introducing ourselves. I remember thinking, “Oh that’s who R—– was telling me about. Hmm. He looks like a geek.”

Yep, that was my first impression of my future husband.

The next few weeks are fuzzy in the memory department. I was doing everything in my power to never be at my parents house, which is where I was still living unfortunately. I was working as many hours as my manager at the bookstore would give me, throwing myself into my new social life and doing my best to stay out of my parents cross-hairs.

We were doing all kinds of things as a college group and I was enjoying every bit of it. It was the most freedom I had ever experienced before. Within about a month though, it became super obvious to me and everyone else that Matt was interested in me. He swears he was being subtle but it was anything but. I feel fairly certain that most that knew us both then would agree with that.

It felt weird. I was about to turn 21 and had never known of anyone interested in me before this. I mean, I thought he was nice but I still thought he was a geek and that he wasn’t my type. To top that off, I wasn’t looking for a husband. At least not there at my church. I had put a hope on one particular individual whom I had known for most of my life and his family had homeschooled as well.

Having been raised in that, I thought that me marrying someone else that had been homeschooled would be the most logical as well as simple thing. Any man that had been homeschooled would surely understand me better and that I was supposed to homeschool any future children.

As there is a possibility for him or those that know him to read this, I’m not giving anymore details as I don’t want to make anyone feel weird or awkward. Just suffice it to say, I had hard crushed on this young man for years. I had never breathed a word of it to anyone save my sister, since I was taught that that was sinful and that by having a crush, I was giving a part of my heart away.

So yes, emotions were all over the place once it became obvious Matt was interested. I was certainly flattered but I was clinging to other hopes.

God knew better than I did, obviously, and slowly but surely I was able to release my dream and move forward.

Matt and I didn’t start dating right away. I would have been too terrified to go on a date even if he had asked me at that point. But he walked across the parking lot at church one Sunday just as I was about to leave to “just say I’ll see you later.” I think it was about 3 hours and one bad sunburn later that I finally got in my car and left. Thus began a tradition for us that would last till I moved out of my parents house.

He would walk me to my car after church and we would then spend an ungodly amount to hours standing next to it talking. We didn’t mean for it to turn into a thing, it just kind of did. That carried over to anytime our group got together for a Bible study or social event. One event that we both went to met downtown and we spent so many nights after that just walking around downtown till 2 or 3 am. Probably wasn’t the safest thing we could have done, but it is what it is.

My parents are not dumb, and figured out quite quickly that something was going on with a young man. They tried everything to shame me into introducing Matt to them so they could tell him to leave. They made it quite clear that I was going about this in a rebellious way as Matt had not spoken to Dad first and gotten his permission to even talk to me. There was no way in this world though that I was letting them get anywhere near Matt at this point. We weren’t even officially together yet.

But home turned miserable, again. I came home late one night to Dad waiting for me at the door with a full on lecture about how I was being rebellious and they were going to put me on a curfew (I was paying full rent for my room) and take my drivers license and my car. Remember, I was now 21, paying rent, had paid cash for my car and was paying all my own bills.

This was the first time I ever had worked up the nerve to stand up to them, but I literally laughed in his face. Then proceeded to remind him that the car was mine, I was an adult and I would go to the police if he so much as laid a hand on my drivers license or my keys. He was furious, but knew I was right. So, he just kicked me out of the house for a couple of nights and I ended up having to spend more of my own money to get a hotel room. The same amount of rent was required the next time though.

I had been wanting to move out, but really didn’t think I could afford to. This set the ball rolling. I had to get out. It was only a matter of time before I would come home to the locks having been changed and my stuff in the yard. They continually threatened it for being such a rebellious daughter. Other than excluding them from my relationship with Matt though, I was doing everything they demanded of me.

At our next get together, I pulled our leader aside and begged him to help me find a place and some roommates. I had no clue where to start on my own. It took some time, and Matt and I had officially started dating before he found somewhere, but he found me a place with 3 other young ladies.

The day I moved, I took everything. Mom got suddenly helpful and “sweet” and offered to keep any of my things I didn’t need yet. There was zero chance of me taking her up on that. My parents had already destroyed most of my childhood belongings and I knew I had no guarantees of ever seeing my things again if I left them.

So started the best time of my young adult life…for a season anyway.

To be continued…

Taken at Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway sometime after we started dating.

Fun Up-cycle

I know that it’s been a while since the last post. A Christmas break and 3 rounds of all 5 children getting sick made typing anything up a challenge. But I finally got back in my sewing room in the last couple of weeks and have a few projects that I want to post. It may take them some time to all get posted, but I’m completely okay with that. This blog isn’t something I started with any schedules in mind.

Anyway, this project is one that I’m super excited about and I had a ton of fun (well, I wouldn’t go right to fun on the 4 ish hours I spent ripping seams…but overall it was fun).

By older brother and his wife gave my daughter a very pretty Japanese outfit when she was an infant. When she outgrew it, I just couldn’t bare to part with it. The fabric is just so beautiful. I boxed it up in my fabric stash until I could come up with something to do with it that would be something my daughter could use for a long time.

This past fall, she finally got to start ballet. I have an old bag that she’s been using to transport all her things in, but it was really too small and all the other ones I had were way too large for what she needed. Of course the dance studio has dance bags for sale…but they are all more expensive than I want to pay just because it has the word “dance” or ballet shoes embroidered on them.

I started rummaging through my fabric stash thinking surely I had something that would work and came across her old outfit. I wasn’t sure if it would provide enough fabric, but I decided to give it a go and see.

So here it the outfit before I did anything. The size tag says 0, but I’d say it’s about the size of 18 month baby clothes.

Isn’t it just beautiful?

I wanted to save and reuse as much of it as possible as well as keep the essence of the outfit in the bag I was making. So…insert the hours of seam ripping as I painstakingly removed every bit of the trim (except on the sleeves) and the closures and separated every piece.

Part of the reason this took so long is because I needed every inch of fabric I could save and I wanted to save and reuse the trim. Another reason for this project is I’m attempting to start working through things I already have and I wanted this project to finish without having to purchase anything else. I did end up getting one small thing, but I found it on clearance, so that was helpful.

When taking the pants apart, I was very happy to figure out that each pant leg was constructed of one cut of fabric, making it much easier to use. The two pant legs are what form the main bag. I cut off the excess to get 2 rectangles and sewed them together. Then, I surged all the seams and edges because the fabric wanted to fray really badly.

The one thing I bought was the cording. Because I grabbed what was on sale, I only had it in brown, which didn’t match. So in the theme of using my fabric stash, I also had a small amount of a hot pink satin that I’ve had for probably 20 years. I used in to cover the cording for an accent color. I love it.

I knew I wanted it to be a round bag, so the plan was to use the cording as edging and also help the bag hold it’s shape at the same time. Once it was covered, I sewed it on the edges of the main bag.

Then, as you see in the above picture, begin the replacement of the trim. I had to piece it together, so there are seams in interesting places, but again. I was using what I had and I honestly think it adds a lot of charm to the bag.

The next step was attaching the sleeves and turning them into pockets. Then sewing on the zipper. I didn’t already have a pink one in the correct size, but I had a tan one that looked fine.

I was able to get both circles I needed for the ends out of the back of the top to the outfit. For the strap, I have a large amount of strap material that I got at a thrift store years ago. The problem was that it was rainbow. While both my daughter and I love rainbows, it did not match the rest of the bag. Thankfully, I had enough of the hot pink for the bag lining as well as also covering the strap.

Once the strap was on the sides, I put them on the bag and used two of the 3 lovely closures to decorate the pockets.

Then came the lining. I hand stitched the top edges to just under the zipper so that no raw edges were showing.

I did make one boning channel on either side of the zipper in the lining and inserted a piece of boning on each side to help the bag hold it’s shape when my daughter is holding it. Then tacked them to the top fabric.

Then finally, I used the 2 top pieces to form the shoulder strap pad. This is also where I placed the last closure. I used snaps on this instead of velcro, because if velcro ever touches it, the fabric is done for.

My husband had some old padding that I was able to use.

And…it’s DONE!

I put the first picture here again so the before and after are closer.

I love the finished bag so much and so does my daughter!

Treadle Machine Update

It has been a little bit since I posted about finally finding a Singer Treadle machine. I got it, then it had to sit for a while before I could start fixing it. The leather belt was dry rotted, it was covered in cigarette tar, the hand wheel wouldn’t turn and it was just all around really dirty. A lot of love, time and work later here are some before and after pictures. Unfortunately, even these don’t fully show how bad it was when we got it. The metal end plate and the circle metal plate on the back were totally black with a whole layer of tar. I didn’t think to take any pictures till we had already worked on it some. But here is what I have.

Pictures on the left are before, right is after
The towel shows all the gunk I got out of and off of the bobbin area.
Again, left is before. Right is after.

And…my most exciting moment…it finally works!!

The reason the hand wheel wouldn’t turn is that the bobbin was all jammed with a ton of gunk. I replaced the leather belt and it’s clean and tar free!

I may or may not refinish the cabinet one day. It’s in really good shape, it just looks the 90 years old that it is. Right now, I kind of like the charm of it looking its age.

Invisible Chains

        A prisoner held, your words the chains. Broken and bruised, with shredded heart bleeding. Tears streaming again, I fight the bonds looking to you and desperately pleading.

You call it love and pull the chains tighter. Tell me that God is the one that wants it this way. But love can’t be this; and as I fight those foul bonds they only cut deeper to my utter dismay.

For years I am held behind those dark prison walls hearing from you daily that I’m worth nothing more. My mind fights you daily, but my heart is confused. Is that how He feels? Am I not wanted anymore?

No! It can’t be! I scream to the air I will fight to get free but I’m weak to the bone. You have to help me I’ve fought for so long. Too weary and wounded to keep trying alone.

“It’s all been lies” I hear in a whisper. “Say it out loud believe it to be true.” Tentative, uncertain; yet desperately willing to try, I whispered, “I’m loved” A chain broke in two.

One by one I named the lies; one broken link for every truth. Finally free! I fled the cell; so desperate for distance. So desperate to move on, no healing time was taken. No bandages, no casts! I shoved it and hid it with such persistence.

Infection set in; bones healed all wrong. “I’m fine” I kept saying “I have to be strong!” I have to forgive. I have to move on.” Doing it this way, surely can’t be wrong.

The more years that past the sicker I became, till that one awful day when my mind said “enough!” You must face this pain and address all your wounds. To move forward you must, no matter how tough.

“I can’t face it again, I’m not strong enough” I whisper out loud. “But I am here with you daughter of Mine; I’ll not leave you alone. I’m here for your pain, here through the anger, the grief and the tears. Let Me set the bones right and treat the infections; to Me they’re all known.”

Moving forward not on is now my full goal. Whatever that looks like, whatever that holds. Will it be easy? Most certainly not. So I will cling to my Helper as this unfolds.

By: Erika Smith

My Art, Music and Extracurricular Activities

As a child I was allowed with my older brother, to play soccer with the local public school league for 2 years. I enjoyed the game, but I also felt like the weirdo because my brother and I were the only ones that were homeschooled in the league.

We were on the same team for the first year and he was moved to an older age group for the 2nd year. I was so timid, but I enjoyed getting out on the field. The first year, our team only won 1 game the entire season. The 2nd year though, my team only lost one or 2 games. I loved feeling like I had something to give on the team, but I was still so incredibly shy. This ended up being a big deal because my coaches son was the best kicker on the team and he kicked 2 balls in one game that hit me. One knocked me to the ground from the force it hit the side of my head with and the other sent me doubled over struggling to breath because of the force it hit my stomach/chest with. Both times, the coach barely looked at me and said something about “she’s fine” and the game continued.

I was too shy to say anything different. I remember telling my parents later about it and crying because I was so hurt. I thought they would go talk to the coach for me. They didn’t. Instead I got a lecture about not saying anything. Obviously, I was more timid for the rest of the year and if the ball was headed in my direction, I would instinctively stop and protect myself from the ball. I remember the coach getting frustrated that I wasn’t doing my part. I have no clue if he talked to my parents but they spent the rest of the year ridiculing me for me “scared” of the ball and making comments that I should just quit. It got to the point that when signup time came for the next year, they had me so convinced that I was just not cut out for soccer and too scared of the ball that when they gave me the “choice” to sign up again, I obviously said no.

Then there was gymnastics. I loved gymnastics. My sister and I did that for a year. Then same song and dance, about half way through the year to insults started. I wasn’t flexible, I wasn’t really trying, I had no balance. On and on the ridiculing went till when my parents again gave me the “choice” to continue, I said no.

Then came one of the more tender subjects for me.

My violin.

I was in a great strings project in my state. They did not accept new students past 5th grade because they were focused on producing talent. The way the project worked was a mix of one on one instruction and orchestra. I loved it. I loved my violin, I loved the lessons, I loved practicing but I especially loved orchestra. I was in beginner for 3rd grade, intermediate for 4th and I was supposed to go into advanced for 5th.

I was proud to have my name in the program.

Not long after we had our big orchestra performance for my intermediate year, I started needing more supplies and needing to be brought to the school more frequently. Mom hated it and hated spending more money. She already spent so much time saying I wasn’t really trying on my practice time at home, but now she started making it impossible for me to get proper practice time in. She had my practice time written in on the daily schedule for a certain time, but I rarely actually got to practice.

There was always a reason. I didn’t finish something. That something changed all the time. But it went back to that snowball effect that I mentioned in a previous post. She tried everything in her manipulation book to get me to the point she had gotten me to with soccer and gymnastics to where I would just “quit” on my own accord so she could remind me how much of a quitter I was and make sure I couldn’t blame her for making me quit. The problem was, I DID NOT WANT TO QUIT. I loved it so much. I was just starting to get better.

I loved the music theory that went with the lessons. I practically lived for orchestra practice. I wouldn’t realize till adulthood how therapeutic music is to me, but that was probably part of it. So guess what? I didn’t quit. The longer I held out refusing to quit, the angrier and meaner my mom became. She finally caved and waited till past the final registration date for the last year I would have been allowed back in and forcibly removed me from the program.

Of course, she blamed it all on me and said it was all my own fault for not practicing enough. I know now that all of this was a form of gaslighting. I spent years questioning myself and my memory going back to “well, I guess I really didn’t care about it enough” and other thought processes like that.

 I was devastated. For years I kept my violin. I would pull it back out periodically to finger it, pluck the strings, play a little with the bow…then the pain would hit and I would start crying and have to put it away again. It was too painful to keep so I sold it when my daughter was a toddler.

(Side note, I do not regret selling it. I needed to then, but now I want to pick one back up again. So I’m looking for one that isn’t too expensive. If you know me personally and you get any leads of where I can find one, please pass it along to me)

Then there is art. I did a few things over the years that probably should have given me some sort of indication that I am good at art. I have no idea how old I was at the time, but for several years the larger homeschool group in my area did what I think would now be considered a homeschool coop. They had a few of the parents volunteer (I think it was volunteer. Not 100% sure) and we did music, art and drama.

I didn’t care for the drama part because I was so cripplingly shy, but I loved the music and art parts. The music teacher also did some Christmas programs for us over a few years and I loved her. I loved her so much and she probably has no clue. She always had a smile and hug for me. She was always so encouraging and her daughter was actually nice to me and didn’t treat me like the weirdo that most of the other girls did. Her passion for music always came through and if it involved her teaching, I wanted to be in her class.

I really don’t remember any of the art teachers, but I still have a few of the projects that they had us do. A poem I wrote.

A couple of scratch off picture things.

Then my shoe.

Yes, this is the one with a story. The teacher was talking about how we could show emotion through color and lines. We were told to take our shoes we were wearing that day and draw them then give them an emotion. Harsh lines and warm colors representing things like irritation or anger. Flowy lines and cool colors representing things like happy and peaceful. I remember taking off my tennis shoe, looking at all the detail and internally freaking out thinking there was no way I could draw that.

But, I hated failing so I took a breath and dove in. I didn’t understand as a little girl why I was so determined to make my shoe angry, but as soon as we got our assignment I knew that’s what I was going to do. A few of the boys in the class never took anything seriously and thought doing angry or irritated shoes was funny. So they did it, joking about it the whole time. I do remember noting that I was the single solitary girl in the class that made an angry shoe.

Since I couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 when I drew my shoe, and I literally free handed it with it sitting in front of me, I should have guessed that I had at least a little drawing talent. Our teacher complimented me on my detail work, but I was just mortified that any attention had been directed my way.

Cut to the fall of 2017 when I went back to school for graphic design. The school I went to has their design class that I was told was the entry class for any direction in art. I was super nervous going in thinking that art was in no way my forte.

It ended up being so much fun. There wasn’t any drawing really till the final project. The class was about the concepts behind art like lines, shapes and colors, etc. The teacher was always very complementative of my work and I easily got an A in the class. I honestly played it down in my head and had convinced myself that it wasn’t a big deal, it was easy for everyone.

The last day of class however, our teacher was telling us how proud she was of our class because we were all very good. Then she told us that the class only had a 10% pass rate. Talk about a shock.

I enjoyed the whole semester in that class but the final project was my absolute favorite. We were given a list of types of lines and what they meant in art. We had to pick a theme and show every type of line in a book that we put together. My theme? Music.

I free handed almost everything in this book and it was so. much. fun.

Over the last couple of years now, I’ve wanted to try my hand further and see exactly what I could do. A couple of days after my first therapy session (finally) a couple of weeks ago, I was really having a tough day with so many emotions. I thought why not now, pulled out all my school supplies and a canvas I had gotten a while back and went to town.

Originally, I was going to just try to paint a few flowers or something that I could hang in my half bath for decoration. About 5 minutes of sketching in, everything got erased and less than 30 minutes later I had a finished sketch that I just wanted to paint. 

It took me a week and a half working on it while the older 2 were at school and the babies were napping. I’m not even 100% sure it’s done. But it conveys what I wanted and I’m proud of it.

There will hopefully be more. I really want one depicting my freedom. But for now… my first painting.

The Bondage of Abuse
Erika Smith

For Those Who Love and Support Survivors

If you’ve read my little “About Me” blurb at the beginning of my blog, you may have noted that the word victim does not appear. I don’t see myself as one. I see myself as a survivor. This is really important to me as I continue this process. Unless you have been in a Bible study with me or have been close to me at some point, you likely didn’t or wouldn’t even know anything bad about my childhood. Some that were close had an inkling that things weren’t good, but they didn’t even know how bad things were.

There are quite a few reasons for that but here’s my top one. I like to happy. I also love to laugh and enjoy friends, enjoy my family and I love to be making new memories to replace the bad ones.

With all this in mind, here are some things that I want people to know. Things that help and things that don’t. I promise this isn’t aimed at any one person. These are just things that I’ve figured out in all this. I want to use my story to help and here are some things that I think will be helpful to know in the future when getting to know someone that comes from an abusive past. Obviously, these will all be from my perspective and I don’t even pretend to be an expert. I am however, an expert in my story.

I’ll be honest before I start though, there has been a lot of mental back and forth with myself on this post. Why? Because I don’t want pity. I don’t want it to seem like I’m giving myself a pity party or excuses. But to some, it will probably come across that way. What I am merely attempting is to explain some things out for those that have no box for this. I hope that makes since.

So, let me dive a little more into what I said a moment ago. Again, I like to be happy. Maybe love is a better word for that though. I spent most of the first half of my life and a little past that absolutely miserable. I have no desire for that to continue any longer. I love my husband, my children and my friends. I love to laugh. That proverb about laughter being healing to the bones is SO true. Finding the humor in situations is good, and I like doing it. And let’s be honest here, no matter what your background, parenting provides plenty of those humorous situations.

Now the flip side of that is that it also used to be a coping mechanism. I didn’t fully realize that till a few years ago when I was meeting with someone and told her a “funny” memory that left her looking at me in horror. I’ll never forget that moment because when I saw her face, it stopped me in my tracks and I remember saying, “Oh. I guess that really isn’t funny, is it?”

In my life now, I have found myself slipping back into that on days when parenting is hard. So, sometimes if you see a bunch of humorous posts on my FB, I’m coping. What is different about me now than even 5 years ago, is if someone sees that and asks me if I’m okay, I’ll be honest with my response.

Another thing, please do not act weird or awkward around me. Treat me normal! So here’s the thing. I can’t change my childhood. I can’t change the details of what happened. Sometimes they will need to come out in a meaningful conversation. I know they are hard details to hear and many don’t know how to respond. But I’m still me at the end of that conversation. I’m still the me that you knew before you knew those details.

This blog has been the best thing I think I could have done for myself. It gives me a place to put the details, to process and work through it. I still haven’t found a therapist yet, but this has been so helpful. I’m not hiding anymore and this is the place I can leave it. I am usually fine with answering questions in other settings and I certainly need and appreciate those that have texted me, messaged me or pulled me aside to give me encouragement. Please don’t stop that. I know I experienced horrific abuse, but sometimes getting validation is helpful. If I just do not want to talk about it, I promise I will tell you. But I’ll always take a hug, text, card or message of encouragement.

On the list of things that are helpful is getting out with friends. Five children is overwhelming. It just is. It would be hard if you had a wonderful childhood. Imagine it when you have no mom to call, no good examples to pull from and your brain also decides that now is a great time to start processing trauma filled memories. I need to get out. I need breaks. I need to talk to other ladies. Where I struggle so much in this is in the asking.

You text me and say, “let’s go get coffee” or “let’s go walk somewhere” or “let’s get the kids together,” Matt can tell you, mountains will move for me to make that happen asap. But the chance that I’ll send that text first is slim. I’m working on it, I really am. There is however, only a certain amount of burns one already wounded individual can take before being the initiator becomes a huge barrier. Just a few months ago, I was told to stop trying to hang out by someone that I deemed a close friend. I truly don’t think she meant it in a mean way, but it hurt. It really hurt and putting myself out there is just too risky sometimes.

Again, I am desperately trying to overcome that, but it’s not something I can just make happen.

Please remember though, that actions speak much louder than words. If I have gotten to the point of being willing to initiate and it isn’t reciprocated. I will stop. If you tell me you want to hang out then only ever have excuses as to why we can’t, I will give up and assume that you actually don’t want to, you just don’t want to tell me. I realize people are busy. I’m busy myself. But if you truly love and care about someone, you make time for them. Period.

One thing that is not helpful and that can actually be hurtful, are platitudes. Especially religious ones. Including, but not limited to:

-forgive and forget

-just have more faith

-just trust God

-let go and let God

-give it to God

Rachael Denhollander said,

“One of the areas where Christians don’t do well is in acknowledging the devastation of the wound. We can tend to gloss over the devastation of any kind of suffering but especially sexual assault, with Christian platitudes like God works all things together for good or God is sovereign. Those are very good and glorious biblical truths, but when they are misapplied in a way to dampen the horror of evil, they ultimately dampen the goodness of God. Goodness and darkness exist as opposites. If we pretend that the darkness isn’t dark, it dampens the beauty of the light.”

I couldn’t say it better than that.

What I will say from my personal story. There is no logical reason outside of God’s grace and a pure miracle that I want to have anything to do with God at this point. When I’m in a moment of dealing with a painful memory or the repercussions of what was done to me, having any of those things I listed said to me is hurtful and angering.

Some of these are dismissive of the severity of people’s pain. But “forgive and forget” is not even Biblical. In my circumstance though, I cling to God, sometimes feeling like it’s by a fraying cord. The implication to someone telling me to just give it to God or trust or have more faith, is that I’m not doing it and if I was then I wouldn’t be in pain. That is also NOT Biblical. God didn’t promise us a life of ease and that it would be pain free. Quite the contrary actually. He was blunt that following Him would be hard.  So for me, when I get told those platitudes, it feels like a slap across the face. It also immediately makes me feel not safe with whoever said it because that individual is completely dismissing and invalidating my pain and using God to do it.

I know that sounds ridiculously harsh, but it is true and needs to be said. I deeply love people that have said it to me, but that doesn’t change how hurtful it is when it happens. I also know that most that say it really mean well. They would be horrified if they knew that that is how it comes across. That’s why I explaining how it comes across. Not because I can hold it over someone’s head, but so they know NOT to do it again. I get it. Hearing difficult details can leave you at a loss for words. It is OKAY to just listen and not say anything, or to say things like:

-I’m listening

-that wasn’t right

-I’m sorry you went through that

-I love you

-I’m praying for you (BUT ONLY IF YOU REALLY MEAN IT). This one is way better if you stop and pray right then, or text a prayer that you prayed or at least say exactly what you are going to pray for.

Anyways, I hope this all makes since and flows well. While being honest about hard parenting, I’m working off a night of about 3 good hours of sleep due to asthma issues and teething baby. So, I’m sure I’ve left some things out that I wanted to say and if another survivor reads this and has something to add…by all means. Please comment!

Another Angle of Abandonment

I’ve done a lot of googling lately to see if I can come up with anything that might help someone like me dealing with a unique form of abandonment. I haven’t been able to come up with much so if anyone reading this knows of anything, please pass on the information.

Mine isn’t the situation of being abandoned (although I do fall into that in some areas), or the one that actually did the abandoning. But I feel like I was the one that did the abandoning. As the oldest daughter, I just instinctively knew from very early on that I was the protector of my younger siblings. It wasn’t a role that I should have had to play, but one forced on me regardless. I was stronger physically than my sister J— so if a situation arose where I could take the brunt, I did. I couldn’t bare to see the younger ones treated as I was, so if I could take the blame or shift focus to me, I would. By mid-teens I had convinced myself that I had lived it for so long that I was just “used” to it and could take it. If younger siblings were struggling with completing something, I’d jump in to help often times causing my own chores and school to not get finished and then would get in a lot of trouble for it. It was okay though, I was redirecting my parents anger and focus away from younger siblings.

My second to youngest brother J—- started his first year of school in what would be my last. My youngest brother G—— didn’t start till at least a year after I was done. Because they were so young, when I got my first job right after I “graduated,” I was able to spend more time with them when I was home. Helping J—- with his school and just being a playmate for G——. I would also make myself available whenever I was home to help any other the others with their school assignments as well. My thoughts were simply to keep as many of them as clear from my parent’s radar as possible. I was also doing my best to steer clear of them myself as they were doing their best to make my existence miserable.

Mom was livid that I had gotten the job. Even at 18 I hadn’t gotten “permission” to take a job and I wasn’t at her disposal all the time anymore. From her point of view, my graduation meant that I was available to take on full time homemaking and mom duties so she didn’t have too. So lets just say that she did her best to make me miserable. She would make jabs about how my boss would soon figure out how “lazy” I was, mock me for not having a plan for my life, make jabs about how unworthy I was as a woman and no man would even want to marry me, or say that if I did “somehow manage to find a husband” he would be a drug addict, be abusive and I would be miserable. She would constantly remind me of the whole reaping and sowing thing and tell me that I would end up with terrible and rebellious children because I was one to her.

When I finally turned 19, I was able to enroll at Tech school without a high school transcript. I took on full time hours and continued to work as much as I could. Getting extra hours at work turned out to be pretty easy at that point. My manager in the photo lab hated working and took full advantage of how close I lived to the store to call me to cover for as many of her shifts as the company would allow me. I knew then she was taking advantage of me but frankly, I didn’t care and I let her. I would just bring my homework to the lab and work on it between customers and I needed the money and more reasons to get out of the house.

While being gone that much was good for me though, I always felt guilty leaving my siblings. I couldn’t protect them when I wasn’t there. Over the next few years as I made tiny step after tiny step that finally started getting me away from my parents and farther from the miserable situation, the guilt only got worse. With every step that I took that moved me one step closer to freedom, was another step away from them.

While attending college in FL, I broke down to one of my roommates at least once. I also broke down at work on campus to one of my supervisors one evening. I had pictures of all my younger siblings on a collage on the cover of my notebook and would randomly start crying when I saw them. It was so difficult. After I stopped going to that school and came back home permanently, things deteriorated even more with my parents and I went my college and career leader at church and told him I needed to get out and asked for help. He did help me and I got out. It was the best thing that could have happened for me at that point, but I still felt like I was abandoning my brothers and sisters.

For my middle 3 siblings, Matt and I were able to give them a place to live to give them a boost in getting out. That also gave them a safe place to come to. I was thrilled to be able to help them all in that way and would do it again in a heartbeat. But it was hard.

Then my youngest 2 brothers. They were the ones caught in all the crossfire. They were so young still when I left. G—— had only just turned 9 when Matt and I got married. Once we helped my youngest sister spring free, it was just them. They got the full brunt force of mom and dad’s anger and need to control…and I could not protect them.

After I reported mom and dad to CPS, they cut my contact with the boys for over a year. J—- told me later that he was angry at me for it. I could only hope and pray that one day they would understand. From my stance, I know I did what I could. I was fighting with the state to get custody of them. I had 2 social workers sit across the table from me and tell me to my face that they had enough on my parents to remove the boys immediately. But they didn’t. Then I lost them.

With me out and the boys the only ones at home, my parents were eventually able to manipulate the situation around till they had the police convinced that the boys were the problem and that they were dangerous. Till they each graduated, J—- especially, were treated like criminals and my parents the police in their back pocket.

All I literally could do was sit, wait and pray.

I can’t speak for them and how all of that affected them. I know what I see in them now and it breaks my heart. I’ve cried and cried so many times. I’ve rerun the last 8 years over and over, desperately trying to figure out what I could have done differently. How I could have protected them more. But mostly I’ve just battled guilt. So much guilt for feeling like I abandoned them. G—— just finished boot camp with the Marines and I was able to go take him to lunch before he headed out again for another training. And there in the restaurant dining room I broke down and cried. It was the first time I’ve been able to really talk to him since he finally left our parents house. He told me briefly of so many hard struggles he’s had and while my head can know that they are not my fault, my heart is yelling something different.

I haven’t been able to talk to J—- yet. Military, life, jobs and kids have just made that impossible to this point.

So this isn’t a post that I can wrap up nicely. I don’t know how to deal with this guilt. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know if this is common in older siblings from abusive households. I can’t find anything that helps. Maybe me putting this out there will help something turn up…

I can always hope.

Hunger and Twisted Scripture

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (KJV)

Trigger warning! Physical, emotional, mental, Spiritual and physiological abuse

Do you know how badly this verse can be distorted? It’s such a small verse, but it has been the cause of so much misery in my life. It was a wielded weapon in the hands of an abuser and used as an excuse for the abuse itself. I’ve had it quoted to me over and over and been forced to read it and write in paper after paper in a brainwashing way so that I would know that I was to blame my hunger only on myself for being such a lazy daughter and that it was what God wanted my punishment to be.  That I couldn’t rationally get mad at my parents for not feeding me, after all, they were just obeying God in starving me because I was so lazy. I have very few memories of not being hungry. I’m talking days at a time. The longest I remember being 6 or 7 days.

Ironically, I also have very few memories of not working myself to the bone. I rarely was ever fully rested. As in, um no. I wasn’t lazy. But I was told I was. Every. Single. Day. Over and over. “Told” is actually kind of deceptive. More like screamed at, usually with many swings of a belt following.

See, my typical day started at 6 am if I was lucky. Usually it was even earlier or I was working off being forced to stay up all night long. I had to be completely dressed with bed made and room spotless by the time family devotions started at 6:15. After devotions started morning chore time. These included emptying the dishwasher, cleaning all 3 bathrooms, vacuuming all bedrooms and the living room rug, dusting the entire house, taking out all the trash, starting the laundry (having 2 load through was required before breakfast), etc. Chores that I’m glad I know how to do, but aren’t just a quick go through. Breakfast time was after that followed by school time, lunch, afternoon school, afternoon chores, “free time”, dinner time, deep cleaning the house (there were different assignments based on the night of the week), nighttime devotions and bed. Seems busy but not too bad on the surface. On so many levels, we were doomed for misery here.

There was this snowball affect that my parents employed. If you didn’t complete anything in its assigned time to my mom’s level of perfection, it carried to the next time slot and you were not allowed to do or participate in the next thing till the first one was complete. Nearly every morning that I remember though, Mom would be angry. She was always angry. Because of this, family devotion time was nearly always extended past it’s time slot which took out of our time for morning chores. It was already impossible to get most chores done to mom’s standard (you were literally doomed if your chore that day was cleaning the bathrooms. If even 1 streak was found on the toilet seat or 1 missed spot was found anywhere, you had to reclean the entire bathroom). There was also a standing rule that if you were not totally caught up on your chores (including having them inspected and passed) and school work, then you were not allowed to eat whatever meal was being served.

It was the same with school work as it was with chores. If they were not done to mom’s standard of perfection, they were ripped up in front of your face and you had to start all over. I rarely received any feedback about what I had messed up (it could have been a misplaced comma and that’s it. Didn’t matter. Whole assignment was ripped). There is really no way to convey the utter misery and hopelessness that all this induced as well as encompassing everything that played into it than to place some of my story here.

Fear and shame grip me as soon as I wake up.  The bed and my pajamas are cold and wet again.  I am terrified.  The last time I wet the bed only a couple of nights ago, Mom got so angry.  I am a big girl, why can’t I wake up when I need to go.  I shake J— awake and tell her I’m so sorry because I know that she will have gotten wet too.  We jump out of bed very fast and take the sheets off the bed and I take them into the laundry room for Mom to wash, then J— and I run to the bathroom to get cleaned up as fast as we can.  We run water in the tub and take a bath as fast as we can and get dressed to go clean up our room.  I don’t make it back to our room before Mom is yelling for me to get in her room.  I hate her room and am scared to go in because I know that she knows.  She yells at me that I’m a big baby and that I’m lazy.  She screams at me that I’m causing her more laundry and that from now on, if I wet my bed then I have to wash everything I messed up.  I am crying now and I don’t understand why Mom is so angry.  I want to wake up when I need to go but I just can’t.  She is still yelling at me and I try to listen just so she will finish and let me go, but she keeps going.  She says that if this doesn’t stop then she is going to tell everybody at church what a baby I am, now I am really terrified.  She finally finishes but I know I am in trouble.  We only have an hour to finish all of our chores and she yelled at me for almost 20 minutes after I had already used up about 15 minutes to get the dirty clothes in the laundry room and get cleaned up.  I now only have about 25 minutes to clean the two downstairs bathrooms, empty the dishwasher from last night, vacuum all three bedrooms and the living room, and fold laundry.  I know I am doomed.  I work as fast as I can but it is no use, I am only able to get the dishwasher empty and clean one bathroom before the timer goes off.  Mom yells at all of us to get to the kitchen and we trip over each other to get in there as fast as we can.  She goes down the list starting with K—.  His chores are not signed off neither are mine or J—’s.  She yells for us all to line up outside her door for our spankings.  K— goes first and we listen out side as the belt hits him over and over again.  I try to count them so I know how many I’m going to get but I’m so scared that I lose count.  I’m next.  I don’t seem to be moving fast enough for her so she grabs me by the hair and drags me to the side of her bed.  I try not to scream as she yells at me to pull my pants down.  She starts spanking and I start counting to try to pay attention to something besides the pain.  I don’t want to scream and I try not to make a sound but tears are running down my face by the time she reaches spanking number fifty.  She finally stops and yells at me to get out of her sight.  I pull up my pants as fast as I can and get out of her room.  I run into my room across the hall and grab Rita to hug her and cry into her while Mom gives J— hers.  I am counting J—’s so that I can put Rita down and run into the living room before Mom comes out of her room so I don’t get caught and Mom doesn’t take Rita away from me again.  She took Rita from me a while ago for two weeks and I just got her back.  I can’t lose her again.  As soon as the rounds of spankings are over she yells at all of us to go into the living room for a family meeting.  We all know what that means and it means we are going to have a miserable day.  Of course, what is different than all the others?  Even if they don’t start out like today did, they are all miserable. 

We have now been sitting on the sofa for about two hours while Mom has been lecturing and lecturing and sometimes reading parts of Proverbs.  Because she had been yelling at me first thing this morning, we missed family devotions so she decides that now is a good time to have them while she is lecturing.  She finds the Proverbs about the foolish and lazy person and about the wicked.  She tells us that it is in the Bible that the foolish need to be punished until his wickedness it driven out of him and that we are the wicked and foolish people that God is talking about in those chapters.  She tells us that she cannot let rebellion go unpunished because she is God’s representative to us and if we rebel against her than we are rebelling against God.  She says that God gives people the authorities in their lives and that she was ours, therefore we are supposed to obey her without grumbling or complaining and especially without question.  Then she starts down the same thing that I have heard almost every day for as long as I can remember.  She says that she is in a war against us and that God is on her side which that she will not lose and we will be judged by God for not obeying her.  She says that she will keep fighting till she dies or we die or we are finally broken of our will.  Then she turns to Deuteronomy and reads some in there and tells us that if, we would only obey her than there would be so many blessings.  We would be happy as a family and God would not be angry with us.  I listen to her ramble for a little while and then I just start tuning her out.  I listen just enough so that if she asks me a question, I will be able to answer it.  I tell myself that she is wrong.  I do try to get my chores and school work done.  Right now I am getting angrier and angrier because I am watching the clock and I know how long we have been sitting here.  We have already long since missed breakfast and now we are only an hour away from lunch time and she is still talking.  I know this means that we will miss lunch too because we have to have half of our school assignments done and signed off before we are aloud to eat lunch.  I can’t remember the last time I had breakfast and this is the third day in a row that I have missed lunch.  Last night I only was able to have one of Mom’s five-minute, one helping meals.  I am so hungry right now that even if I wanted to listen to Mom I would have a hard time.  Mom is still very angry and is making herself angrier as she is talking.  She tells us that in the Old Testament rebellious children were stoned to death and that’s what we deserved.  Now she is doing her fake crying and asking why we are all out to get her and to make her life miserable.  She asks us why we can’t be good children like all the children in the home school group.  She’s too tired to keep going so now she throws us all outside till Dad gets home to deal with us because she says we are out of control.  We are not allowed to take anything outside with us even our school work and we are not allowed to leave the back porch.  I know this means that we will either miss supper too or only get a five-minute meal.  It’s so hot out here and I am so thirsty but I know better than to ask for water because when we get thrown outside Mom says that we lose all the privileges of living in the house.

I hear Dad’s car pull into the driveway and am not sure whether or not to be scared or relieved.  Dad comes in the house and goes straight back to his room.  We can hear him and Mom talking through their bathroom window next to the deck.  Mom is talking very mean and is yelling.  We know that means things are about to get worse.  Finally Dad comes and calls us into the living room.  He has the belt in his hands and Mom is sitting in the chair looking like a martyr.  We all sit and wait to see what punishment Mom has decided that we should have.  She always has the final decision even if Dad is the one to tell us what it is.  If Dad doesn’t give us a punishment that she thinks is bad enough then she will start yelling at him and we will end up getting what Mom has decided.  Dad has the belt in both hands with the two layers together.  Then he separates the layers and then pulls them flat again very fast to make a loud crack.  It sounds like he just spanked someone very hard.  I shiver but try not to look scared.  He’s done this before and now I am terrified because I know what’s coming.  Dad looks like he is enjoying our reactions and has a slight grin on his face.  To me it looks like an evil grin and I yell at him that this is not funny.  Mom jumps up out of her seat and rushes over to slap my face and yells at me not to ever yell at her husband.  She sits back down and Dad gets up and starts walking around the room in circles in front of us over and over.  While he is walking he keeps cracking the belt very close to us changing the person who he does it in front of.  He is talking the whole time about our rebelliousness and our bad attitudes and making Mom miserable.  He has been around the room at least four times now and now he is starting the fifth.  This time he starts swinging out the belt towards us.  J— just screamed.  He hit her across the front of her legs.  K— is next; he got hit on the knees.  I am trying not to show how scared I am but I can tell that Dad knows I’m terrified.  He gets closer to me and I hold my breath and then slowly let it escape as he starts to pass me.  All of a sudden he turns back around and catches me with the belt across my lower arms and stomach.  I can’t control the scream of pain that comes out.  I look over at Mom and she is looking quite satisfied with what is going on.  Dad keeps going around the room, someone gets hit every time he goes around but we never know who or where.  Sometimes he hits the sofa beside us just to scare us.  By the end of it he had gotten the fronts of my legs, shoulders, arms, chest, knees and stomach.  J— got hit everywhere too.  I wasn’t paying attention to K— because he was on the other sofa.  Dad finally sat down but he cracked the belt one more time just for effect.  I am so angry now I am trembling.  I know Mom and Dad think I am trembling because I am afraid but I’m not.  I am screaming at them in my head, screaming at Dad asking him how he could do this to his daughters, screaming at Mom for making him do it.

The lecture is finally over.  We are going to miss supper tonight and we are so hungry.  Mom has a home school meeting tonight which means we get a little break because Dad always falls asleep on the sofa after supper.  As soon as he starts snoring I go to my room and pack my duffle bag.  I pack some clothes and my favorite blanket and Rita.  Then I sneak in the kitchen and get some apples and put them in the duffle and head out the side door.  I sneak around the back of the house to the woods that separate our house from the road.  It is the middle of summer so I know that the leaves on the trees will hide me.  I have to be careful though, because there woods are full of poison ivy and I don’t want that.  I start to head for the road.  I just got to the road and now I hear Dad calling me.  I don’t answer but I start to walk faster.  As soon as I get to the road I start running and I run as fast as I can all the way to the stop sign. I am going to run away and I’m not going to let Dad find me.  I turn around when I get to the stop sign to make sure he isn’t following.  I hear a car coming on the main road and run up the hill into the trees so they won’t see me.  When I see the car I almost throw up.  It is Mom.  I lay down as low as I can and I know she didn’t see me.  As soon as I see the van turn into our driveway I take off down the main road.  I know where I am going.  There is a lady that goes to our church that does not live very far away.  I know I can make it there by morning time.  This is the third time I have tried to run away and Dad always caught me before I got off our road.  Now I have made it farther then ever and I’m not going back.  Every time I hear a car coming, I get off the road very fast and hide in the trees.  I am almost to the end of this road now all I have to do is get onto Broad River Rd and go till I get to the lady’s road.  I hear another car coming up behind me and I hide as best as I can.  There are not good trees right here so the best option I have is to hide in the ditch.  I get down as low as I can and hold my breath but this time the car doesn’t keep going it slows to a stop.  I hope that is because the car is about ready to turn but it isn’t.  I hear a car door open and the Dad yell at me to get into the car.  I know I am caught again but this time I get up and yell back that I’m not going.  He yells at me again to get in the car and I yell back no!  I start to try to run in the other direction but he is faster and catches me.  He drags me back by the arm and shoves me in the car.  He gets back in and takes me home.  I know I am in big trouble.  We get back to the house and Dad tells Mom where I was.  She grabs my bag away from me and dumps every thing out on the kitchen floor.  As soon as she sees Rita she grabs her away from me and tells me I have lost her again.  She sees the apples and tells me that because I took them, I am going to miss every meal tomorrow and I have a twenty page paper to write on stealing.  I don’t know how long she will keep Rita this time but I refuse to let them see me cry.  I pretend like I don’t care and leave the room.  J— asks me if I am upset and I tell her no and I will try to run away again one day.

It is finally bedtime and we are all relieved.  J— is so weak from being hungry that she can hardly walk and all she wants to do is sleep.  K— somehow always manages to sneak food out without getting caught, but J— and I are too afraid to try.  J— and I climb into bed and talk for a few minutes trying to ignore the nawing hunger in our stomachs.  J— goes to sleep very quickly but I have a hard time going to sleep while I am that hungry.  I finally start to go to sleep when I hear stomping down the hall.  They are Mom’s footsteps and I know that this means she is coming to our room.  She bangs open the door and turns on the light screaming for us to get up.  WHAT POSESED YOU TO THINK THAT YOU HAD PERMISSION TO SLEEP?!?!?!  She yanks us out of bed and yells at us to get into the living room.  She tells all of us to stand on the rug until she gets back and stomps out of the room.  J— looks like she is going to fall over.  In my head I plead with her not to sit down because I don’t want Mom any madder.  Mom finally comes back in carrying one of the hard wooden desks.  Dad is following with another one and puts his down and goes back for the third one.  Mom then tells us that we have not done a bit of school work today so now we get to stay up until that days school is done along with as many undone assignments that she tells us.  We each sit down at a desk and I feel total despair.  I am so hungry and so tired that I cannot think.  She lays down on the sofa with the belt across her lap and says that if she finds us sleeping, not working fast enough, or doing sloppy work than she will start spanking.  I work for a while and steal a look at Mom and see that she has gone to sleep.  I prop my head against my hand with my other hand holding my pencil so it looks like I am writing.  I tell myself that I’m only going to sleep for just a minute so that I can get a little more energy.  I wake up to a slashing pain across my back.  Mom is standing over me and strikes again.  I stand up as fast as I can so that she can hit my bottom instead of my back but I all of a sudden feel sick and dizzy and fall to the floor.  Mom keeps swinging the belt and hits my sides and my legs and my back again.  I curl into a ball to try to protect myself while she keeps swinging.  She hits my side so hard that I jerk out straight uncontrollably leaving my front exposed.  Before I can curl back up she swings the belt again and this time it catches me on my chest.  I scream in agony and she finally stops.  She reaches down and grabs a handful of my hair and yanks me off the floor and forces me back into the desk.  Her face is in mine, I see in her eyes that she hates me.  She screams that if I dare fall asleep again then I will stand in the corner till devotion time the next morning.  For the rest of the night we all fight sleep and try our hardest to get some school work done.  We are never working fast enough when Mom wakes up to satisfy her so periodically we are all getting many spankings.

It is finally 6:15 and time for family devotions.  Everyone else gets up and comes in the living room.  Mom says that we can’t sit on the sofa because she knows that we will fall asleep so we have to stay in the desks.  I am trying not to fall asleep in the wooden desk I am so tired.  But I need to focus on what Mom is reading because she will ask us questions at the end.  If we cannot answer them then she will start over and make us write papers about it.  I am able to pick one verse and mumble something that I learned from it; just enough to satisfy her so we can move on.  She is finally finished discussing what we read and I feel a little hope that maybe we can leave for chore time.  I think that if I get my chores done fast enough then maybe I can sneak somewhere and take a little nap.  I am not so fortunate!  Mom just announced that we would be having drills all day today because of not getting our chores done yesterday.  I want to scream and cry.  I hate drills and all they ever do is get me into more trouble.  Mom seems like she is having fun as she goes through the house ransacking every room in it.  She says that we have fifteen minutes to each get our assigned rooms spotless.  She says that our character is more important than our school work and that if we never get any school work done that is fine with her.  She says that any school on our assignment list that we don’t get to because of doing chores will just have to go on our undone lists.  My rooms of the house this week are the living room, dining room and back porch along with my bedroom.  I try not to panic but there is no possible way I can get all of those clean to Mom’s satisfaction in fifteen minutes!  I work as hard and as fast as I can but it is no use.  Mom keeps coming in and out of the room yelling at me that I am not working fast enough.  I want to yell back at her that I am working as fast as I can on an empty stomach of several days and no sleep for the past 24 hours!  I dare not actually yell at her though or I will be dead meat.  The dreaded sound of the timer going off, cuts into my thoughts.  I know that I might as well head towards her bedroom because I am in for a spanking again.  Nobody got their rooms done so we all have to line up.  Today Mom feels like spanking our feet instead of our bottoms.  I have to lay on her floor on my tummy with the bottoms of my feet up.  I wasn’t able to put a pair of socks on this morning so she is spanking my bare feet.  I can’t stop screaming because of the pain and I try to pull away.  She grabs my legs and yanks me back and then sits on them so that I cannot move.  All this time she is yelling at me that until I stop screaming that none of these are counting.  I bite the inside of my lip till I taste blood trying not to scream.  I am focusing so hard on not screaming that I lose count sometime after forty.  She is finally done but I cannot feel my feet to stand on them.  Mom yells at me that I am faking to get attention and that if she sees me limping anymore I will get fifty more.  I try my best to walk out of her room without limping and as soon as her door is shut for the next person I get down on my hands and knees and crawl to the living room.  Now that round of spankings is done and she has just finished ransacking the house for round two.

Dad just got home and we are still drilling, I have lost count on what round we are on and I feel like a moving robot.  The last round that we did, J— and I finally got our rooms done but K— and C— did not.  It doesn’t matter for me and J— because we are still going to have to do it again.  Mom says that our family is a team and if one part of the team fails than we all fail.  I am so mad at K— and C—, why couldn’t they have gotten their rooms done?  It is now time for the evening mopping and we are still drilling.  Mom finally says that we are done for the day because she is tired and we have to get our mopping done.  I am only partially relieved.  I have dust mopping this week and that is the worst one to have.  I never can seem to get all the dust off the floor and I am always missing spots.  Mom says it is because I am lazy and stupid and don’t care.  I think she is too picky.  She is always telling us that we are lazy but we are the only ones doing the work around the house.  All Mom ever does is play solitaire or free cell on the computer or lay on the sofa and watch us work.  I know that she is the lazy one not me and not J—.  I am so angry with her all the time and I think I am starting to hate her and I don’t even care.  Mopping time is over and mine does not pass her inspection again.  That means that I get another $15 fine to add to all the other ones I have gotten.  That also means that I will have to redo it tomorrow morning during breakfast time because mopping time is over then it is bedtime. 

     I climb into bed and pray that I will be allowed to sleep all night long.  I am so tired and hungry that I cannot think.  Everybody else is asleep now but even though I have not slept in over 24 hours I cannot sleep.  I am so hungry that my tummy will not be quiet.  I am hungry enough to try to get some food.  My room is right across the hall from Mom and Dad’s so I have to be very quiet.  Mom is a very light sleeper and wakes up at anything.  I tiptoe out of my room and very carefully down the hall.  I know where all the squeaky spots are and am very careful to avoid them.  I make it all the way to the kitchen without turning on any lights.  I then go into the laundry room and turn that light on.  That light is left on all the time and maybe Mom wouldn’t notice if she came out.  I open the cabinets as fast as I can to keep them from squeaking and I find a column of crackers.  There are a few in there so I feel safe to take one.  I go in the laundry room and get a clean shirt out of the dryer and wrap the crackers in the shirt so they won’t make any noise and so they will be hidden if Mom comes out while I am walking back down the hallway.  I listen and do not hear anyone moving so I get a little braver and pull the block of cream cheese out of the frig.  Mom gets the big Sam’s blocks of cream cheese so I know I can cut off a chunk without any being missed.  I wrap the cream cheese in a napkin and then put it in the shirt too then turn off the laundry room light.  I start heading back to my room and am just starting to go down the hallway when I hear Mom’s door opening.  In utter terror and panic I rush into the living room and hide behind the chair up against the back corner.  I see the hall light come on and I peak out from behind the chair to see Mom heading towards the kitchen.  I am terrified that she heard me, but I guess she didn’t because she got something out of the medicine cabinet and went back into her room turning off all the lights.  As soon as I hear her door shut I run back across the living room to listen.  I hear another door shut and I know that she has gone into her bathroom.  I know this is my chance so I dash down the hallway as fast as I can without making any noise and get back to my room.  I climb in bed just as I hear her come back out of her bathroom.  I lay very still with the food hidden under the covers for a very long time just to make sure she has gone back to sleep.  I sneak into my closet to eat and I have a flashlight hidden in there so I can see.  J— wakes up when she hears the crinkle of the cracker paper and she comes into the closet with me and we both eat half the crackers and cream cheese.  It is not nearly enough to make me not hungry but at least I can go to sleep.  I wad the cracker paper and the napkin as tight as I can and then go to the bathroom to flush them down the toilet.  I am not scared for Mom to hear me walk to the bathroom because if she comes out all she will see is me going back to bed after using the bathroom.  She does not come out though and I know I am safe for now and I am finally able to sleep.

     Today makes the fifth day that I have not been allowed any meals.  The cracker and cream cheese that I snuck a few nights ago didn’t last very long on my tummy.  Every night since then, I have managed to get a little something, but no meals.  It is lunch time right now and K—, J— and I are all standing in the corners in the living room.  We have been standing here for an hour and we will be here for 9 more.  Somehow we all earned 10 hours in the corner and now is when we have to spend it.  Mom left the room for a minute to go check on the little ones eating their lunch.  I take this opportunity to sit down for just a minute.  My feet already hurt very badly and I don’t know how I will be able to make myself stand here for 9 more hours.  I am so weak and tired and hungry that I feel like I am going to faint.  J— and I start trying to make signs for each other to help pass the time.  Mom sees us moving and yells that if we don’t stop, she is going to start our time over.  I put my elbows on the shelf in front of me and rest my chin in my hands.  BAM!  I wake to my head hitting the shelf and the wall as I collapse onto the floor.  Mom is standing over me in a minute with the belt in her hands yelling that I had better stand back up this instant or she was going to start spanking.  I pull myself up as quickly as I can and turn my nose back toward the corner.  I manage to glance at the clock as I turn back around and see that only 25 minutes have passed.  It is taking everything in me not to burst into tears right now.  I can’t and won’t let Mom see me cry!  I refuse to let her know how much this hurts.  I don’t want J— to see me cry either because, I am her big sister and I need to be strong for her. 

     We now have three hours left.  There is no feeling in my feet.  I have been switching the foot that I stand on for hours now but now I can hardly pick up either foot.  I don’t dare let myself fall asleep again but I have to find something to do to help pass the time.  I finally work up the courage to ask Mom if I can get some school assignments to work on while standing.  I makes me so happy when she says yes.  I go to get my work and sit as long as I dare and then head back to the living room.  Done!!  Our corner time is finally up but it is now past supper and I know I will be sneaking something else out again tonight. 

In case anyone wants to believe that I made this up…it’s been read and verified by my siblings that would remember. I’d also like to ask how could anyone believe that I could or would make this up? This. This was day in and day out. It only escalated as we got older. I haven’t really touched on the bedwetting issue or the agony that caused outside of what was written in this story. I spent most of my childhood so hungry I could barely function. It was even worse for my sister. I could go on and on about all the ways this has harmed us in the long run like my tendency to overeat now or the fact that panic starts settling in if I get too hungry. But see how the Bible was a weapon? I was told that I was hungry because I was lazy (although I barely ever stopped working). That it was my fault and that this was what God wanted.

What isn’t touched on in this segment from my story is that if we ever were caught sneaking food out, it didn’t even matter if we hadn’t been successful, we were given ipecac. If you are not aware of ipecac or what it does, it forces your body to throw up, even if there is nothing in your stomach. The amount of times that I vomited pure stomach acid as a child due to this is quite staggering and I have lasting damage to my esophagus because of it.

Are you furious yet? Does this bring out the anger it should? You know there is a good kind of anger right? As a Christian does it make you angry that God and His Word was used like this on children? Or are you just irritated that I’m saying something negative about homeschooling and people that you want to believe were amazing? Is your response to defend homeschooling? If so and you are on my FB, please just leave. I’m not even going to beat around the bush on this one. Because if your response is to go on defense instead of anger that this should bring, you have a problem. And just because there are those that experienced similar spiritual abuse that don’t say anything, don’t think for a moment that they are not there. I know and respect so many that are simply not ready to say anything. Healing journeys look different for everyone. Right now, for me, my healing journey means I’m talking. I’m coming out of the silent shadows and talking. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me if that messes with your idolization of homeschooling or the church. Actually, I want it to shatter your idolization of those. Following God isn’t supposed to be comfortable and if you claim to be a believer, there is only One being/entity/thing that you should be worshiping.

My Firstborn’s Birth Story

I finished another step in my prep for my kids Christmas pictures! My daughter’s dress will eventually get the matching doll dress once I find the correct trim. I love it. If you don’t know, it’s Addy’s Christmas dress from those American Girl books. I didn’t have a pattern for it, so I just had to wing it off the doll dress pattern. I’m pretty proud of how it came out!

Next, I tackled my old 2 sons’ vests. Bonus, they like them!

I went with snaps instead of buttons because all my boys do not like buttons. Now on to the twins!

Now there is really no smooth way that has popped into my mind to transition to this but here we go.

One thing I want to do because I want the stories told, is tell the stories of my children. Pregnancy, birth, afterwards and how my past affected things. If we were to sit across the table from each other and we swapped birth stories, the one I would give you in that setting would be a lot “prettier” and would focus on the joyful and happy parts of the whole thing. The stories that I am writing in here will definitely include that, but they will also include the not so joyful and other parts of the story that are not shared on a regular basis. I feel this is important, because if I had known some other birth stories of things not going as planned or having traumatic elements, it would have been so much easier. If me telling the entirety of my stories helps one more mother, new or otherwise, it’s worth it.

For the sake of their privacy, I have chosen to leave their names off this blog. Obviously, those that know me and my family personally will know who I’m talking about, but I’m not ready for their names to be public access.

So, first up is my boy that made me a mom. My chocolate eyed little monkey is what I called him as a toddler.  At 10 years old, he is getting scary close to catching me in height. I give it maybe 2ish more years.

Before I delve into mine and his story though, I’ve got to talk about something. If you happen to notice from my introduction of myself, Matt and I have been married 11 years. He is 10. Yep, he was born a little over a month before our 1st wedding anniversary. Quite frankly, what I know now makes me very surprised that he wasn’t a honeymoon baby. Remember from my last post that birth control was talked about as being sinful? Well, this is a major factor in all this. While Matt was not raised in the same way I was, his parents didn’t really talk about things to him and honestly, who would expect that a new husband would know more about his wife’s body than she would? One would expect a woman to know things. But in blunt honesty, I knew practically nothing. I wasn’t ever instructed about my body or how it worked or why. The only “sex ed” I ever got from my parents was that birth control was sinful. Oh, by the time Matt and I got married I knew how sex worked, but that was because I asked my cousin questions and researched it on my own. But I had no clue how critical it was to also know how my own body worked and why! I was led to believe that I knew all I needed to unless I was going into the medical profession. Like, of course I knew that I had a period every month, but why and the significance of it’s cycle was something I didn’t even know I needed to know.


Okay, back to birth story now that my little rant is over. Matt and I knew going into our marriage that we didn’t want to wait that long to have a child. However, the plan was to get pregnant sometime around our first anniversary, not 2 months after our wedding. We were doing what we thought was the right thing. Umm…spoiler alert. We weren’t, because I was clueless and didn’t even know I was clueless. So here we are, 2 months into our marriage and thoroughly enjoying being newlyweds and getting to know each other. We had so many plans for that first year. Matt was going to finish grad school and find a job, we were going to pay off my car and start a good savings before we had our first child. Well, I went to work on this particular morning feeling fine. Me and the other 2 ladies in the office were going around town marketing that day. As we were driving in one of my coworker’s cars, I got carsick. Really carsick. I had only ever gotten carsick one other time in my entire life, and I grew up riding (more like bouncing) around in the back of a 15-passenger van (I learned to drive in that bad boy). Anyways, both of my coworkers started teasing me and saying, “your pregnant.” I flat out denied it and got a little annoyed. I didn’t want to be pregnant yet and I thought we were doing what we were supposed too to prevent it. They eventually dropped it (I think. I’m a little fuzzy on that. C or H you are welcome to correct my memory if you remember differently), we finished the day and I went home. Matt and I both got home from work about the same time and I told him about getting carsick and what my coworkers had said. Then we laughed. We had a class at church that evening, so we were in a hurry to eat and get out the door and quickly moved on. Neither of us actually remember a thing from that class though, because once we got there and slowed down, we both started to process what my coworkers had said and kept looking at each other with “no,” “I can’t be. Can I?” looks.

Yeah, we stopped by the drugstore on the way home to get the pregnancy tests. Got home, and as I am not a patient person, did not wait for the next morning to do it. That wasn’t the fastest positive I’ve gotten on a pregnancy test, but it came pretty quickly. I remember I walked out of the bathroom and handed it to Matt without saying a word. Let’s just say that the next few days were filled with a lot of processing. It took a few days of saying to each other, “I guess we are having a baby” to get on board with the idea. But…by day 3 I was on board. I got excited, giddy and stupid sick.

We found out when I was right about 4 weeks along (thank you morning sickness). About mid-week on week 5 I woke up that morning bleeding. Heavily. There are very few times in my adult life that I have been that scared. I knew I was losing the baby. In about a week I had already fallen in love with this little human growing inside of me and I knew my heart would be broken to lose him. I was crying when I called the OBGYN that I had decided on. They told me to come in that morning for an ultrasound. I was still in the denial stage of my childhood and my mom had previously been trained as a nurse, so I called her and she went with me. The nurse getting my vitals tried to reassure me that blood didn’t necessarily mean miscarriage, but I was sure she was just trying to make me feel better.

The ultrasound revealed a tiny “peanut” that was doing fine. A hemorrhage is what had caused the bleeding and everything was showing fine. When I first saw the picture of my tiny, tiny little baby, I cried again, but with such relief. The next few months drew me and Matt so close together as I was too sick for us to continue hanging out with our friends. He spent so much time helping me hold my hair up as I got sick over the toilet over and over. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how I continued to work through my first trimester and into my second. I know I spent a lot of time when the office was empty with my head down on the desk trying not to throw up again.

Once I hit about mid-2nd trimester, things leveled off. I still couldn’t eat chicken and tomatoes, but I wasn’t sick all the time anymore. I remember the first time I felt him move. One of the most incredible moments. I’ve felt that way with all my kids when I’ve felt them move for the first time, but he was the first and it was so special. Funny thing was, Matt and I already had his name picked out before we even got married (are we weird that we talked about that while dating?). He is named after both of my grandfathers.

My first clue that I might not be okay from my childhood came when I was in the beginning of my 3rd trimester. Both Matt and I grew up in church and we were attending one that my sister was a member of. She was in a horrible place of her own from our childhood and we wanted to be with her and support her. The church had communion this particular morning and I partook as I had for years. The service let out and I made it about halfway to our car before I went into a full-on panic attack. I hadn’t felt him move for about a half hour and I was positive that I had failed to confess something, and God was going to take my baby because of it. There wasn’t a thing Matt could say to me that was changing my mind in that moment. For 2 hours I worked with my abdomen and tried every trick I could figure out to get him to move so that I would know he was okay. I cried and begged and told God I was sorry for anything I had forgotten to confess. It was pure anguish. I will never forget the moment he first moved inside of me after all that.

Unfortunately, the heartache wasn’t over in this process. Going into the pregnancy I had told Matt that the only 2 things I for sure wanted was a natural delivery and to be successful breastfeeding. Two weeks from my due date he flipped. I went in for my next checkup and he had gone from head down to butt down and was sitting on my cervix. The practice that I was going to had the midwife side and the doctor side. Each side had several midwives or doctors. I had opted for the midwife side. There were five midwives that they switched you around to see throughout the pregnancy. I loved 2 of them, was indifferent to 1 and could not stand the other one (ha! realized I left out the fifth one! She was very old and didn’t see hardly anyone. I never even saw her around my entire pregnancy). Well, this day I got stuck with the midwife I didn’t like. There were reasons I didn’t like her. She was abrasive, demanding, bossy, treated you like you were stupid (at least she did me as a first time mom, and I heard from others later that they had the same experience and didn’t like her either), was clearly annoyed or downright irritated if you asked any questions and was rough physically. At the point in the exam when she confirmed that my son was indeed butt down, she got angry at me. I mean angry. She demanded to know why on earth I had not told her that the baby was butt down and why my c-section had not been scheduled. I couldn’t figure out why she was angry and got angry myself for it although I worked not to show it. I told her I didn’t know he was butt down and that he had been head down at the previous appointment. She then proceeded to lecture me and give me all the reasons why she didn’t believe me as she was flipping through previous notes to “prove” me wrong. Of course I was correct and there was no apology or anything and she went straight into almost yelling at me to go get my c-section scheduled. I was internally shaking, but told her I didn’t want to schedule it because he had just flipped, there might be a possibility that he would flip back. Her reaction in that moment left me legit scared that she was going to call CPS on me. She refused to let me leave the room till I agreed and then literally grabbed my arm and pulled me to the checkout counter (with a tight enough grip that my arm hurt), stood behind me so I was blocked from leaving and told the checkout lady to schedule my c-section immediately.

I was so angry, but also scared of her. I got out to my car and just sat there sobbing for 20 minutes. Part of it was because I did not want a c-section, but mostly in that moment it was because of what had just happened. I wish I had known that I could have stood up for myself. That I could have reported her for her actions, even if nothing came of it. But I had never been allowed to stand up for myself against someone in “authority.” I was beat till bruised and numb or half starved if I had ever tried. I called Matt once I had calmed down some and told him what had happened. Of course he got angry for me and we decided we would talk things over when we both got home that evening. By the next morning, I had not waivered in my resolve to try everything we could to get him to flip back, and also that I didn’t want to schedule a c-section a week before his due date. I wanted to go into labor on my own and have him when he was ready to come. I called the office before I went to work and canceled the c-section. The nurse on the line was hesitant, but I told her what I wanted and she was in the process of saying that while she couldn’t recommend it, it was my choice when the midwife I had seen the day before apparently heard the phone conversation and took the phone away from the nurse. She got on the phone angrier than the day before and yelled at me for a long time. I kept trying to state myself over and over and was continually interrupted be her yelling at me. She started throwing accusations:

“you are a terrible mother”

“how dare you”

“you are willingly putting your baby’s life at risk”

Just a few of the accusations she yelled at me over the phone. I’m proud to at least say that I had hit my limit and could take no more. I raised my voice loud enough so she could hear me over her yelling and said that I was done discussing this, it wasn’t her choice, her body or her baby. Then I hung up. Now I was a total basket case for hours after that though.

Over the next almost 2 weeks, I worked with our family’s chiropractor and did everything I could to get my son to flip back. You know what? He did. 5 times. Then flipped right back. He then flipped a 6th time back head down and as of the morning before I went into labor, I had an exam that confirmed he was head down again. I went into labor with him right at 1 am on the morning of the 18th of May. My due date was the 19th. There was no false labor, it went straight to “there is no question. I’m in labor.” An hour-ish later I lost my plug. I woke Matt up to tell him it had started and he helped me time the contractions for bit. When it became obvious that it wasn’t going to be quick, I sent him back to bed saying that at least one of us would need to be rested. I spent the rest of the night on the couch dosing between contractions. My in-laws came by lunch, but nothing was progressing as far as lessening the time between contractions. But the contractions themselves had gotten so hard by this point that I was struggling. We called the midwife on duty (thank God not the one I didn’t like) and she said that even though the timing was still irregular, that I should come on in. They checked me when I got there and I was dilated 4 cm which meant I was in active labor and needed to stay. This midwife is the one I had been indifferent to, just because I had barely seen her throughout my pregnancy. So I told her everything that had been going on and that at last check, he was head down again. She felt and couldn’t tell so they did an ultrasound and guess what? That stinker had flipped again, and was again sitting on my cervix. She was very kind and explained that she wasn’t able to do a c-section and she would go get the doctor for me.

Now. This is a traumatic part that I hardly ever tell. I don’t know if part of that is still a little bit of shame that I did this to myself because so many people just cannot understand why I did what I did. But before I tell it, let me tell you. In my brain, I had no other choice. The mindset, cult, whatever that I was raised in liked to make big deals out of things that weren’t. Kind of like the Pharisees that Jesus was always rebuking freaking out because He did miracles on the Sabbath. One of those deals was that YOU DO NOT GET MEDICAL INTERVENTION UNLESS YOU ARE DYING in giving birth. That was part of our curse as females, that we had to endure the pain of childbirth. Accepting pain medication was a sin, having an “unnecessary” c-section was a sin. A big one. At that point, I genuinely believed that I had not choice but to try to have him naturally and continue to endure it with no pain medication. The doctor didn’t know that though. He was clearly irritated that I made that decision and looking back, I’m pretty sure he knew it would end in a c-section and he didn’t want to have to come back later. I had to sign so many waivers, but they let me do it. What I would love to do now is sit down with that doctor and tell him that I wish he would have taken the 10-15 minutes it would have taken to calmly and kindly explain what was going on, what the baby was doing and that there was absolutely no possible way we was coming out naturally. I understand now why he seemed irritated, but I was still tender because of the treatment I had received from that other midwife.

By the time I hit 23 hours of mostly hard labor, the midwife checked my cervix again. I was still at 4 cm and my water had not broken. She brought the ultrasound machine back out and watched with me on the screen what was happening during my contractions. My son was going slightly towards my cervix with the contraction and as soon as it let up he would spring right back up. I broke. I could not do it anymore. I mentally begged God to forgive me and told them to go ahead with the c-section. If all these medical personnel had thought I was stupid, they didn’t show it. Several of them told me later that I had amazed them. But once the word was given, they sprang into action. As soon as the spinal was in full affect and I could no longer feel from my stomach down, my body went into shock. I was struggling to breath and couldn’t stop shaking. Just before 1 am on the 19th, they pulled my son out and held him up for a second for me to see. I got to briefly kiss his little head before they gave me something that knocked me out because of what my body was doing. Matt walked him down to the nursery and I was sent to recovery. I woke up alone. No one was in the room. I had only a fuzzy recollection at that moment of what had happened and I freaked out. The nurse ran in and I probably drove her nuts asking where my baby and husband were over and over. They finally let Matt in to see me and even though I don’t remember asking it, the first question Matt says I asked is “ten fingers, ten toes?” My son was actually born with 2 of his middle toes on his left foot fused together, so in fact he only had 9 toes even though one was a large double toe. Matt’s answer to that question is the first thing I actually remember and we laugh about that now.

When I finally was fully awake and my body had stopped uncontrollably shaking, they took me to my room where my precious boy was waiting. He was so tiny. So perfect and so beautiful. I usually focus from this point on when telling people about it. I hate parts of this story. I hate the trauma associated with it. So mostly, no one will hear about all that. They will hear about the wonder Matt and I felt holding our firstborn, the stress-induced laughter the next day while Matt was sitting on the couch next to my bed taking a masters degree final, about how much I just laid there and stared at his perfect face, the fact that I figured out within hours that he HATED his arms pinned by the blankets (seriously, from birth forward, do not pin that boys arms down) and the nurses clearly thought I was crazy when I told them to stop swaddling his arms because he didn’t like it, but how they humored me anyway most of the time. That’s what you will hear most of the time. But all of it needs to be told.

Quiverfull, Patriarchy and Me

I got a book several years ago titled “Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy.” It’s been sitting on the self being boxed and moved every time we have moved while I looked at it and wondered if I would ever have the courage to read it. It was a purchase off of a recommendation made to me after my daughter was born but I don’t know. I would pick it up, read the back then put it back on the shelf with a shake of my head. That many years ago I believe I didn’t want to admit that there was anything wrong. After all, I had married well, had 2 beautiful children and had largely “moved on” from childhood: or so I thought.

But life is unfair. Wave after wave of life hit us as a couple over and over. Our tight friend and support group all started moving away, there was a church employment that ended painfully, Matt’s sister (his only sibling) suffered from so many unknown medical issues and started a downhill slide that ended a 100 day hospital stay in us saying our last goodbyes after she didn’t make it (our daughter is named after her), Matt couldn’t find work, we ended up homeless twice with 2 small children, a crap storm went down with my parents, a move across country to desperately escape a whole community (church and homeschool) that had turned its back on me and hopes for a decent job for Matt, a move back across the country because we needed to be back closer to Matt’s parents and our children needed their grandparents and figuring out and taking steps when we finally admitted to ourselves that our oldest son needed help. During many of these years we had a progression of 3 different of my younger siblings living with us.

I was not in any place to even began to process the past. As we have finally found a home and a church and settled here where we are, I guess my brain has decided that I’m finally “safe” enough to start processing. So for those wondering “why now?”…I don’t know for sure, but this is my hunch. That and my oldest 2 are getting older obviously. Parenting an 8 year old and a 10 year old looks vastly different then parenting babies and toddlers. So now, this year as the past has slammed me like a freight train, I can no longer convince myself that I’m “fine;” that childhood hasn’t affected me. I cannot ignore it any longer. Going back to the book, I finally picked it up and started reading it. Just so much. I feel like I could just copy and paste the entire book into this blog to try to explain things. The author is doing such an amazing job working through and deconstructing lies and twisted scripture and then reconstructing them back into what is actually true. I wish I had read it so long ago.

My little side: if you know nothing about the quiverfull movement, the patriarchy mindset and all of that sect of homeschooling…if you can, read this book. Those of us raised in it are often so confused that trying to describe it to someone is a challenge. If you are a woman coming from this. Get it. Read it.

Basic (and I mean basic) overview is that horrible “umbrella of protection” diagram that I see floating around from time to time. I refuse to illustrate it in here but you can Google it, I’m sure. The premise being that God is at the top, then the husband, wife is under the husband and children are at the bottom. There is so much to unpack about how un-Biblical this is, but the patriarchy teaches that the wives have to go through their husbands to get to God and children through their parents (mostly their father). Men and women are not seen as equals and women are seen as rebellious if they make decisions on their own without going through their father or husband. We as women are viewed by mans skewed definition as weak and easily deceived, therefore we cannot possibly hear from God on our own accord. We are completely subject to what our fathers or husbands deem is God’s will for our lives.

Now pair all that with the teaching that it is the woman’s job to stay home. Always. That is what she is made for. Then the quiverfull movement taught that basically the more children you had, the more Godly and blessed you were as a family. If you only had a few children or you had infertility, then you were under God’s judgement for some reason and you needed to repent.

Now how did that all play into daughters? Into me? Well, for those that don’t know, I am the oldest daughter in my family. I have 1 older brother and 6 younger siblings. My parents fully adhered to the “God should determine your family size” idea and that any form of birth control was evil and taking God’s will into your own hands. Guess what that meant for me? I was instructed for my entire adolescence that my ultimate goal should always be a large, homeschooling family. Homeschooling is again key in all this because that is the only way to ensure that the patriarchal indoctrination (er um, brainwashing) can be effective. Isolation is also key. Even from other homeschoolers that don’t agree with you. In that, we were not allowed to have friends. If we did, everything was done to make sure contact was limited. My sister and I had one friend in particular who was also homeschooled, though not in the movement or cult that we were. By early teens, we had been forced so many times to call her and cancel a planed get together. Mom always had her reasons and they almost always included something about us being rebellious again but we never really understood because in our minds nothing had changed from the previous day. So she would stand over us with belt in hand (remember, we were TEENS), rage in her eyes while we held the phone and force us to tell our friend something about how it was our fault we could no longer come over and we were so bad. If we dared to cry on the call, a beating would follow because we were making her “look bad.”

One ironic thing about my parents versus so many others I know that grew up like me, is they loved to look good in the community. They volunteered a lot in church and other places, helped head up so many things in the homeschooling community and went to great lengths to make sure they told everyone they could about us “problem children” and how so rebellious we were so that they would be seen as the “saints” that willingly sacrificed themselves to homeschool such an ungrateful and rebellious group of children. So when I got closer and closer to “graduating” they found themselves in an interesting situation. My older brother hadn’t given them this issue because well, he is a man, he wasn’t supposed to stay home. He joined the military and then miraculously went from this rebellious problem child that they were always moaning about, to someone they could brag about. Especially since he has done very well in the military.

Me? Well, there was the problem. They couldn’t mess with their reputations as amazing parents, but they could not just let me leave and go to college. But they also couldn’t be seen as the ones that stopped me. It had to look like it was my choice. There were too many (what I call) normal homeschoolers around that were sending their daughters to college. So they turned passive aggressive. All 4 years of my “highschool” were a complete joke. If I was given a subject to learn, they picked a textbook (usually Bob Jones press), basically threw it at me and said “learn it.” I received no actual instruction. If I struggled with a subject I was told I didn’t care and I wasn’t trying. Example: I had a hard time with Algebra 2. It just wasn’t clicking. Part of that may have been that I was so tired and so hungry all the time that I couldn’t focus, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t get it. So for this particular lesson, lesson 13 in the book (I’ll never be able to forget it), I made an F. So mom, tore up my paper, yelled at me that I was stupid and not trying, thrust the book back at me and said “do it again.” No help. I hadn’t even been shown what I had gotten wrong. After the 3rd round of this, she got even angrier and then added a $5 fine for every time I did the lesson again and didn’t get a 100%. A few fines later, a 10 page handwritten paper on laziness got added for every time I didn’t get a 100%. A few 10 page papers and fines later, no meals till I got a 100% got added. Over 40 rounds and 3 or 4 days later…I got up about 3 am to sneak the answer book out and yes, I cheated. I couldn’t see an end in sight otherwise because I just could not figure it out on my own. I wrote down the answers and the next morning painstakingly tried to make all my work look like I would get the correct answers. Not like being that hungry was new to me, but I digress.

Here is where the quiverfull/patriarchal mindset comes into play. In addition to the joke of my “education” I was to learn proper “womanhood.” That in practice meant how to take care of a home. That meant, house duties were of much higher priority than any school. If the house wasn’t spotless, school didn’t exist. Learning to be good little wives was much more important. So my sister and I cooked about 95% of the meals (so many of which we weren’t even allowed to eat), we did the diapers and potty training of our younger siblings, we cleaned the whole house, we did all the laundry and dishes. Mom “supervised” with belt in hand. Either sitting and playing games on the computer or laying in bed complaining of a headache that was our fault for being such awful children were her other 2 standards. I heard more times than I can count that our “character is far more important that school and if you never do another school assignment in your life because I have to work on your character, then that’s fine with me.”

On top of not actually teaching me, my parents had another weapon they used to keep me from making the choice to go to college. I was stupid and lazy and not even successful at taking care of their house hold, so what made me think I would succeed at college? Every single day for the entirety of my highschool years this is what they told me over and over. With every assignment that I couldn’t figure out on my own with no instruction, I was stupid. With every chore I did that didn’t measure up to my mom’s standard of perfection, I was lazy. In addition, they didn’t even try to keep any records or any transcript for us oldest 3. Something that she has literally joked about in recent years. They threw some crappy transcript together for my older brother when he joined the military (which almost cost him his career, but that’s his story). But me? I was on my own. They refused to even try. That left me working a full time job as something to do to bide time till I was old enough to enroll in technical school without a transcript.

Imagine how confused I was as I neared the age of 18. Outside family was pushing to know what I wanted to do when I graduated. People at church kept hounding me about it. Everywhere I turned outside of the cult and my parents were pushing and pushing to know, “What are you going to do?” But all I was supposed to do was stay at home and wait for this Godly guy to magically appear and then get married and make babies. That was all I was supposed to want to do. And ever the girl that spent my entire childhood trying to please unpleasable parents and do whatever I could to earn their love, that’s what I told people I wanted. Honestly, for several years that’s what I thought I wanted. That’s what I was told any Godly man would want in a wife.

Unfortunately, this mindset is so prevalent. I know of and know so so many people raised in this. So many women who were denied a proper education and any support for further education. So many have worked to overcome that, but it’s more than that. Me and many others worked so hard to please, to be “Godly,” to be loved. Making steps like going to college or getting jobs on our own accord isn’t simple. We were stepping out from our parents authority and thus God’s as well (no matter what our ages) and giving up God’s blessing on our lives. That’s what we were told our entire childhood. That horrible things would then happen to us because we were not submitting to our father’s authority. We were given plenty of horrific examples too, just to drive the point home. Like we would surely be raped, or be killed in a car accident (or maimed at the very least), or end up in abusive marriages (this one was a given because remember, we as women were too week and stupid to pick out our own husbands, so if we did, hands down we would end up with an abusive husband). I could keep going, but those were the most popular examples.

So why is this so rampant in the homeschooling community? Well, you can’t “protect” your children from the world if they go to school. You can’t brainwash your children if they have outside influences. For daughters especially, they might get ideas that would make them stray from that umbrella. This is such a popular place for those in this to go and hide.

I’ve told several people in the last few years that I didn’t go through what I did for it to be wasted. If you are reading this and thinking that maybe this is just a phase or a reaction, I promise it isn’t. While the process of working through my trauma will be a phase, speaking against what I know will not be. As fiercely as I will fight for a parents right to homeschool, I will fight against those who abuse it. Someone I don’t even know just told me a few days ago “when homeschooling is done right…man the possibilities.” That same thing can be said about any form of education. But what many people need to learn is what it looks like when homeschooling is done wrong, and it being done “wrong” is scarily common.

A little preview of my current project
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