When I was twenty years old I had my first child, during that pregnancy I began to have flashbacks, nightmares and a series of what we now call panic attacks. They were all related to one thing, the sexual abuse I had received at the hands of my maternal grandfather, a man who was a father to me. This man was the one who, with my grandmother raised me from the ages of two months until about five years of age. I lived on and off with them in later years, but once I moved out, got married, became pregnant, the old memories of abuse began to surface with alarming frequency.
One day, I found a column in the newspapers about something called and incest survivors group (it was the 80s). I called the number and for the first time began to work on the horrors and nightmares that I then came to understand were in fact not mine. They belonged fully to the man who sexually abused a small child. As a pregnant mother I began to fear that the cycle of abuse, as we now call it, would be replicated. It was a sickness in my biological mothers family. In it there existed a cycle of abuse,lies and half truths that at the age of 20 and on the verge of becoming a mother that I did not want in my life anymore.
At the age of 20 I began a journey that has been ongoing for most of my adult life. With a therapist and the support of a small group of women I confronted my rapist and the family that once called themselves my family, circles the wagons. At only 20 years of age, and hugely pregnant I found myself at the mercy of a group of angry people who accused me of lying (why would anyone lie about this horrible thing) and demanded that my then husband have me locked up in a psychiatric institution.
When I confronted my family I was told, by my therapist that once I took that step to be prepared, she told me that once I did it they would disown me. I did not fully realize the ramifications of what was going to happen, but I was young, I was naive and I plunged into a life time of trying to tell the truth.
Over the years my mother tried to reach out to me, particularly in those early years, she said things like, well if he really raped you you would be all ripped inside. Answer, not all rapes are the same. She also told me that he was her daddy and I was only her daughter, when she came around begging to go see her daddy when he was dying a slow painful death from cancer. I refused. I tried occasionally when I was a young mother and alone to reach out to them, to test the waters so to speak, but was always frightened away when I saw how little they had changed The same patterns of abuse that I had endured as a child were still in place, not one person in this extended family of dysfunction had sought therapy or the means to change their life. Eventually I just stopped trying, one thing I did not do was to force my children to make nice to my abuser, to smile if we were ever in the same room, or to even acknowledge who he was. He was dead to me long before he died.
Why my children do not have a large extended family and why we have all depended on each other and important friendships is because some families are flawed. Flawed in ways that cannot be mended. To take part in their rituals in tantamount to sanctioning their behaviors. To this day, almost thirty-two years since I first came out to my family that the sexual abuse that was heaped on me was theirs to own and not mine, I am still a fierce and protective mother.
Although my children have their own lives now and are adults, they are also independent adults of the kind who do not bow down to abuses of power. Am I a bitch when someone steps on my rights as a woman and a mother, damn right I am. All that I have ever had in the world are my own words and my own actions to protect me. Words that began one day when I was nine years old and told my mother, my biological mother, and my guardian that her dad put his hands inside my underwear. She turned her back and told me to go tell someone else. I did.
When I look back I realize that the sexual abuse, my mothers inaction and my own desire to have healthy children meant that I was on my own and had to find my way in the world. And I did. Do we celebrate false holidays of cheer, where roomfuls of people get together to celebrate but dislike each other, no we do not. But I will tell you this, the time I spend with my children is in itself valuable , precious and never wasted. My love for them was at times all we had.
Damn right I am a momma bear. But I swore to never make them endure the heartbreak and hypocrisy of spending time and wasting love on people who betrayed their mother and will eventually do the same to them.
I have so much more to say …..but tonight….. a little sleep.