Hello fellow human people. Many of us, be they man or woman, have heard the gentle internal tick-tock of the clock in the back of your head, the one that tells you need a cradle to rock. Society implies the need for our youth to go forth and make families, to bring forth the next generation into this world, but the world can be a damn scary place. I for one know that if you’ve been touched by the darker side of this world, the parts that makes people afraid, it’s hard to reconcile the idea that you should bring anyone else into it.
We’ve talked before briefly about my childhood and its horrors. Without delving to deeply it’s safe to say abuse was a daily occurrence on multiple fronts. When we finally moved away from that situation I was faced with people telling me constantly the old myth that the abused become the abusers; that statement is in fact not true. Only about 10% of abuse victims ever abuse. I think the people who told me this, though misguided, were trying to help me find some understanding as to why this might’ve happened. However, having already been diagnosed with general anxiety, and I don’t know? being a child, all this did was feed a fear that no matter what I did, I would turn out to be the worst aspects of my parents for my children.
I have found that among trauma victims the fear that we will damage our children because of some aspect of our previous abuse is incredibly common, whether they’ve heard that old adage or not. Some fear that they will become the parents that hurt them so, damaging another generation. Others are deeply afraid that they’ve had no good example so how could they possibly know how to raise a child properly. Still others are faced with the fear that even if they do everything right, dodge all the bullets, managing to raise their children well, there’s still evil people, just like those in the shadows of their past, who could hurt them the same way they themselves were hurt.
This is the fear that I heard reiterated over and over again by survivors of traumatic childhoods. But when you talk to people about trauma, especially childhood trauma, it is not something that generally comes up. One can understand then why it terrified me when I started to hear the tick-rock of my baby clock. I spent years fighting it, terrified that if I got pregnant, I would just destroy everything good about the child in the raising of it. Overdramatic? Yes, it might be, but it was a very real fear and it gave me horrific night terrors.
Don’t get me wrong I spent lots of time around other people’s children of various ages. I wasn’t afraid that I would actually hurt children just my own. I understand now that there’s no difference, it doesn’t matter if they are yours or not. If you’re that kind of person anyone is fair game. But for some reason I still couldn’t see past the idea of having my own kids.
I had a lots of help, many in my corner bolstering me through, and a lot of time around other peoples children including some who came under my own care. But it wasn’t until I spent several months with my goddaughter, a child I had cared for since she was five. It wasn’t until I had to help coparent her while her mother was laid up after surgery that I truly saw the difference. I was not my father, hell I wasn’t even my mother, I was myself and I had won. In small ways, over a long period of time I had conquered everything that I feared. It wasn’t really a consciously choice that I made, it wasn’t some quest I set out on, but it was in the small victories of being able to work a real job and prove that to myself. It was in the small victory of having a real relationship with another human being that didn’t require violence or deception. It was in those little victories that I defeated the poison I feared I would carry unto the one thing that I wanted most. The thing that most every person who wants children sees as the most precious.
Shortly after that revelation I had a dream, not like any other dream I’ve had before or since. This one was a good dream and in it I met my children. It’s hard to describe how I knew that that was what this dream was. There was a deep knowing, an understanding that comes only in dreams, but there was something else. There was also the children I had cared for in my life, they were there reminding me that motherhood was something I had already accomplished. They reminded me that motherhood is something that is achieved when you care for a child as your own, even if they’re not. It was the first instance I had ever had of lucid dreaming and I spent the entire time trying to learn as much about my children as possible. Sadly I remembered very little of the conversations that we had. However, I do remember a beautiful dark haired little girl, and two little boys. Realistically I can’t know for certain that that’s how my children will play out and I’m still not in a place where I feel financially stable enough to support them. Where I am though, is in a place where mentally if tomorrow I showed up pregnant I wouldn’t scream in terror and fear for my ability to psychologically handle that pregnancy. I would probably weep with joy. The future would be full of much uncertainty, I don’t work a great job, I live in a tiny house, and I don’t know how we would support a tiny new life. But I wouldn’t be afraid of the life itself and that is the greatest victory I could have hoped for.
I don’t know how many of you who read this are also from homes of traumatic abuse. But if you are feeling the pressure of having a family and fearing that you will destroy it, know that you’re not alone, and more than that, it’s going to be OK. We do not have to be that which they made us, nor do we have to be those who raised us, we can be ourselves. We have walked through fire and it can make us stronger, if we let it. Our past doesn’t have to simply be a scar we must bear it can be a guide book that makes us better parents. It will temper our anger with compassion, it will give us patience in the face of stress that would break lesser people. To live through the life that we lived at an age where we had no preparation, it prepared us for everything. You may not always feel like a superhero, but do not superheroes have the most tragic backstories? So what else could we possibly be, if not the heroes of our own stories.
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