Sounds weird doesn’t it? The thing is…it’s so easy for me to look back at my past and think “jesus it was all horrific. My whole life was horrific…I wish it had never happened, but I can’t make that wish come true…I don’t want to live with that past” and before I know it, I’m back in suicide land.
But I read something this morning about hanging onto the light. Nothing is all black, or all white…and the way I survived my abuse was to make sure I didn’t fall down the “everything’s awful” hole. I can’t make my past go away; even if I forgot it all tomorrow, the invisible scars are still there and would still affect me. I can’t change what happened, I can only make the best out of the aftermath.
So, as mad as it may sound, I’m going to focus on the “beautiful” parts of my abusive past. Not simply the “that was good” parts, but the absolutely beautiful parts that I would never want to lose as memories. These are the memories that overpower the abuse, simply by their magnitute of compassion, love, and purity.
No I didn’t want to be, and yes I was far too young, and yes it was always the result of abuse. Yes I was scared, yes I was in a situation where to speak out seemed impossible, and no I didn’t have a clue as to what support services were out there for people in my position. Yes there was heartbreak at the end of each pregnancy; either by an early miscarriage, or a premature labour, or on some occasions…stillbirth, or only living a short while. The grief is all-consuming and in everything that I do; every bite I have to eat feels like I’m a thief, every mouthful of air I breathe feels like something I somehow didn’t provide my babies.
BUT. To focus on this only, I would be lost. Instead, I look for the beautiful part. And being pregnant is beautiful. It’s exhausting as well, and the hormones are quite frankly hideous. I never enjoyed the whole throwing up in a morning thing, or the backache, or the stretch marks which took over my thighs, mainly. It’s never great to be kicked in the bladder, and it always overhwhelmed me that even when they’re just the size of a pinhead, they’re so powerful. “Womb service.” 3am, it doesn’t seem to matter how much I protest, I need yoghurt. And I get yoghurt. Greedy teeny thing.
However, there is something remarkably calming to feel one’s baby doing it’s random oblivious disco. Nobody else can feel it; it’s a little secret communication between mother and baby…the start of the bond. I remember lying in bed sometimes, curled up, crying for everything that was happening, and then feeling a little nudge – “it’s okay mummy, don’t cry…I’m here. Be strong for me please.” My tears would stop, I’d roll on my back and gently tap back “I’m okay.” The first way I could tell if I was pregnant was by how much calmer I was in situations. I would be instantly far more protective, and less likely to take ridiculous risks, but I also wouldn’t find myself in a state of absolute hysteria anything like as often as when I’m not pregnant. My whole body and mind would enter a state of “stay calm, your baby needs you to be calm and soothing, so it doesn’t get stressed.” So there I stayed. Watching your tiny bump grow (I was always tiny – not enough food, too much stress, small babies…who knows, I don’t do biology, but either way I was always tiny) and thinking how precious it was. A tiny little baby growing, relying on me, dancing around and poking me when it’s hungry or bored. And I was lucky enough to carry it, and to share those beautiful moments, and to learn their individual personalities despite them being unborn. Some would be *hyper* and others would be calm. Some liked heat and some seemed to find it as annoying as I did, hence the fidgeting.
Giving birth, also, is actually very beautiful. I won’t beat around the bushes here; it hurts like *fuck* (out of everything I’ve gone through, childbirth is very near top of the list for most painful experiences) and you feel like everything inside you is going to fall out. It’s also, as a 12 year old girl or whatever, absolutely terrifying. I was either on my own, or in a room full of abusers…not some nice little hospital ward with gas and air and a friend to hold my hand whilst I screamed in her face. It was always because my baby was being born too early etc…so always I was in floods of tears and grief-stricken, and it was utterly heartbreaking. However…it’s also – like pregnancy – very natural and overwhelmingly so. At the time I frankly hate my body and the pain it’s putting me through, but looking back…the female body is truly an exceptional thing. How on god’s earth does a baby get outside of a woman? Through a lot of pain, granted, but also through absolutely natural mechanisms. The hormones, the contractions…it’s all *HORRIBLE* whilst you’re going through it, but incredible to think about afterwards. And afterwards, to hold your baby for the first time… each was the most heart-breaking situation, but also the most beautiful. If they were too tiny, I’d cup them gently in my palms and hold them close, taking in their every details, and whispering too them “I love you…I’m sorry” and name them…until they were cruelly taken from me. For the slightly bigger ones, they weren’t well enough to survive more than a couple of minutes, but there was that truly captivating moment where we made eye contact. It always amazed me how calm they looked. Here was me, in tears…stressed..in pain…desperate for anything that could make them grow suddenly 3 months, and there they lay, snuggled in my arms, just looking at me like – “it’s okay mummy. I can see you, and you’re holding me…and that’s all I want.” Maybe they’d cry a bit, but generally the moment I had hold of them, they’d stop, and just stare at me…breathing slower and slower, ear pressed against my chest…soothed by my regular (if high) heartbeat…and in time they’d fall asleep in my arms, and become tiny angels. I wish that nobody had to go through it, especially in such circumstances, but nonetheless…those precious moments of being a mum, of holding innocence in my arms and singing softly…beautiful. Of course I would rather none of it happened, and that I’d never had those precious moments so that the pain didn’t have to come for either of us…
…but it happened, and I refuse to get lost entirely in grief. So I focus on their calm eyes and gentle breathing…focus on the love in their eyes (how can they, when so small? But they did) focus on the faith they had in their eyes, and how the instant we made eye contact would take my breath away…suddenly I was unaware of my surroundings; for a few precious seconds I could have been anywhere, and time had paused…the world had paused just for us, just for our moment. That, despite the situation, was beautiful…and something I hold very close to me.
I realise this is all very personal, and it’s incredibly painful for me to write. But I want the world to see that our pasts can shape us, but they in no way have to define us. I want the world to see that I don’t look at my past and only see pain, but that even in the most heart-breaking and terrible situations, there is light. There may even be beauty.
2) The laughter and love of another child
Again…the situation was terrible. We were being abused. There’s no need for me to describe that in any further detail…
But we laughed. Everyday we found something to laugh at, something to occupy our child-like curiosity and imagination that miraculously was never completely lost. Everyday we’d hug, or sing, or skip holding hands. We’d wipe away the tears and calm each other, but would also try to make them smile “ewwwwwww you’re all snotty and green! Ewww ewwww!” and then we’d start playing a game of snot-monsters. Yes…this is a beautiful moment I hang onto…the legendary game of snot-monsters 😉 😉 because it only came about from pain…young children turning horrendously painful situations into something to laugh at. Their inner strength and capacity to keep going still astounds me.
If any of you read my blog post the other day “grief saving me from suicide” you’ll all know the sad fate of Holly, who took her own life…
However, we loved each other. We were girlfriends for a few months, and every aspect of our relationship was beautiful. She showed me true love in a world of only hate; my relationships until that point had always been tained, even if I thought them to be true. “I love you, but I have to do this to you” etc etc. Holly showed me real love, and together we were a perfect couple, and the necklace around my neck carries her…
Those are the three most beautiful aspects of life which happened either due to, or around, abuse. Lighter moments were my friends at school, and giggles with siblings, who I adore… but if I’m just to focus on the abuse itself, on the abusive situation… then I must look for something as powerful as the abuse, but for more stunning reason. I wish none of it happened, but can’t ever make that wish come true…so instead I will turn the horrors of the last 20 years into something which can shape me for the better.
Those three sections hold so much more power than any of the abuse, and for them reasons, and for the beauty and love those memories provide me…that is why I keep going. Because to give up would mean I lose everything; including the memories which captivate me.