The Daily Heartbreak of Parenthood

It wasn’t too long ago that the hardest part of my workday was getting to work on time. But now, with a 15-month-old baby at home, my workday is rife with emotional complications. As much as I enjoy my job, and the satisfactory feeling of knowing that I’m contributing to my daughter’s financial security, every morning confronts me with the same heartbreaking challenge. I have to leave my baby with someone else!

Saying goodbye to that sweet face is the hardest part of of my day. I see that look of betrayal in here eyes as I walk back towards the car, chanting “I love you” over and over again. She looks up at me as if to say, “Why don’t you want to be with me?” And then my heart breaks into a million tiny pieces.

On the drive to work I try not to cry. I know that logically she is in the company of someone that I trust and is having fun. She will have a great day, even though I am not there. But the logical part of my brain fails to communicate with the emotional part. During the workday I count the minutes until I can see that precious face again. I never miss an opportunity to show off pictures of her to customers. “She’s so beautiful,” they say. Obviously!

And then quitting time arrives, and I GET TO SEE MY BABY! That look she gives me when I pick her up is the best part of my day. She sees me comes and smiles widely. “Mama!!!” She shouts and reaches out her arms so I can pick her up, which I do, joyfully. Then I give her a million kisses as I fervently dismiss the inevitability of tomorrow, when my heart will break all over again.

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I Just Wanted to Go To Bed.

I wasn’t ready to share this particular story before, but I’m ready now. I am not ashamed anymore.

In November of last year I filed assault charges against one Kenneth Ryder for a crime he committed three years ago. The perpetrator had written a confession/apology, and sent it to my boyfriend, so I felt confident that I had enough evidence to go the police. The following is a copy of the statement I gave to the police:

“I came home at about 10:30PM after hanging out with my boyfriend all night. I had intended to go straight to bed (because I had class the next morning) I came home to find my friends playing cards and drinking shots. Kenny very enthusiastically encouraged me to join them, I tried to politely decline but he insisted. I decided to join them for a little while just to be polite. Kenny immediately suggested that I do shots with him, again I politely declined. He was persisant so eventually I gave in and took one shot (really half a shot) of tequila. After he took a shot he marked another tally on his forearm. He was up to 18, if my memory serves me correctly (I know it was in the teens, I think it was 18).

When he started trying to throw ice cubes down my shirt I knew it was time for bed and announced to everyone that I was turning in. Kenny insisted that I shouldn’t go to bed but I just ignored him. I was in bed for about 5 minutes when there was a knock on my door. I got up to answer it, and it was Kenny standing outside my bedroom door. I don’t remember what he said to me but I do remember him kissing me. I backed away and said we shouldn’t do that, “I have a boyfriend,” I said to him. He wouldn’t leave me alone so I went back out to the living room to hang out with everyone, where there would be witnesses.

Kenny was so drunk at this point he was leaning against the wall to support himself. My roommate suggested he sleep on our couch, his response was that he didn’t want to sleep on the couch he wanted to “sleep with Lucy.” I wasn’t too scared at this point because I knew how wasted he was and didn’t think he would be awake for much longer. But then his resistance to sleeping on the couch turned a bit aggressive. Amy kept suggesting that he sleep on the couch, he kept refusing, I finally offered that he sleep in my bed but he said that he didn’t want to if i was sleeping on the couch. At this point I was completely exhausted. I just wanted to go to bed. Amy’s boyfriend Devin offered to stay over, because Kenny was displaying signs of aggressive behavior, but Amy told him we could handle it. I remember saying that I wanted Devin to stay and protect us, but Amy insisted we didn’t need him. Karen and Devin both left.

Kenny finally agreed to sleep in my bed, and I helped him into bed. While he was lying on the bed he kept motioning for me to sit by him and repeatedly said “I just want to talk to you.” He said it over and over, “I just want to talk to you.” I thought he was too drunk to do anything aggresive so I sat down next to him on the bed. He immediately pulled me down so I was horizontal on the bed, then climbed on top of me with the full weight of his body. I was scared, but had the presence of mind to roll away from him somehow (I dont remember exactly how) and leave the room.

I went to the living room to sleep on the couch. I was so relieved, because I was tired, and I just wanted to sleep. A few minutes later I realized that Kenny was sitting on the couch with me. He slurred some words at me and grabbed my breasts. I was horrified. I was shocked. I almost couldn’t believe what was happening to me. A few moments later, he was still squeezing my breasts and I got over the shock enough to push myself away from him and get up. I told him he could sleep on the couch, and that I would go sleep in my bed.

So… I went to my bedroom to sleep. He followed behind me moments later and got onto the bed next to me, then immediately climbed on top of me. He pinned down both of my hands so i couldn’t escape. I was speechless. I wanted to scream but I forgot how to. He started kissing my body, my neck. I felt paralyzed, I was too scared to fight back. He was so much bigger than me, my mind immediately went into survival mode and I started thinking of ways I could escape. When he was done kissing my face/neck/body, he tried to reposition himself against me, and I used this change of movement to get away. He was drunk so I knew his reflexes would be slow. I groped around in the dark for my shoes. I kept thinking over and over again, I need to get out of the house. When I finally found my shoes I checked to make sure Kenny was still lying on the bed. He was, so I made the foolish choice of sitting down to quickly put my shoes on. the next thing I knew I was being picked up like a rag doll and thrown back onto the bed. Kenny climbed on top of me again to hold me down. I don’t remember exactly how I got away this next time but he was very drunk so I used his slow movements to my advantage. When I was able to get away again I didnt even bother with my shoes, I just flung the door open and ran to Amy’s room. ( who had left her door open in case Kenny tried to something). I told her that Kenny was attacking me and I needed to get out of the house. Then I told her that I didn’t want to leave her alone with Kenny because he was dangerous and might come after her next. She told me she could handle Kenny, and told me she would get him out of the house. I don’t know how she was able to do it, but somehow she convinced Kenny to leave, and she told me she was going to walk him home. I was scared for her, I told her not to go because he might assault her. She said she could handle herself and they both left. I sat frozen on the couch for a moment trying to understand what had just happened, and when I snapped out of it I went back to my bedroom to grab my shoes and my purse.

I was too scared to stay in my house so I got in my car and drove to my boyfriend’s apartment. I had a key, so I let myself in, and crawled into bed with him. I held onto him so tightly he woke up and asked me what I was doing there. I told him Kenny had just assaulted me and I was feeling scared and dirty. He held me as I cried. I fell asleep that night crying in his arms.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

After that night my friends pulled away from me in favor of Kenny. They still wanted to be friends with him. One friend even invited us both to the same party. When I reminded her that he had tried to rape me she responded by saying, “I know, but I’ve decided to forgive him.” After that night, I lost every single one of my friends in this particular social circle. The victim-blaming was even more traumatic than the assault itself.

My Two Year Anniversary

(The following entry was actually written in September of last year. I have now had my three year anniversary, and I am proud to say that I didn’t even notice when it happened. Recovery is a beautiful thing.)

This week was the two year anniversary of the last time I was sexually assaulted. This last time was the most traumatic to me for several reasons. First, It was the only one I actually shared with people in my life, second, there were witnesses, third, there was the combined trauma of the sexual assault and the victim-blaming, 4. my attacker wrote a letter of apology to my boyfriend for attacking me (but not to me, because apparently I’m just my boyfriend’s property), and 5, I had a mental breakdown afterwards and had to quit my job, and 6, because the attack happened in my own home I no longer felt safe there, and 7. I couldn’t sit through a class without having a panic attack, so I had to withdraw from all my classes, even though I was supposed to graduate that semester. With my previous attacks I was able to cope somehow, but not this last time. Not two years ago.

To someone who hasn’t been sexually assaulted, it’s hard to explain the phenomena of the “anniversary,” but I will try. For some reason, the memories come back in full force – unwelcome and all-consuming. The nightmares of being attacked returned this week as well, the uncontrollable crying, and the intense feelings of anger towards the people in my life who victim-blamed me. There are the feelings of intense shame and humiliation, and the inability to control my emotions.

There are some positive things that came out of my anniversary – it forced me to deal with the fact that I am not yet recovered, that I still have a lot of work to do. I finally had the courage this week to seek out sexual assault counseling. two years overdue but never too late. I am now able to hold down a job and a loving relationship. These are things I can be proud of.

To the Reader: your input is welcome, so long as it is not victim blaming, slut shaming, or advice on how YOU would have dealt with being attacked. If it’s not your trauma, then you have no idea.

I Had an Awful, No Good, Very Bad Morning.

Today I had an awful, no-good, very bad morning. Let me tell you about it.

I dragged myself out of bed later than usual, because my 10-week-old daughter was up half the night crying and feeding. All I can think about while I’m walking downstairs is “coffee, coffee, coffee – now, now, now.” I pour myself a cup and sit down at my laptop (well actually, at my husband’s old laptop, because he had accidentally broken mine after inadvertently stepping on it a few days prior). I then remembered the overdue writing assignment I needed to do for my part-time writing job. As I opened up the blank word document to start the creative process, my mother bustled into the kitchen in an irritated fashion (Yes, I am a grown-ass woman living with my mother. No, I’m not proud of it). Before I could even say “good morning” to her she rattled off a laundry list of criticisms on my parenting and housekeeping skills – “You know, when i checked on the baby this morning she had a wet diaper and spit up everywhere and I don’t really like the way your husband crushes cans before they go into the recycling, I really prefer if they are crushed a certain way and I left the vacuum cleaner on the landing for you….” I just stared at my now neglected full cup of coffee and waited for her to finish her passive-aggressive rant.

(Side note: I love my mother very much. Among many things, I admire her for her strength in leaving an abusive marriage and starting a new life on her own. But her communication skills are just terrible.)

After my mother leaves for work my equally sleep-deprived husband makes his way down the stairs. He had overheard my mother’s little speech and was not amused. After complaining about her passive aggressive tendencies for a while, he began to take his anger out on me. He wanted to know “what do you do all day?” that I might not have time to do the laundry later. He also pointed out how silly and pointless my writing job is. “It’s not going to lead to anything,” he reminded me – meaning that it can’t be used as a catalyst to start a real career.

When he sees how upset I’ve become he genuinely apologizes and attributes his frustration to stress. After he leaves for class I strap the baby to my chest so I can work and supervise her at the same time. What I really want to do is to hide under my bed covers, curled up in a fetal position. Instead I begin vacuuming the house, fighting back tears while I work. I kiss the top of my daughter’s head as she sleeps peacefully against my chest, and I feel grateful that she is too young to judge me for my many shortcomings.

Her Name was Sophia Marquez (My experience serving as juror for a murder trial).

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Written by Lucy Kidd

 

*Special note – Originally I posted this entry on my other blog, http://patriarchysurvivor.wordpress.com/, however I think that this blog is also an appropriate place for it. *

 

Two summers ago I was summoned for my first jury duty. Since it was my first time I was a little nervous but my friends assured me that I would just sit around all day and  that my name would never get called. I was in the court house for all of five minutes before my name was called, and I was immediately one of twelve jurors on a murder trial.  I wanted to tell the judge about my anxiety disorder and about the fact that I was a rape survivor myself and didn’t know if I could handle the stress of the trial. But I was still struggling with overcoming the shame of the attack and wasn’t ready to share that story. So I made it on to the jury.

The victim’s name was Sophia Marquez. I can still see her face in my nightmares. I can still see Sophia’s sister crying on the witness stand because Sophia had been raped, strangled to death and left naked on the side of the freeway. The accused had no alibi at all, there was convincing DNA evidence and absolutely no reasonable doubt. The other 11 jurors and myself convicted him of first degree murder during an attempted rape (there wasn’t enough evidence to prove completed rape).

Most victims of sexual assault do not get justice, and it’s horribly cruel that a rape victim (or attempted rape) usually has to be murdered for the criminal justice system to even consider prosecution. If Sophia had just been sexually assaulted and left naked but alive on the side of the road she wouldn’t have gotten justice. The statistics are no better now than they were in the 70′s, most rape kits just sit in evidence lockers collecting dust, because the police cannot be bothered to investigate them. I am glad that Sophia’s family got justice for her murder, but most rape/ attempted rape victims will not – their cases won’t even be investigated. And I am angry. I am angry that the district attorneys will not prosecute rapists without media pressure. I am angry that society blames rape victims and forgives rapists (boys will be boys!). I am angry that most rape survivors will not even report getting raped because the police victim blame and slut-shame. I am over this, I want things to change. Women are human beings, and our lives have value. I shouldn’t have to explain this to people, but I do.

Her name was Sophia Marquez, she was murdered during an attempted rape  in Sacramento, CA, and her naked corpse was dumped on the side of a freeway. I will never forget her face, I will never forget her name.

My Morbid Fascination with 19 Kids and Counting

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I have recently gotten hooked on the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting,” a program that celebrates the recently popularized “Quiverfull” movement. My partner does not understand how I can stomach even five minutes of watching it, and is prompt to demand a channel switch whenever I dare to watch it in the room with him. I can’t really blame him, as self-proclaimed bleeding heart liberals we are hardly the demographic for which the show is produced. However, I have decided to rationalize my behavior in the name of social anthropological research.

The children represented on “19 Kids and Counting” seem to live perfectly satisfying lives, and I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of their happiness. In the episode that I watched most recently, daughter Jill flew to Nepal with her father to meet a potential suitor. Jill was clearly bursting with excitement about the prospect of meeting the man she fancied in the romantic backdrop of a foreign land, and who could blame her? It really was a romantic setup, and her dad is due serious props for caring enough about his daughter’s happiness to travel halfway around the world for her.

I do not judge the Duggar parents because they have so many children, or their religious affiliations, or their obsession with female virginity, or for their unorthodox methods of educational instruction. In some ways I admire their family dynamic – the parents provide for their children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs as well as they know how. They teach their children values that are important to them, and it is not at all what I take issue with.

In an attempt to explain myself clearly I’m going to ask that you take a closer look at the episode with Jill and her dad in Nepal. Dad is happy with the arrangement, future boyfriend is happy with it, Jill is happy with it, and the rest of the Duggar clan is happy with it. But what is the cost of this one dimensional happiness? How much intimacy can two people possibly develop under the close observation of a parental figure? I spent most of the episode cringing at the awkwardness of their attempts at intimate conversation. I felt so sorry for the poor guy trying to tell his new girlfriend how much he appreciated her beauty while her dad stares possessively at her from two feet away.

When my partner and I were dating we shared an emotional intimacy as well as a physical intimacy. I do not believe that there exists the possibility for real intimacy on a chaperoned date. The way a person behaves in front of a group is decidedly different from the way they behave when they are alone with an intimate partner. Certain personality traits don’t come to surface until after a couple has let their guards down. Sometimes it takes a heated argument for someone to reveal their true personality.

I remember this one argument in particular that my partner and I had at the beginning of our relationship. We didn’t know it at the time, but this argument would set the tone for every future argument in our relationship. At some point in the argument he started to raise his voice at me. I became very quiet until he asked me what was wrong. I told him that “yelling” was an unacceptable way for him to address me. (My father had yelled at me often as a child and as a result I developed an anxiety disorder.) I made it clear to my partner that I would not tolerate that behavior in relationship. He agreed to this new boundary in our relationship and it has never again been an issue. Somehow I doubt that my partner and I could have established this boundary during a conversation chaperoned by my father.

Maybe Jill really does enjoy being submissive to men and is genuinely looking forward to being a domestic slave for her husband. If that is something that she honestly wants then more power to her, she deserves exactly what she desires from her relationship. I think the crucial question is “how does she know what she wants?” How does Jill know to choose between an apple and a pear if an apple is the only fruit she has ever tasted?  The Duggars have crafted a perfectly secure fantasy world for their children. Because Jill has never been exposed to alternative lifestyle choices she can only rely on the tunnel vision made possible by her life inside a manufactured fantasy land free from all challenges and all conflicts. A sugar-coated virgin princess culture cannot prepare this poor girl for the real challenges she will face in her marriage. Will her parents be just as warm and fuzzy toward their daughter if she comes home with a black eye because she married a man who excluded his “problem with anger” from the courtship equation?

The Duggar girls seem perfectly happy when they are being interviewed on t.v. They are also perfectly interchangeable and wear perfectly vacant smiles that cannot hide the retardation of their social development. My husband and I are expecting our first baby this summer. When she is born I will encourage her to grow into the kind of woman she wants to be. If she wants to be a powerful executive, than I will encourage her in that. If she wants to be a-stay-at-home mom with a quiver full of children, than I will encourage her in that too. Her life will be more challenging than the life of a Duggar daughter, because she will not be forbidden from experiencing all that the world has to offer outside of a sugar-coated fairy tale.

How the Last Episode of “How I Met Your Mother” Failed Spectacularly.

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Earlier this week I tuned in to watch the series finale episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” and for the most part I enjoyed watching it, but that last bar scene really soured the experience for me. For anyone who followed the series throughout, you know that two of the main characters represent the two types of sexism – explicit and implicit. Barney’s character, who shamelessly spends each episode trying to coerce young women into bed with him, is obviously supposed to be viewed as a misogynist. Ted’s character, who puts women on a pedestal and appeals to the “nice guy” demographic, represents implicit misogyny. I have always sided with Barney over Ted, because his sexism doesn’t hide behind the guise of “nice guy syndrome.”

But in this final episode Barney’s sexism takes on a new low. He fathers a daughter, and as a result of this he is magically cured of his sex addiction. All of a sudden he stops sleeping around and begins to look down on those who live his old lifestyle. The audience is  now supposed to see Barney as a new, changed person who actually values women.

And in that last bar scene he approaches two strange women who are minding their own business, demands that they go home to think about their lives, and then proceeds to chase them out of the bar. The audience is for some reason supposed to see this as being more noble than Barney trying to buy them drinks in exchange for sex. How is telling women what to do less sexist than coercing them into bed? Apparently the audience is supposed to believe that the man who slut-shames is preferable to the man who sleeps around. Well, I can only speak for myself, but I think that men are capable of far more integrity than this. Women’s sexuality is not owned by men, and intimidating strange women at a bar is not a display of respect. To me, this display of male chauvinism brought “How I Met Your Mother” down to a new level of sitcom sexism.