Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy Birthday to Us

Twenty-five years ago today I was a patient on the psychiatric unit of a hospital in Portland, Oregon. I was also nine months pregnant. Two nurses, dressed in pastel-colored lab coats, walked into my room.

"Are you ready?" one said. Her lab coat had balloons and happy faces on it.

"Today's the big day," said the other, a hefty blonde with a warm smile.

I rose from an armchair in the corner of the room and heaved myself onto the gurney. They were taking me upstairs to deliver my baby.

"The doctor will start a drip and they'll induce labor." The nurses wheeled the bed towards the elevator and continued their instructions "We'll take you up to the seventh floor and when it's all over, we'll bring you back down here. All you have to do is relax."

I placed my hands on my bulging belly. The baby kicked. "Is Alec going to be there?"

"Yes, he's already up there, waiting for you."

My whole body tensed. I'd been preparing for this moment for weeks in therapy. "Just expect him to be an asshole," my therapist had told me. She knew about my husband's violent temper. I had already decided not to go back to him. I just needed to get through this day. It never occurred to me to ban Alec from the delivery room. I was still under the spell of The Way, a fundamentalist cult I belonged to. Alec was a "man of God" and it was his right as the father to be there. I didn't consider my rights.

We arrived at the Obstetrics department and Alec was there to greet me. He was calm and smiling, joking with the nurses and encouraging me. "Don't worry, Kris," he said. "Everything 's going to be alright." The good Alec.

Soon I was in labor and Alec was holding my hand. "Breathe," he said. "Breathe." I have no memory of the delivery but it went quickly. Before I knew it, a nurse was handing me a beautiful baby girl. Alec cried. I cried. "We did it," he said.

Today is my daughter's twenty-fifth birthday. She is a strong, lovely young woman. It's a long way from her inauspicious beginnings. But how many people can say that they spent their first few weeks on a psych ward with their mother?

This day marks an important day for both of us. My daughter's birth signaled a birth in me, as well. She gave me the strength to walk away from an abusive marriage and The Way. After I left the hospital, I never went back. Today is a day of deep gratitude for the people we have become.


Billy said...

This post seems to me to illustrate well your transition from the past to the present and future. The transition from trauma to the long and continuing process of recovery. And recovery is obviously the reason you make these posts...your own, and allowing others to learn from your recovery process.

To learn, we obviously have to know about the trauma that you went through. But obviously you don't want to keep reliving it or make others do the same, when the emphasis needs to be on the recovery.

If in some of my posts and communications I have gone back to the abuse, there are probably a couple reasons as follows: being in the Way, for a while at the same times and places as you were, it is more important than you probably could know to understand what did happen, considering that i was there and yet it didn't happen to me; indeed couldn't have believed at the time that it could have happened. Of course I stated in another post how important it was that you did simply tell (In "Losing the Way") what happened instead of lecturing.

The other reason is probably some different (from yours) views I have on some of the things we did both go through and were taught, as well as how to handle the future. however, i suspect the first reason is the stronger one, as the second reason should certainly not preclude me from responding to what you say about youyr continuing recovery, even as I have my own to deal with. Indeed, I look forward to your next book, which no doubt is a big forwar step for you.

You might or might not find it interesting what I was telling some people about the subject of abuse, especially sexual abuse, mainly on a certain forum, before you came out with "Losing the Way".

But enough of that. As important as it is to know about what happened, it is worth nothing without the recovery. As understanding as you are, you can't keep forever answering the question "did that really happen to you?". Despite some big differences between us, one thing we have in common is that it is all a very long process.

Charlene said...

Read your blog...and I know who you are talking about, since I got into The Way around the same time you and she did. Last summer, a family member I'll call Jack told me she’s conducting fellowships in her home, using VPW's stuff and her mother talked to Jack about it; they agreed: “what harm is that?” When Jack told me about this, I nearly went off in 10 directions. Those offshoot groups are on the treadmill of the same old VPW worship, if you ask me.

In my opinion, the fact she’s believing and promoting that dogma based on VPW's stuff says a ton about the values she still holds - namely she’s still paying homage to a sexual predator, proven plagarist and power hungry arrogant abuser. IMO, no matter how she sounds on the radio, what’s inside counts for more...