My Family

My Family

Monday, 10 November 2014

Hello November.

       November is a month where we as a nation are focused on thankfulness. At this time we give thanks for all of our blessings that we may experience and take for granted throughout the rest of the year. We thank God for our family, friends, jobs, food, and whatever else has been making us happy that year. The last two Novembers have been a bit different for me. What was I thankful for? Well, I had to dig deeper than most and just be grateful that I was a survivor or that anxiety and fear hadn't gotten the best of me (for the moment anyways). See, over the last two years, it has felt like I have constantly been battling the darkness. Just when I would feel like I was living in the light, the darkness would come in like waves crashing upon the seashore and send me back into a plight of doubt and confusion. Of course through it all, Jesus never let go and held on to me while I held back for dear life.  He was always faithful and always blessing me with his love and mercy. Jesus is like that. He knows our every moment and holds our hands through it all, good or bad. I am a definite witness to that kind of love in my life. So yes, I am thankful for those dark times which drew me closer to my Savior. I am thankful for my testimony of God's goodness in my life in and through the tragedies of assault and miscarriage  However this year, 2014,  I have a full heart of thanksgiving like I have never experienced before. I don't have to dig too deep to find it, in fact he's asleep in the swing right across from me as I write this. I am thankful for my perfectly beautiful baby boy.
      Judah is 5 months old this week and without fail, every time I look at him, I am reminded of God's grace in my life. He has brought so much sunshine and absolute JOY to our family. My heart aches with love for this child that was given life inside of me. He's a part of me forever. Being a mother is the most exhausting yet exhilarating thing I have ever experienced.  I don't want one day to go by, where I take his precious life for granted. Its amazing when I reflect on my past and think about how if one thing had gone differently, this little life may have never been. Oh how good our God is!
     I have yet to blog much about motherhood, probably because most days, I feel like I'm just hanging on by a thread and getting through the day successfully if Judah has been fed, changed and is still alive. There are other days where I feel as though I've got some clarity and wisdom and may just make it after all.
On a lighter side, now that I am a new mom, my list of what I am thankful for is a bit different, but are some to name a few....

I am thankful for...
#1.SLEEP...Sweet sweet sweet amazing sleep for both me and baby.
#2. COFFEE. For when #1 doesn't happen.
#3. SLEEP...did I already say that?
#4. Family and friends who have been there and done that....advice is nice!!, (even though it seem that every baby is completely different and most advice turns out useless. )
#5. My husband who loves being a daddy. Its nice that he actually enjoys being involved in diaper changes and bathtime. I'm also thankful that he is a shoulder to cry on when Im exhausted.(sorry Dan that you're not further up the list!)

Of course there are so many more things to list off , but Judah is awakening and alas duty calls! So let us all remember to stop and be thankful not only in November, but as the months and years continue to pass. Let us stop, no matter the circumstance, whether its been a year of joy or a year of sorrow, and thank our heavenly Father for who He is and that He has shown us his redeeming love.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

My Birth Story

Giving birth is an incredible experience, like none other. Throughout my pregnancy, Dan and I had tried to prepare ourselves for the arrival of our little guy. I thought I had a good idea of what was going to happen. We had a plan. We knew what we wanted, but nothing could have truly prepared me for June 11, 2014. Actually lets back up to June 9, 2014. Here's our story...

On Monday June 9 I was 41 weeks 3 days pregnant. I had fully expected to have met my son before now. I was so uncomfortable and impatient. How could he not be here yet?? I was constantly getting texts and calls checking to see if I had given birth yet. I was getting frustrated. I was not keeping the birth of my baby a secret from everyone! He was settled in and not seeming to want to come out. Throughout the weekend I had had some pretty strong contractions but nothing consistent. My parents had come on Sunday as they had planned on visiting a week old baby yet here they were with me so very pregnant and no baby yet. On Monday morning, Dan went to work and my parents and I went out baby shopping. At 4pm, I had an appointment with my midwife to try to get things going. She did a sweeping of the membranes, which wasn't the most pleasant experience but I was willing to do what it took to get this kid moving! I was dilated 3cm at this point. I went home and started having some contractions. I got a full night of sleep and woke up on June 10th with more contractions. I was sure this had to the be the day! 
        Dan and I headed to the midwife for a check up at 10am. At this time I was dilated to 5cm and contractions were about 8 min apart. They wanted them to be at 4 min apart before I officially checked in, but since I was definitely headed in that direction, they told me to stick around. So Dan and I sort of camped out in the birthing center. The contractions were painful, but very manageable. In fact we decided to go out for lunch in the area. There's nothing like having contractions in the line at a very busy Chipotle! "Don't worry about me folks, Im just in labor. Now give me my chicken burrito!" We came back and my midwife gave me a foot massage with essential oils that helped move contractions along. By 5pm I was in full active labor with contractions every 4 minutes. It was fully decided that we were not going home without a baby this time! Laboring was exciting. I was thrilled to be at a birth center where I could move around in any position I wanted to. There was such a freedom to it. A few more hours into it, I was able to labor in the birth pool. I cannot describe how amazing this felt. The water reduced the intensity of the pains tremendously. I felt relaxed and in control. Everything was going exactly how we had planned. My water had not broken by itself so at 9cm, my midwife broke it intentionally. By this time I was in the transition stage of labor and the pain was taking over my body. It became harder to focus and be in control. 
      At 10pm I was in full pushing mode. My midwife assured me that our baby was in great position and should be here by midnight. So I kept pushing, and pushing and pushing. At midnight, I felt like I hadn't progressed at all. The pain was indescribable. It felt like it was never going to end. I was continuously throwing up and extremely dehydrated. They decided to give me an IV, but trying to sit still through contractions and vomiting was extrememly difficult so the IV process took way longer than it should. Time kept passing and I still didn't have my baby boy. I knew something was wrong. The mood in the room started changing as the midwife and the nurse kept leaving the room and whispering. I was having contractions every minute and half with no pain relief and no signs of progress. At 2am, my midwife told me that we were going to need to transport to a hospital for further assistance. I could not believe what I was hearing. This was definitely NOT the plan. What had happened to get to this point? It was so discouraging but then again at this point I was in such intolerable pain that I was in agreement to whatever would help end it. So she made the 911 call. 
       As I was waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I felt like I was trapped inside my own brain. I was in so much pain, that didnt seem to have any end in sight. However, it wasn't just the physical pain I was dealing with. I was dealing with major anxiety and PTSD symptoms. I had been warned during pregnancy that labor could easily trigger victims of sexual assault, so I had been in counseling trying to prepare for this. I am very thankful that I had coping strategies ready to combat these triggers. Although I had my husband and midwife supporting me, I felt completely hostage to my own thoughts and barely could interact with anyone in the 'real world". As they put me into an ambulance, the anxiety spiked. I could not help but go back to the last time/only time I had ever been in an ambulance, which was right after my attack. Here I was, in the strongest point of labor being strapped down on a gurney, put in an ambulance headed toward a hospital for a possible c-section and being told to relax and not push after pushing straight for over 4 hours. My emotions were all over place. I wasn't able to communicate through the pain, but I was angry. I was very angry at God. How could this be happening? I had once again fallen prey to the false theology that because of my past, God owed me smooth sailing from then on out. I felt that I shouldn't have to experience so many complications. I felt that I deserved to have an "easy" time without any extra trigger points. I was so fearful of what was to lay ahead for me and my baby boy. 
       We arrived at the hospital and thank God that there was a room with full staff waiting for me. They kept telling me not to push, but it truly felt like an impossible task to follow. As one friend described, "Telling a laboring woman not to push is like telling her to stop a tidal wave with her hand". The doctor was open to possibly still keeping a natural birth but after examining me he quickly realized that was not a safe option anymore. We were given the choice to wait it out and see if things changed with the risk of more complications for me and baby or to go ahead with a c section and get the baby out while we were both in  stable condition.  I was still in shock that we were having to make this decision but ultimately we both knew what we had to do and consented to the csection. I had finally received my epidural and it was kicking in. By this time I had been laboring for nearly 18 hours without any type of pain relief. I was rejoicing at modern technology and was so grateful to my anesthesiologist. I could have kissed him!  
      It was 5am on Wednesday June 11, 2014 and they prepared me to go into the operating room. I talked to my parents who had arrived at the hospital earlier. A lot of my memory from here on out is a little fuzzy as I was drugged up and completely exhausted. I do remember being carted into the operating room. I was strapped down, there were extremely bright lights and I was alone. Fear gripped me. I wanted to cry. This was NOT in my plan. What happened to the beautiful birth plan that we had been preparing for? I felt so confused and frustrated that God had allowed it to come to this. They finally let Dan and my midwife into the room when they were ready to begin. I held my husbands hand and realized this was it! We were finally going to see our baby boy. It only took about 90 seconds before they had him out. As he was delivered, everyone in the room yelled out an "Oh my God!". Of course since I could not see anything this was a little disturbing until it was followed by much laughter and "He's huge!". I heard his cries before I could see him, and immediately I was in awe and felt such an indescribable relief. I thought he would never come! All of this waiting had come to this. 
       At 5:54am Judah James Carrel was born into this world weighing 11lbs 3oz and measuring 22 3/4 inches long. I wish I could say that we had a beautiful moment together, but the truth is that I only got a few minutes to see him before he was whisked away to the nursery. I made sure Dan went with him. All of sudden it was all over and I was being taken to a recovery room, but I still didn't have my baby boy in my arms. Again, this was completely the opposite of our plan. I had dreamed about that moment for months fully expecting to hold my baby in my arms within seconds of his birth and experience that "baby high". It didn't seem fair. I had done all this work and now was forced to wait without my husband or any family (or any food or water for that matter!) Unfortunately it was over an hour later until I was to see my baby again. I finally got to hold Judah and he was absolutely perfect. 
          I have had nearly 2 months to process my birth story and the honest truth is that I am sad and disappointed when I remember it. I dealt with traumatic flashbacks and PTSD symptoms. I had planned on a completely natural out of hospital birth in a relaxing and comfortable environment. I got the exact opposite of our plan. I had hoped and planned for so many things that come with a natural birth such as immediate skin to skin , breastfeeding, delayed cord cutting, ect.. We had budgeted for and had completely paid for our natural birth. A hospital birth has brought new unexpected medical bills.   Can I complain though? I left the hospital with no complications and completely healthy. My baby boy was as perfect as can be and in full health. So NO, I cannot complain. I am extremely grateful and feel blessed. I love my baby boy so very much and am in awe of his perfection. I do however feel justified in grieving the loss of a natural birth. I am sure there are so many women who can say they feel the same. 

So things didn't go as planned. My plans were not God's plans. I am able to see the good in my story. I was forced to trust God and remember that he is sovereign and in control and I am most definitely not. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Yes All Women

      Recently there has been a trending of hashtags #Yesallwomen, after the Santa Barbara killings where a young man went on a rampage murdering in the name of hate and revenge towards women. The idea is that not all men are sexual deviants, yet ALL women experience harassment or worse from men in their lives. I have been really impacted by reading these tweets and blogs out there where women have shared their stories of how violence and misogyny against women have affected them. My heart breaks for our broken world and what women all over this world experience on daily basis. The mistreatment and violence against women is at unbelievable rates. The tragedy is how society has reacted to the yes all women hashtags. So many have opposed the movement, calling it feminist and ridiculous. This blows my mind. This issue is incredibly personal to me, so I felt compelled to share my feelings on this issue.
          Before September 8, 2012, I knew about violence against women. I understood misogyny existed, but like so many other girls for the most part I accepted it as cultural. I really didn't study it out or ask my friends about their experiences with harassment. I didn't talk about sexual abuse hardly ever. I was ignorant and indifferent. Don't get me wrong, I would be stirred in my soul when I heard about sex trafficking or rape, but I did nothing with the information.  Since I was brutally attacked and raped, my views have changed drastically. When I hear a story about violence against women in any form, I am more than just stirred in my soul, I am passionate and desire justice more than ever. I want to see change.
          One way we can make a change is the way that we treat victims.This is one of the biggest factors that angers me. The blaming the victim card that still exists so often in the case of rape or abuse. In my case, I was attacked in the middle of a beautiful day, in a so called "safe area", while serving the community that I lived in. I had keys in my hand that I could use as a weapon. I fought back. I did everything "right", however when I got to the hospital, my X-ray tech made the comment how I should have looked behind me because that's what she always does to protect herself. This quick off handed comment from a woman nonetheless, really showed me the complete ignorance that people have about violence and the attitude that surrounds it. If I didn't have the grace of God over me at that time, that one comment could easily have destroyed me. A victim of sexual assault is already judging their own actions and blaming themselves for what has happened to them. They are already living in shame, and the last thing they need is someone telling them what they could have done better to prevent the act of violence. Instead we need someone telling us, that its not our fault, that's its completely unacceptable to be treated violently no matter what.

Here are some of my favorite tweets/examples of how violence against women is not only ignored but encouranged even if our society....
The cops who asked me "Well, what were you wearing?" when I reported an attack and attempted rape.

I shouldn't have to hold my car keys in hand like a weapon & check over my shoulder every few seconds when I walk at night

Because women are taught to hate themselves if men reject them, and men are taught to hate women if women reject them.

Because children are taught "if he's mean to you, he likes you" without thinking about the implications.

Because teenage girls are sent home from their prom because their dress is turning on the dads who are chaperoning.

Because society is more comfortable with people telling jokes about rape than it is with people revealing they have been raped

Because we teach girls how not to get raped, instead of teaching boys not to rape.

These are just a few of examples, and each one hits home to me. I am so much more aware about this issue now and want to do my best to help bring awareness and change to our world. I am getting ready to bring a boy into this world. You can guarantee that I will do my best at teaching him to love and respect women and to do anything he can to be a change in our world. I want him to be a man who sees women as God does, a beautiful creation put on earth for God's glory and not man's. As a Christian, I must say that I see so much misogyny existing in the church as well. I have been horrified at the amount of my christian friends who have been raped or abused by so called "Christian" men as well. I've heard stories of these men who have told my friends that they were created to be sex slaves for their pleasure. This is outrageous and cannot be tolerated anywhere, let alone inside church community. Something is missing here. The statistics say that one in every 4 women have been assaulted. I absolutely believe it. At the same time, I have often heard, teenagers and young adult women in the church making jokes about rape and treating it as an unlikely reality. They view it as entertainment from a criminal TV show or horror movie instead of the tragedy it truly is. We as believers in Jesus need to be stepping out and speaking for the oppressed and broken. We need to make a stand against injustice and violence. Let's be a voice for those who can't speak up and not silencers.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Living with PTSD

      Its been nearly 17 months since I was violently physically and sexually assaulted. They always say "time heals", however there are many days where I feel like that phrase is just rubbish. My mind tells me I should be in front of this. That this trial is in my past and I should be moving forward by now. I feel as though I should be ready to share my story as an overcomer or as a past victim giving purpose and meaning to those who are just recently experiencing such a tragedy. I've had months and months of counseling, read several books, been indulged in the scriptures, and started new joyful adventures since that day. However despite all of this some days it feels as though my circumstances stay the same and my heart aches as severely as it did in the first weeks, if not more. 
      My life has changed since September 8, 2012 in so many ways. I have a new apartment, new church, new friends and co-workers, and I have a beautiful baby boy on the way. I have experienced the grace of God in my life like never before. I have found greater understanding in suffering and tragedy and finding joy in the midst of those. There is positivity to be found. However, it's not always easy. 
      People move on. Friends and family who were supportive and caring in the thick of the trial have their own lives to worry about, understandably so. New friends may or may not know about my past and it becomes awkward to share the story as so many don't know how to respond. It's heavy. Some days I feel normal, but then I am hit with the reality that my reality is so very different than the lives of those around me. The more time I spend with people, especially other young women my age, I realize how my life is in such a contrast. I begin to feel like an outsider who can't explain those feelings well.  What do I mean? I feel compelled to show a glimpse into the life of a person suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), not to be felt sorry for or pitied but to shed an awareness of the difficulty it is to recover from assault and abuse. 
Often it can feel as though PTSD is in control of my life. 
  • I think twice about everything I do. The words "Is it safe?", or "will I feel safe?" resonate in my mind with each decision I make or place that I go. 
  • I cannot let my phone out of my sight even when I am alone in my small one bedroom apartment for fear of tragedy happening and having no way to contact for help.
  • I flinch at every unsuspecting noise I hear. 
  • Any unexpected touch or hit to any part of my head immediately and physically triggers the memory of being beaten and will send me into an anxiety attack. 
  • I get nervous at the turn of every corner or the opening of every door for fear of someone waiting behind it to cause evil
  • A simple knock on my door when I am home alone is enough to send me into full blown hysterics and anxiety attacks.
  • I cant help but think nearly every man I see is looking for an opportunity to rape and assault me or another unsuspecting woman in the area. 
  • I hear any scream or shout and immediately my thoughts go to the worst possible situation and feel a responsibility to find out if someone is in trouble. 
  • My heart pounds as I lie down to take a nap in the middle of the day for fear of being awakened by a noise, a knock on the door or anything else that would trigger an anxiety attack.
  • I can barely watch any primetime TV show or go to see any movies that many of my friends may watch because nearly every show or movie has a violent storyline or scene that will undoubtedly trigger a traumatic memory for me. 
  • I can be in the middle of a church service and a graphic image of my rape with flash through my mind without warning or a reasonable trigger. 
  • I have to avoid the song "Amazing Grace" at any and all costs as it will cause a very painful trigger for me as it was the song God gave me during my attack. 
  • I encounter struggles with feeling shame even though I know that Christ has redeemed me. 
  • I am often attacked with violent and graphic dreams that wake me up in the middle of the night. 
  • I must endure while people around me (Christians included) joke and make light of violence and rape all the while screaming inside how truly NOT funny it is. 
  • I am anxiously waiting for the time they call me in to testify against my attacker in court and worry that the forgiveness I have felt could not be real. That maybe my forgiveness was really a facade and when I see him new feelings of anger will arise. 
  • Before my attack I felt called to the least of these, to serve amongst the poor and forgotten. Now I feel guilt as my hearts desire is to pursue this calling again but my mind cannot handle the fear and anxiety that comes along with serving in areas that potential new dangers exist. Violence is a big cost that I am not ready to face yet again. 
  • I am thrilled at having a baby on the way, but my heart aches with the thoughts of the evil that exists in this world and how it may affect him. 
     The list could go on, but ultimately its just the feeling that I am different than most of my peers. I hang out with women my age and realize the things they think about and talk about were the same things I did before September 2012. I used to watch those crime shows and horror movies. I used to be confident to walk by myself or stay home alone. However my experiences have shaped a new reality for me. I am not comforted by statistics or rationale. I know that violence can happen anywhere. I grieve the loss of my security daily. 

     I must battle with my faith that tells me that God is with me and I have nothing to fear and the reality that tragedy happens and is painful to bear no matter what. I do not journal this to despair or to complain about the hardships. I truly feel compelled to speak out as a victim and a survivor of sexual and physical assault. It doesn't just disappear. Time doesn't necessarily heal.  Hope for complete healing sometimes seems pointless or unattainable. As a Christian, however I know I cannot let that hope die for I have a genuine and true faith that Christ has set us free and one day He will set all right and vanquish all evil and heartache. 

     Revelation 21: 3-5 says " Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself with be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said "Behold I am making all things new.