Monday, June 25, 2012


Jerry Sandusky.
The trial is over and he's been found guilty of atrocities that I don't have the stomach to list. All reasonable people are shocked and disgusted by his actions and saddened for his victims. While he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, that is only a small drop of justice in a flood of evil. The sparks a lot of emotions in our country these days. I know it does for me. I am also a survivor of sexual abuse.

I honestly can't remember if I've talked about it on this blog before, but I'm going to talk about it now. I know that this isn't a topic that makes people comfortable. Or a topic that people expect to find on an infertility/parenting blog. But this space is for me and about me, and right now, it's what's on my mind.

The man who abused me was my grandmother's third husband. He and my grandmother married when I was 3 months old, so he was the only grandfather I ever knew. His name was CH (That is his real name.) but I always called him grandpa.

I don't know when it started. Before my memory, that is all I can tell you. I can remember being somewhere around 3 or 4 and learning in church that those kind of touches were only for married people and telling him he had to stop because it was a sin. He told me God was okay with it because we loved each other. I would later learn that he was an Atheist.

When I was about 8 or 9, I was playing, hiding behind a built in laundry hamper at their house when I found some papers. Of course, I read them. They were court transcripts. My grandma and CH had foster children for a while. He had molested two of the girls they had. They reported it. And here were the transcripts of most of the interviews. He denied it, of course. They had been removed from their home because their dad was molesting them. He told the interviewer that they must have been having flashbacks.

My grandma swore it wasn't possible. They'd never been alone, whatever.

I asked him about it one day and he told me "they wanted [him] to." I asked him what he would do if I ever told. He said "I would deal with it because I love you that much." I took that to mean that nothing would change. There was no point in telling.

As I got older, things escalated. I would stay with them in the summers sometimes, or long weekends. If I wanted money to go to the pool or something, I had to perform for it. Every moment alone, I tried to cover my developing body because it attracted too much attention. But I went along with it, too. I pleased him because that's the way it had always been. In the same way that a child does the dishes or mows the lawn to please her parents, I performed sexual acts.

For a few years we lived several states away and I was safe. It was a relief, but at the same time, I missed them. Despite the abuse, he was my grandpa and I loved him. (Gosh, those words hurt me more to type than all the rest of it.) When I was 14, my dad decided to go back to college, so we moved back to Illinois and in with them. The abuse started up again immediately.

One day, a friend at school told me that she had been abused and been to counseling. I told her that I was being touched, too. She told her mom, who called the school, who called the state, who called my dad. That friend probably saved my life.

The telling was hell. The school counselor called me in and asked me if it was true. I told her that it was, but tried to lessen it by saying it had only happened twice. In my mind, I didn't want to say I had been lying to my friend, and I knew that it only happening once wasn't believable, but somehow I thought it happening twice was. (Magical thinking of a child, here.) As there is (was?) no statue of limitations on sexual abuse in my state, it still had to be reported, despite my pleas not to tell my dad.
She said she would talk to the state and see what had to happen.

When I showed up for the meeting with the state interviewer, my dad was in the room already. No one had told me he would be there. I had a whole letter written explaining why they shouldn't tell him. I burned it later. When I saw him sitting in the small office, I turned to run away.

I don't know where I was going, I just needed to go away. The school counselor grabbed me and physically pushed me back into the office. My dad stood and just hugged me for a long time. I just sobbed.

Then the interview started. I couldn't look anyone in the eye. I was 14 years old. I couldn't even say the word "tampon" in front of my dad yet and the counselor wanted me to now answer if CH inserted his fingers or penis into my vagina. I couldn't answer through the sobs. My school counselor had been warned not to speak during the interview, but she broke decorum to ask if perhaps this would be easier if my dad wasn't there. I just nodded.  My dad immediately stood and left.

After the interview was over, I had to go back to class. As it happened, it was lunch time. I walked in and the school bully started making rude comments to me (as usual) and before I could decide what else to do, I dumped my carton of chocolate milk over his head, getting me sent to the Principal's office where I had to apologize. The best part of that whole day was my principal telling me I ought not to do that because by the end of the day, the bully was going to smell bad. I hope he did.

That night, my dad picked me up from school and asked me if I wanted to prosecute. I did, but instead of saying so, I asked him what he thought. He said he thought that CH was a sick man and that a trial wouldn't do anyone any good. I just wanted my life to go back to normal, so I said I agreed. I have regretted that moment for the last 21 years.

The next day, the state called and said that they didn't have enough evidence to prosecute on their own, but that the accusations were founded. If we didn't immediately move out of my grandparents' house, the state would remove me from my father's care and put me into the foster system.

My dad came to me and told me that he was going to have to tell my grandma. Did I want to be there when he told her? No. I didn't. He went to the basement where she was watching TV. I went to my room and closed the door. CH was at work. I don't even think I cried while I listened to my grandmother wail. Even then, I knew she should have protected me.

The next day we moved into a motel. We ran out of money a week later. We lived another week or so in a homeless shelter. That was where I lived during Thanksgiving 1990. My dad applied for state aid and we found a crappy apartment to live in while my dad finished college and worked as much as he could. We still ate dinner with my grandparents every night. In convincing everyone that it really had happened only twice, my dad thought I was safe now.

A few times after that, CH tried to touch me again. I told him I would scream. Finally I had a voice.

My grandmother occasionally asked me to detail what had happened. I guess she also wanted to know if he had inserted his fingers or penis into my vagina. I refused to discuss it. She assured me that I had certainly misconstrued a pat on the butt. I assured her that I hadn't.

When I was 17 or so, she again begged me to tell her what happened. Pleaded, "WHY won't you tell me?" So I did. In excruciating detail, I told her every single thing. She sobbed and I seethed. Why did either of us need to think about it? Why couldn't she just believe me? They still stayed married.

When I was 19, she decided she would move back to her hometown of Indianapolis. She told CH that he could move with her, or they could get divorced. He didn't want to move, so they got divorced. I was relieved.

And then Thanksgiving came, and she invited him to have dinner with us again. My dad broke it to me gently and asked if I'd rather not go. We had dinner at a local restaurant that year. It was weird. I decided then that I would go to family dinners as usual. I didn't want him to keep me out of my traditions. So for a few more years, I continued to have holiday meals with him.

Somewhere along the way, I told my dad the truth about how long it had really gone on. That didn't go so well either. He didn't want to think about it. Kept asking me why I was telling him. I guess he felt about that the way I felt about my grandmother's questions. At the time I told him I just wanted him to know the truth. Now I realize that I wanted him to hate CH as much as I did. It hurt me that he didn't.

I got counseling for a little while. Not long, but enough to do me some good.

CH died last year. He left me a small amount of money. My dad asked if I wanted it, thinking maybe I didn't. I told him that no amount of money could undo what was done, but the money would be put to good use. I guess it was a small amount of justice in a pool of evil.

Most of the time, I'm okay. I have my moments. The right sound can set me off. For a long time, the smell of Head and Shoulders shampoo would make me gag. I started using it on purpose to disassociate the scent from CH.

Mostly, it's made me sensitive to the fragility of children. Everyone thought CH was "just the greatest guy." Everyone just loved him. Those are the guys you have to look out for. The ones who can charm the kids. When I met David, I was relieved that he was so uncomfortable around children. He would stare blankly at a child who talked to him. That's not a guy who is talking a kid into doing things she didn't want to.

When stories like the Sandusky story come up, I have trouble, though. I know the pain of those boys. I read about the boys still going to the football camps even though they knew what else came with it. I think about asking for money for ice cream even though I knew what it would cost me. The guilt and shame come back with a vengeance. Intellectually I know that he was the adult with power, but I can't help but think "if only..." sometimes.

I look at Dottie Sandusky and see my grandmother. Willful ignorance, to be sure. It must be nice to have the luxury not to think about things one doesn't want to see. Jerry's victims, CH's victims, all the victims of predators out there, we don't have a choice.

I share this story because it's truth. Because Jerry Sandusky is not the only one. Because this blog is about parenting and about hope. I hope that children are safer now because Jerry Sandusky is in jail. CH is dead. Maybe Jerry will join him in hell soon.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Up all night

Thank you for everyone's thoughts on the sleep situation. It's improved a little. She has gone 4ish hours between wakings quite a few times. That may not sound like much, but it's a vast improvement over 2 hour wakings.
Last night she actually sent to bed at 8, slept 4 hour increments all the way until NOON today. Of course, I'm pretty sure she's fighting off a bug. Robbie had hand, foot and mouth last weekend. Charlotte never got the fever, but she got the sores.

And tonight, I'm paying for it. She went to sleep at 8 just fine and dandy but at 10:30, I made the mistake of opening an envelope and it woke her up. It's now 2am and she's STILL up. I rocked her for an hour, then made David rock her for an hour, and now it's been another 90 minutes and she's wide awake. It's triply bad because I think I'M fighting off the bug (I have a low grade fever and feel awful) AND am having an anxiety spike (brought on by the bug? I don't know.)

I finally just gave up and brought her out to the living room to play for a bit. Trying to "reset" her for bedtime. She's DEFINITELY not hungry (seriously, my nipples are sore from trying to nurse her to sleep for hours...) I think she's just overtired and can't wind down. I've tried all my usual tricks, rocking, singing, white noise, skin to skin, co-sleeping, letting her cry a bit and then rescuing her.. no luck.

She's currently in the floor taking advantage of playing with Robbie's toys while he's not around to be upset about it.

Speaking of Robbie- tonight I got to experience my first sibling "argument." Sort of. Robbie tripped over his own feet, then turned around to yell at Charlotte (who was nowhere near him) "Baby Charlotte! Stop it! That's not nice!" I managed to stifle the giggle and tell him Charlotte hadn't caused him to trip. He's been quite a handful lately, but I'll discuss that another time.

Charlotte has now laid herself down and is attempting to roll herself over. She's on a blanket that is slippery on the wood floor, so she's having trouble. Hoping that will wear her out.

The anxiety flair is annoying. I honestly had been doing so well that I had started to space out my doses of Paxil a bit. I've gained a TON of weight and I know the Paxil is just making it worse, so I'd like to come off of it when I can. I had gotten to where I was only taking it ever 2nd day. But today has made me rethink that plan. It sucks. I mean, it's great that the Paxil works, but I don't want to rely on it forever. 

In any case, I'm getting through it. It's still not as bad as it was during what I think of as The Dark Time, and since I've come out to the living room, turned on all the lights and am writing a bit, it is abating a bit. I'm managing. But I don't like it one bit. A good night's sleep would do me a world of good, but apparently that isn't to be.

Hmm, Charlotte has now given up rolling over and is laying her head on the floor. Maybe she's finally ready to sleep.

P.S. If you're having an anxiety flair and not feeling well, don't Google. I'm pretty much convinced that every symptom known to man can mean cancer.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I am now the mother of a 4 year old and an almost 7 month old. Both were premature. One profoundly so with lasting issues. We've been through surgeries, therapies, specialists, and experts of all kinds. And if you ask me what the hardest part of parenthood is, this is what I'll tell you- the lack of sleep.

Robbie was a horrific sleeper. Awful. I know, I know, "but he had a lot going on." Everyone tells me that. Let me tell you, that doesn't help at 5 in the morning when you've had 2 hours of sleep in the last 36. Reason goes out the window at that point. Yes, he was in pain, yes he was hungry, yes he refused to eat. I totally got that. But I needed sleep. He did, too. After a certain point, your brain stops functioning well. I can remember being home alone with Robbie one afternoon and going to the kitchen. The refrigerator door was open. I don't mean "not closed all the way." I mean WIDE open. There was no one to blame but myself. I was so tired I forgot to close it. And then didn't notice.

Things didn't get better until he got his feeding tube and we did some sleep training. We did a sort of modified Ferber method. Once he got his feeding tube, he slept pretty well once you got him there. But every single night was at least 2 hours to get him down. I tried all the strategies and it was not to be. But 2 nights of Ferber and he went down w/o a fuss. He's been a fantastic sleeper ever since.

Charlotte started off as a great sleeper. Since she was early and very small, I wasn't allowed to let her sleep more than 3 hours for a while. I had to set an alarm because she wanted. When she started gaining weight a little better, the doctor said we could go 5 hours at one stretch, but 3 the rest. I still had to set an alarm. Occasionally I would sleep through it and she'd go 6 on her own. When she started gaining weight like crazy, I let her sleep as much as she wanted. She would regularly go 8-10 hours at a stretch.

Her naps weren't great, usually only around 45 minutes or so, but since we were getting 12-14 at night (total) it was no big deal.

But then that stopped. It was around the time I moved her out of the rock-n-play and into the co-sleeper. I thought it was that. But even going back to the rock-n-play didn't help. So we're back to the co-sleeper.
She goes to sleep great. You can't keep her eyes open past about 8:30. Really about 8:00, she shows the signs of readiness for sleep. I nurse her one last time, she passes out while nursing, I lay her down and she's out. For about an hour. MAYBE 2. What comes next is anyone's guess.

She might wake up and eat every hour until midnight and then sleep a 2 or 3 hour stretch from midnight to 3, then until 6. Or she might wake up at 10:00 and be awake and perky and playing until 2am. Those nights are the worst. She's cute about midnight, but by 1am, she's getting the stern mommy voice, "Charlotte Corrina! GO TO SLEEP." She gets overtired and will not settle down. I've done music, rocking, stroking, white noise, dark room, light room, singing, and on and on. When she gets like that, all you can do is wait it out.

For a while, the every 2 or 3 hour thing was okay. But after a while, your body just needs a good long (4 hours? 5? anything!) stretch of sleep. What usually ends up happening is that about 5am, I nurse her and put her back to bed and she cries. and I soothe her and she sleeps for 10 minutes and then cries. And I soothe her and she sleeps for 10 minutes and then cries. After 4 or 5 times of that, I am so exhausted I just bring her to bed with me. And she sleeps. Sometimes until 8, but sometimes until 10. This morning she woke up at 6:30, went back to sleep at 8:30 and slept until noon. She always seems to do better in the early morning hours than at night.

I honestly don't know what to do. I've tried not picking her up and she just gets hysterical. Because we have a co-sleeper, I can literally lay my upper body and head in it with her. She's not alone or cold. But she wants to be wrapped in my arms. And I get that, I do. But I worry about SIDS. Our bed is pretty cushy, we have too many pillows, and while I'm a very light sleeper, David is not. Co-bedding is not something I really want to do. But I don't know what to do.

I'm beyond tired. And I go back to work full time in 3 weeks. I'm going to have to be able to get some sleep at some point. Tell me, readers, what would you do? What have you done? I'm open to suggestion here.