A new beginning for us all!

Other than Facebook posts and (major throw back here) Myspace, I have not had any experience with blogging. I tinkered with the idea in the beginning, before being a blogger somehow became a career path. Given how much I love to write, and talk, I am not sure why I chose not to. But now that I am older, and daresay wiser, I am going to give it a shot.

Since this is my first post and you all don’t know me from Adam, I figured I should tell you about who I am and how I came to be where I am at. Some say that your past defines who you are. I agree but disagree with that statement all at once. Though my past has made me who I am, and who I am shapes my future, I believe the the constant quest for more is what defines who a person is. Whether it is more money, more possessions, more love, more children, or more time, there is always a quest for more. This is mine:

August 29th 1986 I was born in a Catholic Hospital to my very non-Catholic parents, almost a month early and looking much like an alien being. After weeks of being hooked up to wires and tubes, I was allowed to come home. There I met my sister, who at four years old was sage and wise, and promptly declared to be “the wrong baby”.

After much convincing, I was finally welcomed into the fold and I grew up quick. I was sweet and open, constantly wanting to learn, and convinced that I was going to be something great. Then everything crashed and burned. At the tender age of six I was lured in by a juvenile sexual predator. I make that distinction because he was only five years older than I, still a child himself, but what he did was anything but childlike.

For a long time, life was a blur. I don’t remember much and other than a few snips of images or sounds, I think this is when my battle with depression began. I cannot be sure, but I am positive that my whole outlook on life changed. I was no longer as open and social, I withdrew into a world of books and movies and games. These were places where I didn’t have to think about me, I didn’t catch my reflection in a mirror or window and stand staring trying to see what made me different and wrong.

When I was twelve my family moved from the dying town I had called home to a home way out in the country. I was a city girl cast into the wilds where everything, including the people, seemed alien and strange. The funniest part is, my parents moved my sister and I out of the city to avoid drugs and gangs, but the rural county we moved to was so much worse. Drug use, alcoholism and teen pregnancy ran rampant through my new school and I didn’t know what to do. I had culture shock to say the least.

Eventually I made friends and began to feel closeness with a select few people. My main friends were the geeks and goths, but I had friends in every social circle. I still held people away from me, never letting anyone get too close because they might see my disfunction, my flaw. I still hadn’t come to terms with my abuse so I still held the thought that there was something wrong with me. Everything seemed to be going okay and life started to hold a little promise for the future.

My 11th grade year I began classes at a Vocational school, utilizing a double enrollment to my high school and the vocational school. I took Cosmetology courses, which in hindsight was my search to be more feminine and be like all the other girls I knew. My first year at the Vocational school, I had two very important and traumatic events occur. I was molested again and I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I was barely sixteen.

Understandably, I sank into depression so deep that I wasn’t sure I could survive. I tried to commit suicide a couple of times and, thank God, I was unsuccessful. I withdrew from my friends and became unruly, acting dangerously. My abuser this time was a family member, and so it became this dirty little secret. It was this elephant in the room that no one acknowledged and I sat there wanting to scream at everyone. Hello? How can you ignore the big freaking monster lurking in the corner? But I kept quiet, plastered on a smile and faked a laugh or two when needed. I survived.

During this time I became involved with my first serious boyfriend. That poor boy was doomed from the start, but he made me feel deserving for the first time in forever. So I dove in, completely and without reservation, and ignored the warning signs. The beginning was amazing and I learned a lot from him but it quickly dissolved into a cycle of physical and emotional abuse. There were a lot of breakups and makeups until one day I snapped and fought back. I ended up in cuffs and he was nice enough to not press charges so I was released and never formally arrested. I was nineteen and looking at my life and what I was headed for, it scared the crap out of me.

Life after that was strange, I became an exotic dancer (a job I held for almost nine years), did a lot of drugs (something I regret immensely) and travelled all over the United States. I got married fast and divorced just as quickly. I went through relationships like some people go through underwear. I got into fights and more than once had to run from the police over bar fights or disturbing the peace. In a nutshell, I was stupid and more than a little crazy. But my behavior led me to a situation where I met an amazing man, Kirk.

A friend of mine introduced me to Kirk in the early morning hours at Denny’s. I walked in, plopped into the seat next to him and began stealing his fries. We talked and got to know each other and over time he became my best friend. He became my rock and even though he had a wild side, he was raised strict Christian and was able to tame me a little. My wild streak continued until 2009, when we began dating.

I had just returned to Ohio after living in Arizona for almost a year. Kirk and I had lost contact but miraculously I met a girl who was friends with his brother. Through her we got back in contact and we started dating. He had a little girl from a previous relationship, Areonna was only 8 months old at the time, and after a couple weeks I was ready to meet her. At this time I was no longer partying and was ready to settle down and have a family. After my second bout of cervical cancer, the doctors told me that I would never have children, so I was fully prepared to be a step parent.

I fell in love with that little girl the moment I saw her. Big blue eyes and a dandelion puff of blonde hair, all topped off with a big toothless grin. I maintained my boundaries because I didn’t want to usurp anyone’s position, but I instantly knew that I would die to protect this beautiful baby. That love was put to test a week later when we found out that Areonna was in the hospital with eight broken ribs. After a very short investigation, it came to light that her biological mother had been abusing her and in an attempt to make her stop crying had squeezed her and broke her ribs.

Within a month we had an apartment, custody of Areonna and we were planning our wedding. Between court dates for custody, agency visits, learning to be a stay at home mother, and wedding plans we were very busy. We set a wedding date, July 18th 2010, and spent every day just dealing with making things work. Somehow it did.

In a bid to save money, we moved in with my parents in June of 2010. My husband and I shared a room with Areonna, a decent sized bedroom with an attached bath and walk-in closet was what we called home. Not long after we moved in, I was bit by a brown recluse spider. Scary and painful, it ended up being one of the most awesome things that happened to me.

We were married in a beautiful ceremony at a bed and breakfast surrounded by beautiful flowers and the people we love most. My father had to practically carry my to the alter, my leg was so swollen from the spider bite, but it was still one of the happiest days of my life. On that day I not only made a promise to my husband but a solemn vow to my daughter (step-daughter legally) that I would be there for the rest of my life and do anything and everything to ensure their happiness.

After the wedding we were looking for a new home to start our new life in. During that time I was suffering from seasonal colds, or so I thought. On a whim, and half joking, I convinced my new husband to buy some pregnancy tests to see what it would say. In all honesty, I don’t even know why because I didn’t feel nauseous or anything. My symptoms were easily explained away as allergies, but something made me want to take the test. Well, five tests actually and each and every one showed two lines. One dark and one very faint, those little pink lines opened up a well of hope inside me I didn’t know was there.

The next morning I took another test, and sent a picture of it to my sister who works in a doctor’s office. Five minutes later I got a call, my sister yelling at me telling me that I needed to make an appointment immediately. She had shown the doctor who said no matter how faint the line the result was the same, I was pregnant. For the first time in my life, I cried tears of joy.

My first appointment went well, they confirmed that I was indeed pregnant and gave the usual instructions. My tears of joy turned to tears of fear when that night I began to bleed, a lot. My husband rushed me to the emergency room and after waiting for five hours in the lobby I was told that I was okay and that the exam earlier that day had caused the bleeding. To be safe they had me visit my OB for an ultrasound the next day.

An ultrasound was something that I had plenty of experience with from my battle with cancer. I wasn’t scared to have the procedure done, I was scared they wouldn’t find anything. But the day came and I crawled onto that frigid table for my first look at the life inside me. After a minute and a lot of blurry blotches streaking across the screen, there it was, this long black oval with a tiny white circle inside. The little white circle pulse and flashed, so quickly it was almost strobe-like. “That’s the baby’s heartbeat,” my doctor said, “good and strong, it’s okay!” Instantly I burst into tears. I will never forget what he said next, “Hold on, I have to check the other one!” My world stopped! No more tears, no more breathing, I just froze. I now know what the term “with bated breath” means. The second oval was smaller, but there it was and the heartbeat just as strong and fast as the first. I was having twins!!

The pregnancy was difficult and there were quite a few scares along the way. March 30th, five weeks before my due date, I began having contractions. This wasn’t unusual at this point because I had begun preterm labor at 23 weeks, but this time was different. I called the hospital and they assumed that it was just another false start, they gave me instructions and told me to call my doctor in the morning. I did as I was told and after a quick exam I was sent to the hospital for immediate care, I was going to have my babies soon.

After I got to the hospital I learned that all of my plans of natural, drug-free birth were flying right out the window. My little girl had flipped breech and I was taken for emergency c-section. I later found out that she wasn’t only breech, she had stopped moving and the hospital was prepared to deliver a stillborn. But my baby is a fighter and even though her entrance into the world was painfully quiet, after a few second she let out a scream that I felt deep in my soul and it was one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. My son, Aiden was born March 31st at 1:09 p.m. weighing 4 pounds and crying like a puppy. Katie was born at 1:10 p.m. and weighed a whopping 2 pounds 14 ounces, she scared everyone including the nurses and doctors attending her.

An hour after they were born, the twins were transferred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. I was given ten minutes to hold my son but Katie was surrounded by I.V.s and monitors and I wasn’t even allowed to touch her. She was covered in blood from a botched attempt to insert an I.V. into her umbilical cord and was so small that the premie diaper came to her armpits. In an attempt to lessen the shock of her appearance, the doctors kept her in her isolette at a distance where I couldn’t get a close look at her.

I broke the hospital’s protocols by making them release me 24 hours after the c-section. There was no way that I was going three days without being with my babies, especially since they were in the Neonatal ICU almost an hour and a half drive away. So I checked out and spent the next five weeks driving back and forth from home to hospital, doing everything I possibly could to give my babies every chance I could. I even refused pain medication because it was making them sleepy and unable to eat or even breathe on their own.

They were released from Nationwide on the day of their original due date, May 8th. They were now an impressive 6 pounds for Aiden and 5 pounds for Katie. We found a beautiful old Victorian home for rent and spent the next year juggling the demands of two babies, a toddler, custody court dates, agency visits and normal life for a family of five. It was exhausting and exillerating all at once. But it wouldn’t last, once again our lives were turned upside down.

September 21st, 2013 was the beginning of a horrible chain of events that to this day I cannot believe happened. My family had went to spend the night with my parents (Thank God) and my husband received a call at 4:30 a.m. informing us that our house was on fire. We had let a friend stay with us, and he negligently left a candle burning which caught the house on fire. It took an hour for everything we owned, all of the little things a person collects in their lifetime, to become nothing more than a pile of ash. I stood on the cold, wet street in the early morning hours watching the burning house light up the sky. I think I died a little inside when the firefighters had to throw the twins’ crib, still smoking, into the yard. That smouldering piece of furniture sat on the damp grass as a symbol of what COULD have happened.

My best friend, Katherine a.k.a. Kat, rushed to my side as soon as I called her. She sat with me and held my hand as I spoke to the news reporters. She made me laugh by joking about the cute firefighters who were still hanging around and keeping me from totally breaking apart. Those very same firefighters sat her two sons in the firetruck and even put on the lights and sirens to make them smile. Before she left, she hugged me very tightly and whispered in my ear how much she loved me and that she was there for me if I needed her. I thanked her for coming to sit with me and told her I love her. That was the last time I was able to hold her.

The house burnt down on Friday, and though it was a tragic event we didn’t lose anything other than material possessions. My loved ones were safe and somehow we had found the strength to get things done. I even had a follow up appointment because I had just had a medically necessary hysterectomy. Monday was my appointment and as we sat in the waiting room my phone rang, my sister was calling me from work. I answered the phone quickly because I didn’t want to disturb other patients and that was when I heard the news.

My best friend and the one person who was able to break down my walls, other than my husband, had been in a crash on Sunday September 23rd. Her two sons, Gavin and Blake, were in the car with her. It was an instance of circumstance, no one was at fault really, and yet the outcome was devastating. Kat had died on impact, she was only 27 years old. Her oldest, Gav, had a broken leg and a concussion. Her baby, Blake, died at the hospital from internal injuries at only 7 months old. Ironically, he died in the same hospital where the twins spent their first five weeks of life.

When my sister told me, I screamed. I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried! I opened my mouth to deny it, but I know my sister and I know she wouldn’t be so cruel. Plus, the doctor she works for is also the coroner, there was no denial possible. I opened my mouth to try and the sound that came out is one that I never want to utter ever again. It came from some deep place in my soul that even I didn’t know existed. I collapsed to my knees and sobbed. I was still in the waiting room and the nurse took care of me, rescheduled my appointment and sent me home. I spent the next days in a blur.

The day of Kat and Blake’s funeral was beautiful and sunny, unseasonably warm but with a cool nip to the air. In a daze I walked into the funeral home, my sister on one side and my mother on the other, to say goodbye to my sister soul mate. She laid there so still and quiet, the complete opposite of her bouncy and electric self, and cradled in her arms was little Blake. My sister held me upright as I touched her face and said goodbye, although deep inside I was still trying to deny that this was real. I hugged her family and we all cried together. It was the worst day of my life so far. The fire and the devastation it wrought paled in comparison to the pain that I felt losing those two amazing people.

A week later, my husband’s cousin committed suicide and the dance of grief began again. We were losing touch with what it felt like to be happy. But finally things began looking up. We found a new home and people were rallying around us to lend support in any way they could. I look back and I am still humbled by the prayers, donations and kind words that people sent us. We thought we were finally free of whatever had cursed us. Boy, how wrong we were.

February 2013, smiles were easier by then and the darkness seemed to be waning. Until the day my oldest, my 4 year old angel, nonchalantly told me she was being molested. Although those were not the words she used, she clearly told me what happened to her and the world stopped spinning again. A family member, someone we should have been able to trust completely, had hurt my little girl. The police were called, tests were done, arrests were made but it still took a year for justice to be served.

February of this year, 2014, my husband and I bought a house. Nothing fancy, an old mobile home in good condition, but it is ours. By now I was the only one working and though it wasn’t perfect, our life wasn’t a string of tragedies. But then the call came, 4:30 a.m. again, only this time we learned that my husband’s little brother had taken his own life. He was 24 and the father of two little girls. The news came on the same day that the man who molested my daughter was convicted of his crime. Although it breaks our hearts that my brother in law is gone, he has escaped the pain that made him feel that suicide was his only way out. The man who hurt my baby is serving 15 years to life in prison, and life has evened out.

Our life is far from perfect, and our history has left a indelible mark on our everyday life, but we have learned to make the best of each day. Because of all the bad things that have happened, I finally made the choice to do what I have to in order to improve our future. So I went back to school, I work my butt off, and I kiss my children every day and whisper promises of good things we have. I know that there will always be pain, and there will always be bad things happen, but I am looking to the future and working for a life that is better than what we ever imagined before…..

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3 thoughts on “A new beginning for us all!

  1. Ashley we have too much in common. I was also sexually abused when I was younger, it started when I was six and continued until I as eleven. My best friend, who was a sister to me committed suicide the summer after our Freshmen year. And my sister, as you already know, spent four months in the NICU in Tacoma. Reading your story I am literally in tears. You are a definitely a strong woman, I don’t know I could have gone through what you have and still be around to talk about it. You are truly amazing.

    Like

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