Friday, August 14, 2015

Dear Ehren: 1 Year

Dear Ehren,

Today, you turned 1 year old. You became a toddler. I am still forever going to call you my baby. The days now look remarkably different than a year ago. On your first day I couldn't walk, get up to care for you, hold you unsupervised, or nurse you alone. Today, we went to the doctor, nursed in 5 different locations, ate cupcakes at the splash pool, drove an hour to pick up and drop off some wraps, ate dinner at Red Robin, and took a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel to celebrate your first revolution around the sun.

The days look remarkably different, but so much the same. You are still our bright-eyed chameleon - one day a Gruss the next a Samaniego. You are well bonded to mom and dad and love to be held and worn as much as you ever did. You are fiercely independent and adorably vocal.

From the moment you were born, it was obvious that you would keep us on our toes and provide us with endless hours of entertainment. From the first smile, first roll, first crawl, first ball throw to the dog to your last days of formula, final worm crawl, and last toothless smile it has been an adventure. It never stops changing, and right now that feels so right.

Also, we're still breastfeeding. Not that it's any one else's business.

Love you always,

Mama

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dear Ehren: Ending the physical violence

Dear Ehren,

When your grandma had me, she was still a teenager. From the beginning, her choices left her in a position where she was ill-prepared to care for me. She did her best, drawing on the examples she had from her own childhood. Unfortunately for all involved, the cycle of abuse and neglect goes back for generations in our family. Having a baby as a single teen mother is no easy feat, and your grandma soon found a partner to help her. This partner was the first to hit me, but not the last.

Grandma married this man when I was about 1 year old and concealed from me that I was not his daughter. A few years later your uncle was born, and we all lived in a small house together in a rural community. I noticed from a young age that I was treated differently. The realization that it was because I was unwanted "excess baggage" didn't come until I was an adult. I suffered physical violence at the hands of my "dad", "grandparents", mom, aunts, uncles, other male partners of my mom's, and babysitters. When I recall moments of my childhood, the strongest memories that come to mind involve being struck or abused in some way.

You should know that I didn't take it all without fighting back. I often put my hands in the way so that it was harder to hit me and would try to talk my way out of it. One evening, I was wrongfully accused of stealing a bottle of liquor from the refrigerator. I was pulled from bed where I was sleeping and interrogated. I denied it repeatedly, but the adults in my life did not feel it fit to believe me. Instead, I was beaten across the back, behind, and legs with the buckle end of a belt. I knew it couldn't stand. I was beaten for being honest about a bottle that had simply been moved out of a child's reach. The next day, I went to school where we had gym class and were required to run a mile on a track. I chose that day to wear short shorts to showcase the bruises on my body. I felt so vindicated when my teacher noticed. Child services was involved, and I thought I had finally saved myself and my brother from this man. Unfortunately, this was not the end for us, and we lived with this man for at least 6 more months before a divorce was even considered.

This is where the cycle will come to an end. I will never hit you. I will never spank, swat, slap, or otherwise strike you. From all of this awfulness, I learned to stand up for myself. To fight for what's right. To always do the right thing. That's why I know, and can promise, that I'll always protect you. I'll use words, not my hands. Additionally, anyone who does harm (or attempt to) will be immediately removed from your life permanently. I have no tolerance for an adult exerting physical aggression towards a child. It is inexcusable, immature, and disturbing.

These are my promises to you, sweet boy. Even when you try my patience, I will always love you and never, ever harm you.

Love always,

Mama

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dear Ehren: A promise

Dear Ehren,

You are amazing. You are smart. You are brave. You are precious. You will never know the life I knew. I will be here for you until my very last dying breath, and I will always protect you. I will never forget that my primary duty in life is to protect you. I exist to keep you safe. My choice to have you as my child means that everyday, I will make the best choices I can for you to have a safe and healthy life.

I want you to know your worth. I want you to grow up feeling loved. I hope you always feel like you belong to your family. Yesterday, I realized these are the things I didn't have. These are the things that I can never get back. You'll one day grow up to know your parents as middle-aged adults. You won't recall the struggle that is the first year of parenting. You will never witness years of self-abuse I  experienced as a result of a childhood that was demoralizing. You will never know years of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse at the hands of adults that your mother trusted. You will never know what it feels like to be denied. You will always be mine.

I am sure someone else is reading this thinking "she can't guarantee that." Son, know that I will work tirelessly, until the end of my days to ensure that you never endure any of these situations. These are situations that are NEVER acceptable. These are situations that you can never fully recover from. I want your heart to be full of dreams and your head brimming with ideas. I have battled as an adult for the past decade to move beyond years of abuse, and realized that I may never be whole. I will never recover the innocence of a child. I may never be able to be reprimanded at work without crying. I may never be able to handle a hand on my shoulder from a colleague. I may never be able to accept a high-five without flinching. These are the things that I can ensure you won't have to endure. I intend to slowly unwrap and share the abuse I've survived, at the cost of relationships and privacy, so that you can truly understand how brave, courageous, strong, and incredible I, your mother, am.

I promise to always love you. I promise to always protect you. I promise to break the cycle of abuse. I love you more than you know now. If you choose to have a family one day, you will understand this love, and I hope that you will thank me and love them even more than I love you.

Love always,

Mama

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dear Bruce: A story of love lost

Dear Bruce,

As we approach the second anniversary of "you" I feel like I'm bursting with the need to share. A long long time ago, back in 2013, I was in an awful work situation. All I requested for my birthday was a new job. Alas, I did not get a job offer on a lovely silver platter for my birthday. Instead, I was treated to dinner at Anthony's by your father. The smells were awful to me, and I joked to him that I must be pregnant. We both laughed and moved along.

The day after my birthday, I took a pregnancy test and got that new job I wanted. I was pregnant. My new job was to be your mom forever. I called your dad, who had left for work only 3 minutes earlier, and we celebrated over the phone. This was by far the most distracted day at work I've ever experienced. We were elated and terrified, because the timing wasn't quite right, but it was going to be awesome anyway.

For my birthday weekend, your dad took me to the WA coast where we walked on the beach with Lucy dog for days. We planned everything we could. We named you "Bruce" so that we could use a code word in public. Suddenly, we were parents. Our priorities shifted in an instant. I cried and teared up numerous times that weekend, mostly out of sheer excitement. (Partially out a financial-based terror.) It was, by far, the most perfect weekend I can recall. It was the beginning of us as parents. It was the beginning of you as our child. We were bursting with excitement. We even used crabshells in the sand to make our birth announcement that weekend. This was the pinnacle of joy. I have never experienced such pure, innocent, uninhibited excitement before or since then.

We returned home from the trip on Sunday night. Tired, weary from the trip, and I just wasn't feeling right. I went to the bathroom and when I wiped I saw blood. And I knew. From that first instant. I knew it was over before it had ever really began. I felt like my world was shattered. I knew I'd never be the same again. I knew I owed every single one of my friends who had miscarried an apology.

I stayed up all night that night crying. I didn't really need to see the doctor to know, but I went anyway. I cried in the doctor's office with the nurse who drew my blood. I bawled when I saw the bloodstain I had left where I sat. I sobbed into your fathers arms all night. I spent most of the week at home and attempted to return to work on Thursday. I made it to 10 am before going home.

I spent all of May at home and never returned to that awful job. I owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you for reminding me that life is fragile, for showing me that pure joy is worth the potential downfall, for giving me a glimpse of what life would feel like with my future children, for helping me to understand what Mother's Day is really about, for forcing me to evaluate my work situation and my priorities. Thank you for helping me find me.

I'll always be your mother, Bruce.

Love always,

Mama

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dear Ehren: Seven Months

Dear Ehren,


The months are just flying by. I can't believe that there are only 5 months left in your first year! Right now this is you:
- You do the worm to get around, but you're well on your way to a proper crawl
- You are fiercely independent and want to hold your own bottle and spoon
- You rarely giggle, but when you do, it's the best part of my day
- You are teething and no longer sleep through the night
- You are very difficult to get back to sleep once you wake up in the middle of the night. Very difficult.
- You are stubborn and demanding and you are louder than mom.
- You still get what you want, including nursing at 3 am (which I said I refused to do)
- You cry when mom and dad leave the room with you in the bouncer
- You follow mom and dad, by doing the worm, if they leave the room with you on the floor
- You talk A LOT by saying adadadadadadadada over and over again

 Sweet son, you are an amazing part of my life. I'm constantly in awe at how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. The future months hold more change, I'm sure, but right now is so darn sweet.

I love you forever,

Mama