Last night I had a dream that I took 2-year-old Arabella to my parent’s house knowing everything I know now. For most families it probably wouldn’t be a nightmare, but for me it was. I didn’t feel she was safe around my dad without me and I had to go to the bathroom. I remember waking up with the knowledge that I had opened the door and once open it would be hard to shut all the way again.
It wasn’t the first time I felt this way in real life. My brother Matt heard voices that told him to hurt people, mainly little girls like me. He listened to those voices throughout my childhood and into my adult years up until he was medicated and those voices stopped.
In May of 1997 I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in both human development and psychology with an emphasis in counseling. I was fresh out of college ready to change the world, or at the very least fix my family. In August I got married and by October I was pregnant. I applied for a couple jobs that I didn’t get. So I decided to continue to be a caregiver for my brother. I didn’t want to put my baby in daycare and I had zero family support. I was the family support for my family of origin and I was since I could remember.
Everything worked out well for awhile. I was able to care for my baby and Matt. Matt didn’t hurt babies. But then my baby grew up and I got pregnant with my second baby. Matt started obsessing about my daughter Angel. He asked what would happen if he twisted her arm or held her head under water in the bathtub. By the time my second baby was born I no longer felt it was safe so I stopped watching Matt.
I still had Matt be a part of my children’s life for big things like Christmas or birthday parties. It was on Angel’s 4th birthday when Matt attacked her in a room full of vigilant adults. With as many watchful and experienced eyes, we couldn’t stop it from happening. Afterwards, I told my mom Matt was not allowed around my children until they were big enough to defend themselves against a grown man.
A month later I was pregnant with my third child, a girl. I kept the sex of my child a secret because Matt was always more fixated on hurting girls than boys. My mom knew I was having a girl because if I wasn’t I would’ve told everyone. That was probably true. I was worried if I had a girl she would get hurt and if I had a boy he would turn out like Matt. I felt screwed either way.
Then the time came for me to have my third child. It was a scheduled C-section. I decided to have the baby later in the week so my husband wouldn’t have to work and could watch the other kids over the weekend while I was in the hospital. He had just started his own business which was the only means of supporting us financially so he couldn’t take time off. In those days, working out of the house was not yet an option.
My mom stayed overnight the night before then dropped the kids off at the hospital the following morning so she could take Matt to the dentist. She wasn’t going to help me further unless Matt could come along. I don’t know if I can ever forgive her for that. Less than a week after having a major surgery I was home alone taking care of a colicky newborn, a 2 year old, and a 4 year old.
For the next several years after the attack my mom fought back hard against my boundaries of no contact. I was constantly stressed out during my pregnancy and for years afterwards by her actions. My mom at times would randomly stop by just to have my kids wave to Matt from the window. She was constantly trying to get Matt back in our lives again. She was always offering up help if I would just accept Matt in again.
Last week Paul and I were meeting with our couples therapist. She talked about trauma and how it could start even in the womb. This therapist also saw my mom and both of my daughters. She told me she thought I experienced trauma in utero. Maybe there is something I don’t know. But all I could think about is that I am to blame for Arabella’s mental illness. I am to blame for her being a difficult baby because all of the stress hormones surging through me while I was pregnant. I know I shouldn’t think that way but I can’t help it. Never mind the smorgasbord of mental illness coursing through my husband’s and my genetics we already knew about and the random smattering from an unknown bio dad.
After several years, I opened the door. I allowed Matt over for a brief period of time during Christmas at a party I was hosting because yes I was hosting all the family parties in my 20’s. That was okay, but other things were not? My brother Luke had some of the same issues I had with my mom and brother Matt.
The dream awakened all of this within me. But now it also has to do with my dad. All I could think about is one of the images Angel told me about that she found on my dad’s computer. It was a photo of a naked little girl crying. That was one of the tamer pictures but maybe the one that hit me the hardest for some reason. I keep imaging that little girl as myself, the picture of what my inner child must look like alone, vulnerable, and crying. By the time these images were found and my daughter went to the police, my kids were almost fully grown. Luke, however, had two little girls the same age as the images of the children. It felt like it was starting all over again but this time instead of being Matt it is my dad. All of our children with the exception of Arabella have not seen or spoken to my dad in over three years.
I’m not sure if I will ever get over the trauma. I feel like I’ve wasted so much of my life stuck in other people’s problems, people who should of been my rock, comfort, and support which were not.