I had a difficult childhood. I was almost aborted. My mother was brave and walked out of the clinic despite heavy pressure. But, being born to a newly 17 year old girl came with a lot of struggles in my life. My bio father was absent. I had 3 stepfathers before I was a teen. I suffered abuses.
Whenever possible, I would escape home life by visiting my grandparents. My grammy loved to yard sale and I'd go with her pretty often. When I was around 8, I picked up a crucifix key chain at one of the yard sales and asked her to buy it for me. I took it with me everywhere. My family wasn't Catholic, but I loved this little keychain. My step dad would tease me for having it and would jokingly ask if I was Catholic.
I kept it on a shelf in my closet, where I kept all my treasures. I sat in my closet to read sometimes. Most of the time, though, I was there to hide. It was a comfort to be tucked away from it all. When I was especially scared I'd hold my crucifix and gaze at Jesus.
After a few years, I eventually succumbed to the teasing and got rid of the keychain.
As a teen I church hopped with friends, went through an agnostic period, then church hopped some more. A few of those friends were Catholics. I was confused as to why my family wasn't Catholic and for some reason, wished we were, even though I had spent only a handful of Sundays in the Church. I loved the traditions, the prayers, the depictions of Jesus. They comforted me. I felt at peace when I was there. I loved seeing the wonderful things Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II did throughout the world on TV. And throughout my depression, my vampire obsession, my teen rage, (which was expressed through angry music, dark clothing, and cutting myself), I felt called to something else. I truly can say that I felt a pull to the Church then, but I didn't understand it and I certainly didn't listen.
I have always been pro-life, by default, I guess, I think down deep in my soul, I knew I was almost aborted even though I hadn't been told the story yet. I always had a literal view of sex that my mom instilled in me, "Don't want a baby? Don't have sex." When I was 19 I started volunteering for the Arizona Right to Life. At that time I was not going to any church, and truthfully, the rallies with Christian music and prayers were very uncomfortable for me. I had finally started getting out of my funk, was working with children, which is what I loved and was truly good at, and things were going well.
When I was 20 I met a guy and he proposed a few months later. I left my job and Phoenix to move in with him in Flagstaff.
Just after I had moved in with him, my great grandma died and my mom and I had a huge falling out. It was then she told me that I was almost aborted. But she used the story to hurt me. I took every pill in my apartment to hurt her in retaliation. Just as I was about to pass out from the pills, I called 911, and an ambulance took me to the hospital. When they release me that evening, I looked at life differently. I saw the beauty in the world, in simple things like wildflowers, clouds, and even the hospital bracelet that reminded me of how precious life is.
After all of that, 9-11 happened. We were married the next month. It all happened so quickly because at the time I believed I might have endometriosis and was afraid I wouldn't be able to have children if I waited. I couldn't imagine not being a mother. We conceived a baby the day after Christmas of that year, after being married for not even 2 months.
I had gone to a midwife's practice and when she confirmed my pregnancy she asked me if it was okay. I was shocked. Yes, I was young, but I was married, and yes, it was "okay." But being a college town, I'm assuming they're not used to someone being happy about a pregnancy. I was ecstatic. I had the normal symptoms, I took my vitamins religiously, but when I went for my first ultrasound to see the heartbeat, my world came crashing down. The baby wasn't alive. There was no heartbeat. The midwife was cold and bluntly told me, "oh, I guess you're going to miscarry." I was heartbroken. I told her that I wanted a second opinion, and that I would like to wait for it all to happen naturally. She was not happy with me for that, for some reason, but after her behavior, I switched to a doctor at another practice, and he helped me the right way. I had a series of ultrasounds to be sure that the baby was not alive. He assured me that he was "in the business of life, not in the business of death" and that he would never, ever recommend a D&C if he was not 100% certain the baby wasn't alive. I told him I still wanted to wait it out. By this time I was going on around week 12 or 13 of my pregnancy, and he told me he would not let me go past 15 weeks because I could end up septic. So I agreed, and scheduled the D&C for 15 weeks, figuring things would happen naturally before then.
The day before my scheduled D&C, I started bleeding. A lot. I was in so much pain and bleeding so much, that I called my husband home from work. He was angry. He told me I was fine. He wouldn't really even help me until the bleeding got so bad that I couldn't leave the bathroom. I sent him to buy a heating pad and he threw a fit. After about 12 hours, I started blacking out. I ended up in the emergency room and I was dilated, so thankfully they didn't have to dilate me manually, but they tried to finish it while I was awake and without medication. It was far too painful. The nurse who was helping carried over a little jar, then walked out of the room while saying, "Okay, I've got the spaceman." At the time I didn't realize what she meant. I was in too much pain and was crying too much. But now I realize that she carried my baby out in that jar with a callous, joking attitude. It haunts me to this day. I had to be put under to finish it. The pregnancy ended up being a rare and strange problem, called a partial molar pregnancy, which, to this day, I still don't understand.
Once I recovered physically, I was in a daze. I couldn't handle being around children, pregnant women, or anyone, really. My husband told me repeatedly that he was happy the baby had died, that he wasn't ready for a kid, even though we intentionally conceived that baby. I was really confused and heartbroken.
While out running errands one day, I felt like I needed to go to church. I went to a Lutheran Church first, but the doors were locked. I drove around a bit more and finally ended up at the old gothic style Catholic Church in downtown Flagstaff. The doors were open. I sat in the pews, gazed up at Jesus, and cried. From then on, I couldn't pass that church without going in to sit and pray.
|Hard to resist this kind of beauty, even if it is pink. :)|
My marriage got progressively worse, my husband would scream at me for hours every night, he was controlling, and I was so scared that some day he would hurt me. (He never did, thankfully). It was just pure emotional abuse.
In 2003, I left him. I was free. I went a little wild. Dated a few guys, never went to church, but at that point if someone had asked, I would've said I was Catholic. I'm not sure why. I met Kyle in 2004 and got pregnant pretty quickly after that and moved to California with him. (Apparently I don't learn). He had told me he was Catholic (he really wasn't, he just identified that way because of his mom and grandparents), so we started looking for a church. We couldn't find one in California that wasn't totally weird. When we moved back to AZ I told him that we had done things so backwards already, that I really wanted to raise the baby in a church and be responsible parents and he agreed. We ended up at a super liberal Catholic church, which finally had an RCIA class that worked for me, and I started the process just after Amelia was born.
My RCIA class was ridiculously lacking. Luckily, I met a girl named Jessica, who I actually didn't like at first because she was too much like me, (haha!) in that she had a very strong personality and talked too much. But once I finally let that all go and started talking with her, I don't think we stopped talking for years. She would read a book about the faith, we'd discuss it. I'd read a book, we'd discuss it. We'd talk Catechism, we'd talk liturgical abuse, we talked about everything. Without her, it would've been ever harder to learn the faith. But God put her there, and having her helped me in more ways than I think she knows. I had a Church buddy to keep me accountable when I needed it. Amelia, Jessica, and I were all baptized together in April, 2006. Soon after, we moved to a more traditional parish, Jessica joined the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in 2008, and took her final vows in August, 2016.
But I digress, luckily, an amazing priest was at this new parish, Fr. Oliver Mohan, who told me that I was not to take communion until Kyle and I were married in the Church. Wednesday night confession, rosary, divine mercy, and mass brought me so close to God. It was exactly where I needed to be while my family grew and I sought after truth.
Kyle joined RCIA in 2011. Our marriage was convalidated and then he was baptized, confirmed, and we received communion together at the Easter Vigil in 2012.
We moved to another parish after meeting our pastor, and we are still there. We miss our old parish, but it was too far of a drive. We love our new parish and where we are. Seeing our kids grow to understand the faith and truly know God is so wonderful. We have an amazing community of friends. And although I wish Kyle and I were at the same stages of our journeys, I can still see the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Even though we have had struggles in almost every aspect of our lives, The Lord has always, always provided. He has blessed us so very much, and it's up to us to appreciate it and share that with our children.
So, although my life has not been all sunshine and rainbows, I have hope that it is the difficulties that will sanctify me. The truth, beauty, and goodness in the Church will get us through.
Thank you, Jesus, for the Catholic Church.
(First posted 10-28-2011. Updated 9-10-2016)