Tag Archives: Family

I Didn’t Tell Mom, But I’m Praying For You

 

 

October 4, 2004

Well, hello Moonbeam [Kat]!

Thought I would try a nickname for you. Not sure I am going to stick with it. I am hoping by the time you read this  you will have gotten my voice mail message on your cell phone and we have talked a bit.

I had a good time with my Mom, but I didn’t tell her. She was just so happy to see me and spend time with me that I decided to wait until the first month of treatments are over. She really didn’t have a lot for me to do. Of course, it rained all day Saturday, but I did get to take her out for dinner for her birthday.

I am here all alone. It is very quiet without the three of you at work. I am getting some things done today, but it seems everyone is looking for Al today! Of course it works out that way.

Nothing planned for this week. I have homework to work on tonight and tomorrow and then dinner with a friend on Wednesday. I have class on Thursday and Friday then I will be getting ready to go to New Jersey for the weekend. Everyone is supposed to be getting together for my sister’s and mother’s birthdays.

You were on my mind a lot yesterday, even during church. Never really did hear the sermon, but prayed for you. I hope it helped.

Believe it or not, I actually miss you. Okay, don’t get teary-eyed on me…ha ha.

Hey, I just got done talking to you on the phone. It was good to hear your voice. I would like to talk more about the eating issue and your Mom, if you are up to it when you get back. Maybe we can sort through it and get past it. I actually have eaten better and plan on walking at lunch and tonight. So that should keep me out of trouble…or not.

Have a great week away and don’t let anything get you down.

Tell Alex I’m jealous of your location!

Love,

Greta

 

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Vacation at Myrtle Beach

October 4, 2004

Good morning, Sunshine [Greta]!

Well, we’re here in Myrtle Beach! It was a long trip. I hate riding in the car for 13 hours. My parents, Alex, and I visited our friends Steph and Pat in Winnsboro yesterday. According to people from their church, they thought it would take approximately two hours. Not exactly. Try three and a half!

Driving the back hills of South Carolina was beautiful. It was nothing but farmland and stately plantation homes. Exactly what you would picture the south to look like with its palm trees and cherry tree-lined driveways leading to the sprawling houses with their wraparound porches. Each porch was full of rocking chairs of all kinds. Wicker, white, wood, plastic. You could just imagine sitting there, rocking slowly while feeling the warm breeze on your neck, a dripping glass of southern sweet tea in your hand. We finally made it and had a pleasant time visiting them.

It poured all day yesterday, but it’s supposed to be sunny the rest of the week. Our condo sits on a golf course and our second floor balcony overlooks a green. Alex is in heaven! Although he didn’t bring his clubs, but they wouldn’t fit in the car with all our stuff. We don’t have a lot planned for the week. The only thing we’re definitely going to is the Dixie Stampede one night. Otherwise, it’s whatever we feel like doing! Which can get interesting with a family of indecisive people. You only get to experience it when I’m like that. Try all four of us! We all have our own opinion, but we don’t share it. Imagine that.

So how was your weekend at your mom’s house? Did you have a good time? Did she have a list of things for you to do? Did you tell her about your cancer?

Got anything exciting planned this week? How are you feeling? Are you getting any more sleep? I hope so. I worry about you, ya know.

Pray for me this week of vacation and that I hold my tongue and my temper. I’ve already struggled with it with my parents. Part of it was just being in the car too long. Everyone was a little snippy. But I’ve discovered why I sometimes eat the way I do…enter mom! She got on my case yesterday because I wasn’t eating everything on my plate. She always comments on whether I’m snacking (“You’ll ruin your dinner”) or if I don’t eat a lot at dinner (I never do). I’m not a big eater. I eat small portions, but I don’t eat everything on my plate, then something’s wrong and I’m not eating enough. Yet, I get comments because of my weight and eating too much! Anyways, I won’t go into all of this tonight.

Have a good day and don’t get into too much trouble. Ha ha.

Love,

Kat


Slat by Slat, Nail by Nail, The White Picket Fence Was Coming Down

Greta told me once that she could never figure out where I went or what I was doing. She thought it odd that I didn’t want to socialize with my coworkers. She didn’t know that I was trying to be ‘invisible.’ If I avoided making friends or getting close to someone, I could avoid being hurt. Oh, the irony.

I called Alex in the afternoon at work to remind him that I was having dinner with Greta that night. There were quiet pauses in our conversations by this point, strains of uncomfortableness, lacking the words to fill the silence. It wasn’t so easy to talk as we used to. Too much pain, hurt, and resentment filled the void. I gently hung up the phone and sighed deep, trying to ease the tightness in my chest. I expected after five years that things would be different. That we would have children running around. That we would love each other even deeper than when we started. That our goals and dreams we thought we shared would soar. Yet, it was all crashing down and I didn’t know how to stop it.

Greta and I went to Applebee’s for the fateful lunch, as I like to think of it now. I often wonder where I’d be now if it wasn’t for that lunch.

“Kat, you need to talk. You need to get it out. I can see it in your eyes.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”

“Don’t give me that. I’m a counselor. I know pain when I see it. You never talk to anyone unless you have to. You avoid us all in the office. You just had a miscarriage and you haven’t said a word about it. You didn’t take time off. You haven’t shown any emotion at all! There’s no life in you. I’m really worried about you.”

“Really? You really see all that in me? I thought I hid it so well.”

And then the floodgates flew open. I poured out my heart and soul to Greta, someone I barely knew, but who could see past the steel wall in my eyes to the drowning pain beneath. It was in that moment that I began to be saved. Maybe that seems a bit melodramatic, but it truly felt as though someone had offered me a rope to climb out of a despairing pit. I told her of my failing marriage, how we argued all the time from the little things to the big things. I told her about my dwindling self-esteem, my lack of interest in sex, my anger and resentment toward Alex for treating me as though I was just an object. I complained of our money troubles and how Alex would rather talk with his father and gain his opinion instead of discussing it with me. In a broken voice, I shared about my desire to have children, that we had been trying for two years, started going to an infertility doctor, only to have a miscarriage and how I went alone to the doctor.

Alex and I bitterly argued the next several days about having children after the miscarriage. He demanded that I go back on birth control as though that would fix everything. He didn’t think it was the right time for us to have kids, we couldn’t afford them, that he had enough and wanted to stop trying. He blamed it all on me – that I was the one who pursued trying to get pregnant. He accused me of not telling him that I had stopped the birth control, even though we did have a conversation about it. I became the one with the problem. I was the one who failed at getting pregnant. I was the one who wanted to have a child to begin with and never took his feelings into consideration.

As the damning words piled on, my back bent under their weight. Yet, I stayed silent, bearing witness to his pain and anger. I was ashamed. I knew he was hurting, too, but neither of us knew how to reach out to the other. We were lost in our own worlds.

At that moment, we began to separate. Physically and emotionally. It was easier to distance ourselves from each other than it was to work through the anger, the hurt, the loss. It scared me. Instead, we struggled to bear our happy-go-lucky facades that we were known for. People didn’t press, didn’t push, didn’t ask, so it was easy to bury it. I told Greta that was when I realized Alex and I were broken, and I didn’t know how to fix us. My white picket fence dream was being destroyed slat by slat, nail by nail, until there would be nothing left but splintered wood forgotten on the ground.


Healing After Miscarriage

As a side bar into this story, I want to offer some insight and advice about miscarriages and how to deal with the effects – physically, emotionally, and mentally. I remember what I went through and the lack of resources I had regarding the emotional fallout of the miscarriage. I don’t want the same to happen to another woman.

Suffering from a miscarriage or stillbirth can be very traumatic. Not only is it taxing on you physically, but emotionally as well. While a woman’s body can heal and recover relatively quickly from a miscarriage, emotionally, the healing process can take much longer. Although many women do not want to deal with their feelings after a pregnancy loss, facing them can help you pull through and emerge a stronger person.

As with any loss, it is normal for couples to feel grief after a miscarriage. Unfortunately, far too often, outwardly displaying signs of grief is seen as a sign of weakness, causing some to be tempted to bottle up this emotion (I did). Though you may want to appear emotionally strong to those around you, it is important to keep in mind that entering a grieving period after a significant loss is a perfectly normal human emotion.

There is no specific amount of time that a couple is expected to grieve after a pregnancy loss. How long a woman and her partner mourn for will vary from couple to couple and is not dictated by the length of a pregnancy. Whether you had an early miscarriage or stillbirth, the pain can be equally acute. Only you will know how long you need to grieve for.

Moving Past the Grief

Grief is not the only emotion associated with miscarriages. Other typical emotions reported by woman who have lost a pregnancy include depression, loneliness and isolation. Although these feelings are perfectly normal, if you are having troubles coping day to day because of your emotions, you may want to make an appointment with your health care provider. When your emotions begin to interfere with your daily activities, it can be a sign of major depression, a health issue that requires professional attention.

Another common emotional response to a spontaneous abortion is self-blame. Many women often feel that if only they had done something differently, if only they hadn’t had that glass of wine before they found out they were pregnant, they wouldn’t have miscarried. These thoughts can ring in your mind for weeks, making it even harder to get over your loss.

Miscarriage can also cause a woman to feel intense anger and jealousy towards other women, even friends, who are pregnant. While these emotions can be appalling, they will eventually pass and fade.

The Male Side

Miscarriages can make men nervous to talk to their partners. Not only are they upset about the loss, but also they are grieving for their partner. As a result, you may find that your partner is reluctant to broach the topic, fearful that he may upset you. Be honest with your partner; if you are not ready to openly discuss the loss with him, say so. But don’t forget to also let him know when you do want to talk.

After a miscarriage, a couple’s relationship can become noticeably strained. Dealing with such a significant loss can cause individuals to turn inwards and away from each. Yet, this is when you each need each other the most, for support and for a shoulder to cry on. Discussing your feelings after a miscarriage is often difficult for couples, but it is necessary. If you find that there is too much stress on your relationship right now, seeking out couples counseling can help you work through your grief as well as improve the communication between you and your partner.

Finding Support

Coping emotionally after a miscarriage is not easy and your friends and family are one of your best sources to find the support you need during this difficult time. Unfortunately, sometimes those that you want the most support from are the ones that make the situation worse by ignoring it. Though this can lead to feelings of hurt and anger, perhaps even causing you to withdraw from those closest to you, try to keep in mind that perhaps they are avoiding the topic for fear of upsetting you. Like your partner, it is important to be honest with your friends and family, letting them know when you do and when you don’t want to talk about your miscarriage.

Another great place to turn to after a miscarriage is a support group. Talking with other women and couples who are also dealing with the aftermath of a miscarriage can breakdown those feelings of isolation and loneliness. Alternatively, speaking with a professional therapist one-on-one can help you come to terms with your loss.

Coping Tips

Here are some tips that may be useful in helping you deal with your miscarriage:

  • Write it Down: Journal writing is an excellent method for people to air out their emotions. Because a journal is private, you can be honest with yourself and your thoughts, allowing yourself to reflect on just what it is that you are feeling. Furthermore, studies have found that writing in a journal can actually speed up the recovery period during sad times.
  • Set Some Rules: It can be difficult for your friends and family to know whether you feel comfortable hearing about other women’s pregnancies and pregnancy losses. To help yourself and those around you feel better and more at ease, make it clear which topics, if any, are off limits with you.
  • Go Away: If you don’t feel ready to face the world right after your miscarriage, then don’t. Take some time off of work to focus on yourself. If you can, arrange for your partner to also have some free time so you can be together.
  • Remember: Finding a special way to commemorate your child can turn a negative situation into a positive one, helping you to let go of your grief. Some parents choose to hold a memorial service while others decide to plant a tree in a local park or their backyard. Some even choose to write about their experience or create a website in order to help others.

Pregnancy loss can cause severe depression for many women. A support group or professional counseling may be useful if there is depression.

While some people may not understand her grief or expect that a woman should just “get over it”, the reality is that a child has been lost and it may take a long time to recover.  Taking whatever time is necessary to heal is so important.  While the impact remains, hopefully over time and with support, and with the memories of the baby, you can cope with your loss.


A Bump in the Road

According to the test results, I had only been pregnant for a few days. Not even long enough for my body to fully register that it was pregnant. But long enough for me to know that it was the beginning of something. After a few hours sleeping, I knew I needed to call my job to let them know I would be out from work another day. I dreaded making the call, but knew I had no choice. I didn’t want pity from anyone. I just wanted to be left alone, to curl in on myself and lock it away. I reached for the phone and dialed.

“Hello? Greta? It’s Kat.”

“Hey, Kat. How are you feeling? Is everything okay?” asked Greta, the concern clear in her voice. I sighed, wondering how much I should tell her. Greta was my co-worker, but was also a counselor who had her own private practice. I was afraid Greta would see more behind my words than I wanted. I also didn’t know her that well as I kept to myself mostly at my job, leaving the office for lunch with my husband or to eat alone almost every day.

“Yea, I’m okay. I went to the doctor and apparently I’m having a miscarriage. I was only a few days pregnant and didn’t even know I was pregnant. So it’s no big deal.” I tried to reply nonchalantly to Greta’s question, hoping it would deter any further probing.

“Oh, Kat. I’m so sorry to hear that. Is there anything you need? Anything I can do?”

“No, I’m good. I just need another day to rest before coming back to work. I’ll be fine.” I said goodbye and hung up. As much as I wanted to spill my feelings to someone, I felt that I couldn’t and shouldn’t. I needed to be strong – for myself, my family, my husband. I learned a long time ago that problems were kept within the family and even then, you didn’t always talk about them. You learned to bury them, stoically facing the world head-on, smiling and pretending that everything was copacetic.

Not to mention, I felt that I didn’t have any friends close enough that I could turn to even if I wanted to tell someone. I painfully remembered the severed friendships when I married Alex. Alex didn’t like me associating with my old friends, those that were friends with me before him. He didn’t trust them. During college, while we were dating, he always thought I was out drinking irresponsibly with Nikki and Jack, two of my closest friends, doing God-knows-what and with whom. For some reason, he had images of me drunk, having sex with random people, doing drugs, and so forth. He accused me of this more than once despite it not being true. He said that he was worried about me and only wanted me to be safe. Slowly, without me realizing it until it was too late, Alex had pushed away my friends, convincing me it was for the best. Goodness knows I had tried to tell Alex that Nikki and Jack weren’t like that – that they were wonderfully caring people and would never encourage anything like that. I even tried to have Alex hang out with them all, but it was painfully obvious that he wasn’t comfortable with them.

I wished I still had Nikki to turn to, especially now with the miscarriage, but I knew I was alone with my feelings. I could talk to Alex, but I wasn’t sure how that would go. He had argued about even trying to have a baby in the first place. He wasn’t really sure he wanted me to go off the birth control. He was worried about how we would pay for a child and the responsibility that comes with it. Alex seemed to relax about it over the two years that we had been trying to have a child. While we didn’t talk in-depth about it, I thought Alex seemed happy to be trying, or maybe that was just because he got to have sex often. At least that part had been a lot of fun. The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that Alex would be upset, but would still be game to keep trying. I wanted children so badly it was a persistent longing in my soul. I felt born to be a mother. I always pictured herself married with the traditional story book image of a white picket fence, the nice house, happy family, kids, and enjoying life to a ripe old age. This was just a blip in the grand scheme of things. A bump in the road. I was comforted in the thought of knowing my life was secure and this wasn’t the end of the world.


Why Do I Desire to be a Mom?

 

Where did this come from? This desire and expectation that I had to marry and have children and the white picket fence? I had this expectation of myself that I would be married by 23-24 years old, have a home, a good job, and my first child no later than age 26. My life was laid out before me and I saw it clearly. I reached my first goal, if you want to call it that, by marrying at age 21. Now, Alex and I were working on my second goal, to have a child by age 26.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of becoming a mother. No matter what happened in life, I knew that a child would be a part of it. Early in our relationship, Alex asked, why did I want to be a mother? I stumbled over it at the time because how can you define something that you feel is your basic right? I don’t really know if I have a better answer than it is a desire burned into the very molecules of my being.

I have always wanted to have a family of my own. There are a million reasons why and there are none. One of the reasons that I stumbled to answer the question was that some part of me believed that it was for selfish reasons. So I would have the love of a child for the rest of my life, I would be surrounded by family, I would leave a legacy in the world. None of those reasons really meant that much to me though.
For me, the truer reason why I wanted to be a mom is the yearning I felt when I talked to that little girl at the church.

“Is that your baby?” I asked her, referring to the doll she just tucked under her arm.

She ducked behind her mom, shy.

“What’s your baby’s name?”

“Pretty Baby” is what she told me as a small smile crept onto her face.

Soon she’s prattling on with me and then she’s gone. My stomach gets a knot and feels like it does when I need a snack: hungry. I want more.

I want to be a mom when I’m outside doing something I love, like gardening. I wonder what it might be like to show our child the first signs of spring, to discover the world together. Or when we finger paint together and she takes her first steps into imagination and creativity.  I long to share those parts of myself that make me—me—with a child, and to see the world anew through the eyes of my child.

Who is this child? How will the mystery unfold as she grows? This is another fascination I have with motherhood. Nature, nurture and life circumstance: how these forces come together and turn my baby into a child and then into a woman. I look forward to watching her bloom.

I imagine the difficult days too. Long nerve-wracking nights when my baby can’t sleep yet I am able to soothe her and meet her needs, or being there to help my child find her way through some of the sticky moments in life: indecision, love lost, and struggles with identity. Even though there will be times when being a mom is going to challenge me in ways I can’t even begin to imagine, knowing that I might be able to make a difference and give love and security to a child is another reason I want to be a mom.

And perhaps the most potent answer to why I want to be a mom is this: for a short time, I was lucky enough to spend time with a child who might be ours.  During those days, when I hold her close, mothering will just feel so right.

Little did I know how difficult it would be to conceive that child.

 


Preacher’s Kids Have Issues

Charity M. Walker-Byers wrote an article titled, “How to Help a Preacher’s Kid” (ChristianStandard). After talking to numerous ministry kids, the following emerged as their biggest issues:

“I don’t measure up to what’s expected of me.” Most preacher’s kids feel pressure to meet a very high standard and have concluded they will never achieve it. The assumption is that their parents are unbelievably holy. PKs are acutely aware of their own imperfections and often become discouraged and suffer from an internalized sense of low self-esteem.

“I’m not sure it’s real.” The children of ministry families often struggle to find their own faith. They know their parents’ faith is real, but are often afraid to voice their doubts and uncertainty about the reality of God. These unspoken doubts are driven inward, and consequently are rarely explored and understood. Doubting PKs struggle with their identities, fearing they aren’t really believers.

“I don’t fit in.” Acceptance is a primary issue for any child or adolescent, yet it is often more acute for PKs. They desire to fit into their family and their peer group, but often believe the two are incompatible. They try desperately to be fully accepted at school and in the family, but often feel they aren’t accepted in either setting.

“I think God is disappointed in me.” Guilt and shame plague many preacher’s kids. They have a strong performance base to their self-understanding and haven’t learned grace personally. They assume their misbehavior, sin, or shortcomings put a frown on God’s face. Insecurity sneaks into their lives, and they assign way too many human characteristics to God and suffer for it.

“I don’t think my parents care as much about me as they do the church.” Children of ministry parents often feel neglected, whether neglect is taking place or not. They see their parents extending themselves for others and believe others to be more important and more deserving of attention. A lot of assumptions are internalized, and the child feels insignificant.

Visit the article to learn more about “How to Help a Preacher’s Kid.”


The Ups and Downs of Being a Preacher’s Kid

Being a PK has influenced every part of my life.  It has influenced my values, my self-concept, and my life goals. I have lived through the joys and challenges of growing up in a ministry family. I also know what it’s like to have my family centered on, and sometimes overtaken by, service to God. Growing up a preacher’s kid has taught me the intense value of living a God-centered life, but it wasn’t an easy path to appreciate that value.

I grew up at the church. Day in and day out, my days were spent running around the church, playing in or near the church, listening to the dirty laundry of the church in hushed voices around me. Typically, if something needed done, it was the pastor’s kids who were volunteered. I served as a janitor, lawn care service, snow plow, babysitter, emergency Sunday School teacher, youth director, meal preparer,  decorator, organizer, secretary, greeter, usher, you name it, usually because so few volunteered in the church or it was just assumed that we would take care of it.

Of course there were fun, loving times, but frequently they were overshadowed by the need of the church. We learned young that our father wasn’t truly “our father” when it comes to the church. He’s the church’s father – caretaker. Other parents in the church didn’t seem to understand that his children had given up a considerable amount that their children never had to. Their children did not have a vacation cut short because someone died and their parents had to come home and do a funeral. Their children did not wait long periods of time after services to go home because their parents had a line of people waiting to talk to them. Their children didn’t have the phone ring non-stop at home for their parents, interrupting their family time and often taking their attention away at times when the kids really wanted it or needed it. Their children didn’t grow up in the “fishbowl” that is the ministry, often a cruel place when it should be a nurturing one.

As I’ve said, there is immense pressure that can be imposed by perceived expectations of parents, the church, and the greater community. The experience of having successful and impactful parents doing “great things” led to a perception that “it is not OK to mess up.” I was afraid when I realized I could not “achieve perfection” as my parents had. As a teen I questioned, “Will I be able to live up to what my parents are doing and what others expect of me?”

My “mess-ups” seemed to be a “bigger deal” than for other kids because they reflected poorly on my family’s reputation. There was barrier that perceived expectations of “perfection” had on my ability to have an open and honest relationship with my parents. I didn’t feel I could tell them the difficulties. I didn’t want to burden them when I knew they already had the burden of the church.

But growing up in a church environment provided many blessings, as well. It’s just harder to see through all the murk. One of the most amazing things was seeing how God works in people’s lives. I got to see how faith and prayer could change a life, drastically and minutely. Being involved in the variety of ministries and services at the church allowed my capacity to love people from all walks of life. It encouraged my desire to work with teenagers through my young adult years. Now, it’s working with women to empower them to live their lives purposefully as God desires for them and to break free from the shadows of expectations.


Expectations of a Preacher’s Kid

Growing up a preacher’s kid (PK), there was an unimaginable amount of expectation placed on me. Ministers often feel pressure to lead perfect lives and that translates to the rest of their family. We must be the perfect family and maintain the perfect image. Passed down through the generations, my family  adopted the unwritten pattern that overcoming Christians are never angry, never depressed, never sick, never upset with a spouse or child – always happy.

As a PK, you live in a glass bubble. The entire congregations eyes are upon you at all times. Some in the congregation had a bad habit of forgetting that children aren’t perfect, including the preacher’s kids. Many congregation members absolved their guilt about their children’s behavior by pointing out the flaws they saw in us, the PKs.

I distinctly remember an incident where I overheard a conversation between two adults of the congregation. They were discussing my brother. The two pious men felt that my parents didn’t know how to discipline a child, how to raise my brother, and were failures on all fronts.  They wondered why my brother was always getting into mischief (according to them dire wrongdoings) and how this reflected on my parents. A stinging point was they felt they could do it better – that my brother would become a convict if he wasn’t straightened out. First, let me tell you that my brother was not in any way, shape, or form, in the makings of a convict or heathen. He was a typical, rambunctious, young boy enjoying life.

Second, I took that conversation and absorbed it into my guilty conscience. I became the protector of my family. I was the good child. The “perfect” child. The one who would do no wrong so as not to embarrass my parents or make them look bad. I wanted to prove those men and the world wrong. I lived in silence, carrying the weight of our family’s image on my shoulders. Unfair, you might think. Unjust, you might cry. And you’re right. But it’s the sad way of the world when it comes to the stereotype of preacher’s kids.