Tag Archives: single-motherhood

33 years ago, giving birth to my son, Issac, a really wild and dangerous adventure!

Issac at one day old, January 14th, 1987. Photo taken at the Quiet House at Mountain Grove in Oregon.
Issac at one day old, January 14th, 1987. Photo taken at the Quiet House at Mountain Grove in Oregon.

This story is hard to tell, I told it 32 years ago in the way below.  I tell it with permission from my son, who it is about.

It requires some introduction. 35 years ago, in 1984, I became pregnant with my daughter. Against great odds and pressure to abort, I chose to keep her and parent her alone. After becoming a single mother I found myself once again in love. The man I fell in love with was a magical, dreamy, mysterious guy who I was with for over a year but who left me within days of learning I was pregnant and had no intention of having an abortion. This was the second time in three years where I found myself loving men who could not truly love me or be with me. After this second pregnancy, I made a one year vow of celibacy and decided to move in with a community who offered me help.

Being pregnant again and alone with a two year old was extremely hard and yet I loved my daughter, I loved being pregnant, and I have always loved children. Being a mother has been and is my greatest joy and pleasure. I chose to move in with a family that I had met while working at a Quaker camp. This family called themselves Celebrations and was involved in adopting, fostering and caring for abused children. They offered me shelter, a cabin on the land they lived on, in exchange for helping them with their family of five adopted children and four others they were in the process of adopting. They also had several older teenagers that they took in. By the time I moved away from this situation (when I married my husband Kevin 30 years ago), there were 20 or more young folks living with these people.

The parents turned out to be liars, dangerous and extremely hurtful to myself, my daughter and several of their children. They rescued these children from great harm, but also did harm in turn. Some of these older children probably hurt my daughter. The environment of this place was chaotic and insane, but I was not alone in trusting these folks. Social Workers, doctors, and many others were fooled. This story, in its fullness, is a book, I may or may not write. Suffice it to say, that I only learned about the betrayal of my trust and the real danger I had put my children in, in 1998.

I moved in with this community when I was just 22 years old in 1986, with my daughter, who was two. I was pregnant, naive, a free young spirit who loved Ha-Shem and I was very vulnerable, idealistic and blind to what was going on. This does not excuse me from the wrong of not protecting my daughter.  I live with the shame and bear the guilt for the harm done to her, of which I was unaware at the time. It is a heavy, hard thing to carry, but it is mine to carry.

22 years ago I took a vow to leave this territory mostly out of my life until my youngest son turned 18. He was just a one year old when I learned of the duplicity of these people.

I needed to have a complete boundary around this chapter, this very painful chapter, of my life. My daughter asked me to have a total boundary, to never speak of these people, to never write to them, to never engage with them. I respected her wishes and it was the right thing to do.

I have been diligently working with tremendously good therapists, Rabbis and my husband during the last 22 years on this territory. This work has not been shared with my children, but I have had to deal with this messy hard stuff in order to parent my youngest well.  My youngest is now 22 about to be 23, My daughter is now 35 and it is time for me to turn again towards this place to cleanse, to tell the stories that I can tell, to take responsibility and to move towards Tikkun (healing) for my family.

The story below is about the birth of my oldest son, 33 years ago. I wrote it shortly after giving birth to him and have made a few changes here.

Welcome to my world, a very complex and wondrous place, with its share of pain and power and more love than you can possibly imagine. It is also important to note that this son has a very different picture/story to tell about his time as a young boy living and visiting with these people. For him, it was fun and full of woods and wild adventures and mud and forts and all the stuff he loved. There is never only one narrative. The text in italics and blue is the content I’ve added in recently to add context and explanation where I felt more clarity was required.

January, 1987

Dear Friends,

I am writing to announce the birth of my son Issac Ray on January 13, 1987 and to share with you the experience of his birth and how it has affected me. As most of you know I am now living in “rain green Oregon”. I live in my own beautiful cabin, where I am surrounded by windows on all sides and with a stream in my own backyard. I live in a community called Celebrations whose main focus is the healing of emotionally, physically and sexually abused children. This community turned out to be more of a cult and its leaders were lying, abusive and dangerous, something I did not understand or recognize at this time in my life, when I saw them as “saviors” and heroes. I may someday write the story of my time with these people and the damage it did to me and my family, but at the time of my son Issac’s birth, these folks were my refuge and I saw them that way. Their tribe of children were my charges in exchange for free room and board, which I needed as a single mother on welfare in rural Oregon with two small children. I am proud of my time and work with the children I cared for while I lived with this group. I am deeply regretful of having been blind to how dangerous and deceitful these people were.

There are currently six fully adopted children, five more in the process of adoption and anywhere from 2-10 other children living here at all times. Working with these kids has been and is a vital part of my life and process here. This pregnancy has been different in all ways, shapes and forms from my daughter’s. Her birth was a six-hour beautiful home birth in Boulder, Colorado. It was intense, but blissful and so easy compared to what I had to do to give birth to Issac. I was not expecting the difficulty and hardship that are described here.

This pregnancy has been a level or two harder and deeper for me. I have had to really look at myself and the choices I have made. I have had to examine on a very deep level if I really believe all the things I say and preach and then to see if I can live them. I have had the opportunity here to celebrate the hardest and most painful moments of my life along with the joyous ones. From the beginning, being pregnant with Issac has been a process wrought with much more ambivalence on my part and perhaps on his as well. The questions I have been dealing with had to do with examining if I really made the right choice in keeping him, which on a deeper level had to do with my own feelings about myself and was I worth honoring. Looking at if I had made the right decision in choosing to honor my needs and process over the needs of other people. I believe in a woman’s right to have an abortion, and have supported and helped my friends through them. I myself never felt I could have one. Mark, my boyfriend left me when I got pregnant and my family and my friends all thought I was doubly insane to have this second child. The only folks who I felt really supported me in my choice were Celebrations. This was not strictly true, but it was how I felt. I also was supported by my son Issac’s birth Aunt Cal, the sister of Mark, and by my other sister, by love, Terret.

In labor, I was forced to deal with this internal ambivalence and to see if I could really bring together the airy, psychic, spiritual parts of myself with my physical grounded parts. In other words to give birth to Issac. Sound easy? Well it’s not and it wasn’t. All tolled I was in labor for 42 hours. Twelve is considered long and for those of you who have never been in labor there is no way to really describe what it was like for me or for my friends who were with me through the whole thing. I had to go far beyond all of my own, known limits and very close to death to bring Issac through.

Labor started slowly and followed a start-stop pattern all the way through. I had planned to do labor in a cabin here called the Quiet House after my waters broke. I went to the Quiet House and was joined by my midwives and Donna and Joe, the parents of the children I was caring for, the crazy cult leaders who I thought were holy teachers. My three-year-old daughter never left my side and my best friend/sister Terret had traveled from Colorado to be with me. My god-daughter Sarah, and a whole slew of children and other people came and went throughout the thirty or so hours that I was laboring there.

So far writing this letter has been easy and pleasant and as soon as I started typing about the actual labor things got hard. I think it is going to be a long time before I am able to talk or write about my labor without feeling a little shaky. To date I have never had to do anything as hard as giving birth to him. Anyways back to labor (aaaaaaggggghhhh!!!). To get labor “going” I started dancing wildly, naked, big and in pain, I was a jumping fat woman. We went from this more gentle fun way to much less fun ones. I drank bitter teas, and had a coffee enema, and drank castor oil twice which made me throw up and defecate a lot. All of these things normally would have made contractions really strong and would have made Issac come out. But no go! I was still in the same station (midwives term for stage of labor) after 30 hours. Several times during labor I asked people to leave and let me be alone. During these times I prayed and cried and went through all the blocks I was aware of and on a much deeper level than ever before I came to terms with my Creator and with my life. Around noon on the second day of labor I was totally surrendered and exhausted and ready to go the next level with Issac which meant going to the hospital. By this time I was grateful that one existed and was ready to go there.

NOTE: At this time in my life, I was a true “nature-child.” I believe in home-birth and support women giving birth at home when it is safe and they can. It is not always possible to have a home-birth. My son knew on some level that he would not survive if he was born in a cabin in the woods. He needed more support and suctioning than my midwife had available to her. My body also knew this and would not go forward with his birthing until it was safe to do so, which is why it took so bloody long, because it took me a long time to get it that I needed to go to a hospital. I think in retrospect, part of why there was a problem had to do with a fall I took three weeks before Issac was born. This fall may have separated my placenta a little bit from my womb. Once Issac was born, we learned that he had been ingesting blood and his lungs were full of this blood, which is why he would not have survived without a special Delee suction kit. Something my very inexperienced midwife did not have in her bag.

I had to leave my little girl behind, something I did not want to do. For her, my labor had also been horrendous. She had seen her mommy cry, scream, agonize, fight, dance and be in incredible pain. She increased her crankiness in direct relationship to how close I came to “Checking Out” which means dying. Children get angrier and harder to deal with in relation to how far away their parents move from connecting to them emotionally, psychically and physically. Perhaps they do this in order to pull their parents back into connecting. My daughter, in her three-year-old self, knew I was close to death and for all either of us knew it might have been the last time we saw each other. I am not saying this to be overly dramatic; I went to the gates of death to get Issac and she knew this. I cried and cried over leaving her. It was the hardest thing I had ever had to do, even harder than the labor pains. I also could not take care of her and give birth to my son. Leaving her with Terret was the best choice I had. I knew that Terret would love her up and read her stories and comfort her. I didn’t want to leave Terret either, but I needed Shira to be somewhere calm and safe and not in a fraught and uncertain hospital scene.

In the car, on the way to the hospital I made a shift and went into what I call “priestess mode” which means knowing I am a good person, loving myself, and taking care of my needs by being assertive and clear. Now was not the time to be scared or unsure. It was time for me to survive and to be my most powerful, so Amen and Hallelujah that’s what I did. I also had felt the presence of an angel enter me right before I made the choice to go to the hospital. This angel helped and protected me during my labor and birth experience and I called on that angel and felt its presence with me throughout my ordeal. I felt this angel enter my body from behind. At the time of this experience I did not know that Raphael, who is the archangel of healing, comes into us from behind, and we enter his presence by falling into him. See Angel piece. As I’ve increased my awareness about Jewish teachings over these last 33 years since Issac’s birth, it has been with a sense of “aha moments.”  Finding out things like Raphael is the angel of healing and that he came into my body from behind me is just one example.

The first thing the doctor said upon walking into my room was:

“Well, this is a disaster and I had other plans for my afternoon.”

I took a deep breath, prayed and sent him all the love I could. I told him that I really didn’t want to be here in this hospital either but that since we were stuck with each other we might as well try and take the best care of each other that we could. (Remember, I’d been in labor for over thirty hours at this point. The only way I could have had the presence to be calm and not lose it completely and scream at this doctor was because of the angelic presence inside of me and because I was in “priestess-mode”)

The doctor and I managed to take the best care of each other we could. I am getting tired so I am not going to go into great detail about my hospital experience, if you have questions write to me and I will elaborate. Dr. Gentry and I did a sort of dance where I agreed to one medical procedure and then he would agree to do something I wanted. By the time Issac was born Surja, the midwife, was able to catch him. Issac needed a lot of suctioning, due to the fact that my placenta had prematurely separated in one place before he was out, which meant that he had ingested a whole lot of blood and mucus and there was meconium in his lungs. He weighed ten pounds and his head was fourteen centimeters (not the usual ten centimeters) wide! He was and is a great big beautiful being.

He was immediately placed on my stomach and suctioned from there; I sang to him and cried and from the very first moment of seeing each other we have been deeply in love. I am incredibly glad and grateful for his beautiful presence in my life and I look forward to knowing him better with great joy and anticipation. I felt such relief when he was finally out (no kidding!) and I think this goes beyond my physical relief into relief at the completion of a very long hard cycle. Now giving way to a more mirthful one…

His name is Issac Ray, which means gift of laughter and ray of light; I love him deeply and pray that you may all know him, for he is very much worth knowing and he is also a part of the healing of the planet and of us all, as is every new life. Yes, I chose to spell his name with double  ss, instead of double a. I thought at the time that the double s sound was closer to the Hebrew pronunciation of Yitzak. It’s made for some laughter and been a mark of distinction for Issac, my doubly super and stupendous (double the fun of the letter s) kind of a guy.

In retrospect I must say that things could not have happened any differently, for on a very deep soul level I have chosen and will continue to choose the path which brings me closest to the Divine. Sometimes, coming so close that the distinction between life and death seems obsolete. I love my life and I want it just the way it is with all its struggles and its joys. My life is a rainbow of colors and feelings ranging from hard to easy and sad to ecstatic.

Every day I continue to grow and change and to reach higher and deeper into myself and Ha-Shem for the answers which bring understanding and direction to my life.

Thank you all for sharing your lives and wisdom with me. May you all be blessed with the coming of Issac-Laughter.

May your life be a celebration of your true self.

Blessed Be,

Nicole

Issac, today, and his bear paw hands that I LOVE!
Issac, posing for his mother, with his bear paw hands that I absolutely LOVE! Photo by Shakia Spink

 

 

 

Healing Trauma, Abuse, and Abandonment: Over Time and With Help

Nicole and Roxy, September 2013
Nicole and Roxy, September 2013

The following sharing was written by my God-daughter Roxy Greenspan. She sent me two of her college papers a few months ago and I asked her permission to use them on my website. She agreed. I am extremely proud of Roxy for being a truly extraordinary woman, for rising out of the ashes and trauma of her childhood and becoming the kind, intelligent and phenomenal woman she is today. You will see all of this in her writing and sharing here.

I am including Roxy’s work on my blog for several reasons, first of all because she is a clear voice for healing and hope even after tremendous difficulty and childhood distress, and secondly because Roxy is also describing her process and her growth through trauma into wellness. No matter what hardships we encounter, her example and her ideas and her victories can help all of us move forward and into hope, healing and wholeness.

Developmental Theory Paper for Pacific Oaks College:

By Roxy Greenspan © 2015

As an adult, and after some personal work and reflection, I am able to better understand my current patterns of communication, coping mechanisms, and the way I operate in the world as a result of the cumulative experiences that have made up my life. I have always struggled with how I identify in the world and with whom. Born into a family of alcoholism, mental illness, and homelessness, my support systems were often lacking, and when present, inconsistent and insecure. My mother’s inabilities to care for me as a child and her wish for me to have experiences in life that she could not give me, such as emotional love and support, resulted in me living in the homes of various people throughout my childhood.

My mother’s history of relationships with homeless, abusive addicts led her to being a single mother of four children, one with severe disabilities.  Her own mental illness and debilitating depression resulted in her often being unable to care for her children. My lifestyle was my norm and I didn’t know any other, it was just my life—utter chaos. I knew that it was different from other people’s lives, but I didn’t know how people judged my family. Later I gained an understanding of how societal biases and systems of oppression only worsened my family’s situation, furthering the chances of generational disadvantage. There was a lack of knowledge and services for my severely autistic brother, lack of support for my mother, lack of money and an overall lack of equal opportunity to life.

My brother, Jake, is severely autistic and non-verbal along with various other diagnosis. I have experienced the gut wrenching pain of witnessing my brother in pain and suffering and feeling completely powerless. With very limited means of communication, he was unable to express himself or make decisions for himself about his life. My brother has had the most terrifying life experiences that I could imagine. Not only did he experience the dysfunction of our home life and being institutionalized, but he was unable to express himself, be understood, and suffered greatly. Having a brother with severe disabilities has contributed to my development of empathy, compassion, and accepting differences among people. My mother fought with every tooth and nail to get support for him, but at the same time, she was miserable and desperate, taking out her anger and sadness on her children.

Beginning from infancy, I was moved around to live with different families who would care for me for periods of time when my mother could not. There were so many families that I cannot account for who or where I was living for many years of my childhood and cannot access memories for those times. This pattern of living with various different people made it extremely difficult for me to foster a strong sense of self-identity. I was not a part of their family. I had not experienced their family culture and could not relate to it. I was only observing it and playing the part to fit in temporarily.

I became consumed with needing to fit into other people’s lives, having them accept me and like me, so they would let me stay. As a result, I became a “people-pleaser” who put all others’ needs and desires first before even considering my own. I would often agree to things that made me feel uncomfortable and sacrificed my own needs. In fact, I could not even identify my own needs. I think some of this behavior developed from guilt that I had from inconveniencing these people’s lives by entering them. I felt more content in having other people’s needs met even if it made me feel bad than hurting someone’s feelings or upsetting someone by saying “no.” No matter what I did, I was never an equal in these homes. I was just a visitor from a broken home.

While I was provided for in the form of shelter, physical safety, and attention, I lacked in emotional connectedness. I remember an incident in which my heart broke. It was Mother’s Day. I had been living with a family who had another daughter the same age as me. I was living six hours away from my birth mother and wanted desperately to express my gratitude and love for the mother who I lived with at the time. I picked her a bouquet of flowers and created a handmade card that I displayed lovingly on the living room mantle that morning because I was too nervous to give them directly to her. Later that day, I remember seeing the flowers and card in the trash can. She never said anything to me about the incident, nor did I. Yearning for the love of a mother, I cried privately.

At times when I did live with my birth mother, I often experienced physical and verbal abuse. She was inconsistent in her moods and behaviors. She was often screaming at us children, crying hysterically, and cooking in a manic fashion into the wee hours of the morning. Food was a big theme in my mother’s house. While we lived off of welfare and food stamps, she was extremely quality oriented with food. She shopped for only local, organic groceries and was knowledgeable in areas of health and nutrition. She often put me down for being chubby and fat as a child and adolescent. I would feel worthless because I was needing acceptance and acknowledgement that I was good enough and loved in the world in order to develop a healthy sense of self and esteem. I later learned of her own struggles with bulimia and self-image. She modeled a dysfunctional relationship with body image and food that I would carry with me for my entire life.

Where my home was, it’s hard to say. I do not have many memories of my younger years and there are times throughout my life that I cannot recall with whom or where I was living. From these experiences, I struggled in developing self-identity from my family culture. I was not given the time or space to appreciate and develop what was special and unique about myself. As a result of this, I am indecisive and need to be reassured often. I often doubt myself and look to others for confirmation and approval. I feel inadequate and un-confident in my abilities instead. I am often questioning my actions and experiencing high levels of anxiety over seemingly minute issues.

Later in life, I did not identify myself as being an equal member of society. I became aware of the discrimination, judgments, and biases people, who did not fit societal expectations, experience, people who are labeled not “normal” and who have experienced life and early years of development differently. I felt that I did not belong and developed low self-worth. I was very depressed for many years and had difficulty being comfortable in my own body and experiencing life. I did not want to be alive to continue enduring such emotional pain and suffering. While not all of the depression, pain, and anxiety has gone away, I have learned new coping skills and ways of processing emotional pain in order to lead a healthier life. While I have developed resilience and strength, it is not without the experiences that have positively impacted my development.

When I was in the first grade, I was living with my mother, sister, and two younger brothers in Arcata, California. I attended public school where I made friends with a young girl, Shira. It is from that friendship that I met my God-Mother, Nicole. I call her my Fairy God-Mother. I look like I could be straight from her womb with our shared brown freckles, round features, and luscious red hair. We even share the same birthday. She has always been my one constant, unconditionally loving presence in my life. She has taught me everything about compassion, love, and acceptance of others. She has dedicated her life to serving others. She has modeled the most honorable way to live life; by healing others with love. I don’t know how it happened, just as any other family who I lived with, but she recognized my needs and sought to fulfill them in some way. Nicole had two children of her own and a husband. She had a family, but she invited me into their lives and enriched mine in the most abundant way.

Roxy, Issac, Shira with Mama Nicole in Boulder Colorado, Summer of 1991
Issac, Roxy and Shira with Mama Nicole in Boulder Colorado, Summer of 1992

Nicole was the first person who helped me understand that my mother did love me, she just didn’t know how to take care of children or show that love. She helped me understand that my mother’s anger and abuse came from her own hurt and it was not my fault. She provided me with safety and emotional support, encouraging me to express my own sadness and hurt. She couldn’t save me from all the hurt, but she acknowledged me for being the special, lovable person I am. For those living in darkness, the impact of one shining star to light up your life is sometimes all it takes. For me, Nicole was that shining star.

Another important experience in my development has been in my relationship with my boyfriend of eleven years, Elaeth. I have not only found unconditional love, but also the one thing I had lacked my entire youth; stability. I have found the person I can rely on, who keeps me safe, who I can give and receive love and attention from. I have often felt that he is my whole family: my mom, dad, siblings, everything. He has contributed to my ability to develop through his constant presence and love.

From being a part of Elaeth’s family, I have been involved in a big family with nieces, nephews, cousins, grandparents, and parents; the glue of the family. He is one of seven siblings, living in close proximity, that often celebrate events together. While his family experienced their own challenges and adversities, they demonstrated to me the ultimate power of love for one another and involved me in being a part of that. Two years ago, Elaeth’s older sister Clare died of alcoholism. It was in the last three months of her life that I witnessed and became a part of the dedication of family and the strength that can occur from this relationship. The entire family provided 24-hour care, in shifts, for Clare, throughout the last three months of her life, providing all of her medical and daily needs as she was confined to a bed. Our shift was Saturday and Sunday. The family communicated, shared grief and joy, and ultimately surrounded her with the most intentional love possible.

I reflected on how this family was able to completely surround her with their love and attention for three straight months. During this time, I was working full-time and taking fifteen units of college courses. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, and yet there was not a question as to whether or not we could do this. Everyone’s lives were simultaneously occurring while they took on their role as hospice caretakers, providing the most attentive, loving care. I reflected on my family, being only my mother, two brothers and sister. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to one of us in a similar situation and who would be there, who would care enough.

Currently, my mother and youngest brother are homeless and I live in fear that it could easily be me. I do not have an accurate concept of my achievements or stability in my environment, and constantly fear that it could all be taken away in a moment. From this fear, I have developed a need to control my environment in ways that protect me and what I have created for in my life.

While my physical, emotional, and cognitive development has been permanently altered from living in chaos, I have also gained super-hero strength. Living with adversity has given me a reason to build up resilience. Being an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and people living in poverty has given me fulfillment in relating to various types of people. My life experiences have substantially increased my intrinsic motivation to create my own physical safety and stability. I have gained an ability to withstand periods of intense stress throughout my life, and persevere. I am sensitive and empathize with various types of people, especially those in need. My experiences have brought me to where I am today and my work with children. Studying Early Childhood Education for the past ten years, has not only contributed greatly to my own personal development and understanding of myself, but has given me the tools and knowledge so that I can impact other people’s lives in positive ways and contribute to the healthy development of children.

All people are born into the world with a baseline of their temperament and personality traits. They will have tendencies to be more or less susceptible to certain ailments than others. Internal wiring is uniquely designed, affecting an individual’s pattern of thoughts. The process of maturation is abundantly clear. We can only scaffold knowledge onto previously known information, keeping in mind our cognitive safety. We cannot truly learn something we are not ready to learn. This is the aspect of nature in our development.

As soon as we enter the world, we begin processing, interacting and responding to the people and stimuli in our environment. Areas of development are strongly influenced by the conditions in which we grow and learn from. We are influenced by the most important adults in our lives who shape our young minds. It can make the difference for a developing mind and heart to have one ally. One person who fully nurtures his or her sense of worth and encourages them through the difficulties they face. We are always growing, learning, changing.

Developmental Theory Analysis Paper:

By Roxy Greenspan ©2015

My personal experiences have contributed to my knowledge and understanding of developmental theory. From my childhood, I developed patterns in response to my constantly changing environment. I have since become aware of my behaviors and tendencies in the world as a result of my life experiences. While I have always been a sensitive, caring, and generous person, my behaviors and patterns have evolved over time. In my early years, the lack of attachment to my mother led me searching for attachment and acceptance. In my adolescent and teen years, I became completely disengaged from my family for a period of time. I could not confront or process any of the pain I had experienced and turned to very unhealthy patterns of coping, such as self-harm, alcohol, and drugs. In my adulthood, I have developed healthier patterns of creating my own space to continue developing healthy behaviors, thus being more available to help others. Every stage of my development has been vital in contributing to where I am now and the knowledge I have gained.

Having an unstable living environment has resulted in me being very focused on creating stability for myself as an adult. I often try to maintain control over my environment and outcomes of events in my life. I become very anxious, over-anticipating events and unknown situations. In general, I have developed a desire to be in control of many areas of my life. My pattern of creating stability is also seen in my relationship with my boyfriend of eleven years. While I have been successful in creating stability for myself, the fear that it could vanish remains as I nurse my relationship with my homeless mother and brother. Understanding their lifestyle and struggles, because of their homelessness, makes it too much of a reality, and I am unable to dismiss the possibility of it happening to me.

My experiences as a child and adolescent that were painful, emotionally, physically, and cognitively, have given me perspective and empathy for others who live in high risk environments or who are experiencing challenges in their lives. I am instinctively drawn to people who are in need, who require tender love and care. I am deeply sensitive to people’s feelings and because I have experienced such pain, I do not want others to have to endure their pain alone. I have, also, had the amazing experience of a loving presence in my life; my God Mother, Nicole. Understanding the impact of her love and nurturing has resulted in my pattern of providing that for others. I feel most adequate when I am helping others or when I can positively influence another person’s life.

Another pattern that I have developed is my ability to find immense strength during times of stress. I have lived most of my life with sympathetic nervous system detecting threat. My emotional and physical being has remained in a protective state of constant stress. Because this is my reality and will continue to be, I have adapted to the state of being under extreme stress. As a result, I have noticed the pattern of elevating my stress levels consistently. It has become my normal state. I believe that I function more productively and am more connected to the world when I have many commitments and responsibilities, often involving the care of others. While many of the stress inducing situations that occur are a result of my family dynamic, I also have become aware of my actions that contribute to maintaining this state.

I believe that in order to excuse myself from dealing with some of the more challenging situations that occur within my family, I become extremely busy to fill my time and energy. If I am focused on all of these other responsibilities, it is more understandable that I would not have energy to put towards processing the hard stuff. It is more acceptable for me to avoid responsibilities, such as becoming my brother’s conservator, when I am completely occupied by my current responsibilities. Although I am conscious of this pattern of justifying my actions, I continue to feel immensely guilty for not doing more for others.

I have worked very hard to consciously change negative patterns that became a regular part of myself. One of my earliest formed patterns of people pleasing behavior has taken me many years to shift. It was not until I became confident in my abilities as an early educator and received mentorship from many important co-workers who affirmed my abilities that I could begin to believe it. In finally identifying my strength, what is special and unique about me, and gaining support in my professional experiences, I was able to develop more direct communication with others, specifically regarding my needs or situations that could be uncomfortable.

In school, I was so disconnected for many years because I could not focus on the irrelevant information being fed to me. I attended a prestigious preparatory high school my senior year because the family who I was living with at the time had ties to the school. I had no intention of going to college upon graduation. I had no motivation to excel. I was very depressed and using alcohol heavily. For many years I continued this pattern in an effort to push away pent-up emotions and trauma that I wasn’t ready to face. While it seemed like a way to not deal at the time, it only intensified my depression.

I have been able to build upon positive patterns in my life through years of growth, processing, working on my relationships, and positive reinforcement. I have consciously made a decision to lead a healthy life where I can positively influence others. I know now that I can only do that if I take care of myself first. I have become a dedicated student. I have worked on replacing negative self-thoughts with positive statements and affirmations. I am applying myself in life and believing that I am capable and competent. I have gotten a degree in Early Childhood Education and I am continuing my education to be an effective leader in my field. I have been reaching beyond my comfort zone and applying for other positions in leadership in education. Most importantly, I am recognizing how to meet my own needs.

In my relationship with my birth mother, I have had tremendous growth and development. With a deeper understanding of myself and of her mental illness, I have replaced old patterns, which maintained our hurtful relationship, with healthier ones. I have developed patterns to protect my safety while maintaining and building a loving relationship with her. I have developed clear boundaries, such as her not knowing where I live, saying “no,” and standing up for myself. I see her in the most humane way. I understand her behaviors are strongly influenced by her life experiences, which have been excruciating. While it is not an excuse for the way she treated her children, I do not hold hatred or anger towards her. I believe only love can heal. I have developed deep empathy and love for my mother. I see her strengths and the ways that she has contributed, and continues to contribute to who I am today, and for that I am thankful.

I have taken my fears and shifted them into motivation and determination to create a life for myself that involves comfort, affection, joy, and security. I have worked full-time and gone to school to be able to provide for myself and to break cycles of generational disadvantage. I am breaking cycles of abuse, addiction, and homelessness. In order to do so, I have built on many positive patterns and created new patterns in my life. I continue to work on balancing my energies, being present in the moment, and doing what I love each day. I believe my patterns will continue to change as I learn from further experiences and as my needs change.

From my educational and personal experiences of human development, I recognize how aspects of Erick Erickson’s Psychosocial Development Theory is apparent. Erickson’s theory is based on the idea of maturation spanning a lifetime. Through eight essential stages, he demonstrates how it is necessary for people to develop in specific areas before they are ready to learn in other areas. According to Erickson’s theory, the crisis presented in these stages will foster the development of specific patterns in life, resulting in different personality traits and tendencies.

I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be able to make the positive choices in my life without the strife and struggles that I encountered. The type of support a person receives through these stages and crisis, will influence their behavior. Without having the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and difficulties I would not have come upon the conclusions that I have. The epigenetic principal, which states that we need to establish certain foundations before we can move on to other developmental stages, supports this belief.  Every experience I have had up to this point has contributed to my development and thought processes.

Erickson’s theory is inclusive of variation and acknowledges that multiple areas of development can be present at any stage, although certain values are dominant. This theory acknowledges the conditions in which people build resilience and adapt. I adapted to various situations throughout my life. From my personal and professional experiences in human development, it is crucial to acknowledge that development is unique for an individual and does not always fit one model precisely.

I believe people grow and mature over time as long as they are interactive with their environment and are stimulated. I believe that different areas of development can be delayed due to traumatic experiences. I believe people have strengths in certain areas of development over others due to their experiences and genetic make-up. I also believe that it is our nature to adapt to almost any situation due to our survival instinct. People will seek out ways to meet their needs, in whatever ways they know how. Without the positive influences in my life, I could have very easily sought out my need for attachment and identity in unhealthy places or continued to build on my own negative patterns.

My feelings throughout my life of being anxious, fearful, and trying to maintain control in situations, relate to the ideas of Attachment Theory as described by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. The idea that a person will develop specific patterns relating to relationships as a result of their attachment, or lack thereof, with their mother. Because of the lack of attachment that I experienced with my mother and the lack of stability in my life, I aim to fill that void in the ways that I can. I have seen the impact in some of my preferences, such as how I do not like to travel, I get homesick very easily, crave stability and being able to predict an outcome in all areas of my life. I have developed the belief that I can only depend on myself.

My theory of child development is strongly influenced by Jean Piaget, with the belief that children must be actively engaged in their environment to construct their own knowledge and understanding of the world. As they develop, their ideas will change and expand as their experiences do. I have supported play based learning throughout my work with children, acknowledging where children are developmentally and their beliefs. This type of support contributes to the development of a healthy self-esteem and worth.

From studying early childhood education, I have learned of the importance of the early years of development and how much information young minds are susceptible to. When children are stimulated in positive ways, through talking, reading, movement, imagination, and self-expression children continue to grow and develop. Development is stimulated through a safe, secure environment where one can explore in, delight in, and construct their own knowledge through the experiences they have. There will be trial and error, cause and effect, challenges and victories. These struggles and successes aid children in coming to conclusions or theories about how the world operates and what are successful ways of operating in the world.

Just as there are ways to foster healthy development in children, there are ways that can hinder development in certain areas. Emotional, psychological, and physical abuse affects cognitive functioning and impedes the ability to learn other skills. When a developing mind is focused on getting its needs met, it is less able to develop in other areas. When children are experiencing stress in their lives, it can also appear in unexpected ways. A child who is exhibiting challenging behaviors at school or with adults may be experiencing some kind of emotional pain and needs help processing it. Adults can support children in processing their thoughts and feelings and scaffold knowledge. When a child’s needs are met and nurtured, development flourishes.

While there are many beliefs of human development, I continue to find myself drawn to theories that demonstrate how development is not solely linear. There is room for individuality and unique circumstances. There is room for progression and regression. There will be unresolved issues in our lives that will present themselves later and areas of development that we will rapidly catch up on over time. As a living, human organism, we are born into the world with every cell in our body working diligently to not only survive, but adapt to various situations and challenges.