It has been 7 years since I was pregnant with my first daughter and it was a completely different pregnancy. My first pregnancy I was waitress but did not already have a child, could sleep in when I wanted, get my shift covered when I was too tired to work and take the time to rest. This go around I feel like I am performing in a circus, juggling so many aspects of my life every day. I am a full time mom, work a full time intense job at a high school, taking full time college courses, going to the gym and trying to maintain my household to a normal standard (if that is possible). Now don't get me wrong I am blessed to be pregnant with another sweet baby girl but I had totally underestimated how stressed I would be this time. Pregnancy hormones are no joke, I wake up some night ten times to use the bathroom and cry because I can't decided what I want to eat. For any first time mama's out there and soon to be dad's reading this please be patient, try to be understanding and supportive because we feel like a balloon ready to burst at the seems with emotions. Just last night I ended up hysterically crying because I did not feel very hungry but yet knew I needed to get but was unable to make a decision as to what I wanted. Probably because I was craving everything that was not present in the house. I think I could eat my weight in crepes, chicken biscuits and Mexican food though (who doesn't love chips & salsa). My fuse has been short and I feel so sorry for my daughter because sometimes I am too quick to discipline or shout at her when I need to remember she is just being a 6 year old. So now I end up feeling like the worst mom in the world and that I will not be able to handle a second baby because I am an emotional mess. Everyone talks about the pregnancy glow, how pregnancy is a time to be cherished but I am totally over the waiting period, can we just skip the labor now. I had forgot how bad heart burn was, my digestive system is daily confused, that we get to enjoy constipation and hemorrhoids. My fiance is being very sweet, calls me beautiful every day and is enjoying my bigger breasts (my nipples feel like they look like dinner plates). Whilst me on the other hand can't wait to have my small breasts back, my back hurts too much and I can't stand the thought of sex. On top of the need to pee all night, I have been having bad leg cramps. I have had numerous people as me if I am OK because I sound like Darth Vader when I am trying to breath, after walking up the stairs. So overall I feel like an emotional bundle of nerves who forgets everything. The crazy thing is I have already done this one yet I wanted to do it all again.
Sorry just had to share some of my crazy pregnancy joys with you all. One thing I am not looking forward to is peeing my self when I sneeze after the baby, last time I did that it was like the flood gates had opened and I couldn't stop. By I am really looking forward to that first cold glass of wine, beer, cocktail or all 3.
As you may know this month we are working with Forsyth Family Services to help raise awareness for domestic and sexual violence. Here is the second story I want to share with you from a strong survivor Dawn.
Dawn's story started with her husband who she had known for a decade. She has a beautiful daughter, was pursuing her college dreams, lived in a beautiful condo and was employed as a family and youth counselor! Her husband had previously been a paramedic, he had 3 children and was just getting back into the medical field. He was very intelligent, and very romantic. However, soon her became more controlling, it was uncomfortable but she did not feel afraid of him initially. But soon things escalated, first stating with a push, next he was yelling, then she was being slapped. She lived like this in the relationship for 11 years, tried to leave 8 times before she made the decision that enough was enough. For some years she managed to maintain an apartment, however, she has also stayed in a shelter and various hotels for months. Many time she would receive a notice to vacate, move to a safe place, and rectify the past due rent later. Fortunately, many people understood and if those trying to escape can find the courage to explain the circumstances to their landlord or apartment manager, even if it’s at a later date, she found that they wanted to help if they could. This is where community organizations like Family Services, DSS, Salvation Army and victim advocates can be a huge help in explaining the situation to others.
This abuse made Dawn lose her sense of self. The abuse did not occur every day or even every week...sometimes not even for months. So there were periods of great times, that's why domestic violence can be confusing. Not every victim experiences abuse everyday. Anything she asked for or wanted he would provide- $300,000 homes, She drove nice cars- Audis and new Sports cars, she had never been materialistic but it was nice to have a pool guy and lawn maintenance and to be able to use her money to travel with her kids. So his generosity and romantic side occasionally made her think that if he would just get help, then life would be good. However, these things also made her a target for financial abuse. He did not want help! He wanted control!
She kept the problems to herself, never shared them with her family. Her mother had experienced her own domestic violence issues earlier in life, having survived she made it very clear that she did not want her with him and that she did not believe he would ever change. When I moved 600 miles away, my family became somewhat distant something he capitalized on it was another way to control her. Thankfully her children were never hurt, Dawn's youngest was 4 months old when she left permanently, Her oldest unfortunately was affected by what she heard and witnessed, she would often wonder why her presence was not enough for him to be respectful or get help. She was always an amazing, respectful, child and honor scholar, but he was never able to enjoy that. But Dawn made up for that by always celebrating with her daughter. Her oldest daughter has always been strong, one of the most eye wakening thing that happened when she left permanently was her daughter’s, she didn’t care about the home or cars being left behind. All they cared about was our safety and our love for each other.
On many occasions he threatened her. He threatened to burn her house down with all of them in it. He threatened to kill her and wished her dead more times than she can ever count. More often than not, when he would threaten her she would make it known to him that I was going to fight back, and she did. She had gotten so accustomed to having to fight back that she ignored the fact that he was a black belt in martial arts and had even owned a martial arts school in North Carolina. She thinks a lot of victims have the misconception that as long as they're fighting back that they will be okay. In reality, no one should fear being hit or having to defend himself/herself against someone who is suppose to love them.
Unfortunately her ex has never gotten help. She kept going back in hope that one day he would, because he always promised to get help and would even go as far as making, but not keeping, the appointments. His employer offered free mental health counseling and two of his co- workers, who were also his best friends, encouraged him to take advantage of that help. They even offered to attend counseling sessions with him. He never went and that was a big factor when she filed for custody of our daughter a few years ago and was granted sole custody. He was granted no visitation unless she deemed it appropriate and even then he is forbidden, by court order, to take their daughter out of state. The order lists, among other things, that he never sought help.
She says that she wants to tell women and men in an abusive situation that they are not alone. There are people praying for them, rooting for them, and willing to help them and we will not pass judgment. There are women who have survived domestic violence who know what it’s like to leave behind everything, and what it’s like to stay in a shelter. We know what it’s like to brazenly file for the order of protection and have that request denied. Women, like Dawn understand the fear of what may happen if you leave. We know the concerns for your children, your finances, your pets. I promise, you can recover it all! It won’t be overnight and it may not be easy, but you can do it! Of course, safety and a safe exit plan are the most important things but if you prepare yourself a little every day, even if it’s just to find a way to make a call to an organization like Family Services so that someone is aware of your situation, it makes a difference in terms of empowering and preparing yourself. Believe in yourself and remind yourself that you can and will get out of the abusive situation that holds you captive. It’s not easy but you can do it and there are people who care and want to help!
Dawn says now she very blessed now! She is a domestic violence and child molestation public speaker and victims’ advocate. She is currently completing requirements to get licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in the state of NC, and is working to complete her law degree! She is married to the most wonderful man and “Pops” to her children. They have been together for 6 years and she has never even feared being hit, cursed, or disrespected. Her oldest daughter, who is determined, accomplished, and very loved daughter has graduated with honors from Georgia State University with a B.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in pre-med, and is completing graduate level prerequisites for Physician’s Assistant School. Her youngest, and equally loved,bright and funny daughter, is in the 5th grade. She wants women and men who are in abusive relationships to know is that your children can also go on to live very fulfilling and positive lives! They don’t have to become a negative statistic! So, yes, life is good- not perfect, but we are enjoying it!
One of the things I want to do is to be a bigger part of the community and try to make a difference. This month I want to shed the light on some unspoken but realistic things that are happening everyday around us sexual and domestic violence. As women we always try to come across as strong, capable and that we can take on anything but we all need to let our guard down at times to let people in. This is something that is very important to me and very close to home but unlike two strong women I know I am not ready to tell my story. I have recently been working with Forsyth Family Services and I wanted to share two real stories with you. Here is our first story.
First I would like to introduce you to Briana Sherrod a 27 year old mom and wife, who was raised in a typical family who raised her to be a strong independent woman who no one would mess with. But in November 2013 this all changed, she always remembered her mom "“Park under a street light in the parking lot so your car is well lite and you can see your surroundings!" which was exactly what she did, so she felt safe. But this is where her story really starts "I get about 5 steps from the dormitory entrance when out of the corner of my eye I see a man running toward me with his hood over his face. He grabs my arms and threatens to shoot me if I scream. Remember how my parents taught me to stand up for myself?...yea that all went down the drain because I froze and just did whatever this random man told me to.
We proceeded to my car where he then made me drive out into the county of an area I am unfamiliar with (this is not where I grew up I was just here to slimily get an education- but ended up meeting my husband, we were engaged at this time) he said he just wanted money from me and If I pulled down this road then there would be an ATM there. Well as I turn onto this dirt road, I knew better! He forced me to park my car at this abandoned house where he proceeded to rap me multiple times and then forced me to leave without even letting me get my pants up yet. We drove for a while until we got to an ATM where he still proceeded to rob me and Jonathan for all we have, then made me take him to the store where he bought cigarettes with MY money!
I dropped him off wherever he told me and drove as fast as I could back to the dorm where my friend was. Thank God for an off-duty cop that was on campus that night, she was also the one who held my hand during the rap kit! They found this man within about 3 hours thanks to him leaving finger prints on my cellphone! We went to court about a week later and he was sentenced to 26 years minimum in prison. That gave me a little closer but what helped me the most was my faith in God, and clinging to him because he was the only one that could’ve saved me that night! The sheriff’s department and police station worked well together for my sake and to help me with this random attack. I thank God for our officers and detectives, I feel like I have a second family now that I can count on to protect me! It took me a couple years to get where I could share my story; I think this is because I’m not one to want a lot of attention and for people to feel sorry for me. I had to realize that if I let this situation be for nothing then that man wins, and that’s what he wanted is to keep me quite and for him to get away with whatever he was trying to accomplish that night."
Since then Brianna has vowed to help others, she remains a strong, independent woman who wanted to bring awareness to other women who may have experienced anything like this. In 2014 she got married and welcomed her son in 2015, they give her a reason to fight for what is important in life. it is time to do something, this didn’t happen for any reason! She felt that "something good has got to come from this!” So she hosted a Walkin’ The Park to End Sexual Assault as her first fundraiser event and all proceeds went to Family Services for them to use in their victim’s advocate program. This year she is back at it, along with a group of close friends have created a name for themselves #WeAreFearless and they are hosting a dinner event on April 26th at 6:30 in Clemmons at The Barn at Taglewood Park! Tickets are available for purchase until April 19th.
Here are some words from her. Thank you for listening to my story and how I’ve overcame this obstacle in my life. That’s right; it’s just a speed bump, not a stop sign! Use what you’re going through or went through to help others and encourage them and it will end up helping you more than you know! If you aren’t comfortable with that or don’t think you’re ready, try writing it in a journal first to get your thoughts out then when you’re ready, start to share! I know this isn’t a domestic situation, but I still want to encourage you that you’re not alone and you can get through whatever situation you’re in!