My Dirty, Tattered, Ugly Quilt
I never wanted to be a mom.
There, I said it. That is the raw, unfiltered, painful truth. I am about to reveal to you some of the deepest, most painful truths of my life, things I have never told anyone else. Why? Because I think there is a beautiful woman somewhere out there who needs to know she is not alone—that her pain is real and justified, and that she is more than the culmination of her past circumstance.
My earliest memories are of huddling under the kitchen table with tears streaming down my cheeks, clinging desperately to a stuffed dog while my parents screamed profanity at each other and threw things. My childhood was not sugar and spice and everything nice. In fact, it was pretty much anything but. I grew up to a chorus of, “I wish you had never been born,” and, “having you ruined my life.”
Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, racism, sexual infidelity, and every type of abuse imaginable—physical, emotional, and sexual—these are the tattered, ugly patches that make up my childhood quilt, all bound securely together by threads of pain, hatred, and eventually outright rebellion. It is not pretty or frilly or very nice to look at; but nevertheless, it is mine to bear, and I wear it around my shoulders with humble pride.
It is a stark reminder of the adversity that I have overcome and the beautiful truth that even the dirtiest, ugliest, most threadbare pieces of our lives can be salvaged, dismantled, and lovingly and painstakingly used to recreate a stunning, priceless masterpiece.
By the time I was in college, I had constructed for myself unsurmountable walls utilizing the bricks of distrust and mortar of abandonment that life had so readily furnished. Love was a fraud, people were expendable, and God was a fairytale. So no, I never wanted to get married and I never wanted to be a mom. The circumstances of my life had left me completely and utterly jaded. Why in the world would anyone want to bring children into a world filled with pain? I certainly didn’t.
And that is where I was when I met him—my future husband and the father of my children. He was gentle and kind. He laughed easily, waited patiently, and loved fiercely, and expected nothing of me in return. He worked hard and spent his spare time helping people in need…for no apparent reason. He was like a lighthouse, firm and true, sending a brilliant, lifesaving beam of light that sliced through the destructive darkness of my raging storm.
Slowly, my walls began to crumble. He did not try to crush them with a sledgehammer of judgement; but rather, he slowly dissolved them with the steady outpouring of love. Two months after we started dating, he decided to take me to meet his family in New Mexico. On a stretch of lonely highway in pea-soup fog, the trajectory of my life would be forever changed. In the dusky hours just before dawn, I fell asleep driving and, at over 80 miles per hour, rolled the small pickup we were in at least six times. The debris from the accident littered the highway for a quarter mile, a perfect exemplification for the wreckage of my life.
We both should have died that morning; but we didn’t. Though I was wheelchair bound for three months, the chains on my heart had finally been broken, and I had been freed. God, in his unprecedented Grace, had allotted me a undeserved gift of a second chance, and I was determined to make the best of every single breath that entered my lungs. Just shy of two years later, I would become a willing bride. Though I was still not sure about children, I was certain about him. Two years later, I would bear our firstborn—a beautiful daughter.
If I told you I was as excited about being pregnant as my husband was, I would be lying. Frankly, more often than not, I was terrified. I wanted to be happy, but the ghosts of my past haunted me. I was afraid I couldn’t love my baby enough. I was afraid that the tendency toward anger and abuse had been passed on from my father and woven into my fibers. I was deathly afraid that I would be a reenactment of my parents.
And then she was born—perfect and flawless in every way—and my fears were assuaged. I instantly loved her in a way that is utterly inexpressible. In that moment, for the first time in my life, I understood love as it was truly meant to be—a love so pure and intense that you would willingly lay down your life for it. You see, I never wanted to be a mom, but being a mom saved me. It taught me that love is real and tangible; not a passing or faux emotion, but a genuine, deep-rooted, core desire to put someone else’s needs before your own.
Let me be clear. Being a mom was hard for me, especially in the beginning. I had to struggle against everything I was raised to be and find new and better ways to be a mom. I refused to become the very thing I despised, so I fought with all I was to be more—better—for my own children. I never had a great role model to show me the ropes. There was no one to call in the middle of the night when the baby was screaming and I felt like I was falling apart. I had to figure this thing called ‘motherhood’ out all by myself, working through the beautiful chaos one day at a time the best I knew how.
Even now there are some days when I hit the nail right on the head, and there are some days I fail—miserably. Sometimes I play too little and work too much. Sometimes I am too quick to judge, too quick to anger, and too slow to offer grace. Some days I cry myself to sleep and wonder . . . am I a good mom? Did I love them enough? Do I deserve them?
I have spent my entire life never knowing if my own mother ever, once in her life, actually loved me. I will not inflict the legacy of that pain upon my children. Do I make mistakes? Of course. That’s just life. But I love them fiercely, and they know it. In all my imperfect, struggling, broken glory, I am a good mom.
I have shared this story because it needs to be shared. There are more women than you can imagine walking around with some dirty, tattered patches in their own quilt that they do not talk about for fear of judgement and retribution. But we need to talk about it. You need to know that it’s okay—that you are okay. I know your pain; I lived your pain. And I want you to know that you can find healing. You are more than the culmination of your past circumstance. You can overcome the pain and break the cycle of abuse. I am living proof.
Though the dirty, ragged patches of my past are still part of my life’s quilt, I view them through a different lens now. Instead of seeing them as shameful and dirty, I see them as beautiful reminders of where I have been and how far I have come—that I not only survived, but overcame and thrived. Though they are still an integral part of my past, they do not define my future. My value is not defined by the circumstance or mistakes of my past; but rather by the direction of my future.
Not only am I okay with the tattered patches of my quilt, I am extremely grateful for them. I now understand that without the dingiest, ugliest, most threadbare patches of my life, I could not fully appreciate the beauty of the new, pretty, frilly ones that are added daily and bound securely together by the threads of love—the love for my husband and children. I never wanted to have children, but I am glad I did.
Ladies, my quilt in all its dirty, broken, tattered glory is not ugly; it is unequivocally beautiful. And so is yours.
~A Fellow Pilot Wife
**This story was originally written as my contribution to a beautiful book called The Mom Quilt. It is a compilation of encouragement by moms for moms. All proceeds from sales of the book go to support a pregnancy center called The Mercy House in Kenya. Check it out at: THE MOM QUILT