“I am sharing my story today, for any woman who feels like she has no one to relate to or feels like she is alone. I hope every mother and woman knows you can do this, and you are not alone!
My story began twenty-seven years ago. My parents were never married and never would be, and my father was an alcoholic. I don’t have many memories from my childhood. The ones I do have are not pleasant.”
Everyone has a story. Your story isn’t only about where, when, or how it started rather where you choose to take it and how it ends. I am sharing my story today, for any woman who feels like she has no one to relate to or feels like she is alone. I hope every mother and woman knows you can do this, and you are not alone!
My story began twenty-seven years ago. My parents were never married and never would be, and my father was an alcoholic. Two years after I was born, my mother left him. She later met my stepfather, and they got married.
I don’t have many memories from my childhood. The ones I do have are not pleasant. I have vivid memories of the inappropriate places my biological dad placed his hands, during the long drive from where my parents would meet to his house. There were so many “sketchy” things that happened to me while in his care. He was an alcoholic, and I was an easy target.
My lessons in life and love came from the woman I call my mother. Her name was Caroline, and she was my great-grandmother by the laws of nature, but my “mother” by choice. Although she was tougher than nails and ruled with an iron fist, she took the time to teach me how to cook, clean, sew, garden, and be the mother I am today. She was nowhere near perfect, and that was the beauty of it. She taught me that it was okay to make mistakes and that it was how you carried yourself through them that made the difference.
When I was eight years old, I asked to send an email to my biological dad. I emailed that I never wanted to see him again, and that I would not be returning to his home every other weekend.
That email was a huge relief. A giant weight lifted off of my shoulders, even as an eight-year-old. I know I was being naïve, but I hoped that with him out of my life things would get better. Sadly, they did not.
When I was in third grade, I reported an incident to a school counselor, who made a report with CPS.
This did not go well, and I was not believed. I felt like no one cared what a child had to say. I went back and told my school counselor what happened, and she was furious. After that, she checked in on me often, but I stopped talking. I feared being labeled and had lost most of my trust in adults.
When I was thirteen, I woke up one day and decided I was going to commit suicide. So many thoughts ran through my head. Would anyone even care? I sat on my bed, sobbing. I wrapped a tie around my neck and tied it to the highest point of my ceiling fan. Just as I had finished tying it as tight as I could around my neck, my mom walked in. She came over and got me down and looked at me in a way I had never seen her look at anyone and then walked out. That was that. We never talked about it again.
Soon after, I was introduced to burning and carving. It got to the point where I wasn’t allowed to have scissors near me, unmonitored, in class in Junior High. I would steal safety pins and needles out of my grandma’s sewing kit, so I could carve while at home or at school in the bathroom. I wore wrist sweat bands to cover the cuts and scars all the time. It became somewhat of an addiction. I would steal my parents’ lighters and light them and hold them against my skin until I would have nasty burns. As sick as it sounds, it actually felt good. In a world where I felt alone and numb, it reminded me that I could feel something.
In ninth grade, I met a guy. He was 19 and was the typical “bad boy”. I fell head over heels in love with him. He treated me like a princess and bought me nice things and loved spending time with me. We lied to my parents and told them that he was 17, so that they would let us be together. However, he later became emotionally, physically and verbally abusive.
He was the boy I lost my virginity with at 14 and that only made me more attached to him. I never told my mom that I was sexually active. I did go with one of my friends to Planned Parenthood to get on birth control. My mom ended up discovering it in my room. In a moment of panic, I told her it was my friend’s and that she had forgotten it when she stayed the night. I should have just found a better hiding spot or been open and told my mom I was having sex, but I was so scared I threw it away.
My boyfriend and I broke up in June of 2007. In July, he called with the old “I miss you. My mom misses you. You should come over, so we can talk” speech.
Well, of course one thing led to another and we were intimate with each other again. I left that day and didn’t contact him again.
September came and I returned to school. It was my 10th grade year, my first year of high school. I had played private league soccer from around age 7 until that first year of high school. One of the coaches heard how good I was and wanted me to play on the school’s team. When my mom took me to the clinic for a sports physical, my doctor came into the room and told me he couldn’t finish my physical that day. I started to get angry, and he quickly stopped me, saying “no, you’re pregnant.”
My jaw hit the floor. I looked at my mom, with no idea of what to say or do. The only words that came out of her mouth were “Oh, real #$@&%*! nice, Tanya. What will we tell your dad?” When we got home, my mom told my step-dad. With a sarcastic look on his face, all he said to me was, “Well, looks like I won a bet with the next-door neighbor.”
I remember thinking, is that what my parents think of me? It didn’t matter. What mattered now was the baby growing inside me.
My mom drove me to my boyfriend’s house, where I taped the copy of my pregnancy results to his front door with a note that said, “if you want to be involved, call me.” He called only to deny that the baby was his, despite the fact that I had only ever been with him.
I was 15 when I found out I was going to be a mother. Soon after finding out, I celebrated my 16th birthday. My mom took me to WIC, and one of the employees suggested, based on my mental health history, that I enroll in the Step By Step program. It was awkward at first. I had my doubts that my counselor with Step By Step really wanted to help. But, by our 2nd or 3rd visit, I could tell she truly cared. She was an amazing advocate for me, during my pregnancy. My Step By Step home visits became my once-a-month outlet that really kept me grounded and in a better mental state.
On Christmas eve, I found out I was having a boy! In my third trimester, I learned that I had preeclampsia, which causes weight gain, painful swelling, vision changes, headaches and many other tough symptoms. At 37 weeks, my OBGYN made the decision to induce me.
My baby was initially born purple and unresponsive. I remember the nurses holding him next to my face and telling me to kiss him because they needed to get him to the NICU. Hunter’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice and his body once.
It was the scariest thing at 16 to watch a team of nurses whisk away your baby only seconds after meeting him. After we left the hospital, I returned to my parents’ house, where the long nights and figuring out what it meant to be a mother kicked into full force.
I had many sleepless nights and many sacrifices were made. I transferred schools to attend an alternative High School, in which I only had to go to school four days a week for three hours a day. It allowed me to continue with my education and also be a mother to my son. I got my first job in the fast food industry, knowing that I had a son to support. I would go to school in the mornings, then go home for a few hours to spend time with my son, before going to work, usually from 5 pm to 10 pm.
I later developed postpartum depression. It was so hard. I wanted to succeed and prove to my baby that anything was possible, but I felt like I would never amount to anything. But, I made it through. I ended up graduating high school on time, with my one-year-old son on my hip. I got a new job in the caregiving and health industry, moved into my first apartment, and finally had a place of my own.
When Hunter turned five, I was twenty-one years old. I couldn’t believe I had a kindergartener. Later that year, I met the man who would later become my husband. At first, I was terrified to start a new relationship, but Jeremy was a perfect fit for not only me, but also for Hunter. For the first time, I experienced unconditional love.
We later had our little girl, Miss Aspen Rose. With this pregnancy, I didn’t suffer from depression. I truly believe it was because I was on my own and had a loving friend and supportive father by my side. For once in my life, things were going well. My life seemed so much brighter.
But, it didn’t last long. My grandma, “my mom”, had fallen ill and was in the hospital. I was sitting in the hospital talking to her and holding Aspen, when she suddenly wasn’t talking right anymore. It happened so fast, in the blink of an eye, the nurses came running. “Adult Code Blue” and her room number echoed in the hallway, and I watched as I lost my mom.
“Who will stand up for me now? Who do I call at 2 am to vent to?” I sat there holding her lifeless hand crying and begging her not to go, despite the fact that she was already gone. Minutes turned to hours that I sat in that room.
Life is never the same after you lose someone you love. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was barely able to take care of the kids. The housework piled up, Hunter was late to school almost every day, and my heart returned to its previously numb state. I had to learn to live again.
Then, I found out our third child would be joining us in this crazy world. When the doctor told me my due date, the room stood still, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day of 2017, my grandma’s birthday. I couldn’t believe that he was to come on her birthday, and she wouldn’t be here to greet him.
I called Step By Step to see if I could get into their program again. I did, and my case worker, Becky Hoffman, was amazing. Just like my first case worker, she was resourceful and easy to talk to.
She helped me learn how to separate what I was capable of from all the hurt from my past. She encouraged me to focus on myself and my growing family, and she educated me on local programs and resources, in an effort to encourage me to give myself goals to work towards.
Baby Rhett came right on time. His pregnancy didn’t have any crazy stories, like my last two. Becky later met us and gave me a bag full of baby gifts and blessings, from Step By Step and their volunteers.
After Rhett was born, I knew I had to start planning for a change in my future. When Rhett was three months old, I took advantage of the advice and resources that Becky provided and enrolled at Pierce College, with the help of the BFET program. It was a long journey, but I needed to prove to myself and to my kids that no matter what cards you’ve been dealt, it’s up to you to determine your happiness.
This past June, I graduated from Pierce College, with the President’s Award for my 3.89 GPA. I was also awarded the BTECH Student of the Year award by my program supervisor. When, I walked across the stage, my now 10-year-old son screamed out proudly “that’s my mom!”
Today, my family is thriving. Hunter, Aspen, and our youngest boy Rhett, are all doing well. A few years ago, Jeremy got hired on to work at Korum Hyundai, in Puyallup. From day one, he has loved this job. The people, what he is doing, the atmosphere, and environment are astounding. He’s been there ever since. I have also learned that the Korum family is a huge supporter of Step By Step!
We are so thankful for Step By Step and Korum Automotive. These two organizations have been a positive, instrumental force in our lives.
I want my next step to be to find a job where I can utilize my knowledge, embrace my strengths, and give back in some way, no matter how large or small a contribution.
Everything I do, I do for my three kids. My life goals are to live happier, travel more, and love harder. I hope my story and my life build up other women and mothers who have faced similar challenges. I want them to know that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to.
I didn’t have many cheerleaders in my life, and I think everyone deserves to have someone on the sidelines cheering them on. My grandmother, my husband, and my Step By Step case workers have all been cheerleaders in my life.
My biggest goal and dream for the future is to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps. Her gravestone says “she gave so much but expected so little.” I hope I can leave this same legacy for my children and that my life story will be defined by my generosity, hard work, and kindness.