I was loved through the tough times….

I’m not sure when things started to go down hill… it was a gradual thing…I think it was as I hit adolescence. My respect for boundaries declined, and with it my birth parents ability to enforce those boundaries. I refused to go to school from age 13 and decided that I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But before I knew it, I was 13 and pregnant to a 19yr old, whom I believed to be my “first love”, but in actual fact he was an extremely damaged human being and that led the way to the sadistic psychopath that he had become. I became his first victim. I had no insight into how controlling he (or his mother) were over me, until I fell pregnant and went to live with them. I thought I would be safe. Then I became alienated from my birth family; my birth mother having a nervous breakdown and leaving for Wellington never to return. My birth father, well he tried his best, but he really had no idea how to deal with the situation so he became absent also. Then beatings and abuse began. For almost a year, throughout my pregnancy and shortly after, I was beaten, tortured, raped and imprisoned by the birth father of my child and his mother. They kept it all a very elaborate secret until they were forced to take me to hospital for a suspected skull fracture on Christmas eve of 2000. The doctors as their duty, got in contact with Child, Youth and Family (now Oranga Tamariki). Three days later on the 27th, we were removed from the home and taken into CYF care. We were placed in a family home (essentially a half–way house) for around 4 months until a suitable placement could be found. After the stay in the family home, I was placed with a family… a normal and real one. Something I had never experienced before. From day one it was warm and caring. They did normal things like went on family outings – they rarely spent lots of money, but we always had fun and I always felt included. Family gatherings, also a new thing. Regular routines, etc etc. It was strange. I didn’t know how to feel. The hugging was strange. I felt as though everyone was very “huggy” (which in hindsight was totally normal) but, it took me a while to realise that it was normal, and family who care about and love each other, do that. It took months, possibly years to not feel uncomfortable and freeze when a hug was given.

Life was becoming great – warm clean house (most of the time), fun, love, boundaries (I needed those), and more love. I had foster siblings and my baby was loved. But life as a teenage mum is hard… especially when you haven’t had a chance to grow up yet. Everyone used to say to me “wow having a baby so young, you must have had to grow up really fast” No. I didn’t grow up. Just because I had had a baby, I was still 14, damaged and traumatised.

I began to rebel. My school mates were going to parties and the movies and so much more – I wanted a life… My family stood their ground. They allowed me to do things that were safe and appropriate for my age, but that’s where the buck stopped. I felt as though I had been in an “adult world” for so much of my life already, and I found these boundaries very hard to accept. The line was drawn and the rules were the rules. I don’t know how many times I was collected drunk from goodness knows where when I had snuck out of the window, or how many times I disappeared for days at a time… but each time there was a consequence, unconditional love, and consistency. I never wanted to hurt anyone in what I was doing. I just never understood how my actions affected others. Yes, I had a baby, but I was still an egocentric teenager. At some point I came to understand that ‘Tough love’ was to blame for my misery. It was another avenue for me to blame – victimisation is a hard cycle to break.. When I was around I was a great Mum. I loved my baby and even as a 14 year old, she was the apple of my eye and I wanted the best for her – but I wanted more. I rebelled for so long that my daughter was placed with a distant birth family member and she was no longer in my care. I rebelled even more. I was hurting, unable to articulate why I was acting the way I was, I felt like I hated the world, the world hated me and that I was worthless. Then came the day I left for good – saying goodbye to my family, I went to get a life. I left school, got a job and tried to make my own way in the world.

Then came the day when I became homeless – another failed relationship, abused, again. I was 16 and needed to get out. I needed a bed to stay… I had nowhere else to turn – I phoned them – they allowed me to come home on the understanding that I would be gone by the end of two weeks. I slept on the couch, did chores, and settled back home. They helped me get back on my feet and sent me on my way. But the agreement was in place – and at the end of the two weeks my time was up and they helped me into another place. This time it was on my own without a man (I thought I couldn’t be without one). It was scary. As the years passed, their family (my family) became pivotal in my life. Always on mutual terms – but their home, their rules. But the love was strong and abundant. My dad (foster) walked me down the aisle when I married, my mother (foster) was at the birth of my second child along with my sister (foster). They have been my family for more than half of my life, and all of my children’s lives. We are a solid family unit of 16 years and the tough love skills and values that I have learnt from my family, I encompass into raising my own children. Life is not perfect, and sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, but I know that they brought me up with consistency, care, and love. I was not easy to manage and I still look back in amazement that they not only put up with me, but still worked with me and gave me their time, effort and love. I knew that I would always be listened to fairly, and given honest answers, but that if I was told no, that wouldn’t change. I had 2 solid rocks in my life, and I was a part of a group of well adjusted siblings. I knew that support – which they had learned from Tough love – would be available to me in abundance if we worked together and lived cooperatively.

I could not imagine our lives without them today, and I absolutely believe that they have played a pivotal role in influencing the person that I am today. I am so grateful to have my family’s continued support today…

Permission to publish – Name withheld