When I was a young teen, I was, I suppose, like most girls my age in that I was beginning to think about my future and what it might hold. I frequently daydreamed about finally finding love, resting in the arms of someone who would love and treasure me. And I especially dreamed about the daughter I would have in that wonderful future I envisioned. The tiny little innocent girl who I would die to protect. I would teach her to love and value herself. I would let her know that she was important and mattered. I would make sure she knew that no one should ever touch her in an inappropriate way, either a sexual way or a violent way. No fists. No “bad” touches. No slaps. Not even any degrading words…because her heart was very important as well. I would show her discipline with love, not anger. I would make a safe place for her. I would be there for her when she needed me, to guide her, catch her when she fell, pick her up when she made mistakes. I would fight for her when needed. Help her to learn and grow and become an adult who was confident in her value and worth. Worth that wasn’t based on performance. To be sure, I recognized that I just might have a boy, either instead of a girl or in addition to a daughter. I knew I didn’t have any control of the sex of the child I might bear. But I longed for, ached for, desired a little girl child with all of my heart. And so, my imaginations always revolved around a girl. Oh, I had such dreams! I distinctly remember the day I realized my dream of a daughter was a complete fantasy. I was sitting in history class, a class that seemed to frequently leave me with a wandering mind. Because I really disliked the subject. And I had trouble paying attention. So, I did some of my best thinking about life during this class, needing to occupy my brain to keep myself from being bored to death. This particular day, I was contemplating my future while making a list of names that I liked. Names to consider for the daughter I would have someday. Holly Hannah Hailey Zoey I was adding and crossing names off the list. Whitney Maddy Madison When I suddenly stopped. Pen frozen inches above the paper. I was gripped by a thought so horrible, I couldn’t even move for a minute or two. And when I was able to continue, all I could do was lay the pen down…and reflect about the thought that had arrested me in my tracks. A few months earlier in the same class, I had been looking up a word when I eerily stumbled upon the word “incest.” I was stunned when I saw it. I had always thought what was happening to me was isolated and unheard of. That it happened to me and me alone. But discovering a word in the dictionary that described the abuse I was living with every day, that I had lived with since I was 4 or 5 years old, was mind-boggling. And it was then that I realized that I wasn’t the only one. There had to be others. They didn’t put words in the dictionary to describe something that happened only to me. Since that discovery, I had done some secret reading. Back then, there wasn’t that much material available. But there were some statistics. Glum, grim, ugly statistics. And they all said that people who were abused tended to abuse their own children. Not always. But far more frequently than was normally prevalent in the general population of the unabused. When I read this, I had vowed in my heart to never hurt another individual the way I had been hurt. I knew what it meant to be cut to the deepest core of your soul, to have your heart shattered. I never wanted to be any part of doing something like that to another person. And I truly didn’t believe I would actually abuse anyone, much less a child that had been born from my own body and flesh. I would know what that abuse was doing to them. It would DESTROY me. To hurt a little innocent child in that manner. So, I wasn’t all that worried about the statistics in this regard. What had suddenly come to mind on this particular day in my history class was an abrupt coagulation of many strands of unconscious thinking. You see, I realized I had justified my ability to love a child and help them develop in a positive manner on the fact that I felt deeply and strongly certain I could never do to my child (or anyone else) what had been done to me. But what if, what if, what if…what if the deficiencies I had because of being abused and all the things I didn’t have within myself would actually be horribly wounding? What if those deficiencies would cause deep, irreparable damage to a child? What if my lack was, in fact, the issue? Not my actions. But my example. My mannerisms. My outlook on life. My terror. My lack of self-worth. My failures. What my experiences had done to me. The reason this occurred to me? My parents always told me they loved me. They insisted they wanted me, wanted a little girl, loved and adored me. They said those words…a lot. But everything they DID totally contradicted this. And everything they required…compliance to their abusive demands, perfect performance, silence, denying my basic emotional and many of my physical needs…totally contradicted their words. This was extremely confusing and it was something I didn’t understand at all until I was middle aged. Back then, I accepted that they loved me. That love hurt. That it was something you could never trust. That it would turn on you and bite you like a snake, then smile at you seconds later as it watched the poison flow through your system. It was only as an aging adult that I was able to see what they said didn’t matter. It was what they did that spoke the truth. Their actions told the true story. But, what if they believed they loved me. What if they were being honest about wanting children, wanting the best for them. But because of the void and lack in their own lives, they simply didn’t have what it took to care of, nurture, support, love and guide a child in a healthy way? What if their INTENTION was to be a good parent, but the deep flaws in their character caused them to do things they never intended to do. Horrible and awful things. Maybe they didn’t set out to abuse. Maybe they didn’t intend to hit their little girl. To degrade. To reject and belittle. To slap, shame, demean, devalue and wound. What if my father didn’t think he would ever take sexually from his daughter; kissing, fondling, penetrating, demanding oral sex, role playing of pornographic fantasies? What if they both believed they would be good parents? And what if they were surprised when they weren’t able to love and protect their child the way they always thought they would? What if I would be the same way? Believing I could and would love, nurture, fight for, protect, guide, watch over, pray for, hold, care for and be there for my child…that was my heart. But would my actions align with my desire and intention? Maybe I was right and I would not actively abuse a child. But what if I taught them to mistrust everyone they encountered and that life is a horrible, frightening, terrifying experience? What if my distrust taught them that no one and nothing could ever be trusted? What if my inability to see that I had any value beyond what I could contribute and how well I performed set an example for them that taught them to believe they also didn’t have worth and value? What if my lack truly crippled them? In deep and significant ways? That’s what caused me to lay down my pen. To sit back. To let go of a dream. I couldn’t risk it. The cost was too high. And in that moment, I realized and decided I would never have children. Just in case. I couldn’t bear to damage them, wound them, destroy them, simply because I was damaged, wounded and destroyed myself. I folded up the paper with the names I loved. Put the list in the back of my notebook. Sometimes, history matters. Sometimes, it can repeat itself in different and unexpected ways. Sometimes we have to do everything possible to keep that from happening. No matter what it costs. This is the lesson I learned that day in class. And it’s a lesson I have never forgotten.