My Elaborate Plan

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on March 8, 2014.

Five years ago, on my birthday, I left home.

Obviously, there’s a lot of backstory to this, and, I guess, this is that story.

I didn’t say goodbye – I couldn’t say goodbye. I was terrified that if I did, if I told them I was leaving, that they would shut me in my room, and jam the door and not let me out. That they wouldn’t let me out of their eyesight ever again, despite my having reached legal age where they couldn’t do anything – and I would have fought, you bet your ass I would have fought. I would have called whoever I could, police included, if they locked me up when I was 18 – but I didn’t want that to happen, I didn’t need that delay, I didn’t need that pressure or the guilt trips that would then ensue and cause me to acquiesce.

My mom was 9 months pregnant with the last child, due any day – I prayed that my mom would have the baby before my birthday, so I didn’t have that weight on my shoulders. I talked about how praying never really worked for me, this wasn’t any different.

I had spent the last three months planning my party, working on my parents to let me go to the mall by myself without a sibling. I told them of my plans many times – how I was going to hangout and eat dinner with friends and then we’d go to a movie and they could pick me up at like 10 or 11 when the movie let out.

I started carrying a messenger bag with me everywhere I went months ahead of time too, so when I packed what I was bringing with me, and brought it to the mall, they wouldn’t notice anything different. I always had a jacket in there to keep it looking full, no one thought anything of it. On my birthday, I packed my vital records that I had kept/hidden after getting my driver’s license the month prior, my HSLDA diploma, my laptop, a pair of clothes, and my conveniently travel sized birthday presents.

I convinced my family to celebrate my birthday early, before I left for the mall because I would be home after the kids went to bed and we had church in the morning. They didn’t really like it, but they went along with it.

I had bought all of my siblings presents with some leftover amazon money from christmas or something, and put them in my backpack by my bed with a note dividing up my stuff and saying I love them.

I got to the mall, and my closest friends met me and we had an early dinner and that was as far as the plan I told my parents about went, because after that, my actual plan came into play.

This plan, the escaping part, had been in the works for over six months.

In August of 2008, right before the olympic opening ceremonies, Alex and I woke up to an email in our inboxes from my parents saying “we have decided to end the relationship between Alex and Kierstyn and are forbidding them from speaking to each other.”

This happened conveniently after my mother had yet another positive pregnancy test (or whatever it was that indicated to her that she was pregnant and had every reason to control my entire existence again). Things had started going downhill since that May, and the last time Alex and I had seen each other in person(June), we created this plan.

If my parents broke us up (because they had been acting like they were about to and causing a lot of drama and being suddenly very negative and pushy and ridiculous) that on my birthday Alex would come get me, and we would run away.  If it was on my birthday, there would be nothing legally my parents could do, since I was legally an adult – we would be free to do whatever. We hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

July happens, Alex is asking about a proposal (the earliness, yeah, okay, they were pushy) twice is what sent them over the edge – twice because they didn’t respond the first time and the vacation he was planning on proposing to me on was coming up soon and he needed to buy tickets.

Interestingly, when Alex asked my dad in general about proposing, my dad gave a whole-hearted yes that lasted until the next morning when my mom took me aside and told me that my dad had changed his mind. This wasn’t the only time this had happened – dad endorsing something, then going to bed and “changing his mind” I knew it was bullshit, I knew my mom was actually behind it and the subsequent announcement of the pregnancy sent me over the edge. I was livid that my mom was having yet another baby, I cried on the phone to Alex telling him that my life was over – because in many ways, it was, this was the one that was going to do me in, if there was one that was going to do that. I realized I couldn’t keep living as my parents slave but I also had no choice. At this point I didn’t realize that what was happening was abusive and wrong, I thought I was wrong. This pregnancy is when the shit hit the fan.

So August, the email happened. The email obviously created an email fight and I was too emotionally distraught to deal with it, so I told people to stop CCing me. I screamed and cried uncontrollably, I went outside where I was alone and there was room only to have my mom come out and tell me to get back inside or someone will think something is wrong (ya think? asshole). I went in, and she sat on my bed and deigned to tell me she understood what I was going through (um, she has no idea what it’s like for parents to decide they can retract your adulthood, control every move of your life, and break you up with your boyfriend just by being parents – her parents didn’t do that). I glared at her through streaming tears, and managed to muster “only for six months”, she said “no” shook her head and left, as I watched her, still glaring.

This triggered a borderline suicidal depression, or whatever it is that results in suicidal ideation – because I did that a lot. I was already depressed (but I didn’t know it until I started meds and realized what not depressed felt like, and realized that was not what I had ever experienced), but this was just, every time I thought I hit bottom, the bottom caved in and I fell deeper deeper deeper into an increasingly dark abyss, of confusion and self loathing and numbness. I was always waiting for another shoe to fall because they kept hitting my head, it was unbearable, and the entire six months, that went unnoticed. No one said anything. In fact, I barely talked to my parents at all except to go over my birthday plan and be demanded of. I felt so alone and uncared for and every day I felt like I was dying inside, and every day I was reminded just how much my parents really didn’t give a shit about me as myself, only in relation to my service to them.

Interestingly enough, I had told my parents, after my trip in June, that Alex and I were planning on running away together should they break us up, because they were all like “we feel like maybe if things keep going this way we’ll have to stop it” and I was like “yeah, well, if you do, I’m leaving” and they didn’t believe me, or remember this conversation. I remembered it because I thought I was screwed – turns out my parents don’t have much of a memory for things I say, unless it makes them angry and/or bent on punishing me. And before anyone dares get into “but parents are wiser” territory, this was about stuff that had been completely resolved, stuff that happened because I was projecting things (my parents) onto people, and stuff that was cleared up because I was apologized to. And also about petty theological disagreements my parents had with his parents. Nothing that had anything at all to do with the relationship or the relationship dynamics between Alex and I – just them and his parents (again. my parents destroyed so many of my friendships because of their disagreements with parents).

So, I bode my time, I flew under the radar, I became what felt like invisible – I made plans to get my driver’s license in January, started carrying my messenger bag around in October or November, and started birthday planning in November, and was beyond that, never noticed.

I told some people I trusted about my plan, and was supported, mostly – except for one person who was supportive at first, and then was like, you have to tell your parents because youth pastor said and I was like “…” but all my close friends, all the ones who’d been with Alex and I from the start, knew sort of what was going on and were super supportive – which meant the world (and still does <3). Then I left, I left on my birthday without saying goodbye, before my mom had the baby. My grandparents had come up for the baby/to be around to help, so I wasn’t leaving them hanging. I don’t know what it says about me that I still, five years later, have to justify my escape with but my grandparents were there, so I knew the kids would be taken care of, and I wasn’t abandoning them altogether.  I think I feel like people will still be like, but you left your siblings! Which, I’m pretty sure is not the reaction people should have, because I shouldn’t have had to have been my siblings’ (essentially) primary caretaker in the first place. Strangely enough, I’ve never had that reaction, but it could be because I always pre-emptively answer it.

It killed me though. Leaving without saying goodbye killed me. I mean, I said goodbye, but not with the “I’ll never see you again probably” ending, but I hugged and kissed them before I left, because I needed to. Because, I was leaving everything. Leaving didn’t trigger a change of heart on my parents, it just enraged them. I didn’t know if I’d ever see them again, honestly, I still don’t know if I’ll ever see my siblings again. My grandparents paid for our plane ticket to see my family in the December of 2009, and that’s the last I’ve seen of them.

My parents have spent the last five years telling my siblings not to be like me.

In 2010 my parents decided they wanted nothing to do with me until I apologized to them for the hurt I caused. It destroyed me. I didn’t leave my room for two weeks.

I don’t know how to say this emphatically enough, leaving was hard, it was brutal, it wasn’t something I did willy-nilly, it destroyed me, there were times I re-thought leaving at all because I knew it meant leaving my siblings and believe it or not I do give a shit about them. Ultimately I left, because it was a life or death choice. I could stay, and wither and die – internally, definitely, and with a daily increasing possibility of physically – or I could leave, and have a chance at life and then be there on the other side for my siblings when they get older – or at least have that chance. So I left. I left on my birthday five years ago, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done (to. this. day.).

I just wish that maybe people really understood what that meant – means – feels like.

When We Whisper In The Dark


Photo: "Empty Cradle" by Cory Marchand. Image links to source.
Photo: “Empty Cradle” by Cory Marchand. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on August 8, 2013.

I stumbled across a short post the other day that has had me in its grips ever since. This is an thought that has taken root deep inside my heart and it is burning brighter than anything I’ve come across recently. I’m working on putting together a project that means a lot to me called I Have a Voice, and one of the guidelines I gave is to write about what burns in you. Well, people, this is burning in me.

Frankly, it freaks me out to write about it. But I strongly believe it needs to be said.


I hate this word. I hate the hush hush nature that comes with it, and I hate going through this alone. I hate that very, very few people talk about it, talk about what it is like to be on the dark side of the room.

It is a sensitive topic and one that for me at least, makes me struggle with feeling damaged, broken, which I already feel anyway.

I hate the cynicism that comes from feeling incredibly disappointed time and time again. My mom was pregnant 14 or 15 times, during one year, she was pregnant 3 times. I thought the path to expanding our little family would be easy, quick, one thing that would actually go smoothly when it came to my body. My dad used to joke that my mom was a “fertile myrtle” and would say that all he had to do was look at her and she would be pregnant. It made sense that that would be the case for me.

But the past year and a half has been utter torture on my body. No longer can I count on actually making it through the month on a normal schedule. Add that to the massive shaking of my entire mental, emotional, and physical state of being, and it’s been another personal hell.

I don’t talk about my siblings often on my blog. Being the oldest of 9 isn’t really something I like to advertise. It’s not because I’m ashamed of them, it’s because I have a hard time explaining what life was like being their second mother, being the chief cook and bottle-washer, being the housemaid, being the one who had more responsibilities than all of the kids put together. I don’t like trying to explain what it was like being hated by my siblings because I got to do certain things. They couldn’t see the back breaking effort I had to put in to get those special things.

It is especially difficult when someone asks me how many kids Phil and I want to have.

I feel like I have to give many prerequisites as to why Phil and I don’t want a large family. Or I have to give a prerequisite for why we even want children to begin with. I will not repeat my family. I will not repeat it out of a lack of love, but because I want to be able love my children individually and give them the love and affection I never experienced. Our goal is to be able give as much love and care to each child and if that means only have a few (2-4) then we are okay with that.

Many young women who grew up in the type of environment I did are freaked out by even the idea of having children. I get that, I really do. Being the oldest of 9 (or more/less kids) is not something I’d wish on even my worst enemy.

You either come out from that specific situation never wanting to see children again, or you don’t.

Every person is affected differently by their life’s circumstances. I felt like I had to join them and stand with their banner. I then realized that I couldn’t apologize for something that burns so deep and inexhaustibly in my soul that even though I have tried to give up completely, it still burns with increasing intensity. Danielle, at from two to one, asked this question the other day, “Why have kids?” I felt an immediate answer and told my therapist when I sat in front of her on Tuesday.

I want a child so I can love that little one in the ways I never felt loved.

I want to see who God will create with part of Phil and part of me. Will our little one have Phil’s nose, but my eyes? Will our little one have the quirky personality of their dad? Will they have Phil’s and my love for music? I want to see Phil be a dad, he’s going to be an incredibly awesome dad and will love our children as my dad has never loved. Our children will be safe with him. I can’t protect my siblings, but I can start over with my children.

I want to be the mom I was meant to be, not a mom to my siblings.

I feel like Jesus has given me a glimpse of what being healed will look like for me. I want to replace the memories I have of my mom with being a loving mother to my child.

It would be like walking down a street which holds ugly memories and creating new, beautiful memories to replace the old ones. It will be another massive step towards healing. This is what burns in me and is not letting me go no matter how much I sob and try to wrench it out of my heart.

I have a purpose, I have an inextinguishable dream, but I’ve been waiting for it longer than I thought I’d have to wait. Do you know what it’s like to have a specific day coming, you just know it’s going to be good news, your hope starts rising? Your heart beats faster as the day gets closer, you pray harder and you choose to ignore the dark whispers taunting you. The day arrives and with it debilitating disappointment. The thing you eagerly hoped for, excitedly anticipated, held your breath for was held back.

Imagine this happening 5 times in a row, 10 times, 15 times, 20 times.

I thought I knew disappointment when I wasn’t able to shake the fibromyaglia. I thought I knew hope crushed when my headaches came back more intense than before. I was wrong. Pieces of me are torn from me each month my period comes. Holding that negative test in my hands, knowing the thermometer never lies, my heart dies. My therapist looked at me straight in the eyes a few months ago and asked if I felt like not being able to get pregnant was a punishment. I started crying and nodded my head because I knew she was right.

After this past month, I looked at my therapist on Tuesday and told her I’ve given up. The deepest level of my heart has truly given up. I don’t feel like I can trust God with this. I feel alone, but I know I am not alone, but no one talks about it. That part of me that holds this dream and fuels the fire will not let me give up, but a part of me already has.

I feel like God has let me down.

Praying for him to answer someone else’s prayer is easy, but praying for myself, trusting that I will actually get pregnant is another matter altogether. There have been months that have gone by where I have one day full of tears, questions, doubts, disappointed sobs, and I can’t find God. I can’t find anything good. I believe, even if it is just for an instance, that it is my fault. I am broken. I am messed up. I am being punished. I didn’t pray enough. I didn’t ask God early enough during that cycle. I have even gone through cycles telling myself I wasn’t going to pray because maybe, just maybe that would change something.

God has become less real to me over the past 18 months of trying. 

18 fricking times I have crawled back into bed, trying hard not to cry, but tears always come. The feeling of being incompetent always come. The feelings of being incapable of doing the one thing me, as a woman, is supposed to be able to do. The one thing God specifically created me to do; carry a child in my body. The feeling of having done something wrong and not knowing what I did creeps up on me. The dark despair of feeling like my body is utterly broken beyond repair haunts me for days on end at times.

There are days when these feelings are very present, but for most of the month I stuff it all down and try to not think about it.

I have no idea what the next year is going to bring. Medical science has only advanced to a certain point and there a lot of things it can’t yet explain. I had so many doctors tell me that they couldn’t find anything wrong with me when I was physically fading away with the fibromyalgia. Do you know what it’s like for a doctor cheerily looking you in the face to tell you everything looks great when you can barely sit still on the table because of stifling pain? I do. I am already starting to experience that feeling again of not being believed  with infertility. That feeling when you walk out of the doctor’s office, they just told you everything looks great, but you know deep inside that something isn’t right.

Can I tell you guys something? Telling me that I’m so young I have nothing to worry about, or that when I stop thinking or worrying I will get pregnant are some of the worst things to tell me. Yes, I am young, but that doesn’t make my choice any less important.

Please don’t tell me that I have to live my life more before having a baby.

Hearing that makes me question the things that I know for sure. There are so few things right now that are solid and sure for me. Questioning those things I am confident in only makes it worse.

Can we please stop whispering in the dark about this issue and instead come alongside each other and lift one another up? Can we simply say “I’m sorry,” and give comfort and love to someone dealing with chronic illnesses or situations?  

Can we?

I Don’t Pray Anymore

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the GapIt was originally published on March 20, 2013.

When I was 10 and we were well into our left-the-cult-but-still-kept-everything-but-demons days we started going to church again. After being told churches in general were evil, it was weird going back to the buildings. My church experience was never great, we were never at one long enough to belong, because the pastor would say something and my parents would have a disagreement and we’d either leave or be asked to leave. I occasionally had time to make friends before we were shunned and never spoken to again. It was lonely, to say the least.

In September of 2001, 10 days after the trade centers fell, we had another reminder of the love of god – my mom had a stillborn. A boy, which was special because I only had one brother and at the time there were 3 girls including me (and another boy meant we’d have a chance of carrying on the family name, because that was somehow important — I remember that remark being made before). He died in the birth canal with the cord wrapped around his neck – he suffocated. My siblings and I were sick with the flu at my grandparents’ house, so it was just my mom and dad (homebirths were unassisted, always) at home and they called and had us come home and told us the baby died.

They showed us the blue and purple and red body, my mom was holding and touching it and wanted us all to hold it. I flat out refused, grossed out by the thought of touching a cold corpse (in who knows what state of decay *shudder*) I went to lay down and when I woke up a few hours had passed and the police and paramedics were there. I remember seeing strange people walking around while I was on the couch kinda delirious from being sick and dead baby, I think they tried to ask me something but I just mumbled something about just getting there and not knowing what happened and being sick. They were very very nice to me and understanding (which was comforting because I was scared), they took the corpse and my mom sobbed. I didn’t understand, I didn’t understand why they kept the corpse around for so long.

By the time the funeral had come around, maybe a week later, the paramedics had labeled it SIDS, which I came to understand as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. My parents said that this was all part of god’s plan and nothing could have been done to stop it. My dad somehow worked the love of god and the salvation message into the eulogy, talking about how it was a good thing, and told us kids how this would be a good opportunity to get my catholic grandparents to convert.

I didn’t cry.

I didn’t cry for many reasons, one was because I learned early on that crying was weakness, but also, because I truly believed with all my heart that god was going to bring the baby back, I prayed sooo hard and didn’t want to leave the graveyard because I knew that there was going to be a miracle, I had the faith of a mustard seed – though it felt like more; I didn’t know what a mustard seed was, but I figured I could be moving mountains because I believed it so much. That there would be cries of life before the coffin was lowered into the ground and everyone would be surprised.

But as we left and the grave-people were getting ready to bury the coffin, there was no noise, just silence.

This didn’t bother me until years later, I just assumed that maybe I didn’t have enough faith even though I thought I did and gave it all I could muster.

Cut To: 2004

Valentine’s day (2 weeks before my 13th birthday), 7am, we were all there this time. I was woken up and told to keep the kids under control/fed/etc as mom was in labor in the master bathroom. I popped on cartoons and fed the kids and those things that you do while trying to pretend you can’t hear the screams and noises of labor.

The worst happened. We all heard it, “BREATHE” was shouted over and over again and silence fell.  Color drained from our faces. I don’t remember any sequence of events after that, the memory is locked somewhere, but I remember touching this corpse (girl this time) because it seemed to be important to mom. Still cold and blue and purple and pink and gross. It was the same cause; strangulation, the paramedics labeled it SIDS again, but I think we were at our grandparents house when they showed up because I don’t remember interacting with them. My grandparents did their best to comfort us and just let it all sink in. They’re good at that, at giving us what we need and being generally unassuming. I don’t think they know how much that means to us.

My mom said, later, that she felt god telling her that he did this because he loved her, this was his way of saying I love you. It was her valentines present, taking the baby. Same weird salvation, this is good, this is love, etc message was preached at her funeral too – another opportunity for my grandparents to convert, and a few months later they did, so it was all seen as a wash and “worth it”. We laid her to rest beside my brothers grave. I didn’t pray for her return this time, I figured that Lazerous and Jesus were probably just one time things.

Honestly it’s the questions that got to me most. Because every pregnancy since the first stillbirth, my siblings (who were around to remember) have asked “is this baby going to be born alive?”. The thought of them asking that and me having no answer, and mom and dad’s pat answers still make me cry and my blood run cold. I hate that it’s even a question that had to be asked.

Cut To: 2007-2008

My life had become a living hell. I was 16-17, I was growing into an adult, forming my own opinions and, to their credit (and chagrin) my parents didn’t raise a weak daughter. My boyfriend-now-husband and I were in this process called “courting” à la Josh Harris. I don’t remember where my parents heard of the idea, probably a homeschool convention that also included HSLDA and Mike Farris. For those unfamiliar, it’s like, trying to date but with your whole relationship being micromanaged and manipulated by control freaks and outsiders who have no interest in the relationship itself, just in dictating things without taking the time to get to know anyone. In our case it went from my parents trying to marry me off at 16 because as soon as the word “relationship” entered it was like wedding bells were ringing. At 17 my mom got pregnant and the cycle of my existence as a person ended (again) and my existence as my mother’s sentient broom began – only this time, I fought back. I was just getting into my personhood after a decade of not having one.

I was dragged out of bed and cornered and bullied by my parents for hours. Told I wasn’t being godly enough, told I was a better daughter and better skilled when I was 8, that Alex was generally evil, and corrupting me, that I was on my way to hell and had better shape up, that god disapproved and I needed to make it right. It was my DUTY to end my life and be a live-in slave to my parents whenever they demanded it. That because I was a woman/younger, THEY heard from god for me, and there was no way I knew for myself what was best for me, and god wouldn’t tell me something against their will.

Unfortunately for them, they spent the 6 months prior drilling into me that I was an adult and capable of making my own decisions. I quickly came to the conclusion that people didn’t have the power to bestow and then relinquish adulthood at the drop of a hat, or plus sign of a pregnancy test.

I was devastated when my mom told me she was pregnant. No, not devastated, enraged, panicked, and hurt. I had spent the last hellish year, and especially six months praying oh-so-hard for god to work, to make it better, to make things okay. And the result of my prayers, every single time? The problems made up by my parents just escalated, escalated, and escalated until my parents told me that I was no longer allowed to talk to Alex. My prayers were hitting the ceiling, I felt pieces of myself dying as I spent those last six months of 17 plotting my escape and trying to fly low enough under the radar so as to not be noticed, so my near-suicidal depression wouldn’t cause room for concern and cause more squelching. I misdirected to survive, letting my parents think I was “over” Alex just to get me to my next birthday. I felt abandoned by god, which crushed me, because I had done everything, I had given up having my own life for years, I rarely saw friends, I didn’t ask for much, I worked so hard.

Cut to: February 28 2009

I left on my 18th Birthday, I had a party away from home (that took a lot of work) and Alex and I left that night. My parents went nuts when we called them. They went from acting concerned and sad to bullying, not hesitating to pull god into it.

Cut To: March 4 2009

Newest baby was born by Cesarean due to complications and that the previous child (boy) had been an emergency C-Section. The reasons for this C-section? Umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

I don’t think it hit me then. It hit me on the anniversary of the first stillborn. It could have been prevented. It was the same thing that killed him and the other one, but this one made it because they happened to be at a hospital. I’ve rarely been more crushed and angry than when that realization hit.


I stopped praying because my prayers didn’t do anything good, they only made things worse. I stopped praying because god obviously never listened to me. I stopped praying because I was tired of being let down and abandoned by someone who was supposed to never abandon me.

I’ve cried and wrestled and fought over this. Why didn’t god listen? Was I not good enough? Does he not care? If he did care, why did he let this happen? Why would he abandon the fervent prayers of an innocent child, of a young adult? I don’t know. All I know is, praying has left me disillusioned, callous, and cynical.