1. What was the most surprising thing about becoming a parent?
The most surprising thing about becoming a parent has been my ability to be a parent. When I was in my early twenties, I had the mindset that children were not something that would be a part of my life. I was not against parenting and always felt happiness and excitement for my friends that started their own family. Things were different for me because I could barely take care of myself, let alone be responsible for another human being.
When I found out I was pregnant my initial reaction was fear. My cousin gave me a piece of advice during my pregnancy that has stuck with me today. She told me to be the kind of parent that I wish I had growing up. I let that advice serve as the motivating factor for my approach to parenting, and now ten years later I am the proud parent of a kind, loving, amazing daughter.
2. Tell us about one of your proudest parenting moments.
One of my proudest parenting moments happened not too long ago. My daughter and I were talking one day after school. I told her how proud of her I was for always trying her best in school and with her activities. I shared with her that it can be hard work to be a kid sometimes and I want her to know that her hard work is recognized and appreciated.
She looked at me, smiled and said “I know you are proud of me mom. Even when you don’t say it, I still feel it.” For my daughter to know in her heart that I am proud of her means that I must be doing something right in the parenting department.
3. Was it difficult for you to participate in this project? What strength did you pull from to get past the fear and contribute?
It was not extremely difficult for me to participate in this project. As I was writing my story, I was conscious of the fact that there will be people who know me personally that will not be happy with what I wrote. This kept a significant amount of fear tugging at me with each word I typed. I just tried to take deep breathes and tell myself that I have every right to share my story, despite how uncomfortable it may make others feel.
The strength I pulled from in order to get past that fear was empowerment. Each word I typed made me feel stronger, as if I was taking back some of my voice that had been lost as a child. I knew that the words I was writing would touch another abuse survivor who is trying to break the cycle with their own approach to parenting. That helped me put my fear into perspective and submit my contribution.
4. Do you believe participating in this project has changed you in any way? If so, how?
I do believe that participating in this project has changed me. It has made me feel more confident in my parenting ability. I am able to see vast differences in the way I’m raising my daughter and the way that I was raised. Connecting with other abuse survivors who are also parents has been like a breath of fresh air. Knowing that I am not alone in struggling to break the cycle of abuse has been comforting.
5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children?
The greatest lesson I have learned from my daughter is how amazing unconditional love feels. I spent so much of my life chasing after expectations that I thought would make someone love me. No matter what I did or which condition I met, there was always another condition waiting in its place. As a result, I never felt worthy of love.
My daughter has shown me that it is possible to love someone just for who they are, no questions asked or conditions that need to be met first. She loves me when I’m laughing, happy and having a great day just as much as she loves me when I’m grumpy or sad. There are no conditions I need to meet with her. She loves me just because I’m her mom!
6. When you are not writing or parenting, what do you love to do?
I love to listen to music, read a good book or spend time with my husband and daughter. I also have an amazingly supportive group of girlfriends that always make me laugh whenever we get together.
“My eyes fill with tears. I grieve for that little girl who just wanted someone to care that she was being hurt. My daughter’s fear is not quite this extreme, but it triggers me. I don’t want her to ever be afraid to come to me for any reason. I go overboard making sure she never feels that way.”
I Stand Guard At My Post
Aprel Phelps Downey
Trigger Points: Childhood Abuse Survivors Experiences of Parenting
Aprel Phelps Downey has held a passion for writing since her childhood days of elementary school. That passion has been the driving force behind everything that she has set out to do in her life.
As a child abuse survivor, she understands firsthand the emotional challenges involved in trying to move on from a painful life experience. She shares her story so that other survivors know they are not alone. She believes that standing together and supporting one another makes the healing process a little easier to endure.