‘I felt trapped. I got pregnant at 17. She gently rubbed my hand. ‘Everything will be alright.’: Mother of 10 overcomes suicide attempt, PTSD, trauma to learn to ‘conquer love’ for her children

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“I grew up being raised by a single mom. I was raised by my mom’s surrounding family so my mom could provide for me. Growing up I didn’t know love. I didn’t know how to process my emotions. As a teen I went looking for love, I didn’t know how to give it to myself, or receive it.

I fell in love in 9th grade. It was that feeling when you just know that someone’s meant for you and you’re going to do life with them. If I knew God back then, I’d know he was the one I was going to marry. He eventually broke my heart into pieces – it hurt physically. That experience stuck to me. I held onto the belief that I wasn’t ever going to be good enough for love, just like my childhood.

Courtesy of Adri Haia

Someone then came into my life, blinded me and fed me everything I wanted to hear and feel to be loved. I felt trapped. Then I got pregnant at 17. Kids were not in my plan for me or my future, I didn’t want kids. I will never forget that day. I ended up calling Planned Parenthood. I made an appointment for an abortion. It was a normal day, my mom dropped me off at the bus stop and I caught the bus to school. My boyfriend picked me up and I headed to the doctor. I felt guilty, shame and disgusted with myself. As I laid there during the procedure, the only comfort I had was the nurse who was a complete stranger, but the only woman I could feel safe with at the time. She gently rubbed my left hand like I was someone she loved and told me, ‘Everything will be alright, it’s okay,’ repeatedly. I knew I wasn’t the first teen to do this. I thought of her and how hard it must’ve been to witness this being done day after day. Scared young teen girls that have absolutely no clue what’s really going on.

As the operating light shined in my face, my vision became blurry from the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing. It felt like the worst cramps ever. I was being tugged from the inside out. I sat in the recovery chair after the procedure was done. The girl next to me was my classmate. I wonder what was going through her mind? Was she going to tell anyone that I was there also? I felt worthless – I did the one thing you should never do. I kept asking myself, ‘Is this real? Is this real?’ After I left, it was like nothing happened, you bury everything deep inside and that’s where it stays. I went to the mall to eat. I went back to school and caught the bus home, all the while cramping and in pain with clots coming out of me. So much pain and in shock with what I just did. When I got home, I had a package with pads and a paper of aftercare instructions and what to expect for the next few days. I even cried to my little cousin at the time who was just 11, sitting in my room together. I remember telling her what I just did. That night and weeks after I cried myself to sleep wanting to end my life.

A couple months later I got pregnant again. This time I had just graduated high school. The thought came rolling in again about abortion but I was too far along. I even begged my doctor and was willing to fly to another island. Deep down, I was so traumatized. I just couldn’t go through that again. I decided to keep it. Even though I wasn’t ready, I was devastated that I allowed this to happen again. I hated myself, my life was about to change forever. I was still a young girl about to raise a child. I was so terrified to tell my parents. It was the hardest thing to do. I told my aunty and my cousin. By the time I told my parents I was 5 months pregnant. I told my mom on New Year’s Eve. I was under the table. She kept asking, ‘What do you need to tell me?’ I couldn’t even speak. I needed to be loved and not judged as a disappointment. It came out like word vomit, ‘I’m pregnant.’ When she asked, ‘Who’s the father?’ I told her. She was totally disappointed in me, probably disgusted also.

The next day we ended up at my boyfriend’s house to tell his parents. He just kept his head down and said ‘sorry.’ I thought to myself, I have no control of my life and it’s going to end badly. I was an expecting teen mom that had to grow up really fast. I was caught in a deep dark hole. My delivery was a blur – I checked out. My mom and dad were present in the room and when they placed her in my arms, I had no idea what to do. I wasn’t happy. I was overwhelmed, sore and I didn’t want to be there. When my boyfriend came in, he questioned if it was even his.

When I got home I just wanted to sleep and later wake up from this horrible nightmare. The next day my mom had to go to work and I was left alone with my baby – someone I knew, but didn’t know at the same time. My body was changing, I was feeling all sorts of feelings, I was tired and had no one to turn to. My boobs were sore and my stitches from my tear kept throbbing. I went to the doctor and they diagnosed me with postpartum depression. They gave me medication that made my heart race and made me feel like I wasn’t in control. My chest always felt tight and my heart always seemed to race. This wasn’t the life I wanted. I stayed like a prisoner with the father of my child. He was emotionally abusive and controlling. I stayed because that was all that I deserved. And when I tried to leave, he’d threaten me.

As my daughter got a little older, life became more chaotic in the relationship. Manipulation, arguments, what I could and couldn’t wear, where I could look, showing up where I worked, where I lived unannounced to spy on me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I wasn’t only putting myself in danger, but those around me. One day I told myself, ‘I don’t want this life for my daughter. This is all she will know- the violence and toxic relationship. She will think it’s okay to be treated this way.’ I found the courage to get a temporary restraining order. I went to the courthouse to file. I felt so nauseous, we went to court and I had to testify. I was terrified for my life and my daughter’s. I never looked back. I fought for a better life, the hardest days were battling my thoughts of thinking he was all I deserved. No one would want to be with a woman that came with baggage.

Courtesy of Adri Haia

Now a single mom. I was emotionally abusive towards myself and I started wanting to go out and drink. I tried to pawn off my child to any family member that would watch her so I could go and have a good time and find someone who’d love me. And even though I knew it wasn’t right, I still choose to do it. I needed an outlet to numb myself. I was emotionally stressed and abusive towards myself. I didn’t know how to be with myself. I’d catch myself looking out my window watching the cars pass on the road, thinking, ‘I live in this body, I don’t know how to be with myself, and if I don’t figure it out , I will suffer my entire life because I don’ t know who I am.’

Remember that boy that broke my heart who was my high school sweetheart? My first love, the one I knew I was always supposed to marry? Well he ended up coming back into my life when he started to work at the same place as me. At the time I wasn’t heavily religious. I didn’t go to church, but I knew God existed to an extent because regardless of what happened back in high school, I never stopped praying for him. Even if I could just have him in my dreams I was satisfied. I am a believer in that saying, ‘What’s meant to be will always find its way.’

Courtesy of Adri Haia

When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, it was new to me. I didn’t know how to be excited, but I was at the same time. I was anxious as to how this would work. My oldest was from someone else. Would that bother her if she had a sibling? Will I love them differently? How will I feel after? My transition into having my second child wasn’t chaotic. I got an epidural to avoid the feeling of contractions. I had someone by my side who loved me, and I embraced that feeling of feeling love and safety.

As my second daughter grew, my curiosity to know God became stronger. I witnessed my boyfriend’s mother come home with this glow after church all the time. I wanted that. I started asking her questions and my heart started to burn with desire. My boyfriend was turned off at the time. I didn’t force him at all. I wanted to be baptized and start a new life. Maybe because I wanted to be forgiven for what I did as a teen and this was my chance? I needed to learn through forgiveness, especially if I wanted to be with my family forever. One night while in bed, I told him, ‘I want to get baptized. But we need to get married first. If you know you’re going to be with me, then why don’t we just get married?’ And just like that, around bedtime while in our sleepy clothes and our daughters asleep with the TV on, he stood up, pulled me to my feet, got down on one knee, grabbed my left hand and said, ‘Will you marry me?’ No fairy tale, just perfect the way it was meant to be. We got married on a beach and ate at our favorite restaurant with close family and friends.

Courtesy of Adri Haia

While camping one year we came across a family next to us. They had 4 boys and they were distant family of my husband’s. You could tell they weren’t just camping – they lived there. While in the water they came by us to swim. The oldest seemed very reserved and went to go fish with his dad. The second oldest was very talkative and told us everything they been through. He had no filter on it either. The third, he was special -he is what actually drew me into them. There was just something about him. I told my husband that night as we laid in our tent, ‘I have this weird feeling like I know them and they are meant to be in my life.’ When we got home from camping I remember getting on my knees and pouring my heart in prayer. A prayer I never spoke before, every word wasn’t forced, it just was natural.

My third pregnancy was a powerful testimony that God answers prayer. One day at work I felt the impression that I should have another child. This time a boy, I knew I couldn’t just make that happen. I prayed every night seeking for God’s hand in this prompting that I felt so strongly about. The day I found out it was a son, I dropped to my knees in my bathroom, bawling and saying, ‘You are so real, I’ve never believed in anything before, but you are real.’ My pregnancy wasn’t the same as my girls. I was tired, moody and I felt very empty. When I went into labor, I got another epidural to numb the pain of contractions and once he was born, I felt disconnected. I didn’t want to say anything for the fear of being judged. He was my hardest baby, he constantly cried. Everything I tried to do didn’t work. I constantly got clogged milk ducts and mastitis. Any noise would startle him and he’d wake up screaming like he was in pain.

I started to freak out as the sun went down, because I knew it would be a long night of feedings and trying to soothe a fussy baby. I was in the room and I had this anxiousness with time, as soon as the sun was setting and it hit 5:30-6:00 p.m. it happened. I was having a conversation with my sister in law and I started panicking. My hand couldn’t stop shaking. ‘It’s time, it’s time, don’t let it happen, don’t let the sun go down.’ My sister in law tried to comfort me. ‘Adri, it’s okay you’re going to be okay.’ I said, ‘No I’m not I’m going to stay up all night. He won’t sleep for me, what am I doing wrong?’ I knew I was dealing with another episode of postpartum depression. I was exhausted. I didn’t want to eat, I was always tired. This time I didn’t want medication. One day at church, a member walked up to us asking if we’d take in 4 boys just for the month. My son was 5 months at the time getting over the worst case of hand, foot and mouth I’ve ever seen. My husband just got laid off. I said, ‘absolutely NO.’ I was exhausted mentally and physically. But of course my husband said ‘yes.’ When I then learned who the 4 boys were, my heart began to beat so fast. Was this another answered prayer? The timing was all off in my head, but HIS timing is never off… They were the boys we saw at the beach. The ones I prayed for.

So this is where my journey into motherhood really began the fast track! I was 24-year-old Adri, mom of 3. And now instantly, I’m Adri mom of 7. Two girls and six boys. Just for the month. It was an okay transition as this big blended family. I knew it wasn’t going to be for long. That went out the window real quick! Their parents didn’t keep up with their end and the reunification was denied. I started noticing behavior patterns that seemed off. Here we were with a life changing ultimatum. If we keep them, they all stay together. If not, they all separate. It’s uncommon to take all siblings in. We decided to have them stay with us. We got full custody of them the following year.

Courtesy of Adri Haia

I remember seeing the top psychiatrist on island as he diagnosed the boys. I became aware that this wasn’t my fault, but what they’ve been through. I did ask him though because everything seemed overwhelming with counseling, medication etc., if I really wanted to make an impact on their lives, what advice would you give? He said, ‘Be simple, LOVE. You love them.’ That triggered me. I didn’t know how to love myself. I loved my biological kids and my husband, but loving these 4 boys wasn’t easy at all. It wasn’t instant, it had to take time. It was like looking at a reflection in the mirror every time I they were hurt, there was a part of me that hurt also.

While cooking dinner one afternoon, the kids were in the yard playing. The oldest threw the ball in his brother’s face. I told him to come inside. When I asked, ‘Why did you do that?,’ he said, ‘I can do whatever I want.’ He started clapping in my face. Prior to that he’d given me a hard time with everything I asked him to do. ‘Put your backpack away, pick up your clothes, help me with your siblings.’ He wanted to control me, and tried to. If I said he could have strawberries he’d begin to argue with me. ‘Why can’t I have dried strawberries instead of real? This candy is a strawberry candy can I have this’  I was so overwhelmed, I yelled, ‘Why are you doing this to me? What have I ever done to you?!’ Just then I heard my house door fly open. Another adult grabbed me by my arm and took me into my room and said, ‘What is your problem?’ In that moment I needed someone, I needed support. Not to be told I was doing something wrong. I felt so small. I was trying to hold everything together and still dealing with a baby on top of having postpartum depression. This person then looked at me and pointed at me saying, ‘You need to suck it up, YOU asked for this.’ Those words stuck to me like glue. That was how I started to mother. I buried everything I felt and never let it show. People will teach you through their own trauma and negative beliefs. What you need to voice doesn’t matter especially in motherhood. So, I held onto my negative beliefs and they come out in other destructive ways towards myself.

I wasn’t in a good place when finding out I was pregnant with my 4th child. I didn’t want to tell anyone, because they made more obnoxious comments. ‘Again? When are you going to be done?’ I mothered from my bed. It was my safe place and my dungeon. The 4 boys were totally different from mine. They had serious behavioral issues that I didn’t understand. I was so afraid to ask because everyone judged me or had an opinion about it and it was targeted towards me. ‘You need to love them, you need to be a better mom. Hello mom! Step it up.’ The reality was, no one lived the hell we were living. I tried so hard to figure out what was wrong. Doctors, social workers, therapy, support groups. I took online courses. I had children that lived through situations that we probably will never experience in our lives. They acted out negatively, defiantly and fought all the time physically and verbally. I asked, ‘Why do you guys argue, fight so much?’ The second oldest replied, ‘That’s all we know, that’s all our parents did, so we do it.’ That spoke to me and made me realize, they are in my life for a reason, and we are all learning to love. If I was going to take that psychiatrist’s advice, no one’s going to help me help them, I need to learn how to get to the root of the issues.

Courtesy of Adri Haia

I was suffocating in people’s opinions and judgments like it was my fault they were defiant, sneaking, telling lies, stealing and hoarding food that I became trapped in that belief.  ‘What’s wrong with them? Do you feed them enough? Maybe you have too many kids? Are you not paying attention? Why do your kids get to have this, and they can’t?’ I wanted to end my life. I knew they wanted to love me but couldn’t, they would betray their parents for loving another parent. I get it, but it hurt. They question, ‘Where did aunty go? Is she coming back? Why did she leave?’ I kept telling my husband, ‘I need to go to the mental ward. Check me in. Something’s wrong with me.’ I started having panic attacks. I couldn’t breathe. I started neglecting myself, I got vertigo and wasn’t eating. I thought watching the food network was me eating. I went to the doctors and was diagnosed with deep depression recurring disorder, general anxiety and PTSD. I was suicidal and tried to end my life with a diffuser cord. I had it all planned out. I felt like I was having an outer body experience – my true self was watching this unrecognizable person live my life in darkness.

My husband just so happened to walk in the bathroom and asked what I was about to do. I told him, ‘end my life.’ He grabbed me, hugged me tightly and whispered, ‘We need you here, I need you here with me.’ Sometimes we may not know what to say, but he’s always spoken the words I needed to hear in the toughest moments. He stuck by me through it all, it wasn’t pretty. I wanted him to leave me. He stuck beside me and fought for me, he wanted to understand. His job even allowed him to take some time off to take care of me, I felt even more worthless. We allowed these 4 boys to overrun our life with their chaos and it was exhausting. I hated when people found out we adopted. They would call me a saint because I was an adopted mother, and I was going to ‘be blessed.’ If they only knew the hell I was living in and what I really thought. It wasn’t anything saintly. My thoughts were, ‘Now I understand why people don’t foster and adopt older kids. They were already set in their brokenness.’ I knew that I was prone to postpartum depression and I expected it. When my son was born, a little turn around occurred. I had a moment of gratitude. He was my life saver. He saved my life from me ending my life. He brought stillness and peace as I watched him take his breaths. He gave my meaning to the breaths I took daily. I was in complete awe of him, my lifesaver.

My marriage had been tested in so many directions. The biggest lesson we learned was to lean on one another in our hard times as parents or our financial struggles. When he got laid off, financially it was stressful but somehow we always managed to pick up side jobs or was blessed with a job opportunity. Having the time when he was laid off really helped our relationship. He became more helpful as I transitioned through my postpartum, cleaning, cooking, diaper changes, letting me take naps, even making me water and making sure I ate.

I started to become aware of my body and know the signs when I was pregnant again. When I found out I was expecting my 5th we were settled into our home, and I started to see a therapist. I was seeking help. I started to learn about my triggers and incorporating certain tools to help me get through my days. The hospital nurses knew me already because I’d been there so much. It was like a vacation away from home. I got pampered, taken care of without disturbance. I got another epidural this time, I wasn’t prepared for the effects of what it gave me. The day after giving birth I couldn’t lift my head without getting an agonizing headache. The nurse gave me Motrin but the pain didn’t leave me. I talked to the anesthesiologist and he said, ‘You have a spinal leak and if it doesn’t go away in a few days, come back and we’ll plug the leak by doing another epidural procedure.’ I thought that was ridiculous. I couldn’t believe I had to deal with this while recovering from having a baby and taking care of a baby all at the same time.

Courtesy of Adri Haia

I’ve nursed all my babies until the age of 2. I started to notice my milk supply decreasing and sensitivity towards my nipples. I felt completely sick in the early mornings, and bloated. After our Disney Christmas I went to the doctor and found out I was 11 weeks pregnant with baby number 6! I was shocked! The more kids you have the more the doctors started asking me if I wanted to tie my tubes or be put on birth control. I found that to be offensive. I said to my husband, ‘I wanted to have a home birth this time. I don’t want to go back to the hospital at all from my last delivery.’ This pregnancy was different – my entire focus was on self-care.

Courtesy of Adri Haia

One afternoon when my contractions were strong but inconsistent, my midwife asked me, ‘What’s going on?’ That was the first time I ever spoke up and let what needed to be said, said. I told her, ‘I can’t keep running away anymore.’ With my husband in the room, time stood still. I was being brought back to that 17-year-old girl laying on the operating bed getting an abortion. My midwife was holding the exact same hand as the nurse and doing the exact same thing, gently rubbing my hand. As tears rolled down my face and the lump in my throat seemed to be getting bigger, I said, ‘Every contraction reminds me of the day I got an abortion. That’s why all these past pregnancies I got epidurals to numb myself from feeling. I can’t do that with this child.’ An as I laid there, the room was quiet. I continued to speak ‘I’d often think to myself, why did God allow all these children to me? When women are struggling and praying and I didn’t let one live? I know GOD forgave me because HE forgives, but what this transition into this next chapter in motherhood is teaching me….. It’s not about God forgiving me, it’s about me learning to accept and forgive myself. I was 17, a broken little girl trying to figure out how to love in brokenness. ‘As soon as I acknowledge something I held on to for so long, my labor started to progress.

My life changed that day, I couldn’t run away from my fear. I faced it and surrendered to all the things that held me back. My home birth was beautiful, my husband in the pool with me and told me everything I needed to hear. We got to strengthen our marriage and love for one another, appreciating our roles as a mother and father, husband and wife. We worked together to bring our baby into this world, my kids surrounding me with neighborhood kids, who I love like my own. It was LOVE that we all never felt before – it was the highest, noblest love you could feel.

Courtesy of Adri Haia

I often get asked, ‘How do I do it?’ I just choose to love. I never wanted kids, and now I embrace however many God blesses us with, whether our own or foster/adopted. I have a new perspective and meaning on life. I have learned so much about myself and my beliefs. I am breaking generational trauma, and re-programming negative beliefs within myself. I learned that LOVE conquers all.

I learned how to heal my trauma and to be my own voice, regardless of what others say. Through my hardest and darkest days battling anxiety, depression and suicide, brought beautiful lessons and blessings. I am an influential mom to my kids. I honor my kid’s journey’s – they are all unique and serve a purpose. I meet them where they’re at and I walk with them through it. I find positive outlets to release stress and tension. Breathing, meditation, prayer, working out. I’m a stay at home mom, but I also spend an amount of time serving others. I am a postpartum doula, I help moms transition into motherhood regardless if it’s your first our 20th.

My story began as a little girl and my lesson has always been to choose love. We live in a world where we are constantly battling to conquer LOVE. Because we’re always choosing fear. There’s a stigma around motherhood, the perfect expectation, what’s right and wrong, judgments and comparisons, the stress, the tiredness. I was completely engulfed in it. But deep down, I knew THIS isn’t what life was about. Healing and loving the little broken girl inside of me, so she doesn’t show up to mother, but rather be the divine woman in me. I know now that LOVE heals, and I choose love every day. I can control my life and not let life control me. Love heals everything and every day I wake up thankful for another breath of life. Thankful that I have the choice to conquer love.”

Courtesy of Adri Haia

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Adri Haia of Hawaii. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful stories from moms of multiples:

‘We had FIVE kids in diapers! My wife tried to get me on board. ‘There’s no way. Are you trying to kill me? A sibling group of 4. FOUR?! REALLY?!’: Couple has 11 kids, 2 biological and 9 adopted

‘You don’t look old enough to have 10 children!’ If they only knew. My oldest is only 9. Strangers commenting, ‘You must have your hands full’ when I’m out with just 3 children are always amusing.’

‘Certainly these aren’t all your children.’ At 29, we welcomed our 10th baby. I looked like I had stepped out of a junior high locker room. ‘I can’t believe your mother left you with all these siblings!’

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