Purpose through Pain
Updated: May 28, 2019
by Kaitlin Campbell
***This blog contains material that may be considered triggering to some readers***
Life, the one thing we have in common. Life is beautiful, it’s agonizing, it’s both light and dark, conscious and unconscious. Life chooses us, molds us, breaks us, shapes us, and it is full of hard times that fill us with fear. Life is painful! We as humans are hardwired to avoid pain. That hardwired part of our brain, fear of pain, is the defensive system that keeps us alive. However, it’s also the single most destructive thing that can hold us back; if we allow it.
My life started out a little different than what you might deem “normal.” At the early age of one month old, I was thrown a curveball that changed the entire course of my life. Weighing in at just under six pounds, my tiny self was taken away from the mother that gave birth to me, and given to a new mother. Both a gift and a curse, a struggle and a blessing, at that young age, I experienced my first traumatic event, adoption.
Trauma changes you. It’s impossible not to change during a traumatic event. You give away a part of yourself, and you gain a new part. Trauma happens to everyone in one way or another. In major events and in small ones; that cause us to build protective emotional walls and retrain our ways of thinking. We all experience it and we all need help navigating it. Trauma links us. It’s our “make it or break it” moment, and I hope you choose to let it make you!
At the age of 10, I experienced my second major trauma. As I type this very paragraph, I find myself fighting that very fear. Fear of pain, and painful memories.
Writing this takes a lot of courage.
Courage I wouldn’t choose to exude without having been asked to write my story, but I digress. At 10 years old, my innocence was taken away forever. I was molested. I was threatened, and I was too young and afraid to know any different. So I stayed silent. My parents watched their happy, and carefree child turn into an angry ball of rage with no explanation of why.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of my story of sexual abuse. Over the course of 18 years, I have experienced six other acts of forced sexual violence and abuse. Each of these events left a scar, changed my outlook on life, and resulted in built up walls for protection. They left me angry, each with more questions, blame, and shame than the last.
It took years of therapy, and determination. I worked through and continue to work through how these events changed me, but something changed one day when I was 21 years old. I decided I wanted to live a life I could be proud of. A life I believed in. A life that would make the world a little bit better. A life that exudes Jesus Christ and His love for the world. A life that forgave!
It was after giving my life to Christ through baptism, that I set out on the journey to truly forgive my perpetrators. To pray for them, to hope for salvation for them, and to pray that no one else would be hurt by them. I’ve never once seen justice for any act of sexual violence that has happened to me. Yet, I am no longer weighed down by anger and hate, and I trust they will face justice in the end.
With my new found faith in Christ and a heart seeking after Him, I found myself growing more than ever. I was just married in the happiest time of my life! I was growing as a young adult and newlywed and blossoming as a new Christian. I remember thrusting myself into church and faith full speed ahead. My husband and I co-led a small group with couples of all ages. This challenged us to open ourselves up to others and to choose vulnerability and courage to live openly.
This small group allowed us to know that we are all equally scarred and broken. It’s in that shared brokenness that true authentic change can begin. I learned so much by being vulnerable, I was able to be the authentic me. It’s in that authenticity, that we can truly reflect on the deepest darkest parts of our heart and courageously choose to face them, and change them. In this group I grew vastly in my spiritual life. I see now, how God used that time of my life to fill me with courage and strength for the years and challenges that were to come.
Soon after my husband and I were married, we started trying for a family. By this time, we had already had 7 previous miscarriages. We knew the journey was not going to be easy, but neither one of us could have imagined what would lie ahead. Suddenly we found ourselves unable to conceive; we tried everything to no avail. By this time we were crushed and weighed down by the ache of infertility and pregnancy loss. For 18 months we researched, studied, followed doctors orders, changed our diets, and took supplements. You name it, we tried it!
In the winter of 2013 we got the biggest surprise, we were finally expecting!!! Obviously excited, we were still extremely nervous, given my previous history of miscarriages. We both expectantly hoped, and never ceased in our prayers for a healthy, full term pregnancy and child. Week by week my heart grew more confident as my belly grew in size! I finally felt comfortable attending an ultrasound without my husband present. Then, one day our mothers and myself excitedly attended an ultrasound. But, this time was different. There was no little flutter in the baby’s abdomen, no sound of galloping horses of my baby’s heartbeat. There was only silence and a blank expression on the techs face. Then came the words every parent dreads, “I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat.” An all consuming death cry escaped my lungs and no amount of “I’m sorry’s” could make it stop.
Having my precious little baby I’d longed, prayed, and believed for, taken from me was one of the most shaping moments of my life. The next few weeks were a blur. Friends and family visited, I ate comfort food, I was even drug out of the house in an effort to bring a little “normal” back into my life. All to no avail. My heart was shattered in a way I didn’t know how to handle. After learning the gender of our baby girl we lovingly named her Hannah.
Hannah’s death was followed by miscarriage after miscarriage, each taking a part of me with them. My husband and I knew we were destined to be parents. We had such an agonizingly deep longing, that no matter what we went through, we could not give up. We decided after 16 miscarriages that we would no longer pursue biological children. We felt a calling to adopt and were very excited to pursue that avenue to grow our family.
A few months after Hannah's passing, I had the most vivid dream of my entire life. For 7 nights in a row, I dreamt of a son. Each night displayed a year of his life. I felt him kick in my womb, I saw his face as he was born, I smelt his skin as he lay on my chest, I saw him grow and share his light with others. Each night as my dream was ending, I would wake up saying the name “Noah Benjamin-Asher.” I believed with every fiber of my being that this was God telling me not to give up, that he had a plan and a son for me. These dreams were so vividly real it was torturous. Every time I would wake up and realize it was just a dream, I was broken to my core. The torturous aftermath of the dreams affected me for months.
Filled with so much anger, I could no longer face going through miscarriages time, and time again. I felt in my heart adoption was the path for us, and my husband agreed. After 3 failed attempts to adopt an infant from a local adoption agency, we were out of money and all emotional energy. After deciding to take a break to focus on each other, we got a random phone call that would change the course of our lives. A two year old little girl named Taylor was in the foster care system and in need of a forever family. That day forever changed the way we saw and experienced the world.
At last, our “Taylor made” family began the day we met her. It was an instantaneous connection, a dream come true! She was my mini me. She looked so incredibly similar to my childhood photos, it was a seemingly perfect fit. Finally, we had the child we’d spent years praying for, and I cannot even begin to explain how perfect life was. Then, out of nowhere, God blew our minds even more; we were expecting again!!!!!
Our dreams multiplied before our very eyes. We were pregnant with the precious baby boy, Noah Benjamin-Asher, of my dreams! My pregnancy was going better than expected and our sweet girl was anxiously anticipating the arrival of her new baby brother. As quickly as our dreams became reality, they all came crashing down with one phone call. Still in the final stages of adoption, Taylor’s case worker called me one afternoon to inform us of a hiccup in the process. Assured that it was only a formality and the adoption was not in jeopardy, we were informed we would have to attend a hearing with another family who desired to adopt Taylor. After multiple reassurances that the adoption would continue, we were shocked when we were notified that the other family had been chosen to adopt Taylor. We were to discontinue time with her immediately to prepare her to meet her new family.
Saying goodbye to the first child we ever had the privilege to call our own left a wound that will stay with us forever.
Losing Taylor made a pessimist out of both my husband and myself. Her loss made it more challenging than ever to trust others and God. It built emotional walls no man could scale. Her absence inflicted us with Post Traumatic Stress that we still battle today. Never in my life had I struggled more with the idea of “God’s plan”. I was bitter, angry, and felt so deeply betrayed. Was I not a “worthy mother”? Why was I not “good enough”? These questions haunted me and kept me awake at night. Questions that still today, I don’t have answers to.
My growing belly brought comments such as, “at least you still have your biological child!" and "At least you still have your own.” These comments only stoked my rage and forced me into an isolated bubble, distancing myself from church, friends, and family. The kicks, back pain, ultrasounds, swollen belly, and baby clothes were the only thing that kept me going those first months without her. Having my sweet baby boy growing inside me literally saved my life. To this day, I am not convinced that I would not have taken my own life had it not been for the miracle of life that grew inside of me. His beating heart gave my heart a reason to beat. With every kick my heart grew stronger.
A fire was kindling in my heart that was stirred with each beat of my son’s heart. A spirit of focused determination. A fight to never give up, to never stop growing, to never stop seeking, to be courageous, to be the mother he deserved to have, to be the woman God made me to be. A fire that today burns brighter and stronger than ever.
The next months were filled with more traumatic events as I had a placental abruption at 26 weeks that threatened my life and the life of my miracle. Countless hospitalizations, hours and hours spent in premature labor, bed rest, pre-eclampsia, and premature birth still couldn’t stop the miracle God had in store. My heart came alive as the operating room filled with the heavenly sounds of my son’s first cry!
I wish I could say that life has been sunshine and roses since that day, but we both know that life is a mix of both good and evil, light a dark, joy and sadness. I developed debilitating and nearly fatal postpartum depression. But, with my arms finally full, I had the strength to ask for help. Admitting that I had postpartum depression to myself and my loved ones took courage that only motherhood could have prepared me for. I felt so ashamed! I had waited all these years and fought so hard to be a mother, and couldn’t enjoy the experience. The chemicals in my brain lied to me on a daily basis, but getting help was the best thing I ever did!
Trauma changed me. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, let alone 5 years ago! I can hardly recognize the woman I was when I wed my husband. Life is a crazy journey filled with a messy mix of ups and downs. Life is fucking hard! For years I tried to avoid pain at all cost. I numbed it, I stuffed it, I ate and smoked it away but it always came back stronger. I finally realized that my reason for living is to experience life. All of it! To let it shape me, mold me, make, and break me. To hopefully leave a legacy of authenticity and courage.
I believe we are all deeply interconnected as humans. We all experience life, trauma, joy, and sorrow. Life shapes us all, but we control who we allow it to shape us into. Our human tendency to compare and contrast often separates us from our purpose. I believe our purpose isn’t our job, our titles, the labels and hats we wear. I believe it’s our humanness. It’s to connect and use our life experiences to walk with others experiencing similar circumstances. To band together, to love, to be courageous enough to look at ourselves in the mirror and examine who we really are. To have the courage to change the things we don’t like about ourselves or our toxic ways of thinking. That kind of strength and courage can only be born through trauma.
I wear my battle scars on my arms, literally. I am covered in tattoos in memory of the events that shaped me. One of my tattoos, in memory of my late baby, Oakley, is of a perfume bottle. This represents a story a friend told me after Oakley’s loss. She called me the day I found out I miscarried her and left this on my voicemail:
“Once there was a beautiful flower. There was a drought so the flower prayed for rain. The next day the sun shone even brighter. The flower once again prayed for rain, but the rain never came. This repeated day after day and the flower began to die. In protest the flower cried out ‘God, give me rain or I will surely die!’ With that prayer, the flower lost its last petal and died. Just then, God sent a woman to pick up the petals and use them to make the most beautiful fragrant perfume. Now the flower could live on and have an even more lasting effect in the world than it ever would have if God had answered the way the flower asked.”
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I don’t know what horrible situations you might be facing or what traumatic events you’ve endured. What I do know is that the courage to keep fighting, to keep growing, to be better, to forgive, and to love freely; that is where we find our purpose. And with purpose, you can do anything!
**Kaitlin Campbell is a 28 year old small-business owner from Indianapolis, Indiana. She has been married to her husband, Nick for the last 8 years. Together they have one miracle son and 22 angel babies watching over them. As a family they enjoy living room rock concerts using remotes as microphones, playing games, and spending time with those closest to them. Kaitlin is a crazy cat lover and house plant hobbyist who has a passion for fitness. As a creative person, Kaitlin always has a project to work on. She works as a front desk coordinator, makeup artist, and hair sculptor for a local salon and spa as well as runs her own small photography business.