LDS, modern problems, narcissists, religion, social media, true crime, videos, YouTube

Monetizing kids for better living through YouTube!

Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt on YouTube.

A good Thursday morning to you all… One more day before Mr. Bill comes home and tells me about his TDY days in Bavaria. I’ve been passing the time in the usual way, reading a book, watching a lot of YouTube videos, and scanning social media. One person who is all over the news this week, besides Donald Trump of course, is a Utah woman named Ruby Franke. Ruby Franke is yet another now disgraced former YouTube star.

A few years ago, I might have been all over 41 year old Ruby, who ran a now defunct channel called 8 Passengers. Ruby is a mother of six and an evidently devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like a lot of church going folks, Ruby decided to turn her large family into YouTube (or reality TV) fame. She’s now in deep trouble, because although people had been trying to sound the alarm for years about her parenting methods, this week two of her children were discovered malnourished, with one asking neighbors for food and water. There was also evidence that at least one of the children had evidence of having been restrained with duct tape and rope. Ruby Franke, separated from her husband, Kevin, is now being charged with six felony counts of child abuse. Four of her six children have been removed from her custody.

I should mention that Ruby’s business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, has also been arrested on suspicion of aggravated child abuse. Hildebrandt also has a rather checkered past in Utah, according to some sources who are coming out now. She and Ruby started another YouTube channel called ConneXions, which is also now defunct. However, Jodi’s ConneXions Web site is still live at this writing. Hildebrandt was a mental health therapist in Utah, but had her license suspended in 2012 after violating client confidentiality by disclosing the client’s alleged “porn addiction” to LDS church leaders. If you know anything about Mormonism, you know that looking at pornography and engaging in masturbation is a big “no no”.

Ruby talking about her daughter in diapers “stinking”… I’m really glad I never discovered this channel when it was still active. Yuck.

I’ve seen Ruby’s face all over the place this week. She’s an attractive woman, with a nice, wholesome image. She has a good figure, a pretty face, and dresses modestly. Her kids, from what I’ve seen, always look clean and are dressed well in the photos I’ve seen of them. And yet, her twelve year old son– the one who asked for help from neighbors– is malnourished. He was found with duct tape on his arms and legs. He was one of Ruby’s projects– she put him and his siblings out there on YouTube to rack up views and income as she dispensed some highly questionable parenting tips.

YouTuber kyeluh talks about how awful and disturbing Ruby’s content was before she finally got busted.

As I mentioned up post, I would have probably been all over this story a few years ago, before Bill and his younger daughter reconnected. It’s no secret that I’m no fan of Mormonism, or really most strict religions. But Mormonism happened to affect us more than the other religions did, so I specifically focused a lot on that faith. Of course, Mormons certainly don’t corner the market on abuse. But a lot of people in strict religions use God as a reason to be strict and abusive, especially toward those who have less power in those communities… that is, children, and often women.

These days, I’m somewhat less interested in upbraiding the Mormons. I still don’t like the belief system, but I find myself grateful that some people in the church were willing and able to help Bill’s daughter get away from her mother. On the other hand, Ex used Mormonism as a means of controlling her husbands and kids, and as a source of shame. I don’t respect the church for that, because the religion aided her in her parental alienation goals. She used its teachings as a means of separating her children from their fathers and other people in the family who threatened her.

I don’t know a whole lot about Ruby Franke yet, but I suspect the church had a lot to do with her bad decisions. Everything from that whitewashed, clean cut, “wholesome” image, to the decision to have six kids, to the decision to put them on YouTube as an example of people living clean, “godly” lifestyles… it can all be traced to man made religions that impress upon people that image is important, and can be monetized. People lap up their examples, which is evidenced by ratings, merchandise sales, advertising, and views. The money comes and fame grows, with everyone smiling and happy… until the truth comes out and people are exposed for being frauds.

Religion can also lead people to have some pretty warped ideas about life, too. Especially when a person already has a mental illness. I look at child murderer Lori Vallow Daybell for confirmation on that notion. Lori Vallow Daybell was recently convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering two of her three children and her husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Like Franke, Lori Vallow Daybell is LDS, and had some really whacked out conspiracy theories about the “end times”. Her ideas were shaped, in part, by books written by her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, who wrote about the end times, and perhaps by significant mental health issues.

My post title singles out YouTube for this “monetizing kids” phenomenon, but I really should include reality TV as well. For years, we’ve watched people like Jon and Kate Gosselin, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and Barry and Kim Plath put their large families on TV for fun and profit. All three of these families are very large, and two of them profess to be deeply religious. Of the three families who made it big on TLC, only Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar remain “happily” married, although they certainly have some serious problems going on now. Two of their daughters have written books against the IBLP belief system they were raised in, and we all know where Josh Duggar is right now. Barry and Kim Plath announced that they were divorcing last year, and Jon and Kate Gosselin famously split up years ago.

Life is expensive, especially in the United States. It’s hard for people to make ends meet in the traditional way. Just now, for instance, I’m reading a book about a woman who graduated from Juilliard and found herself unemployable. She turned to escort work to pay her bills, also dabbling in phone sex. Her book is interesting, so far. At times it’s even funny. I’m sure there were times when she didn’t laugh, she’d have to cry. Personally, I find her decision to turn to being an escort kind of sad. I will probably be finished with the book very soon and will elaborate more when I review it. I mainly find it sad, though, because she felt the need to resort to that work to get out of debt. I didn’t get the sense that she, at least initially, really wanted to be a sex worker because it was something she enjoyed doing. She simply wanted to keep the bill collectors at bay. But at least in doing that work, she was only exploiting herself– an independently functioning adult who can consent and realize the risks. Kids on YouTube videos are often not being given a choice in whether or not they want to perform on camera.

I have no doubt that having a lot of kids– especially when your image conscious religious beliefs encourage it– is challenging on many levels. First, there’s the prospect of having that many children and raising them properly. Then there’s the prospect of being able to financially support that many children. I think in the Duggars’ case, having more children was actually a source of income. They got paid whenever anyone got pregnant and gave birth on camera! And then there’s the prospect of being arrested for doing something “wrong”.

I don’t know how today’s parents manage, to be honest. I think of my own upbringing and realize that my parents probably would have been reported to CPS a bunch of times in today’s world. We expect children to be supervised 24/7 until they’re pretty mature, but we also expect parents to support their children. Child care costs a bundle– sometimes more than a job pays. So, if you have an attractive family, and some kind of compelling “hook”, why not go on YouTube or reality TV to make some money? I’m sure Ruby Franke is now discovering why that idea may not have been a good one… Her own videos are providing a lot of evidence against her.

Yesterday, I was watching a video about Ruby Franke and someone mentioned that her case reminded them of the Turpin Family in California. I’m not sure Ruby’s case is quite that severe, at this point. She doesn’t have as many kids, and from what I understand, they weren’t living in complete filth, with no access to the outside world whatsoever. Ruby Franke’s children were seen on video, at least, and her eldest child, 20 year old Shari, is in college. She had enough freedom to be able to repeatedly call CPS on her mother, although they did nothing about her reports until just now. The Turpin kids didn’t have that much freedom, even though some of them were well into adulthood when they were finally liberated. There are some similarities, though.

Discussion about Ruby Franke and her family…

I’m sure someone will write a book about Ruby Franke and her family. And I’m sure I’ll probably read it, if I’m capable. Cases like hers are difficult, as in the United States, many people have this idea that parents should have a lot of freedom in how they raise their children. On the other hand, how child abuse cases are handled has a lot to do with the jurisdiction and local politics. Also, a lot depends on how well funded and staffed protection agencies are. In some areas, the standard for what is considered child abuse is set very high. All I know is that, at this point, it sounds like people tried to speak up about Ruby Franke, and no one took the alarms seriously… until her son was found malnourished and wearing duct tape. Malnourishment doesn’t just happen overnight, so it looks like the alleged abuse has been going on for some time now.

Anyway, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for what happens in Ruby Franke’s case. Maybe I’ll write more about it, although one of the main reasons I’m just addressing it today is because so many people are already covering Ruby Franke. I was actually trying to avoid finding out about it, but YouTube is loaded with people talking about Ruby Franke, such that I keep seeing her face everywhere. So, I guess that’s a sign I should write about Ruby, too…

Well, I have to do the dreaded vacuum chore today, practice guitar, and walk Noyzi, so I guess I’ll end today’s post. I hope you have a good day… and that your weather is as perfect as Germany’s is right now. <3

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controversies, healthcare, law, Police

Repost: Hey, all you druggie pregnant folks! We’re warning you!

Since I don’t really feel like typing any significant fresh content today, I’m going to repost this blog entry from the original Blogspot OH. This post appeared April 19, 2015. It’s been retitled and edited somewhat, because there was dated and irrelevant content in the original post.

Last night, I shared this photo, which randomly popped up on my Facebook feed.  A woman I knew in school had posted it with the comment “You’ve been warned.  No excuses.” I knew the photo would generate discussion, and it did. Most of my friends were horrified by the photo, although “Papa Smurf” was a notable and predictable outlier. [Papa Smurf is a former friend now… he was a mansplaining pain in my ass one too many times, and I finally advised him to fuck off. I call him Papa Smurf because he was very sanctimonious and enjoyed trying to act like everybody’s daddy.]

I understand the idea behind this sign and I comprehend why a lot of people are behind its sentiment.  However, while I get why people agree with it, I think it’s counterproductive to threaten patients before they’ve even been seen.  All a sign like this does is tell the pregnant mom who might be using drugs that the doctor would prefer them to go somewhere else for their prenatal care.  Indeed, that could be why the sign was posted.  OB-GYNs typically pay a lot in malpractice insurance, and a pregnant person with drug issues could potentially have a riskier pregnancy.  Of course, a drug abusing mom who is really bad off probably wouldn’t bother with prenatal care anyway. 

Those who use drugs recreationally might see a doctor, but if the doctor flat out tells them they will call the law on them, they will very likely avoid medical care.  That may be fine and dandy for the doctor who doesn’t have to deal with them, but what about the unborn child?  The sign seems to be advocating for the welfare of the unborn baby, but if the doctor scares off the mother, what good does that do?  And doesn’t that sort of conflict with what doctors are supposed to be doing, which is providing healthcare to people who need it?

I happen to be pro-choice, but I couldn’t help but notice.  As long as abortion is legal in the United States [remember, this was written in 2015], it seems kind of ridiculous to take this sort of attitude, anyway.  I mean, the mother to be can terminate her pregnancy if she chooses.  Using illegal drugs is against the law, anyway.  Why turn it into a crime against the unborn?  Why does the fact that the mom to be is pregnant even come into it?  She’s breaking the law, so deal with her. 

At this point, we don’t force people to see their doctors.  People have a hard enough time accessing appropriate medical care for reasons other than being threatened and alienated.  This attitude of needing to police private citizens is creepy to me [I really had no idea what was coming, eight years ago, did I?], and in the long run, I don’t think it makes things better for anybody.  Of course a pregnant woman shouldn’t be using drugs, and something should be done if she comes up positive on a drug screen.  I think the attitude toward her should be more supportive and helpful, not threatening.    

Besides…  a woman whose newborn baby comes up positive on a drug screen at the hospital is going to be referred to CPS anyway.  All that sign does is encourage the mother to avoid seeing doctors and give birth outside of a medical setting.

Here’s another thought.  For most medical procedures, physicians must get informed consent before they go ahead with it.  I suppose a sign like this informs patients that the doctor(s) at this practice will do random drug screens, and gives them the option of going elsewhere for their prenatal care.  But what about health care professionals that do screenings without the patient’s knowledge or consent?  Isn’t that a violation of their rights?

I know there have been cases in which mothers have been arrested for having positive drug screens and have gone to court.  In South Carolina, there was a big case involving pregnant women, Ferguson v. City of Charleston, who were tested for drugs without their knowledge or consent.  It went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the search in question was unreasonable, especially since the searches had the potential to land someone in jail.

In any case, while I certainly wouldn’t condone a pregnant woman using drugs, and I agree something should be done to help or dissuade drug abuse in pregnant women, I don’t think taking an adversarial, threatening attitude is in the best interest of patients.  The goal shouldn’t be to sell mom down the river; it should be to get her appropriate help so she can successfully raise her child.  I think it would be hard to do that by threatening patients with getting the police and child protective services involved before they’ve even been seen.  

Edited to add in 2023: I don’t know if the photo is real or fake. I just thought the discussion it generated was interesting. You can see the original post here.

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law, true crime, TV, YouTube

Jared Fogle… a passenger on the Subway straight to Hell…

How’s that for a Monday morning headline? Well, that’s all I can think of, as I reflect on the three part series I watched on iTunes yesterday. As Bill was packing his bag for the rest of his TDY trip to Bavaria, I stumbled across a special called Jared From Subway: Catching a Monster. As regular readers know, I find criminals interesting, which is why I read books and watch television programs about them.

Jared Fogle in 2004.

I remembered Jared Fogle from his many ads for Subway. For fifteen years, Fogle was the spokesman for the chain restaurant after he lost 245 pounds in under a year eating two Subway sandwiches a day. I think I heard them say that Jared ate a turkey sub and a Veggie Delite every single day and walked a lot as the pounds melted from his morbidly obese frame. When Subway got wind of Jared’s big losses, they asked him to promote their company. For fifteen years, Jared– who was once an outcast in school– was the face of Subway. He became very rich and famous, and people “loved” him. Or, they loved his story, anyway.

Jared Fogle in 2006, before the truth came out about him.

Now, I am not actually a fan of Subway. I don’t remember the last time I ate at one. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve eaten at Subway. But Jared Fogle‚Äôs ads were everywhere for fifteen years, so of course I’d heard of him. Still, I was surprised and disgusted when the news came out about his penchant for molesting middle school aged children.

Suddenly, that winning facade fell apart, and Jared’s mansion was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He had married and had two very young children with his second wife, Katie McLaughlin, when his bubble burst. Currently, he is incarcerated at FCI Englewood in Jefferson County, Colorado, where he’s serving a sentence of fifteen years and eight months for traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and distribution and receipt of child pornography. When he is released, he will be compelled to submit to supervision for the rest of his life. He also had to pay $175,000 in fines, forfeit $50,000 and $1.4 million in restitution.

Lots of people emulated Jared Fogle and also lost weight.

If and when Fogle is released, I suspect he will reoffend. Most sex offenders do. Hell, sex offender Josh Duggar is currently in the news because he got caught with a cell phone, causing him to lose some of his “good time”, and get sent to the special housing unit (SHU). Sex offenders, unfortunately, have a tendency to reoffend once they have the opportunity. They have problems with impulse control. In Jared, it’s obvious in many ways, even though he did manage to lose a stunning amount of weight by trading burgers for light sub sandwiches.

In one sitting, I watched Jared From Subway: Catching a Monster on iTunes, and learned the story about how Jared Fogle was caught. He’d made friends with a single mother of two and radio, Rochelle Herman, from Sarasota, Florida. In 2006, Herman had been asked by representatives from the American Heart Association to interview Fogle. At the time, no one knew about his dark impulses. The two became acquaintances. Initially, Fogle had been very personable and flirtatious. Rochelle told him about her children, mentioning that her daughter had wanted to meet him.

Just before their on camera interview began, Jared Fogle leaned over to Rochelle and told her how “hot” he thought middle school aged kids were. Naturally, Rochelle was flabbergasted. She did independent research to try to find out if there were any hints of what a deviant Jared seemed to be after he said those words to her. She found nothing.

For some reason, Rochelle Herman then decided that she–herself– needed to get him on tape saying those words, instead of simply reporting him to the police and letting them handle it. So, even though he made her skin crawl, Rochelle kept talking to Jared Fogle. However, she never told him she was taping him, so what she was doing was actually illegal, and would have been inadmissible in a court of law. She found this out later, when she did get Fogle on tape, talking about his attraction to children.

FBI agents told Rochelle that in order to avoid prosecution, she needed to work with them and say the “right” things so that the evidence could be used to bring Fogle to justice. So, at great personal cost, Rochelle Herman did just that. She recorded Fogle, as he grew more and more comfortable with telling her things. What he said was more and more disturbing, and Rochelle had to act like she was just fine with it all.

The special actually featured some of the recordings, which were pretty stomach turning. I’m sure they didn’t share the worst of what Fogle ever said to Herman. He spoke of doing things like going to supposedly more permissive Thailand to satisfy his desires, but he also wanted to offend at home. At one point, Herman even tried to set up a “sting” of sorts, using the guise of a fake birthday party for her son as a way to draw him out. Fogle even asked about “cute” friends her kids had. Unfortunately, the operation couldn’t happen, because Fogle’s schedule wouldn’t allow him to attend.

Piers Morgan interviews Jared before his fall from grace. I’m amazed by how very “normal” he seems.

Herman said that she’s suffered a lot because of Fogle. She developed health problems that caused her great physical pain, forcing her into a wheelchair. She now requires strong painkillers to deal with her illness. Her daughter became very angry and alienated and, it seemed from the special, that her daughter is now estranged. Rochelle’s son still talks to his mom, but he moved to Taiwan. And Rochelle says she’s “haunted” by the awful conversations she had with Fogle, and the strain of trying to act like she was okay with what he said and did.

Aside from Jared Fogle, there was another player in this drama. Fogle started a foundation for promoting healthy eating. He hired a man named Russell Taylor to run the organization. Taylor, and his wife, Angela, were raising Angela’s daughters from a previous relationship, Christian and Hannah. It turned out that couple was just as slimy as Jared was, as Russell had set up secret cameras all through their home, spying on Angela’s daughters and their friends. Taylor was also sending material depicting bestiality. The couple were producing illegal materials which they were sending to Fogle. Russell Taylor and his now ex wife, Angela, are in prison, too.

I’ve really just scratched the surface of this story, which I know will be too triggering and “gross” for many people to stomach. I thought the series was very well done and compelling, but I also suspect that a lot of people will find it very distasteful viewing on many levels. I’m just glad that Rochelle Herman had the courage to speak up about Jared Fogle. In fact, as of 2010, she and Fogle had lost touch, and she grew impatient with law enforcement. She went to the local police department and threatened to air the story on her radio show if something wasn’t done about him. It was another five years before Fogle was finally busted.

Aside from his time behind bars– albeit in a low security facility– and all of the money he had to pay, Jared Fogle’s second wife, Katie, divorced him. He paid her about $7 million in their divorce settlement.

A few years ago, someone named Steven beat the crap out of Jared in prison.

As revolting as I find Jared Fogle now, there’s a part of me that feels a little sad for him. Here was a guy who had been very fat from his childhood days. I don’t know why he got so fat, but my guess is that he might have also been abused as a child. He grew up a social outcast, even though he seemingly came from a good family. Something amazing happened to him, when he managed to lose weight by walking and eating Subway sandwiches. Suddenly, he was doing something good– and had become a role model to millions of people, some of whom emulated him and also lost weight. He had money, fame, and power. But because he had these dark impulses and deviant urges, he lost it all. Now, he’s completely disgraced, and his life is mostly ruined.

Jared’s last commercial for Subway… the real ending is not this happy at all.

This doesn’t mean I don’t think Jared Fogle is exactly where he belongs. Clearly, the man should be in prison. He certainly can’t be trusted around children. But I do wonder what in the world happened to him when he was a child. Maybe things could have been different for him. As repulsive as Jared Fogle’s crimes are, I hate to see wasted potential in anyone. I think his story is absolutely awful, but it’s also so tragic on many levels, not just for him, but for everyone who believed in him. And, of course, I also feel sad for all of his victims, and his own two children, who have to live with the stigma associated with Jared Fogle.

On another note… there are some absolutely terrible memes about Jared Fogle. People can be so sick and twisted!

You can read more about the series I watched here.

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movies, religion, true crime

Jennifer Grey as Gwen Shamblin Lara? Genius!

Now that I’ve gotten my latest editorial out of my system, it’s time for another review of a Lifetime movie. I have written a few reviews of Lifetime movies. If you’re a regular reader, you might already know that, in general, I’m not really a fan of the way Lifetime TV tells stories via its movies. I find that they’re usually heavily watered down and given inappropriate comedic spins, particularly when it comes to true crime. Nevertheless, I decided to watch the Lifetime Movie adaptation of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s life after seeing Jen review it on YouTube’s Fundie Fridays. Below is her excellent review…

I didn’t even know about this until I saw Jen’s video…

Gwen Shamblin Lara, for those who don’t know, is famous for starting her own church after writing a very successful Christian weight loss book in the 1990s. She later got very rich, let success go to her head, and died before her natural time in May 2021, when Gwen’s second husband, Joe Lara, crashed the plane he was piloting when Gwen and her entourage in it. Gwen’s church was notable, as it focused a lot on image and weight loss. It was also notable for its emphasis on the so-called importance of physically disciplining children. I wrote about Gwen Shamblin Lara’s championing of using glue sticks in corporal punishment sessions. You can read that post here.

The Lifetime TV movie about Gwen Shamblin Lara is called Starving for Salvation. It stars Jennifer Grey as Gwen. Yes, Jennifer Grey, as in the very same one who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in Dirty Dancing, back in 1987. She is unrecognizable in this movie about a weight loss guru. Mad props to the hair and makeup crew, as well as the wardrobe professionals, for making Grey into such an incredibly realistic replica of the real person. But not only did Jennifer Grey look the part, she also sounded like she was born and raised in Tennessee, which is where Gwen was from. I really thought she did a great job in this movie, especially given that it’s a Lifetime production.

The story itself, as presented by Lifetime, is typically pretty watered down. Remember, it’s a cable TV channel putting this together, and they have time constraints, viewers, and advertisers to appease, so they can’t be too graphic about what they present to the masses. I suspect the real story behind the Remnant Fellowship Church is a lot weirder and disturbing than what is presented in Lifetime’s film, which is typically campy.

Remember, Josef Smith, a young boy, died because his parents followed Gwen’s discipline advice. Josef and Sonya Smith, the boy’s parents, are now sitting in prison in Georgia, having both been sentenced to life plus thirty years on February 12, 2007, which would have been the younger Josef’s 12th birthday. In the movie, this notorious and horrifying incident is a bit glossed over, because there’s a lot of ground to cover in the time allotted for the movie. I found Jennifer Grey’s performance entertaining enough that I wonder if this movie shouldn’t have been a two part miniseries. I bet people would have watched it.

Gwen Shamblin Lara apparently suffered from eating disorders. I will not say that she definitely did, since I’m not a doctor, but I do think the signs and symptoms were all there. I saw clips of her preaching, wearing dresses that were obviously way too big for her. According to the Lifetime treatment of Gwen’s story, Gwen went from being a sweet, demure Christian lady who taught college to a megalomaniacal religious wingnut. She also tried to force her employees to join her church. It reminds me a little of Dave Ramsey’s organization, that is very intrusive into people’s personal lives.

I know there is a documentary/other movie in the works about Gwen Shamblin Lara. I will try to watch it if I can, but what I’d really like to see is a very well researched book about her… one that doesn’t water down or sugar coat anything.

Anyway, as Lifetime movies go, Starving for Salvation is pretty decent. I even watched it on my computer, rather than Apple TV (which is giving me errors on new content). I couldn’t wait for the issue to be fixed before I saw the movie. People are obviously looking for comments about Grey’s turn as the weight loss “prophetess” (as they called her in the movie).

I also highly recommend watching Fundie Fridays’ review of this movie, which goes into a lot more detail than mine does. This is obviously a very campy treatment of the story… and some people might find it disrespectful. I did see one person who was involved in the church commenting on Jen’s review. The person said that movies like this cheapen the terrible experiences Gwen’s victims had. That may be true… but let’s face it, Gwen was a pretty bizarre character, and movies about such people are often entertaining as hell.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a book that gives this story a more serious treatment. In the meantime, I would recommend this movie, especially if you want to be entertained. Just don’t think too hard about what the victims endured.

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Bill, divorce, healthcare, love, marriage, narcissists, relationships

“Isn’t she lovely?”

The featured photo is me at age 12, on my beloved pony, Rusty… At that time in my life, I figured I might be a mom someday. It wasn’t in the cards for me… Maybe that’s okay. Warning in advance that this is a very personal post.

Livingston Taylor’s moving cover version of Stevie Wonder’s classic song about his daughter, Aisha.

I continue to learn more about Bill’s younger daughter as every week passes. Lately, we’ve been exchanging emails. This morning, I received one that gave me pause. In it, she apologized to me for being “insensitive” about my “infertility”. I had recently written in an email that I had always wanted to have children, but was never able to have them. I didn’t elaborate as to why. I figured she already knew.

But this morning, I found an email from her, and she expressed kindness over my “infertility”. I guess she assumed I never had children because I literally couldn’t get pregnant. The truth is, I don’t actually know if I was infertile. I am almost surely infertile by now. In any case, I have never been pregnant.

There I was, sitting in bed this morning, trying to decide if it was appropriate for me to tell my husband’s daughter the reason I don’t have kids of my own. I asked Bill, and we decided that I should tell her that Bill had a vasectomy when he was still married to Ex. He later had it reversed, but it was eleven years after younger daughter’s birth. Though the reversal surgery was technically successful, I never managed to conceive.

Then Bill went to Iraq, and we had a bunch of Army moves that made trying to conceive with medical help logistically difficult and financially impossible. By the time we had recovered financially from Bill’s first marriage and paid off most of my student loans, I was getting pretty old. We ultimately decided that not having children was okay.

I carefully wrote this explanation for younger daughter. Bill is going to follow up with more of the story. I don’t want her to think he had the vasectomy because of her.

My father also had a vasectomy after I was born. My parents always made it seem like he did that because I was such a “difficult” child. Of course, now I realize that decision had nothing to do with me, personally. My mom hadn’t expected to get pregnant again after my sister was born. Eight years later, there I was… and I was a big, colicky baby, with big lungs. Mom didn’t want another child. Quite frankly, she hadn’t really wanted to have me. So, to keep the peace, my dad got snipped. I don’t think he had wanted to have a vasectomy, but my mom insisted.

In Bill’s case, he decided to have a vasectomy mainly because of financial reasons. Ex had her son from her first marriage, plus the two daughters they’d had together. Bill was supporting the whole family on his income, which, at the time, wasn’t much. He was an Army captain at the time. Ex got pregnant with ease, but she wasn’t a very attentive mother.

One time, when older daughter was a toddler, Bill came home from work to find that she hadn’t been fed. Ex was in bed, depressed, and older daughter had pulled a block of cheese out of the refrigerator. It had a knife plunged into it. I’m not sure where ex stepson was at the time, but it was clear that Ex wasn’t taking good care of the children.

Then, because his Army career also wasn’t going that well, Bill temporarily got off active duty. The family moved from Washington State to Arkansas, and Ex’s sister and young daughter moved in with them. Bill was supporting his family, plus Ex’s sister and daughter, on the piddly amount of money he made working at factories in Arkansas and from National Guard duty. It would have been disastrous and irresponsible for them to have another baby.

Bill was also concerned about the bizarre way Ex behaved when she was giving birth to younger daughter. He said she had kind of disassociated from the pain, crying that she would “be still”, as if she was hallucinating about being abused. At one point, she even refused to push. Bill had to tell the nurse that Ex was a victim of abuse and was apparently having some kind of traumatic flashback. The nurse realized what was happening and managed to get Ex to snap out of her spell and give birth to younger daughter. The scene was disturbing enough that Bill didn’t want to see it happen again.

Bill did propose to Ex that she get her tubes tied, since she clearly had issues with being pregnant and giving birth. Ex, of course, shot down that idea and shamed Bill for even suggesting it. So he had the procedure done, which in the long run, was probably a blessing. Ex clearly wasn’t done having kids, and she would have gotten pregnant again with Bill if he hadn’t gotten snipped. She had two more babies with #3. I don’t know what their births were like, but according to younger daughter, Ex is still neglectful and abusive.

Of course, a few years after Bill made that life altering decision, he met virginal me. I appreciated that he was willing to have the reversal surgery. The Army also offered reproductive and fertility treatments, but we needed to be living in an area where they offered the therapies. We lived in the Washington, DC area when Bill had the vasectomy reversal, so that worked out for us. After that, we frequently moved (five times in seven years), and sometimes to places where fertility treatments provided by the Army weren’t always readily available. We weren’t willing to go more into debt to try treatments with a civilian provider.

I had always wanted and expected to have children, but Bill was my first and only sexual partner. So I don’t have children… and the whole mess surrounding the vasectomy is another major reason why I’ve been so angry with Ex all these years.

It wasn’t enough that Bill left their marriage infertile. She also severely alienated the children they did have together. It’s only because younger daughter is a kind, loving, and thoughtful person, like Bill is, that he’s able to know his grandchildren. Ex wanted to deny him that, too. She told them many lies about Bill and me. Making matters worse is the pervasive attitude among people that fathers are expendable and second wives and stepmothers are always homewrecking whores.

I wrote to younger daughter that I’m “okay” with not having children. I suppose that’s true, at this point. I certainly wouldn’t want to have a baby now, at this time in my life. But I do feel like that decision to be mother was taken from me. Yes, I know there are people who will try to point out to me that I could have married (or just had sex with) someone else… or adopted… or gone through fertility treatments. Those kinds of comments are very belittling and discounting. I specifically wanted to have a baby with Bill. It’s taken a long time to come to terms with the fact that I can’t. Now I realize that it’s probably better that way. Fortunately, Bill is enough. I love him very much and wouldn’t choose another partner, regardless of everything that has happened.

I hope that my email to younger daughter isn’t too much of a bombshell. I honestly thought she knew about Bill’s vasectomy. He will write back to her and explain it more, since he was the one who made the choice. I just want her to remember that infertility isn’t always due to the woman. For all I know, I was infertile, too. We never had the chance to find out for sure.

Yesterday, younger daughter and Bill exchanged Marco Polo videos. Bill is finding that he has to dispel some impressions that she has, as well as offer her some basic history lessons. I can’t help but think that if they had been able to have a relationship for all of these years, they would both be so much better informed. But hopefully, they can make up for lost time.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Bill really should have fought harder for his daughters. But dealing with a malignant narcissist is very difficult for the unaware and ill equipped. Unfortunately, when he and Ex split, Bill wasn’t in a good position to fight harder for access to his kids. So now, all he can do, is damage repair and restoration. Still, I am relieved that just like the song, younger daughter is truly lovely. She really is Bill’s daughter, in spite of everything. I’m finally starting to love her. Thank God for that.

Thank God for Stevie Wonder, too.

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