I truly believe that if you were to break me down into a list of adjectives, I could explain to you exactly who made me the way that I am. It's so clear to me…I often wonder if everyone else feels the same way. I sort of expect that they don't, or at least that it isn't quite so obvious to them.

It would be easy to hate myself because my mother, the first person I ever knew and the one who shaped me for much of my life, ingrained a certain self-doubt and guilt in me. My insecurities, my demons…I know I acquired them during my childhood. It's indescribably painful to grow up with a mother who can hardly look at you.

She didn't explain it all to me until I asked her. I remember that I was about four and my mother had just come into the house, smelling of smoke and alcohol. I knew, even at that young age, what a bar was. I recognized that my mother was drunk.

I went into her room and asked her why she always left me and what I did wrong. She stared at me for a full five minutes, her eyes red, bloodshot, and unfocused. Finally she said, "An evil man hurt me and gave you to me so I would never forget how much I wanted to die that night."

I looked back at her, tears forming in my eyes. "I…I make you want to die?" I asked shakily. I felt like someone was stabbing my heart and twisting.

She regarded me for a few seconds before she said in a voice that gave me chills, "Yes." She fell onto her back on her bed, pulling a bottle of vodka out of a cabinet. "Now get out."

That's when I started to hate myself. It wasn't until later that I started to hate her too…but it was never as severe a hatred as that which I reserved for myself. I loved her, always, but I never loved myself.

I became withdrawn. Depressed. Promiscuous.

Sex was a distraction. It was an excuse to get out of the house, it was a way to have a connection, however shallow, with someone. It was a chance to replace the pain with pleasure, if only for a night.

I wasn't smart about it. I would sleep with guys I didn't know, and we weren't even always safe. One time I was late and I was absolutely terrified that I was pregnant.

When people hear the words 'pregnancy scare', they assume you didn't want to have kids because you were too young. That was not my reasoning, and my fear had nothing to do with the knowledge that children force you to change your lifestyle. I wasn't concerned that my party days were over, that my freedom was about to be taken from me.

I didn't trust myself to be different from my mother.

I want kids…God, do I want kids. I always have. But at that point in my life, I had never seen a good mother. I had no idea what mothers were supposed to do and I was so scared that I would be just like her. What if I hated my child? What if he or she hated me? What if I would just be perpetuating a bloodline that should not be allowed to continue, what if I was helping to set a cycle of abuse and neglect into motion?

I couldn't bear the thought.

Most of the words that describe my life pre-SVU are dark and ominous, but I know that's changed. I have been surrounded by amazing people since I joined the squad, and they turned my life around. I would have been a cop without ever knowing any of them, but I would still be as afraid and unsure as I was when I was growing up. It had to change, and it did, with their help.

Now fear is not stopping me from having kids. I guess timing is the major issue right now, but I'm still holding on to the hope that I will give Elliot more kids (like he needs them, right?) and be there for them, loving them unconditionally.

Melinda and, oddly enough, Kathy, have shown me so much about being mothers. They give me hope. Melinda is so amazing and cares so deeply for her family, but she still finds it in her to love me and help me. I know Kathy isn't a perfect mother…not that anyone is…but she still makes me optimistic. She proved to me that no one is perfect and if I make mistakes with my kids, it's not the end of the world. All that matters is that you try and be the kind of parent you wish you'd had.

I guess hopeful is the way I'd describe myself now. I have so many people who care about me…more than I ever dared to imagine. Casey is the best friend I could ask for. I never had a lot of friends growing up, especially not girls. I mostly had acquaintances with benefits…I didn't know what I was missing. Casey doesn't judge me for my past, and she always listens to me when I have to vent or cry or laugh.

Cragen has cared for me and looked out for me like a father, and John, Fin, and Dean are brothers. Plus now I have my real brother. My life has never been so promising.

And then there's Elliot. God, I can't even begin to describe all the aspects of my being that are his doing.

He doesn't hold my past against me either. It would be understandable for him to throw the fact that I've slept with more guys than I can name in my face, but he doesn't. He's told me it saddens him, but there's no anger. He accepts me, and I welcome his disappointment that I experienced so many men before him. He's the first person to care. None of them ever did. They all knew I wasn't a one guy person, but they didn't give a damn because if all you want is sex, why the hell would anything about the other person matter? Elliot cares because he loves me. Me. It hurts him that I hurt so much, enough to seek comfort in meaningless flings, and he wants to take all the hurt away. And he is.

The past isn't erased; it never is. I still feel guilty about the circumstances of my conception, and I anticipate that I always will. I still doubt myself. There are days that the job becomes too much and I just want to give up and all the old descriptors start flashing in my head.

But then John makes some random, hilarious comment and Fin jokingly puts him down…or Melinda and I have a talk, or Cragen says something that makes it so clear that he cares about me, or Casey and I have dinner and hang out for hours…or Elliot and I make love under the stars. I'm safe again.

A/N: The end! I hope you guys liked it! As always, I'd appreciate your feedback. Thanks for reading!