For the Love of a Child
"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." ~Elizabeth Stone
This is the story of how I met my abuser and how I found the strength to leave.
I was married once before. My husband had two boys from a previous marriage and had custody every other week. In the beginning I was unsure whether I wanted a child or not. I was busy with working long hours and traveling. Also, the thought of being responsible for the life of one tiny human being was terribly frightening. In the meantime, I enjoyed being a part of my stepsons' lives, taking them to school, helping with homework, caring for then when sick, and cleaning up after them. It seemed to be enough for a while. Then 9/11 happened. While I did not know anyone killed or injured in the attacks, like many Americans, I was profoundly affected by the horror of these atrocities. The tragedy of people losing their lives on those planes, and at the World Trade Center and Pentagon began to consume my mind. I began to think more about my own mortality. While I had previously dealt with my mortality in my early 20s, I was again coming to grips with the fact our lives are short. More importantly, at 31, I was running out of time, if I wanted to leave something of myself behind. Yes, I could write a bestselling novel, paint a masterpiece, find the cure for cancer or right some social injustice. But these events seemed highly unlikely. I was a natural nurturer, caregiver, and teacher. Slowly the idea of bringing a child into the world and teaching them all the wonders of life took hold of me. Maybe some beauty and good could come out of this horrible event. At first, my husband wasn't too keen on the idea. After all, he had two boys who were 10 and 11 at this point. He considered his diaper changing days over. After a few months, he reluctantly came around to the idea out of consideration for me.
My first husband and I tried to get pregnant for two years. For two years, I tracked my ovulation cycle, had sex with one purpose in mind, and prayed I would not see any blood when I went to the bathroom. My heart sunk every time I did. I eventually had laparoscopy surgery and was told by my doctor I would never conceive. In vitro would likely not work either. I was disappointed, but now I had an answer and could move forward. I started researching international adoption and reading all there was to know about adopting a child from China or Russia. Unfortunately, my husband completely shut down at this point, and our marriage died.
Needless to say I was not using any birth control when I met Mike, who would eventually be my second husband. Mike and I met in the Czech Republic. He was from England and I was from the U.S. We were both engineers working for the same company and were sent to the Czech Republic to start up a new manufacturing facility. Our stay in the Czech Republic was filled with working long hours, drinking lots of beer, sightseeing, and clubbing. Mike and I worked together, went out many times in a group, and went hiking a couple of times. I never thought of us as "dating." Although, eventually we had what I would call a "fling". The possibility of pregnancy never entered my mind. Unfortunately, six weeks later after realizing I had missed my period, the possibility of pregnancy slammed into my mind like a freight train. Either my female organs had finally given up altogether or by some freak occurrence, I was pregnant. Finding a pregnancy test in the Czech Republic was an adventure in itself. But Mike finally found one, brought it back to his apartment, and I took it. Imagine my surprise when it immediately turned positive. Never mind the two minutes I previously waited for the elusive plus sign every month for two years. It was immediate. A big, purple, plus positive. F*ck! Are freaking kidding me, God???? I knew he had to be laughing his ass off.
So at the age of 34, I found myself single and pregnant with some British guy's baby. I wasn't some silly teenager or college kid. I was a 30 something, professional with a career, a house, goals, and a 401K. But was also a woman who still wanted a child. My circumstances were certainly not how I envisioned bringing a baby into the world. But these were the circumstances life had handed me. I had to suck it up and deal with it. I was going to be a mom.
I came back to the States with the full intention of having my baby with or without Mike. I had no idea if he wanted to be involved in my child's life or not. He had two older boys back in England. However, I was certain I wanted my baby to at least have a shot of having a dad if possible. Mike and I continued to talk, and he was able to take a leave of absence and come to the States a few weeks before our son was born. He was present through my labor and held my hand in the operating room during my emergency C-section. He held our son first and stayed with me when they took Ethan away as the doctors stitched me up.
Over the next five weeks, Mike changed diapers, kept the house clean, prepared meals, and rocked Ethan to sleep. We had some ups and downs, but we managed to work as a team taking care of our son. Eventually, Mike returned to England. I spent the next five months as a single mom. Ethan and I feel into a routine and developed a very close bond. I was still nursing when I returned to work. I was extremely fortunate Ethan's daycare was a block from my office. For lunch, I would walk to Ethan's daycare, nurse him, and give him extra kisses and cuddles. Mike and I kept in contact, but whether he would return or when was completely up in the air. Finally, when Ethan was 6 months old, Mike quit his job in England and came to the US to live with us. He did not have a job or a visa. For Mike to stay in the US and for my son to have a dad, Mike and I were married six weeks later in front of our parents and my brother on a beach in Florida.
Six years ago, I married Mike so my son would have a chance of knowing his dad. I had no idea at the time that our relationship would turn abusive. In the beginning, there was no violence. Mike seemed to be a good father to Ethan. However, Mike was continuously cold and controlling toward me. I wrote this behavior off, because I was extremely grateful for Mike moving to the States to live with us. But as the controlling behavior and coldness turned to yelling, and eventually, pushing and shoving, I became concerned how the fighting was affecting our son. I was acutely aware of the negative effects on a young child from my own parents' yelling and screaming. I knew the feeling of walking on egg shells as soon as I entered our house. I knew the feeling of being caught in the middle of my parents arguing. I knew the feeling of guilt because like Mike and I, my parents had married because of me. My parents' relationship was not violent, but their continuous arguing was definitely not healthy. They stayed together for 18 years, because they thought it was best for my brother and I. However, my home situation left me as adult not knowing how a loving relationship was supposed to work.
Before my husband assaulted me that last night, I was beginning to face the reality that the situation was not healthy for our son or anyone else. I began to plan. I checked out the local domestic violence agency's website and wrote down their number. I put together a budget to see whether I could make it alone. I researched divorce law and child support in our state. And I reviewed family law attorneys in the area. In my heart, I still had some hope that the situation would improve, if I only Mike and I could talk and both be committed to building a better relationship. I suspect I knew in my mind the situation was beyond hope and could not be repaired. Mike was not going to change. I could not make him love me the way I wanted him to love me. He would not miraculously come home one day, get down on his knees, ask for forgiveness and profess his profound love. He would not suddenly start treating me with respect, care, and compassion. That was never going to happen, because that's not who he is. But that is what I needed and everyone woman needs in a relationship - respect, care, and compassion.
So the night that Mike came after me, pushed me to the floor, and proceeded to slam my head into the floor in front of our son; I knew instantly these actions crossed the line. The little hope I still possessed in my heart was shattered. I knew then that this dark, twisted marriage needed to end. Not for me or Mike, but for Ethan. For his innocence, his well-being, his self-esteem, and his soul. For Ethan's sake, I called the police and had Mike arrested. For Ethan's sake, I obtained a restraining order. For Ethan's sake, I consulted with an attorney.
And for Ethan's sake I continue to shower him with kisses and give him tons of hugs. For Ethan's sake, I affirm his worth and nurture his love of learning. For Ethan's sake, I tell him I love him every single day. For Ethan's sake, I wrap him in a warm cocoon of affection and love. And while his dad has a limited role in his life now, Ethan knows he is respected, supported, and loved beyond measure by me, his mom. :o)