Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

An Uncelebrated Anniversary May 24, 2013

Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of The Big Incident.

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Picture links to a blog with another woman’s domestic violence story

It brought back a lot of feelings; a lot of fears. But it also brought the closing of the most difficult year of my life.

My therapist says things tend to get better after the first year. She says that the first time experiencing Christmas, and Thanksgiving and the kids’ birthdays, and our wedding Anniversary, and the Hallmark holidays without him, would be the hardest. But that when it gets hard during those important events next time I can remember that I’ve gotten through it once before, and I’ll know I can do it again.

I CAN do it, but it’s still hard. I miss the good parts of him. I miss his friendship. I miss the comfort of saying “husband” even though I was covering up the pain of what my relationship was really like when no one was watching. I’m still grieving him. I may grieve awhile.

Sigh.

For those who have never been in an abusive relationship, the thought of longing for someone who has caused pain and hardship is unfathomable. If you’d have read the police report, or seen what I’ve been through, or know how hard things are for me now, without also understanding domestic violence, you’d probably think, “Miss him? What is she, crazy? She must have enjoyed the abuse.” It’s difficult to explain, but I had so much faith and pride and commitment wrapped up into that relationship making it; I had so many childhood dreams tied to being with him…it seemed almost impossible to let him go.

And things weren’t all bad. Of course they weren’t. Had they been all bad it wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long as it did. There were periods of calm, of comfort, of deep connection, and quiet evenings, and afternoon hiking trips. There were pancake breakfasts, and road trips, and board games, and our first garden. There was our first car accident, and house, and child. There was the time I cut his hair and we saved it to donate to charity, but I forgot to research it and we found it in a Ziplock bag after we moved.

There were some really great times. We could have a lot of fun together. I considered him my best friend. But then…then my best friend would turn really nasty, and I’d never know when to expect it. He would lash out and blame me, saying things like, “You just can’t ever get too happy. Things get too good for you and you have to go make it negative!” While I’m reeling with confusion, trying to figure out what made him go from smiles to screaming, apologizing profusely for setting him off again, trying to toe the line to keep him calm so it doesn’t get worse, but knowing that whether I fight or stay silent things will get worse, and then hiding within my self, weakening, waiting, praying for my friend to come back again. The one I used to enjoy, not the one who makes me hate knowing him.

It’s complicated.

But I made it through one year. I did it. It’s a bittersweet accomplishment. I miss my friend. But that part of him isn’t, and never will be, all of him. So I’ll always miss him, and I’ll grieve awhile, but if the first year is the hardest…I can do this.

 

Still I Wonder…About Him March 29, 2013

I tried to convince myself not to worry about him months ago. I tried reminding myself of the bad times. I tried focusing on the felony charges, the reason for my restraining order, the pain and embarrassment of the entire situation. I tried telling myself that I was only feeding into his narcissistic desires if I spent my time and energy on him. I tried to reason with myself that with my heavy load I didn’t have strength left to carry the burden of continuing to worry about him. To wonder about him. To wish it were different.

But still I do. I was conditioned to put his needs ahead of my own, and even though I have not seen or spoken to him in ten months it’s terribly difficult for me to let my worries go. I still wonder what he’s thinking about me, about everything, and lately especially about our newborn baby. Does he blame me? Of course he blames me. What is he telling everybody? How has he framed things? I’m sure they all think I’m a monstrous psychotic manipulative bitch. It pains me. I miss his family, but they will never love me again.

I wonder if he still loves me. He never loved me. I know that he never really loved me and I still wonder if he still does simultaneously. QuestionMarksMaybe I am crazy. I wonder if he’s with somebody. What is he telling her? Are they the same things he told me about the mother of his first baby who he never sees? Is he convincing her that really I’m the abuser? That I caused all the hardship? That’s I’m insane? Of course he’s telling her that; he’ll never take responsibility for anything.

So why do I worry about whether or not he’s eating alright? Why do I care if he’s losing weight? Why do I brood over his ability to sleep at night? I spent the majority of my pregnancy an insomniac. I have no money to pay our bills in New England, but still I’ve made EVERY mortgage payment on our Illinois home since he left though he’s probably living in it. I have our three children, our three daughters ages five weeks to five years and I’m getting nothing from him.

So why the hell am I worried about him? Quite obviously he’s being well taken care of. He has more than likely convinced his family members of his innocence. He has probably started training a new woman. He is making calculated decisions regarding his legal proceedings. He doesn’t give a shit about me. Maybe that’s what bothers me? That I’ll always care for him even though he wronged me and it’s so easy for him to let go of me, of all of us.

It’s our second daughter’s fourth birthday tomorrow. Is he thinking of her? He never cared much for our second daughter. Maybe he’s happy to not be here. I have no idea. The not knowing anything is so hard. I think he knows that the not knowing is hard for me. He is probably loving every minute of my misery. I want to stop myself from wondering, from worrying, but some part of me might always be focusing on him. In spite of everything a huge part of me wants him to be alright, wants him to love me, wants him to care about our family. That part of me may be unwilling to allow myself to let go of the fantasy. The fantasy is better than constantly thinking he’s plotting to kill me…though him wishing me dead is probably closer to reality.

Still…I wonder.

 

I Should Feel Fine March 1, 2013

So far I am keeping it together…mostly.

I wouldn’t quite call it baby blues or postpartum depression.

I am just…slightly…less happy today. I also felt this way yesterday…and the night before.

The day before last I made my first true attempt to start back on my coursework for the Directed Study I’m taking this semester. I couldn’t find the time to read more than twenty words of my textbook. I felt like such a failure. I was so overwhelmed.

I’m doing wonderfully with the housework, and with keeping the girls on their daily homeschooling schedule, I’ve stayed caught up with the bills (which I’m paying primarily with my school loans, though we did eventually qualify for some government aid and, though my politics disagree with welfare on the whole, we would be a lot worse off without at the moment).

Things are okay. Quite honestly. I should be happy. There aren’t any dishes in my sink. I only have one load of cloth diapers waiting for me to fold. Nohra was NINE POUNDS at her one week checkup! My milk is so abundant that next week I’m going to start donating it to women who have lower supplies. I should feel fine!

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But I don’t. I’m feeling kind of low.

I’ve tried not to think about my husband…my…I don’t know what else to call him. I mean, he is still my husband, for the time being. Although I haven’t seen or spoken to him since May, and although I filed for divorce in August, and although he’s being charged with a felony for what he did to me, I still call him my husband. He will probably keep that title indefinitely.

I’ve tried to stay in good cheer and not spend too much time considering the things I haven’t been able to accomplish. My midwife tells me to go easy on myself. She says to keep in mind that it has only been a bit over one week since I gave birth and the fact that I’m even keeping up with the girls’ schedule is amazing. She says that most women find caring for three children difficult even when they have a partner’s assistance, so I shouldn’t get upset with myself for not being able to do everything so soon after the birth.

I am upset with myself though. I’m upset for not being able to find the time to accomplish more coursework before the birth. I’m upset that I’m not finding the time and energy to accomplish everything now. I am not upset at my babies; not one of the three. They are everything wonderful to me. I am upset that I cannot spend more time and energy on them exclusively.

Being upset doesn’t help anything really. It motivates me somewhat to do better the next day, but ultimately it just highlights everything I haven’t done. My midwife says to try focusing on the things I have been able to do, and to try to feel good about that. I’m trying, but it isn’t easy to disregard the growing mound of additional obligations.

I know that I will get through this. I know that I will be strong. I just wish the days were ten more hours long.

 

The Home(birth)stretch January 25, 2013

IMAG0277I am still doing daily prep for baby, but I’d say the insanity of nesting hit its peak a week or so ago. I finally got the bookcase disassembled and made a run to our storage unit. I’ve got her crib set up, all besides the mobile. I’ve got her dresser cleaned out, but I’ve yet to fill it with her clothes. I’ve got the cloth diaper supply ready to be washed and sorted. I’ve managed to move all of the baby gear from the cellar to the living room, but I’ve yet to assemble anything.

There are still things that need to be done. Washing all of the covers to her various seats, washing my boppy pillow and her tummy-time mat, washing the stroller and her shopping cart thingy. Maybe I am still nesting…but I’m not feeling as incapable of balancing it all lately. I’ve reached a peace with this pregnancy. Now that I’m due in just over two weeks, it’s all a little bit easier to handle.

Not that the pulled groin muscle, pain in my hips, pressure in my pelvis, and continuous sleep shortage are easy to deal with, I just don’t want to complain about them anymore. Maybe I’m trying to build character. I’ll need it when I’m in labor.

It’s nearly impossible not to think about how the birth will be. I’m trying to keep the thoughts on how I’ll handle the actual labor and delivery, instead of contemplating how it’s going to feel with him not there beside me. There are good reasons why he should not be at the birth, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

This has been so difficult. I’m full-term pregnant and I may be extremely hormonal, but being in my situation would be challenging either way. I cannot help but to look back and think about how much different life was before the conception of this baby.

Nine months ago I couldn’t have ever conceived of there being a time in the future where I’d go over six months without speaking to my husband. Nine months ago I couldn’t have imagined being pregnant, single, still in graduate school, victim to a felony, seeking a divorce. No…those just weren’t the thoughts I was thinking. DSC07109

So baby is coming soon, and the rush of birthing and the anxiety of transition and the newness of change makes me want to reach out for something old and comfortable and reliable, like being his Babydoll. I want to hear him call me by my pet-name again. I want to hug him while he’s shirtless and breathe in the scent of his skin. I want to run my fingers through his hair. I want him to validate me. I want him to possess me.

I do not really. But the familiarity of my marriage is my latest craving. I want to call him. I want to hear his voice. I want to hear him say that he still loves me. I want to know where he is and how he’s doing and whether or not he still thinks I’m pretty. I want to find out if he’s seeing somebody.

But he is not mine any longer, and I should not contact him. I know better than to think that just because he tells me sweet nothings something will change. I’d be a fool to have built up my strength for nine months and then give it all away in one conversation. I must remain strong, and alone.

It does get harder though, knowing that our third daughter will arrive any day now. I wonder if she’ll ever know her father. I wonder if he’ll even care about her at all. I wonder if he thinks this entire situation (court cases, failed marriage, fatherless children, etc) is my fault.

But I should spend my time assembling the swing and washing everything. I should not brood over what he might say were I to call him. I need to continue to build my strength, not slip back and allow myself to be weakened once again by his words, his eyes, his demeanor. This time should be about my daughters, my household, my impending homebirth. It’s just so hard to build a nest when someone significant has been banished from it.

 

The Haunting Continues December 12, 2012

It had been so long since he had haunted my dreams. A week or so of semi-peaceful lack of sleep. But last night he returned with a ferocity, a vow to ruin me, and my well-crafted safety plan does nothing for me while I’m in an REM Cycle.

Sometimes I don’t realize it until waking. Sometimes, like the first of my four nightmares last night, he is back to being my typical husband. In my dream, I go through the motions of “staying in my place” (something he repeatedly instructed me to do throughout our eight year relationship). I ride the roller-coaster of our marriage through my dream and everything feels strangely familiar. I even feel the knot in the pit of my stomach and the frog in my throat; that constant conflicting feeling of wanting to avoid confrontation while simultaneously aching to defend myself.

In other nightmares, The Big Incident occurs in the same way that it did, or varied ways. The result is my pain, my fear, and my lack of control. He always wins.

If I were to believe Freud, then every one of my dreams is some form of wish-fulfillment. So in some sick subconscious way do I wish that my husband was still here, controlling my life, haunting me day and night? I suppose there was comfort in the familiarity of our relationship. There is something addictive about abuse.

But despite my loneliness, my constant state of uneasiness, my inability to control his presence in my dreams, I do not want to return to the daily terror of being his lady. How is it that after nearly seven months apart, a restraining order and other legal proceedings taking place, and with over 1000 miles between us, he still possesses me?

I want to feel free; if only in my dreams.

 

The Good Things November 21, 2012

I’ve only been a single mother since late May 2012, but nearly every mother who has gone through a similar situation shares my sentiments:

We were single parenting long before we were actually single.

There are some things that have actually changed though. I may have had little time to myself before leaving him, but at least the children didn’t have to come with me to pap smear appointments. I no longer hold out the hope (though it usually wound up in disappointment and added resentment) that someone will help carry the load. I no longer have anyone to vent to about the children’s behavior on a rough day or the hardships of pregnancy. There is no soft skin to bury my face into, no strong arms to wrap around my waist and hold me tightly until I’m feeling okay.

There isn’t any abuse, but there aren’t any of the good things he brought to our household either. I miss the good things tremendously.

I miss the way he made me laugh. I miss our talks about the country, society, history. I miss him teaching me things. I miss his cooking. I miss his hair. I miss the smell of his skin, and the feel of his large hands. I miss the feeling of being protected from everybody; he was the only one who could truly hurt me. I miss the dream of loving each other eternally. I miss knowing that I had somebody.

I miss saying, “my husband,” in conversations. Now I don’t know what to call him. We are still married, but…

I miss his ears. He always thought they were too big, but his head was big and his ears fit it perfectly. I miss the way that he said my name. I miss watching him play video games that were too complicating for me to see how they could possibly be entertaining.

There were so many good things.

Tomorrow marks six months since The Big Incident, but somehow I’m supposed to smile and host a celebration.

Before The Big Incident, there was energy surrounding his presence. Whether he was raising hell or being peaceful, he was there. Whether he was gainfully employed or gleefully indulging in one of his vices, he was there. Whether he was contributing to my attachment parenting efforts or being a dictator, he was there. Now he is gone, and though there are countless ways things have gotten better, the reality of being alone, truly alone, makes getting things done just a bit harder than ever.

 

Maybe I’ll Cry Myself to Sleep November 12, 2012

It seems as though my get up and go has gotten tangled up in the struggle; my overwhelming list of things I need to accomplish.

When I say need I really mean NEED and not want.

I WANT to find a hairdresser and get my dead ends cut off; it has been over a year since a professional touched my hair and this pregnancy is not favoring the weeks that I go without washing. Washing natural African-American hair is time-consuming. I do not have time.

I WANT to sit down with my daughters and color. Play board games. Have tea parties and play dress up and do each others hair. I want to pull out the couch bed and pop popcorn and watch a silly animated movie.

But first I’d NEED to get the six loads of clean laundry off the couch and folded and into drawers. I need to run another load of dishes before we run out of spoons. I need to take a shower…not sure how long it has been. I need to do my schoolwork…

I NEED to sleep. But even on the weekends, when I should have more time for peace and should worry less because I don’t have to wake up at 5am to get everyone up and out the door on time for class, I cannot sleep. I have not been able to sleep properly since The Big Incident, but lately it is worse than ever. I sit around like a zombie, always tired, but never able to settle down. When I do sleep, I have these terribly vivid and horrific dreams. He is always in them. He is always in control.  Upon waking I feel like I have just finished the fight of my life. Sleeping is more exhausting than staying awake.

I feed and bathe my daughters. I read to them – we’ve recently read almost every book in the Skippyjon Jones series and the How Do Dinosaurs (do various things) series several times each. I take them to their appointments and therapy sessions and sports lessons and educational programs. They are the focus of all of my energy.

I have no energy for me. I NEED to focus on me, because she’s inside of me, my growing baby. I am now 28 weeks pregnant, and she is growing steadily, healthily, and I’m hoping she comes out nice and chubby. But still, I cannot find the energy: to sleep, to complete my grad school assignments, to rid myself of my preoccupation with my husband. Why should I care about him? Why should I give him the satisfaction? I’m almost certain he’s not thinking about me. He is probably already wooing some other woman. And why should I care if he is with somebody? He DOES NOT LOVE me! But I do care…and I do worry, and I am afraid that he has already replaced me, and it still hurts, even though he has hurt me.

I am not certain that I need to weep, but maybe that would help me. I hear that crying is healthy, but I’ve always considered it a sign of being weak. I hate that once I start crying I find it hard to stop; I hate the lingering headache, the animal noises that come along with crying fits; the wetness. I haven’t cried since The Big Incident; I’ve been too busy with making ends meet, taking care of my babies, and not utterly failing at life, but maybe I can find some time to weep this week. Yes…I’ll have to schedule in crying. Maybe I’ll cry myself to sleep.

 

Ultrasound Results October 19, 2012

I caved.

Yesterday I went in for another ultrasound because the first time the tech couldn’t see the baby’s spine. They wanted to check to make sure that Baby’s spine is fused, to ensure against spina bifida. For days I’ve been undecided as to whether or not I should try once more to find out Baby’s sex.

Today (24 weeks)

My curiosity was getting the better of my resolve to let it remain a mystery. I never checked Baby’s sex during my last two pregnancies, but what really swayed me to find out was knowing how much I want a boy, and wanting needing to deal with my disappointment (if necessary) before baby is born.

Hands in fists (top) Straight on view of face (bottom)

I know it may sound unreasonable, a healthy baby is a healthy baby, but I refuse to lie to myself (anymore) and my heart has been set on having a boy.

Baby was positioned perfectly for the ultrasound. Head near my stomach, feet near my bladder. We could see a perfectly fused spine, cute little feet with the second toe being longer than the others, tiny hands clenched into fists, an adorable profile, and when we peaked at the genital area…a small area between the legs with a line down the middle.

I’M HAVING A GIRL!!!!

Legs (left) Profile (right)

Another girl.

But…I’m okay with it (…today. It took me some time to work through my initial disappointment…admittedly. I’m so glad I didn’t wait another 16 weeks!).

What was the big deal about having a boy? Well, I don’t have one, that’s the most obvious answer, but having a son meant a lot to me for other reasons as well. It might sound silly, but I wanted to be the woman to bear the male child who would carry on my husband’s family name. I know that my husband and I are no longer together, and some might say it’s a good thing he had no sons, but it still feels like a duty that I am not fulfilling. I feel somewhat, apologetic, even though I know the baby’s sex determination has pretty much nothing to do with me.

I was also disappointed because this will be my last baby, and this means that I’ll never have a son. I know, I know, I’m only 27. My best friend says not to worry, that I’ll have a son with the man of my dreams, but I cannot even fathom another dream man. I vowed to never love again if things did not work out with my husband.

Silly sisters (today)

I also promised myself to never put my children through the ups and downs of having mommy dating; it was hell for me growing up while my mother searched for her soul mate. I’m quite certain that I should just get used to being lonely. Every time I think of a companion I still wish it could be my husband (minus the bad stuff), but I know that’s not going to happen. So…I’ll never have a son.

There are good things about not having a male child as well. I would feel even more compelled to have a positive male influence around while my son were growing up than I feel obligate to having all girls. I still think it’s important for my daughters to see positive examples of males, and have interactions with them, whether or not it can or will be their father. It just seems…more detrimental for a boy not to have this. Maybe I’m just sexist?

I already have a ton of girl clothes. Terra was born at the end of March and Amara at the beginning of July, so I have mostly summer items for the first 0-6 month range, and Baby is due in February, but what I have may suffice. I’ll start checking my supplies. Also, I know what to do with a girl child. I know what she will have to go through in life as a woman. I will be able to empower her and contribute one more strong, independent, beautiful, loveable, and unique woman to the world.

Sisters hugging 🙂

I will have to fund three expensive weddings. That’s not necessarily a perk, but something for which I should probably start planning. There’s always the chance that one or more of them will be a lesbian…then I guess the parents on both sides split the expenses? I suppose I’ll worry about that if/when there’s the need (I have plenty on my worry plate already)…

Baby is a girl 🙂 She is healthy. She is in the 60th percentile at the moment. Her name will be something to do with nature, five letters, and end in “r-a” (because I’ve begun a trend already with Amara and Terra’s names). I’m thinking Keira, but I’m not sure yet. If you have any ideas please share them with me!

I’m glad that I found out Baby’s sex. I needed to come to terms with this. I am so happy that she’s going to be in my arms in 16 weeks!

 

Powerless October 8, 2012

Every month, every hearing I lose one week’s worth of sleep. From the days preceding the hearing to the days following I am incapable of focusing on anything but the fate of my husband. I worry for him, I wonder what will happen, I wind through a range of emotions. Fear is ever-present; an abundance of anxiety and tension. I try to relax by accepting that there is nothing I can do. There is no way to hurry through these stagnant periods to find out what the future holds.

The system will run its course, the lawyers will do their dances, the D.A. will push our case back to the depths of ItCanWait because of its insignificance to the community. And so I wait. Frantic, helpless, but hoping that this hearing will mean something different, that this one will possibly end my monthly torment, that something will come of it, or that they will dismiss it once and for all.

I will be steadfast and strong, but my determination to persevere does not quell the discomfort of being temporarily powerless.

I have no choices left but to wait patiently or to wait impatiently. I long to know something…anything. I cannot plan for my future. I do not understand the system’s structure and processes. I cannot find peace. The most I can do to get through this is to keep my mind off of it, but that feels like an injustice to my husband. I am still compelled to protect him, to put his importance ahead of my own. But I cannot protect him any longer. I do not know where he is or what he is doing or who he has replaced me with. I cannot determine whether he misses me or wants me dead. I do not know if he will ever speak to me again, and it kills me.

I am incapable of controlling this aspect of my life. I wear the weight from day-to-day and fight insomnia at night. I wait…constantly battling inside. I suffer…but I survive.

 

Mama’s Got A Brand New Ring September 21, 2012

I hate jewelry.

I haven’t worn anything besides my wedding ring in the past six years. I chose the ring myself (with much persuasion by my husband to not get the ring I really wanted). I figured it would be a good ring for having children around, no risk of scratching their pretty faces with my giant rock, no fear of being mugged because of the attention I’d be attracting. My wedding ring is a simple band of white gold with twelve small diamonds across the top. The diamonds tend to face downward because they are heavy and my finger has changed sizes throughout the past six years so it isn’t sized to keep from spinning.  Most people do not take the ring as a sure sign that I am married because it is so small and thin and plain.

My Wedding Ring

I have stopped wearing my wedding ring.

I put it back in its box a few weeks after The Big Incident. I felt like wearing that band these past six years had just added to the lies I was trying to convince myself of: that we were a united front, that we were one, that since I was his wife that meant he had to love me, that this would mean we could make it through anything, ‘til death do us part. But I am far from dying, and I am not going back into that abusive relationship. I figured the sooner I start both mentally and physically committing to this difficult adjustment, the better.

But for months now, when I’m driving, or eating, or picking up one of my children, or doing my hair, or blogging, or taking a shower, or folding laundry, or pretty much anything that involves being conscious of your hands, I miss my ring. I feel a gap between my fingers which used to be rubbing at the band constantly. For six years I have hardly ever taken off my ring, and now my fingers mourn their familiar fit and feeling. It feels different when I make a fist, tap my fingers, and pop my knuckles. I’m missing a routine by not having to turn the band upwards to see the diamonds shine.

I knew that I was mourning my marriage, the death of a childhood dream, but it didn’t seem like taking off my ring would mean so much to me. My mother and sister have tried for years to purchase jewelry that I would enjoy wearing. My sister got me a silver watch a few years back and I liked it, but the links were too long and I didn’t ever bother taking it to a shop to have some removed. My mother has gotten me bracelets and necklaces and other things here and there but I just don’t typically like them and choose not to wear them.

Close to my new ring (mine has more diamonds)

Well, on my birthday, in addition to The Birthday Surprise, my mother gave me a beautiful ring with diamonds and a sapphire in it. It is the same style of ring that I’d wanted for my wedding ring before my husband convinced me to buy something more plain (less expensive). I instantly loved it. I thought to wear it on my ring finger in place of my wedding ring because of that intense void that I’ve been feeling, but after a day of this it felt too strange to have something take its place. I am wearing my new ring on my right hand ring finger. It fits perfectly.

I still miss not having anything on my left hand, but I know that I will get through this period of loss and loneliness. I will not jump to have another take its place because it feels better than emptiness. I will not fill myself with the false hope that a new left hand ring finger band would give me. I will mourn the ring entirely, wholeheartedly, and when I am alright again it will feel better to know that I did not just go out and take the first sparkly thing someone gave me to replace it. I’ll have waited. I’ll have been patient with my sadness, and I will know when (…if ever…) the time should be right again.