I honestly don’t really know how to write this post.
I don’t want to overdramatise it. I don’t want to make it sound worse than it was. But at the same time, I don’t want to downplay it either. Because I’ve been downplaying the events of my life to anyone and everyone who will listen for the past few months and to be quite frank I’m tired of it.
Not to mention, a lot of the details I’ve completely suppressed in my brain because I went through so much emotional trauma in such a short space of time I had no other choice but to let myself forget.
So I think I’ll just write this blog post stream of consciousness style. I’m not going to go into too many specifics here. If you can figure it out…great. If you can’t…well…ask me questions? I’ve deliberately not been responding to comments because I needed to get all of this stuff out first. But I feel ready now. So let’s do this.
Be warned: this is going to be very very long.
What was supposed to be the most joyous experience of my life – pregnancy after a long battle with infertility – was actually the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It led me to the darkest place in my life.
Who would have thought that finding out I was pregnant with a healthy baby would be emotionally harder than IVF, miscarriages and my husband leaving me all combined. Ha!
It wasn’t something that happened overnight, but a slow descent into madness and despair.
Once James figured out that I wasn’t rooting for a miscarriage the same as he was, he began attacking me. Never physically, just verbally.
It wasn’t always. It was just sometimes. Enough that it started to eat at my psyche, but not enough that I could outright blame him for my emotional problems.
One of the first things he did, back when I was eight weeks pregnant, was inform me that I’d never see a cent of his money and he wouldn’t be paying me a dime of child support or any other type of maintenance.
At the time I just said okay. Because I was silly and naïve, and honestly thought that meant he was basically giving me the baby. He would terminate his parental rights and pay no child support, and I would have full custody of the baby. The baby I’d always wanted. So that was fine. I could manage on my own. No problems.
But then…he didn’t go away. He just stayed living at my house.
Instead, the campaign of psychological torment began.
He accused me of tricking him. He said I’d made up my medical diagnosis of infertility. That I knew all this time that I could get pregnant. That I’d worn him down over days, weeks and months (not true!) until he finally agreed to stop using condoms. And now I’d trapped him with this baby.
I showed him medical records that refuted his suggestions, showed him evidence of my miscarriages. I even showed him a letter from one of my treating doctors to another, stating that I would never be able to conceive naturally. Yet nothing could convince him I hadn’t trapped him.
He told me point blank that I had ruined his life. I had destroyed all his happiness. I was the cause of his complete demise. I had taken everything from him. He would never be a happy man for the rest of my life because of this baby. Because of me. The worst thing that ever happened to him was meeting me.
He said that he knew I’d never agree to an abortion because I was an “insane baby-crazy bitch” but that it was his preferred method of dealing with this situation.
Then he started creating body anxieties for me. We’d walk past a skinny girl at the grocery store and he’d lean down and whisper in my ear “once you have this baby you’ll never look like her ever again” or we’d walk past a clothing store and he’s say “your body is about to be destroyed and you’ll never be able to wear nice clothes ever again”.
He started calling me Migaloo (for those of you who don’t know, Migaloo is a very famous albino humpback whale that travels the coast of Australia every year). He started calling me Chub-Farm. He started calling me Fatty when I was eating my dinner every night.
One day I had horrible back pain so I asked him to help me stand up from the sofa and he said “Sorry I can’t help you because I don’t have a crane to lift you.”
He mocked me constantly because I’d gone “overboard” trying to keep the baby safe. I stopped drinking caffeine, refused to dye my hair and looked up every food for safety before I ate it. He said I was insane and no other pregnant ladies behaved as ridiculously as me.
At the same time as I was dealing with all of this, I was also dealing with the stress that comes from being pregnant after infertility.
For those of you who haven’t yet gone through it, the anxiety is intense. Every cramp meant I was miscarrying. Every day I didn’t cramp I was miscarrying. Every day I had morning sickness I was miscarrying. Every day I had no morning sickness I was miscarrying. Every day my boobs hurt I was miscarrying. Every day my boobs didn’t hurt I was miscarrying. I was just a wreck.
I would ring my mother absolutely hysterical at 2am, telling her I wasn’t coping. I just loved the baby and wanted it to be okay.
My obstetrician, Dr Eminem, diagnosed me with severe antenatal anxiety and sent me to see a therapist.
He also recommended I get the harmony test at 10 weeks gestation, so that I could put my mind at ease about some of the potential chromosomal abnormalities.
When I explained to James that I was having the harmony test, and that it would tell me the gender of the baby, he changed again.
He told me that all his life all he’d ever wanted was a daughter. He said when he found out his ex-wife was having a boy he’d been bitterly disappointed. That he’d never wanted to have a son.
So if the baby was a boy he would be completely devastated and not want much to do with it, but if it was a girl he would be requesting 50/50 custody.
Suddenly I felt like my life was over. I was trapped beyond anyone’s ability to rescue me. Custody? HALF custody?
This was a man who had refused to pay a cent of my medical costs to date. Even though progesterone and blood thinners and other medications were costing me around $500 out of pocket per week and I was struggling to pay my bills and mortgage. In fact I’d maxed out my credit card and was borrowing money to stay afloat. To keep this baby alive.
This was a man who didn’t care if his four year old watched television until midnight, served him junk food whenever he requested it, didn’t believe in educational activities like reading books to children and didn’t care if his kid bathed or cleaned his teeth when in his care.
This was a man who, when his son wet the bed, wrapped him up in a towel and made sleep on the wet patch all night. Because he couldn’t be bothered showering him or cleaning up the mess.
On more than one occasion he’d lost his temper when his son was misbehaving and shouted “I really hate you! Stop being a dickhead!”
Of course all of those negligent behaviours ended when I became involved in Isaac’s care. James improved as a father and his son actually began to enjoy coming to stay with him.
But this was the quintessential “weekend dad” who had no real concept of looking after a child full-time.
And suddenly this man was going to ask for 50/50 custody of my little baby IF IT WAS A GIRL? Just because he felt like he might fancy having a daughter? My little baby that I’d battled IVF for? The baby I’d hoped and prayed for? No. No no no.
It’s not that I wanted to keep the baby from him. Because I didn’t. I just didn’t want him having so much control over the baby’s life and routine. Every second weekend was okay, every second week was not. For the good of the child.
The harmony test cost me $500. James refused to contribute because as he told me, “if you hadn’t wanted to pay the medical costs you could have just had an abortion”.
In the nights leading up to getting the test results back, I could hardly sleep or eat. I was so focused on whether or not my baby was healthy. That was honestly all I cared about.
At my 11 week obstetrician’s appointment, Dr Eminem handed me a piece of paper with the results:
Risk of Trisomy 13: less than 1 in 10,000.
Risk of Trisomy 18: less than 1 in 10,000.
Risk of Trisomy 21: less than 1 in 10,000.
I was so relieved I started sobbing. Tears of relief and joy.
“Did you get everything written down there on the piece of paper?” he asked me with a twinkle in his eye.
“Yes.” I blubbered. “Everything is healthy.”
Dr Eminem laughed and pointed to the bottom of the piece of paper. A detail I’d clearly forgotten to check for.
Sex of the fetus: female.
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
The baby was a girl.
The baby was a girl.
Oh fuck my life the baby was a girl.
And do you know what? That is not the reaction I should have had, upon finding out my HEALTHY BABY was a girl. I should have been overjoyed in that moment. But instead I was terrified.
I got myself all worked up and then stormed home and hysterically informed James that I’d be hiring the best lawyer money could buy and keeping this child away from him. He screamed back that I’d be doing no such thing, grabbed his car keys and drove to my best friend’s house.
Oh yes…that’s an element of this story I forgot to mention before now. The “best friend” scenario.
You see, since moving to Paradise I’d become very close friends with the lady who sat next to me at work. She was older than me (41 years old) and divorced with two children aged seven and nine. She was my biggest support in Paradise and I spent a lot of time with her and her family. Let’s call her…Lucy.
As James had taken up work as a handyman some months before, and Lucy needed some renovations to her house, I’d put them in touch with each other. I thought I was doing the right thing by them both. They’d hit it off, and so when I socialised with Lucy, he started coming along too. It was nice to have a little group of friends in Paradise.
But that night he stormed off to her house and didn’t come back for hours.
Then it started to happen regularly. He would say abusive things to me like call me fat or tell me how much I’d ruined his life and he wished he’d never met me. I’d eventually snap and burst into tears then scream something back at him. Usually something along the lines of “you’re an uneducated fuckwit” or “you’re a loser and your own son hates you”.
Petty of me I know. But I was seriously at my wits end.
He’d get in the car and drive to Lucy’s house.
I demanded to know what was going on, but Lucy insisted she wasn’t going to get in the middle of an argument and that she was looking out for my best interests.
The only reason I knew the pair weren’t sleeping together is James and his pride. Lucy is um…a very large woman. And he’s one of those cocky good-looking guys who “wouldn’t touch a fat chick”.
Other than that, I had no idea what he was telling her. I heard him trash talking me to other people. He’d tell them I was ruining his life, that I’d trapped him, that I was abusive and demanding money from him. It’s amazing how you can really spin any story so as to appear as the victim.
What really struck me as odd was the reason Lucy was allowing this to continue. She knew better than anyone the things he was saying and doing to me, yet she continued to associate with him.
When I was 12 weeks pregnant I went to get my nuchal scan done.
I’d wanted to take my mother with me but for some bizarre unknown reason James insisted that as the baby’s father he had a right to come. Of course I agreed and welcomed him to come along to a scan. He’d never shown any interest in the baby before and I was hoping he was turning a new leaf.
But instead he sat up the back of the room playing games on his phone.
“Aren’t you interested in seeing your baby?” the sonographer asked, scowling at him.
“Pfft. Seen one ultrasound, seen them all.” he replied, not even looking up from his phone.
“Well your phone interferes with our equipment so you’ll have to turn it off.” she said angrily.
I could feel her judging him. Judging me, too. Because I was having a baby with him. He was my guest at the scan.
I was mortified. Very embarrassed.
Suddenly I felt like everyone was judging me. Like I had a giant neon sign above my head that said THIS GIRL IS AN IDIOT.
One day, when I was 14 weeks and 3 days pregnant, I was talking to one of the girls in the office about the kindergarten where she sends her little one each day while she is at work.
I’d only told everyone at work I was pregnant a few days earlier (out of necessity because I was starting to show and my morning sickness was still quite bad) so I asked her how much it cost per day. When she told me the centre was very exclusive, and the cost to send her son there, I simply laughed and said “oh well I can’t afford that kindergarten full-time on my single wage!”
“You won’t have to.” piped up Lucy out of nowhere. “You’ll only have your daughter 50% of the time. So the other half of the fortnight James can decide what to do with her care.”
I turned to her, frowning. “James isn’t getting half custody of my child.”
Then she stood up from her desk and moved to stand over me (I remained seated). I was in complete shock as she started screaming at me until she was red in the face.
I honestly can’t remember now exactly what was said, but it was definitely along the lines of “James is getting half custody of your child and there’s nothing you can do about it.” and “Only horrible mothers try to keep children from their fathers. Stop being selfish and do what’s best for your child.” and “I’ve told James all about the court system and I’ll make sure he knows how to win in court.” and “It’s disgraceful the way you are behaving.”
I was…..stunned. I was honestly trying to do what was best for my child. Why would she think handing my child over to someone who didn’t believe in proper diet, routine, bed times or education was going to be better for my child than my own disciplined, affectionate and consistent care?
I do remember mumbling “How do you expect the baby to eat when she isn’t with me? Shall I send James my breast milk every day via the express postal system?” but I don’t remember having much else to say.
Two other women in the office witnessed the incident. Both tried to step in. Both told Lucy she was out of line and to stop yelling at me.
That night when I got home from work I was beside myself. Months of torment had built up inside me.
I told James what had happened. I told him that his weird and fucked up relationship with Lucy had cost me my best friend. That the obvious lies he’d told her about our situation meant she hated me. That he’d taken away my only support in Paradise for his own selfish gain. Now I had NOBODY to support me. He’d stolen that from me.
He told me I was wrong and he’d never asked Lucy to say those things. He said she was a big girl and he wasn’t responsible for her actions. So none of it was his fault at all. And the fact he spent all his spare time with her had nothing to do with the incident at all.
Hysterical, I locked myself in my bedroom and started googling options for abortion.
I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Seven weeks of constant, consistent emotional abuse. I couldn’t deal with it for the rest of my life. And now work wasn’t a safe space either.
I loved my baby. I wanted my baby.
But I couldn’t bring her into the world. Not into the middle of this mess.
I had to end it for her now before she was forced to suffer the way that I was forced to suffer.
But it turns out that basically no medical clinics in Australia perform elective abortions after fourteen weeks. After that time, abortions were generally only if the mother’s life was in danger or the baby was in some way abnormal. I was three days too late.
So that was it…no abortion.
No other options.
I was shit out of luck.
My life was a mess.
I sat on my bathroom floor sobbing and crying for my husband.
This should have been his baby. This should have been our shared joy.
Why was this happening to me? I was a good person. Why was my baby forced to go through this with me?
Then, I stopped crying. Because I realised what I had to do.
I turned on the shower. I shaved my legs. I washed my hair. I put on makeup and made myself presentable.
Because you see, whilst I couldn’t have an abortion, nothing would stop me from killing myself and taking my baby with me. And I wanted to look decent for that.
So I drove out to these really high cliffs along the coast, where the rough surf slams mercilessly against the jagged rocks below. I decided very calmly that I was going to jump off.
I stood there for a while, trying to decide whether I should send some kind of goodbye message to my mother or my ex-husband.
Whilst I was debating that, some fishermen turned up and were fishing just down from the cliff face. I could see them watching me suspiciously.
Shit. I thought. Now I can’t kill myself. I can’t force these poor guys to watch me die. That’s just wrong.
So I slowly and calmly stepped away from the cliff face, got in my car and drove home.
I called in sick at work the next day and drove to the city to see my brother. He was very worried about me. In fact my family were so worried about my mental health that my parents actually put their house on the market and decided to move to Paradise to be closer to me. This was the support I needed. The support I craved. But for the time being it was still too far away.
The next morning I went to see my therapist and told her what had happened. I spent the entire hour long session sobbing hysterically. I’ve never cried in front of a therapist before. She insisted I needed to report the incident between Lucy and myself to my boss at work in case it escalated further.
So when I got to work I went into the boss’s office and blubbered again while I told her what had happened. I asked her not to take the matter any further. I begged her. But she insisted that Lucy needed to be spoken to.
Well Lucy was furious. She told everyone at work I had dobbed to the boss and that I wasn’t a trusted member of the team. She told everyone she was going to freeze me out of her life to protect her from my meanness. And do you know what? They all sided with her.
“You don’t tell the boss that kind of stuff” they’d say. “We’re a team and we stick together. You don’t go behind the team’s back.”
So that was that.
My home life was a wreck.
My work life was a wreck.
And do you know through this whole process that little baby just kept on growing? Just kept on hitting every milestone. Getting bigger and stronger.
It was such a weird feeling because I honestly loved her so much. I was in awe of her.
But at the same time I did see my pregnancy as ruining my life, the same way that James saw that I’d ruined his life. This pregnancy was somehow the worst thing that had ever happened to me.But I needed to keep her safe more than anything else. I needed to protect her because I was her mummy. It was very hard to reconcile those feelings.
When I was 15 weeks pregnant, I ran into an old friend. Actually he was someone that I used to work with, back when I was in my early 20s. He’d also worked with my ex-husband Doug. I’m fairly certain he was the only person on my Facebook friends list who was also still Facebook friends with Doug. And he remained on my Facebook purely because he was “inconsequential” as I never socialised with him.
But he was holidaying at the beach in Paradise and I ran into him at the store. He immediately began gushing over how happy he was to see I was finally pregnant. Of course I just smiled and thanked him. I wasn’t going to unload my mammoth miseries onto this poor guy.
“It’s so nice to see you and Doug are both doing so well after your divorce.” he said. “Here you are having the baby you always wanted, and Doug seems to be very happy and settled with his new partner.”
After that, I cried for days.
I really don’t know what else to say.
Finding out that Doug was happy felt like losing him all over again. I was literally, genuinely, honestly, going through the darkest period of my life and he was happy with some other girl.
There was nothing I could do about it. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be happy. Like the universe was punishing me. Like I was destined to be miserable forever.
When I was 16 weeks pregnant, James woke up one day and realised he’d done the wrong thing.
He opened his eyes and saw what was really happening. Saw how horribly depressed I was. Realised that I’d had a breakdown. That I wasn’t coping.
He cried and said he was sorry. Said he should never have treated me so poorly. Promised to stay away from Lucy. Told me that he loved me and wanted to be with me as a family.
And you know, by that point, the idea of being near James pretty much physically repulsed me.
But I said I would give it a shot.
And this is where I lose you right? You stop caring about my plight. Because nobody could be that stupid?
But you have to understand how messed up I was. All I could think about was protecting my child. Custody of my child.
It was my job to protect my daughter no matter what. A mother puts her child before herself every time.
And if I stayed with James, he could never take her away from me.
She would be in my care 100% of the time. And I could make sure she was happy and thriving and smart and emotionally stable.
If I told him to get out, I’d never have that magic 100%. Maybe I could fight in court and get 90% or 80%. Maybe worst case scenario I’d have only 50%.
I knew I wasn’t happy with James. But I knew my baby would be happier with me. I knew my baby needed me 100%.
So I said okay. I said I would try.
I know more than anything I’m going to be judged by all of you for this. I know you’ll all think I’m stupid and ask me why I didn’t leave. Why I didn’t make him leave.
I’m absolutely not suggesting I was a victim of domestic violence (I want to be clear that James never touched a hair on my head nor will he ever) but I liken the emotional response as similar.
I felt trapped. Weak. Powerless. I felt like I literally couldn’t do anything about it. My rational brain was screaming that I could, but my fear and doubt were telling me to stay rooted to the spot. I know nobody can understand that unless they’ve been through it themselves.
Plus, I’d just lost my husband in 2014. I felt like this was my only chance now. Nobody would want me once I was a single mother with a deadbeat baby daddy.
If my loving, amazing, supportive husband had turned his back on me and then James was telling me I was worthless…well maybe they were both right. Maybe nobody else was ever going to love me. Maybe this was just it. I didn’t get any more chances. I was either with James and sometimes unhappy, or alone and always miserable.
And I do want to say that James wasn’t bad all of the time. It wasn’t a 24/7 thing.
Some days he was better, some days he was worse.
Some days he would make me a cup of tea and rub my feet for me. Other days he would scream at me that I was a crazy worthless bitch that had ruined his life. I never knew which side of James I was going to see on any given day.
At this point in my story we are up to November 2015.
There’s obviously still a lot more to go.
But just writing all of this stuff has been emotionally draining.
I feel very nervous even writing all this because I fear being ridiculed, abused and judged by strangers on the internet. I’m not even going to tag this post because I don’t want many people reading it.
Maybe I’ll delete it soon because I’m ashamed at how much shit I put up with. Reading it back to myself now I sound like such a fool.
I know I just said it but I’ll say it again: you don’t know how you will react until you are in the same situation.
I considered myself a strong person. I still consider myself a strong person to keep myself alive and functional through these dark times.
I only had one sick day the entire first trimester, even though I was having a mental breakdown. Doesn’t that count for anything?
Through all of this I just kept on keeping on.
I am a stupid person for getting myself into this situation.
I honestly thought I couldn’t conceive. I honestly didn’t want this.
But I have it now.
It’s my reality whether I like it or not.
There’s no going back from this.
Only forward, into the abyss.
And nothing is more important to me than my baby. I love my baby very fiercely and everything I do in my life now is about making her life better.
I’ll update again when I find the mental strength.
Sorry for this long and rambling post.
And sorry if you think less of me.