Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Beauty for Ashes

I got an email from a friend a few days ago, asking me if I would mind calling someone she knew through CafeMom. She explained to me that she thought I would be able to relate to some of the woman's experiences, and the woman needed a lot of encouragment right now. She told me that his woman had just given birth to a baby boy about two weeks ago, through a c-section. She also had to have a hysterectomy, due to cancer. Additionally, her husband came to visit her in the hospital, only to inform her that he wanted a divorce, and wanted nothing to do with her or the baby.

She has not been able to hold her baby or see much of her baby, because she cannot sit up or get out of her bed. The hospital released her baby, as the insurance would not pay for him to stay there any longer, and her neighbor is caring for the baby right now. As I anticipate the fast approaching birth of my own son, I cannot imagine how devastating it would be to not be able to hold him, feed him, kiss him...or even see him, for that matter.

Hmm. I couldn't relate to all of this woman's story, and I honestly felt totally inadequate to help this woman at all, but...I said I would call her.

I emailed her first to let her know I had been contacted by a friend of hers, and that I wanted to offer her what encouragment I could. I told her that, while I could not relate to all of her story, I was familiar with pain, heartache, transitons, and, yes, triumph amidst all of it, and I wanted to offer her a listening ear. And, if she wanted, I would share with her a bit of what I learned along the way.

She emailed me back and asked me to please call her, and she gave me her number.

Her voice was weak when she answered. She had been confined to her hospital bed since her surgeries, and was restricted from sitting up or walked due to complications from the hysterectomy. As she talked, her voice cracked as she tried to choke back tears. Her words came slowly. She often repeated herself, and her voice was so soft, it was difficult to understand what she was saying. I listened, though. I may not have understood all of her words, but I could hear her pain.

I did not have a lot to say. I encourage her to reach out to those she had available through the hospital. I told her to ask for a clergy member to visit her. I encouraged her to continue working with her therapist. I encouraged her to ask for a social worker. I encouraged her to remember that this will pass. She will get well. She will be able to care for her son, and she will be a good mother. I told her that I knew what her husband did to her was cruel and devastating, but if that is what was in his heart, it is better that she and her son not have him in the picture for now.

She listened. Her voice calmed. I felt lost. We talked a bit longer. I told her I would pray for her.

She emailed me and thanked me for calling her. She said she wanted to die.

That was last week. I talked with her again tonight, and I am happy to say, she is doing much better. She is encouraged. She is focused on her healing. She is focused on getting well and getting home so she can care for her baby. She is scared. Understandably. None of us who are facing single motherhood ever planned it this way, and the task of raising a child alone is a daunting one. I reminded her that we are not the first women facing raising children without a father, and we won't be the last. We both know single moms who have made it work. It's not easy, but they are doing it. And we can, too.

She was much more hopeful about her future this time, and not once did she say she wanted her life to be over. This is a big improvement.

She said to me that, even though we are miles apart, we have things in common that help us understand each other and create a connection. She told me how much she appreciated the time I give her, and that I help her to stay focused on the things that are important...getting healthy, and getting home to her baby so she can be the great mom that she is.

The whole time, I am thinking, "I am totally taking a shot in the dark every time I open my mouth to say something to you. I am just hoping that, by the grace of God, I am helping you."

We talked for just over an hour. I told her I want us to stay in touch, and I want to know how she is doing when she gets out of the hospital and is finally able to be with her baby.

It is amazing how inadequate we feel when asked to step in on something as monumental as helping another person manage their devastating heartaches. Yet, when we choose to do it, trusting that God will honor the effort, wonderous things seem to happen every time. We may not always get our words right, but God sees the heart, and says, "Now THIS is something I can work with!!"

It is an honor to be part of someone's healing, in any capacity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm back!

So, I have decided that MySpace stinks, Helium isn't all its cracked up to be, and yet I still love to blog. So, I am back here, where I have been blogging on and off for the last few years.

Much has happened since I last wrote. 2008 has, thus far, been a year of more transitions. Some of those transitions came due to no fault of my own. Others came as the result of incredibly poor choices I made earlier in the year, which altered my life forever.

As those are the most glaring transitions, I'll write about those.

In February of this year, I met someone that I believed was "the guy" I'd been hoping to meet all of my adult life. We seemed to have a very natural connection, with a lot in common. He seemed to understand me like nobody else could, and it seemed that I did the same for him. We had both been through some very difficult times in the months prior to our meeting, and it seemed that we had found a sort of solace in each other.

Six weeks later, we were married. I often chastise myself for rushing in, but I also realize that men like my soon-to-be-ex are masters at manipulating people and situations, and I could have dated him much, much longer without ever knowing the truth about him. As it was, though, everything changed after we got married.

He began drinking very heavily. Now, I had been known to have a few drinks with him now and then, I will admit that. But, at some point, you realize that it's not really that much fun, you don't really feel that great, and there is a lot of life that you miss when all you live for is a drink. So, I stopped. His drinking got much worse. As his drinking worsened, he became very verbally and psychologically abusive. Nothing I did was right. He would get angry with me for the most minor things--things that a normal and rational person would hardly notice, or would just shrug off.

Perhaps the most memorable incident happened when he got angry with me for eating the rest of the black olives. He got red in the face, yelled at me, swore at me, called me names...all because the black olives were gone. That is just one example.

I learned to walk on eggshells around him, being very careful about what I said or didn't say, constantly conscious of my behavior, even down to asking if it was okay if I got up to use the bathroom when he was home, because he wanted me with him at all times. When he was at work, he called me about ten times a day to check on me, asking where I had been, who I had talked to, etc. It quickly became a waking nightmare.

As his behavior moved toward violence, I also found out I was pregnant. He made it very clear to me that I would not have a partner in my pregnancy, and he believed it was my job to raise the baby until he or she was four years old, at which point they would be a "real person", and he would step in. His drinking increased, his temper became more volatile, and I was terrified of him.

About a week after my first ob-gyn appointment, which I went to alone, I decided it was time to leave. This decision came after a particular bad explosion of his temper, during which I was subjected to a two hour verbal assault, and he also demonstrated violent behavior. I knew I was not safe anymore, and neither was my unborn child. I knew that, if we were to have a chance at all, I had to leave.

So, the next day...May 12...I did, and I never went back. I stayed at one of the women's shelters that night. I did not feel safe going to my parents' home, as I thought he may come looking for me there. I did not know what to expect. Fortunately, the night passed without incident.

I saw him two more times after I left. On the day after I left, I met him for lunch, during which time I clearly saw that there was no hope for salvaging our severly broken marriage. I saw him once after that, when I went to the apartment to get a few of my things. He was apologetic and asked me to come home, only to begin blaming me for everything when I told him I wasn't ready. That was the last time I saw him.

I have had a tremendous support system in all of this. I am one of the lucky ones. I met several women in the shelter, and I have seen several women in my own life, who have not had the kind of support I have had when leaving an abuser. For some women, their families are so disappointed with the choices they've made that "got them in that mess", they have disowned them. For others, they have friends and family who will give them a place to go, but never stop blaming them for their abuse. For others, they turn to their church for help, only to be told that they must forgive their husband, pray for him to change, and go home and submit.

Thankfully, I experienced none of that. I knew that my choice to leave meant going through a pregnancy without a partner, and facing single motherhood. I am thankful for those who have stood with me in all of this so that, even though I do not have a partner, I am not alone.

After I left my husband and sought legal advice on what to do next, I was informed by several people who knew of his whole record that he is "very dangerous", but they could not tell me why. This lead to my decision to become a paralegal. I cannot imagine how many women are in my situation, and do not know enough about how to navigate the legal system in order to get the answers they need. So, they live in fear, believing they have no option but to either stay on the run, or go back to their abuser.

I do know enough about the legal system to get the information I need, so I used the Freedom of Information Act to get court records and so forth. Needless to say, I was stunned when I read these documents. I had been lied to about everything. When I was with him, I was in much more danger than I realized, and I believe it was God telling me, "GET OUT NOW!!!" that lead me to leave when I did. I am so thankful, every day, that I listened.

I have settled into a comfortable life on my own. I have a nice little apartment for my baby boy and I, and it is a great place for us to start life together. I have chosen to move forward without pursuing child support, truly wanting to build a life just for me and my son, without his father's involvement. As it looks like there is a good chance of that happening, I am not going to tempt fate by asking him for money. It will be a hard road for my son and me, but we will thrive, and God will meet all of our needs.

While I miss living in Traverse City, I am building a network of friendships here that is not only helping me through this difficult season, but is creating a community of love for my son. As a mother, it warms my heart in ways that I cannot explain to know that my son's arrival is so wonderfully anticipated, and he already has so many people who love him. My prayer for him has been that God would give him men in his life who will show him what it is to be a man of God, who lives with honor and strength, and understands that having strength (of any kind) does not mean you have to use it like a weapon. God is faithfully answering that prayer, and my son will have a community of Godly men to teach him and help him grow into the best person he can possibly be.

School is going well, and I get nearly perfect grades, which never ceases to amaze me...since I was lucky to even graduate from high school. I feel good about the future, confident that I will be able to meet the demands of school, and get a job that will allow me to help others while earning a viable income at the same time. My son and I are going to be more than fine...we will be blessed.

So, yeah, it's been a heck of a year. While I do feel some sadness when I think about my single days, and all I gave up because of a foolish choice I made in marrying someone so quickly, the truth is that I wouldn't change anything. I am having a baby, and he is worth everything I have gone through to get to this place. He is truly my answer to prayer. I have chosen to name my son Jaden. Jaden="Jehovah has heard"...and He has!

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