So…..my daughter was born. And it was difficult, to say the least. Not the pregnancy part, that was a breeze (minus spontaneous vomit explosions), and even labor was pretty simple. But if being a teen mom is hard, and being a single teen mom is aggravating….well, being a single teen mom with a history of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse is damn near impossible.
And it’s not like she was an easy baby either. She had severe colic and would SCREAM from 6 to 9 p.m. every night for the first 3 months of her life, until I learned that if I kept her in a front carrier during that time and vacuumed she would sleep. Unless I turned off the vacuum. Then she’d go back to screaming. So I would vacuum for 3 hours, every night, for 3 months. For those same 3 months I endured bleeding nipples before giving up breastfeeding and switching to formula. I wanted to be able to feed her with my body the way I had created her, but we just couldn’t get the latch down and the pain was overwhelming. But the love I felt for her was even more so, so much so that I endured the endless vacuuming and bleeding nipples, anything for my beautiful little brown-eyed girl. She was mine and I was hers.
She was very attached to her binky, but she liked to spit it out so I was always having to be nearby so that I could put it back in her mouth for her. One time we were at a John Kerry rally (for those of you who aren’t political junkies, he was a democratic candidate for president in 2004 against Bush) at a high school, sitting up in some bleachers amongst I don’t know how many other hundreds of people. The city I live in isn’t THAT big, but it’s big enough. Anyway, me being a first time mom I didn’t know anything about binky clips and what a stupendous life saver they can be, but if I had, this would have been the perfect time for one. Kerry was speaking and Kerry is a long-winded, boring speaker so when the baby got fussy, I gave her her binky. Great. A few minutes later, she spits it out, and it falls under the bleachers. OF COURSE it was the only one I had with me at the time, and so now she’s wailing and people are staring at me and I now have to take this baby and go under the bleachers and try to find her binky and clean it off….
But that’s what parenthood does to you. Suddenly you are responsible for the life of this tiny person who is entirely dependent on YOU for their survival. That’s a pretty awesome role.
I took the first year of my daughter’s life off from school and spent it at home with her, which was easy since I was 17 and still lived with my parents. When she turned 1, I went back to school, and shortly after that got a job. She was at home with my parents when I was at work or in class at first, but eventually my schedule became so overloaded that it made more sense for my daughter to move in with my sister, her (then) boyfriend, and their two daughters. There she would receive the stability I was unable to provide, but that also freed me up to pick up a second part-time job.
For a year that was my life. Work, work, homework, class, study, sleep, repeat, and try to see my baby any time I wasn’t obligated to be somewhere else.
During that time I would occasionally see my daughter’s father. The first time he met her she was 3 weeks old. I (stupidly) still wanted him around. I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to be a family. He couldn’t look at her eyes and deny her, it wasn’t possible. It took until she was 3 for me to be done with him.
We did the will they/won’t they dance again for a couple more years. I wasn’t exactly eager to trust him again after he had cheated on me (I’m desperate, not stupid), but he was the father of my child and I wanted to believe in him. And let’s face it, at my core I am still that whimsical, emotional little girl who loves fantasy and fairy tales and dreams of something MORE, and that part of me will never die.
But even I will only tolerate so much abuse. The straw that broke the camel’s back came in December of 2007. His sister had just had a baby, and had gone to California to visit with the baby’s dad’s side of the family, and he was living with his sister in her apartment. I was staying there while she was out of town during this most recent fling, and my one day off from both jobs happened to come a few days before a scheduled inspection for the aforementioned apartment. Instead of spending my day off doing homework or studying or hanging out with my daughter, I spent it cleaning his sister’s apartment and doing his and his sister’s laundry. I spent my own money in the coin laundry machine in the building to get all of their laundry done, and even went to the store to buy detergent, cleaning supplies, and groceries. I had everything cleaned, laundry done and folded, and dinner ready when he came home from work that night. I was so excited, he was going to be so happy because he had been so stressed about having to clean up for this inspection and now it was all done and he wasn’t going to have to do any of it. All I wanted was to make him smile, to make him proud of me, to be someone he could be proud of.
He came home from work, got a plate of the spaghetti I had made, and sat down in front of the tv to play Assassin’s Creed without acknowledging any of what I had done.
I was devastated. I knew I was going to cry, so I went into the bedroom and tried to shut the door, but it was broken and wouldn’t close all of the way. That was ok, part of me wanted him to hear me crying so he would wonder why and want to make me feel better. Most of me was mortified at the prospect of anyone seeing me cry.
But that’s the thing about borderline personality disorder: I want people to stay away from me and not come too close, but I also want them to take care of me and love me unconditionally while they’re leaving me the fuck alone. I’m complicated, I guess. I’ve got a lot of love to give, and I’m happy to give it, all I want in return is to be accepted for the dumpster fire that I am in the varying states of disarray that you may find me in.
When I feel depressed, especially when I am unmedicated, it can feel like falling off of a cliff. Have you seen The Princess Bride? If you haven’t, you should, it’s a classic. In any case, the kidnappers take Princess Buttercup to the Cliffs of Insanity and climb them and the Man in Black has to climb up after them, awesome sword fight, just greatness all around, go watch the movie. Anyway, in my head I spend most of my time dancing around where Inigo and the Man in Black had their sword fight, replaying parts of it, just generally being silly. But when I feel unwanted, unappreciated, unloved, I move closer to the edge of the cliff and I start to look down. I see the rope against the face of the cliff, hanging there, swaying in the breeze. I see the waves so far below me, crashing violently against the rocks, something that seems so tame becoming so angry. Then a voice in the back of my mind starts to speak about how the world wouldn’t even miss me, no one would even notice I was gone. Nothing I do is good enough anyway because I’m so broken, and I can’t be fixed anyway. It’s my brain that’s broken, no one will ever want me. It’s just one step. I could just….
As the flow of my tears increases in intensity and my sobs grow louder the vision grows more vivid; I can FEEL the wind at my back, pushing me, telling me to jump, telling me I can FLY, telling me to give all of my trouble to the wind and the sea and be no more, you have no need for this, you were not made for a world such as this…
And then the door opens, and my daughter’s father throws a lady’s razor onto the bed and says, “Here, just kill yourself and get it over with already.”
And that was that. I was done. I packed my shit and I left, because even though I was disappointed with him, I DID have someone to live for. I was just stupidly wasting my time on someone who wasn’t her.
I don’t know why it took me so LONG to walk away, but that time I didn’t look back. And I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t regret my relationship with him because I am eternally grateful for the lessons that I learned and my wonderful, beautiful, amazingly smart daughter. But I’m glad I didn’t look back, because it only gets better from here.