I have a son. A beautiful little boy named Ethan who turned 10 years old today. He lives in Arkansas with his father. That's as far as I usually get when trying to share this story with someone. Even now I hesitate telling this story for fear that so many of you out there will also pass similar judgement upon me. I deserve a fair chance, and so do you if you are my friend. You deserve to know. My son deserves to be known about.
So many people take it upon themselves to pass certain judgement upon me within the first few moments of finding out I have a son living in another state. I will admit that my situation is less than favorable, but there is nothing about it that a single person alive fully understands, with the exception of myself. This DOES include my ex-husband.
When my son was born, I went through some very severe complications. It was within hours of his birth that I was rushed into an emergency surgery. From what I understand, my chances of survival were slim. I actually died a few times during the surgery. When I came to, something inside me snapped. It took a few months for the full change to take effect I suppose, but when it hit, it hit big.
What had made me a woman was ripped from me - the emergency surgery was a massive hysterectomy that left me seriously scarred for life. No small amount of plastic surgery can ever put me back the way I was. I lost every bit of the self-respect and confidence I had worked so hard to earn in the brief 2 years I had been away from my parents home and the horrible state of Utah that so desperately crushed my esteem while in my teen years. I was now well over 200 lbs, isolated from the world except for my dog and constantly screaming baby. I had no friends, no family, and no way out. THAT was when it hit.
Ethan was about 9 months old when I decided that it was best for all involved if I left and got a divorce. I had been previously unhappy in the marriage and had left my ex-husband before returning to him due to lack of choices. That was when I got pregnant because I was careless, stupid, immature, reckless, and desperate for love that I could return. My ex loved me, I know that. He still does, but I'll get to that later. It wasn't long before I realized that a baby was just too much right then. It was not a healthy place to be. I was feeling as though the only way out was death for myself or for that of my child.
The first time I picked up my screaming, angry baby and shook him, I cried so hard that I felt like I'd never be able to stand on my own again. I set him in the crib, still screaming, and collapsed on the floor in a bawling heap, wondering what I had done in this life to deserve to go through this at 20 years old. Why would I be punished so harshly - to be bed ridden for 7 of the 9 months of my pregnancy for fear of loosing the baby - to die after labor - to be revived, and to learn a part of me was taken away from me - to realize I would never have the choice of having another child again - to feeling like I was the worst mother in the known world, dangerous to my own baby. It was so utterly unfair.
I stood up that day and walked out of the front door to our shanty of a trailer, got in the car, and drove away. I went back about a half an hour later, but I just couldn't take it any more. I had to get out of there. Within a few weeks, I had a job and a girl lined up to be my roommate. I told my ex I was leaving and that I wanted a divorce.
He was fair and just in the divorce, and even made sure that I got "Any Reasonable Visitation" with my son. That was what I wanted. That and my freedom from my ex-husband. I had grown to hate him, though I freely admit that he is a good father.
For too many years I have had to miss my only child's birthday. In 2005 I went to Arkansas for his birthday, while married (albeit briefly) to another man. I was holding down 3 jobs at the time in order to afford the trip. I flew to Arkansas on a early flight after a late night at work. I left work around 2 a.m. and boarded the plane at 5 a.m, and when I flew home, it was barely in time to go to work only an hour later. I was able to spend two glorious days with my son, and I wouldn't ever change that for the world. That, my friends, was the last time I saw my beautiful child... until December of last year.
That trip in 2005 was gruesome for me. I had nowhere to stay since I could barely afford the plane ticket. My ex picked me up at the Memphis airport, and it had been previously arranged that I would sleep on his couch. Even though that's what we had agreed upon, that's not what he had in mind.
Due to a layover, I got into Memphis in the afternoon. As soon as I got off the plane, I was hoping for a hug from my little boy. I had a surprise. He didn't even know who I was. I was devistated. Instead, my ex wanted a hug from me. I patted him on the shoulder and told him that I had missed my little boy.
"Didn't you miss me at all?"
I wanted to say no, and knew that if I didn't say yes, I wouldn't have a place to stay while in the state. So, I did all my stomach would allow me to.
"Well, I'm married again. You know that, right?"
"I know, but does that mean you can't hug me?"
"Alright, fine." I gave him a very short, fleeting hug. He moaned in my ear.
"Oh Baby, I've missed you so much! You feel so good!" I jumped back. My skin was crawling under the fully covering clothes I had on in the August southern heat. I felt slimy...
We immediately took Ethan to the zoo.
Ethan got more used to me and eventually reached out to hold my hand several times. So did my ex. Again my skin crawled. When he reached out and patted me on the bottom, I nearly turned and slugged him. I felt violated!!! It got worse that night when he asked me to sleep in his room.
"Oh, come on... it's not like we're strangers, you know."
"I'm married to someone else!"
"So? What he doesn't know wont hurt him. Come on..."
Appalled, I grabbed a pillow on the couch to fluff it a bit for myself.
"Then," he murmured, "can I at least have a kiss?"
Of course I turned him down, but that was far from the end of his advances. He insisted and forced me to allow him to kiss me on the cheek at one point.
He pawed all over me and fondled me any way he could that entire trip. If I was to be with Ethan, I had to put up with him being there with me, all the time, making advances, trying to kiss me, wanting to touch me, telling me he loved me. Otherwise it wasn't 'convenient' for him, and that's what he interpreted 'any reasonable visitation' to mean.
By the end of the trip, I felt like a cheap trick, bought and paid for with a chance to see my son. He treated me as though I was his property. I couldn't keep his hands off of me, and things blew hot and cold. If I refused a hug from him, I couldn't take my son to the store or to my grandmothers house. He would be so upset with me that you could cut the tension in the house with a knife. I was pawed all over and treated like I was his personal whore. I felt so filthy when I got back that I wouldn't get out of the shower until I was afraid I was going to be late for work. When I got home from work that night I went straight back to the shower. I couldn't look at my (then) husband.
My husband grew suspicious of me after my return. He began accusing me of things I hadn't done, and his jealousy got the better of him eventually. His suspicions of that trip and of other instances eventually destroyed our marriage, and I have never taken insane jealousy well. He became obsessed over the matter and eventually I left him and filed for divorce.
I cant go back to Arkansas alone - and this year I dont have a grandmother there to meet me. I cant afford to go anyway - though there is nothing more in this world I would love than to see my beautiful little boy again. He means so much to me that every year on his birthday I can be found sobbing my eyes out, hugging my knees on the floor beside the couch. I used to wish somehow that I hadn't survived that surgery after all.
I will be nobody's puppet, no matter what the personal cost may be. I made a sacrifice, and I pay for it every day of my life. It's worse than putting your child up for adoption because you know where they are. It's not worse than having your child die, but from my own point of view it's almost as bad. I know where he is - I just cant reach out and touch him. I would give anything - almost anything - to be with him, if only for a few hours. I just wont give my self respect or my body to someone like my ex-husband. I didn't on that trip, and I never will. I am worth more than that.
Now you know the real story. Do you presume to pass judgement on me as well? I have shared my story - now do you dare share your opinion?