Why did you have children with him?
Good question. One that I have been asked so many times. A question I’ve ‘attempted’ to answer. If it was that bad, he was that dangerous, why did you keep bringing children into the world, knowing they would have to be witness or even victim to his behaviour?
Selfish. I was completely and utterly selfish. I wanted to have them as much as he wanted to impregnate me so he had more control. I wanted them because they were all I had. They were mine. I looked after them, I cared for them, I revelled in the beautiful smell of them as newborns, the talc and Johnsons bedtime bath. The first smiles just for me. The look of utter love and devotion in their eyes as they suckled at my breast. The first few wobbly steps into my arms. They needed me, and I needed them more. They loved me and it was unconditional. A beautiful pure love that no one, not even he could take away from me.
My first child was conceived when I was 18. I hadn’t wanted to be pregnant, I wasn’t ready to be a mother, but he was insistent that having a child together was absolutely the most perfect thing for us. It would bring us closer, he wanted to provide, wanted the perfect little family. I know now, it was so he ‘had’ me. It was his way of making sure I was staying put. And he was right.
‘The waiting room is quiet. A handful of women sit around me, heads down, the air thick with guilt and shame. A woman appears at the doorway with an armful of notes. My heart quickens. She calls out an unfamiliar name and a girl opposite me picks up her bags and follows the lady into the room beyond, the white door shutting behind them. I stare at the stark white door, I wonder what is the other side of it. What happens. How they do it. How they take away the life that is growing inside me. My heart is thumping in my chest. I’m starting to feel sick. The clinical waiting room walls begin to close in on me, I feel like I can’t breathe. I catch the eye of a girl sitting across the room from me. She looks so sad, maybe she doesn’t have a choice. Maybe she has to do it, and she doesn’t want to. Do I? No one is making me sit here…
I feel myself rise out of the chair, I grab my bag and stumble towards the door, the other girls all look up and watch me curiously. Fresh air hits me, my ears are ringing like I might pass out. I want to get as far away from this place as possible. A small group of protesters stare at me as I run to my car. I don’t care how stupid I look. I was about to make a huge mistake, it is my baby, I am it’s mother and I will protect it for ever.’
Eight months later I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The first moment he looked at me I fell in love. He was perfection. I marvelled at how perfect his fingers and toes were. How tiny his nose was, how kissable his little pursed lips were. I was a young mum at 19, and although I had pretty good maternal instincts I wanted my own mother with me as support. She sat beside the bed whilst I was in labour throughout the night, holding my hand, helping me breathe through each contraction. I knew she wondered what I saw in the man that lay asleep, snoring in a chair on the other side of the room. But she never asked. She just supported me, because that’s what mums do. She came home with me and him and made sure we were settled before she left. She promised to come back the next day and give me support…
‘I’m lying on the sofa. My newborn baby sound asleep on my chest. I’m tired, my first night of being a mum was as to be expected. Sleepless. My lady bits are still quite sore, but otherwise I’ve bounced back pretty quickly, back in my pre-pregnancy trousers…the perks of being a ‘young mum’ I guess. Mum is here, she’s in the kitchen making a casserole for our dinner. Good old mum.
Like a whirlwind he enters the front room. He announces as part of his culture’s tradition he wants to throw a party. The whole family will come and meet the new addition to the family. He is going off to buy a lamb and we will spitroast it. I will make the rest of the food to accompany it. I ask when this is going to happen and he announces ‘tomorrow.’ He finishes his speech, looks at the baby and leaves to hit the shops. He needs to buy the biggest rotisery bbq money can buy.
I’m left stunned. I don’t know how to feel about this sudden revelation. I’m not sure I want to be entertaining on day three of motherhood. I think I just want to lay with my new son and cuddle and feed and touch his beautiful face. Not cook for a load of people I’ve met once, while they pass my baby around like a party show piece. My mum has overheard the conversation and senses my mood. She comes in and sits on the sofa beside me, concern in her eyes. I don’t know what to say to her. But she’s my mum and I realise I don’t need to say anything, and my tears just come. She strokes the tears away with her fingers. ‘It’s ok darling. You don’t need to do this.’ She’s right, I don’t.
The phone rings an hour or so later and it’s him. I can hear in his voice he is excited. He asks me what I’m going to make to go with the lamb. I pause. What do I tell him? Do I tell him it’s too much for me right now or do I just go along with it to keep him happy? I still can’t believe he expects me to do this. I muster up some strength from somewhere. ‘I don’t think I’m ready to have this party yet, I think maybe I could do with a few more days to recouperate, you know, so I feel a bit more…human.’ I stumble over my words, something in my gut telling me he’s not going to be happy. He snaps down the phone at me that he’s bought the bbq now, so it’s going ahead, he’ll do all the preparation and what am I going to make? He’s not listening. I pause and take a deep breath. And then I say ‘Nothing…I…I’m not going to make anything.’ The line suddenly goes dead and my mouth goes dry. I’ve made him angry. I’ve pissed him off. What the hell is going to happen now? My mum comes in from the kitchen. She senses something is wrong. ‘Is everything alright love?’
The phone starts to ring again, I answer it and it’s him. He’s angry. Not ‘normal’ person angry, really really angry. The way he gets angry. I can’t make out his exact words, but he’s spitting down the phone at me. Vile language, shouting, screaming, he’s bellowing so loud the line is crackling. He tells me my mum and I are both cunts. The baby’s a cunt. I’ve actually dared to tell him that I’m not going to do what he wants to do, and for that I’m a cunt. My heart hammers in my chest, my hand shakes, tears prick the back of my eyes.
‘You better fucking get out of my house before I get back! You wait and see what I’m gonna do! I’m gonna smash you up! I’m gonna smash your mum up! You see what I’m gonna do, you cunts! You fucking cunt! You better get out of my house before I get there. Get out, now!’ The line goes dead.
The tears push through and fall down my cheeks. My mum heard him screaming down the phone at me and her face is white and panic stricken. ‘What on Earth is going on? What’s wrong with him? He’s a lunatic!’ I can’t even find the words to begin to try to explain. I clutch at my beautiful sleeping baby on my chest and cry. How could he treat me like this? I’ve just had his baby for Christ sake!
A car engine revs outside and his mum pulls into the drive with a screech. She jumps out of the car and runs to the house, letting herself in. She enters the front room where we are sitting. She’s in a panic, her eyes wide like his when he’s angry. ‘Come!’ She shouts breathlessly in her thick Mediterranean accent. ‘You must leave with me now. He’s coming back. You must get out! My son, he gets very angry.’ She’s grabbing my shoes, pulling me up off the sofa, ushering us to the front door. My legs are weak. I grab a shawl for the baby and stumble to her car. She drops us at a local cab company. She apologises. She’s sorry, so sorry. She looks terrified, she has to go and calm him down. My mum is white as a sheet, shaking, dazed. I take control, I have to protect her and my son. I give the cab driver my mums address. He looks confused. We must look very strange sitting in the back of his car. No coats, shivering, huddled together, both with tear-stained faces, a newborn baby sleeping in my arms.’
Later that day, sitting on my bed in my old bedroom at my parents house, the phone in my hand, him begging me to come home, apologising profusely to my mum and I, I made the decision to ask my dad to take me back to him. I hear your thoughts, dear reader. I hear you asking me why on earth I would decide to go back. I was safe. Why go on and have more children with someone that is so capable of showing such utter disregard for those he professed to care about? There are so many reasons why, and I will explain them to you at some point in the not so distant future. Writing this blog, trying to answer the questions I know you will ask yourself as you read it, I am finding out about myself and the reasons I made the many decisions I did. And it is hard, upsetting, painful.
The one thing I do know though is this. My children gave me a reason to live. They gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Without them, I doubt I would be sat here writing this post. And one day, when they learn about my past, I want them to know what they did for me, how they kept me strong, and how much I love them.