A Mother’s Story You Wouldn’t Believe

Flickr / Will Folsom
Flickr / Will Folsom

It is hard to begin from the beginning, to explain over and over a situation that is barely explainable. It is hard for anyone to understand how I ended up with this unusual situation.

I was not quite 21-years-old and I had a history of heart-break and emotional vulnerability. Well, that seems like a generic statement…90% of the population could likely say something along those lines. However, it played a pertinent part in my attachment to a man I met at my favourite party club. I was living a youthful glamorous little life, carrying an outward smile but a sad, broken heart. He had a thick cockney accent and was the first guy I’d agreed to go on a date with in a long time. I’d been on a streak of bitter-sweet independence from the opposite gender and was sedately and sadly happy with this life. When he phoned me and I spoke with him sober, I regretted giving him my number as my snooty, bitter side overcame me. However, I wanted to keep to my word to go on a date with him and after the first date, I did not regret it. It may have been the best date I’d had. I still felt tinges of uncertainty but I felt those happy butterflies fluttering about.

I’d been living in Vancouver at the time with my father and things weren’t going particularly well. Things were actually terrible. We had major issues getting along but I didn’t want to leave Vancouver nor the friends I’d obtained there. So, when London lad, Brad, asked me to stay in Vancouver with him instead of returning to University in Halifax, I was more than happy (even though we’d only been dating a month). My father had essentially kicked me out anyway and I was struggling to support myself. So I cancelled my plans to continue with my University degree and instead decided to take a full-time, one-year program in Spa Therapy because i’d always wanted to do that anyway. Bradley was on a six month work visa and quickly decided to go through the efforts of obtaining Canadian Residency. Everything seemed too good to be true. For a month or two.

He began asking me personal questions about my past relationships and sexual history, which was normal enough at first, but it insidiously became interrogative. Jealousy of my romantic past submerged into the relationship and sunk my heart into a deep dark hollow. Psychological abuse can be like putting a frog into water and slowly boiling it. I brushed off the first name-calling and controlling behaviour. It was what I’d been rather used to anyway. But he aggressively pried into my guarded heart and tore me apart…over and over, until I was sick and my spirit was suppressed into oblivion. The abuse became mildly physical where he would push and pull me around, block me from walking away, physically destroy expensive things in his rages. The blame was put on me and perhaps it was my fault for having lesbian sex with my close friend, which he didn’t take very well to say the least. However, I made many efforts to fix the damage I’d done, to put his jealousy at rest. I stopped communicating with most of my friends, I apprehensively made changes that he demanded necessary to settle his foul moods. But good enough was only temporary.

Why did I stay? Why didn’t I walk away? Compassion, broken self-confidence, and a sense of belonging attached me to his polar mood swings for about eight months. And then I became unexpectedly pregnant at a point where I’d nearly been weak enough to find the strength to leave. I am not against abortion but I became immediately attached to the little surprise that was growing inside me. I considered adoption but he convinced me that the pregnancy would be a turning point in his behaviour and he begged for one last chance to prove he would change.

Gradually and expensively, he obtained his Canadian residency during the months of pregnancy, while there continued an aggression and jealousy over a past before I’d met him. I knew many times that I would have to leave. I was emotionally isolated with a growing baby in my belly. I was a full-time college student and hadn’t had a job since he and I had first met when I was bar-waitressing at my favourite nightclub. I could see a good heart on the other side of his tempestuous, unstoppable moods. I could see a good father in his loving, generous, and strong charisma, the one that faded in and out, intermittent with his dangerous, blind rages of anger that appeared on a regular basis. He was the one who had been there for me in a way no one else ever had. I received a sense of relentless love that provided me with a stability I’d been missing most of my life.

At eight months pregnant, after about sixteen months of dealing with him following me to yell in my face, physically preventing me from leaving or walking away, pestering me with questions that had no satisfactory answers, there came yet another night where he had me in hopeless, devastated tears. He sat close to me and mocked those tears. This time I reached out and slapped him in the face. His anger went tenfold. He demanded I leave his house (late at night in the dead of winter eight months pregnant), then he claimed he would call the cops on me for slapping him, but then instead, he came back into the room where I was still sitting on the floor crying, stood over me and slapped me in the face. I never thought I would stay with a guy who would intentionally physically hurt a female or someone smaller and weaker. But I stayed. And the beginning of my labour a month after that incident entailed a similar trauma, because my labour began at a time that wasn’t convenient to his mood.

It is hard to conceive that a person by such a description could be a truly good person beyond it, but myself and others who have seen his good side, can most easily see a good heart troubled by something out of his own grasp of control. He often became remorseful, devastated tears streaming down his face, grasping at the unknown reason for his moods. It is most definitely a type of psychological personality disorder that only people close to him really see, and those people also see the true, good person that accompanies it. Nonetheless, it wrecked havoc on my own mental well-being.

My midwife recommended that I speak with a psychiatrist after she’d asked if I’d experienced past abuse and the answer was yes. It was a standard protocol supposedly put in place to help support new mothers and prevent postpartum depression. When I confided to the psychiatrist about some of Bradley’s behaviour, she called child protection services. Even just having had spoken with the psychiatrist in the first place triggered more of his anger, so when social services began calling us, he convinced me it was in our best interests to pack up and go to his home in England for a while (It was the second time I’d spent with him at his home there but the first for our son). We returned to Canada about a month later continuing on with the destructive pattern that our beloved son had become a part of.

In spring of 2012, the incident of him slapping me while pregnant came up again, and I was infuriated by him attempting to justify it saying I deserved it because I slapped him first. I was tired of protecting the truth about him from my father and the rest of the world, so I texted my dad and told him. That was a turning point. Before that happened, he had come home from work determined to leave Vancouver and go somewhere where we had more family support. He was grasping at anything to escape his own angry depression. He wanted to go home to England or at least to Halifax where I had family supportive of us both. I agreed to move to Halifax. After my dad found out about him hitting me, there was a bunch of drama and verbal exchange between them, police were involved (not for the first time), and my son and I moved in to my father’s. However, the personal problems that I had with my father were not any better than they were the years previous and I decided to stick to the plan to move the three of us to Halifax where my paternal grandmother resided. Bradley and I were technically broken up, and I thought that if we didn’t have to be around each other so much and stay in the same bedroom, that we could peacefully and separately be parents to our son. But I was wrong.

The discord thrived and our son continued to be in the middle of yelling, unhappiness, and his mother’s tears of anguish and desperation for things to change for the better. I’d felt like I’d given up control of my life. We went again to Brad’s home in the UK during the summer of 2012. Our son was 18 months by then and his father’s destructive personality disorder continued to eat away at my heart, but his love for his son grew stronger while my heart seemed to grow harder; my will to get away from the emotional hole grew stronger.

Shortly after returning to the east coast of Canada, my family in the small town of Cranbrook, BC, where I mostly grew up, convinced me to bring myself and my baby for a week’s visit. Bradley stayed behind to work. Once again away from him, I quickly became intoxicated with a kind of free felt happiness. I didn’t want to go back to where he was and I told him so. He of course didn’t take that very well, he left his job again, and jumped on a flight to Cranbrook, claiming he couldn’t stand being separated from his son, and promising not to keep trying to get back together with me. However, when he arrived, he began again following me around, switching between trying to reconcile our relationship, and questioning and berating me. Our son then became in the middle of not only his parents fighting, but a dramatic multiple-day uproar within the whole family.

Bradley was desperate for me to love him the way he loved me. He said I always seemed cold and detached and that was a big part of the reason he acted the way he did. I’ve never had a doubt about his love for our son or even for me, despite the side of him that chased me away. I remembered when we first started dating he’d told me he’s not a good person and I thought he was just being modest because I could only see a good heart. Both sides of him were so convincing during their moments, that the emotional confusion was unbearable and it tore me in two.

I hadn’t had a job or independence from Bradley since we’d started dating and by that point, I was a shattered mess of a shell of the person I wanted to be. Since Bradley had again left his job, he begged (not for the first time) that I let him take Jacob to his home in England. He wanted me to come too but he at least wanted Jacob. I didn’t have the heart to keep him in his emotional agony and cut him off from both myself and our son, I didn’t have the heart to keep tearing our son apart in the middle of hateful love, and I didn’t have the heart to continue life with Bradley. It was around then I realized I’d been slowly tearing myself apart from my son. It was a necessary detachment. So on October 9th, 2012, I let my son’s father take him to his home in London while I stayed behind to obtain a job, to heal from the psychological effects of domestic abuse, and to recover to the kind of person I wanted to be.

In December of that year, I started travelling back and forth to England every few months to be with my son. The emotional chaos continued but being away from Bradley much of the time still allowed for me to find my long-lost happiness and free spirit. But I was missing much of my son’s life. Bradley convinced me not to fight over him in court and that our son should remain in England with him for the foreseeable future. We fought and fought but Bradley was still skillful at manipulating me to allow him to have his way. By the time I stood up and sought legal help, it had been over a year of Jacob being in England, with me travelling back and forth. Canadian government was basically powerless to help me, but I applied under the Hague Convention and a final hearing for the court case took place in July of 2014. I hadn’t seen my son since February of that year.

The court case made me feel empowered and hopeful, but to my surprise I did not have my request granted to have my son returned to my care because it had been too long. It didn’t matter the reasons that I’d let my son stay with his father in the UK. It didn’t matter that his aggression and erratic, dangerous behaviour hadn’t stopped for our son’s presence, having had put him in both emotional and physical danger. It didn’t matter that my son was asking and crying for me and not understanding why he could only see and hear me on a computer screen. What mattered, they said, was that the child was settled and happy in England and that moving him back to Canada would be traumatic. The Hague Convention Act was the only legal help I could afford.

So I obtained a work visa for the UK. Unfortunately shortly before my flight to London, I lost my driver’s license for changing my shoes in my parked car under the influence, and although I immediately obtained work in London, I tentatively planned to return to Canada around January to tie up loose ends, such as sorting out my license. However, I was pushed back to Canada in a hurry, earlier than I’d expected to return, because I’d been staying at Bradley’s home and things went even more sour when his family got involved with their biases. I was criticized for being a selfish, oblivious person, for not treating my son properly by ignoring him and being in and out of his life. I was told I play the victim and want people to feel sorry for me. I was told I can’t blame everything on Bradley (which according to his mother is what I’d been doing). I was told that I only tell one side of the story, my side, the one I want people to hear.

When curious people ask about my life, it’s been easier not to tell that I have a son. It is a long story and this is a short version. I haven’t held my son since November 2014 and I’m still in Canada preparing myself to return to him, this time to have my own place to stay. When I left him in February of 2014, I told myself I would never leave him again, but I did. Bradley and his family pushed me out when I wasn’t prepared to get my own place to stay in London. They demanded I return to Canada which was triggered by an involvement of yet another confused, hurtful relationship that quite literally followed me from Canada. Although it intertwined itself, that is yet a whole other story. TC mark

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