When I was 18 years old, a couple months after a bad breakup with a guy that was somewhat emotionally abusive, I met Dave. He was the cousin of my best friend’s boyfriend, which my friend and I thought that was so damn cool. Dave wasn’t extremely handsome but he was incredibly nice. After feeling torn down by my ex-boyfriend, nice was just what I needed.
Even though I had been a virgin till 17, my sexual relationship with Dan started quickly. Dan was four years older than me and more experienced. Unlike with my first boyfriend, who was just as inexperienced as me, sex with Dave somehow often brought feelings of shame. Looking back, I guess it was the first time I felt the abuse of my childhood beginning to affect me. I secretly cried sometimes after having sex with Dave, especially if it was more than just “missionary”.
After the first couple months of our relationship, little things about Dave starting bugging me. It was tiny things at first, like the way he talked, the way he walked, the way he laughed. I know those are trivial things, but when I realized they were bothering me, I knew that something wasn’t right. I also discovered his interest in pornography, which I hated, especially after my childhood! He was also into comic books and role-playing games which was so not me and I though it was weird for an adult man. It was becoming clear that we were very different people whose interests were not at all in common. I stayed though because he was so nice and it was fun for my friend and me to be dating cousins.
During this time, my life felt fairly together. I had just graduated high school and had a decent job. I taught Sunday School at my church and I was singing solo concerts at churches all around my hometown. Life was going well and I felt like I was growing into my own. However, three months into my relationship with Dave, I found out I was pregnant. I was stunned but also kind of happy about it at first. I was young and unmarried and the timing was terrible, but the thought of having the baby made me feel good. I thought everything was going to be so perfect, but that happiness would be short-lived.
I told Dave I was pregnant and it shocked the hell out of him. I didn’t really know what he was really feeling. The one thing we knew for sure was that we would have the baby. The hardest thing to do was tell my parents. I had been a parent’s perfect child in many ways – I never betrayed their trust, never partied or drank or did drugs. I was very responsible and heavily involved in church. How was I going to tell them I was pregnant? I told my mom first. She actually told me that she knew something was up even she didn’t know what. I knew she was disappointed in me but she was immediately supportive. She had me take another pregnancy test and it was positive. I went to the doctor and he confirmed it. We told my father and my siblings and although shocked, they all supported me. Dave and I told his parents and they didn’t condone what we had done but they were very excited that they were going to be first-time grandparents. A couple weeks later, Dave asked me to marry him and I said yes.
Everything was great at first. I had visions of being a great parent and being able to handle everything. Dave and I were doing okay but I was beginning to see other red flags that our relationship was in trouble. One weekend he took me for an out-of-town trip. He was meeting up with some friends to play “Dungeons and Dragons” (picture me rolling my eyes because I AM!). I sat there for 6 hours doing nothing while watching him play. I hadn’t realized that’s what he expected his pregnant girlfriend to do all day – just sit there twiddling her thumbs (this was before cell phones). All I could think was how childish it was for grown men to be playing role-playing games all day. I wanted to yell out, “Grow up already!” Another time he yelled at me in a way he never had, and I told him that he would never speak to me that way again. I was becoming so much more aware that Dave and I didn’t belong together.
Two months into my pregnancy, the morning sickness hit, only it wasn’t normal – I started throwing up and couldn’t stop. I was in the bathroom with my head in the toilet every five minutes for hours at a time, for months at a time. It was so bad that I was hospitalized twice during my pregnancy for a week each because I couldn’t keep down any food or liquids. The hospital had to feed me through a tube. It was terrible. It would last into the eighth month of my pregnancy.
One night, while I was lying in bed wide awake, all of the sudden thoughts of being molested as a little girl started flashing in my mind. Once they started, they didn’t stop. It was like I was reliving all the abuse over again and in such great detail. I started crying and couldn’t stop. It was a terrible night. I didn’t understand why it was happening. I later found out that some women don’t truly deal with their abuse until their first pregnancy and such was the case with me. I talked to Dave about it the next day and he let me cry in his arms. What had never really affected me before was beginning to tear me apart. I was emotionally drained and I didn’t know how to deal with the thoughts and memories, especially at the same time as my pregnancy.
Around the same time, I was seriously consider breaking up with Dave. We were just so different and he was getting on my nerves more and more. I couldn’t continue the relationship just because of a baby – if we had stayed together and had a miserable marriage, we would have taught our child a very bad sense of what love is. Or, we would have gotten divorced and that is terrible for a child as well. I didn’t want that for our son! I have taken a lot of slack over that decision but I have never once regretted it and I stand by it. After thinking about it for a while, I finally did break it off with Dave and he was completely blind-sided. After that, for the rest of the pregnancy, he didn’t come around much even.
The next few months were a blur of being really sick mixed with trying to prepare for the baby. I had everything ready, all the clothes, toys and furniture. It was a little easier because I still lived with my parents. I was so looking forward to being a mom and to having him love me as much as I loved him. At 6:30 a.m. on the morning of my due date, my water broke. I told my mom and off we went to the hospital. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening! My life was about to change, but it would change in ways I never could have imagined.
I was in labor for 18 hours. My cervix just didn’t want to dilate. I stayed at 2 centimeters for what seemed like forever. Dave showed up for a while, but he left to go to work before I had the baby which pissed me off. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t call his boss and call off for the night while his baby was being born! At least my mother and sisters where with me. Labor was long and I finally went from 2 centimeters to 9 centimeters in about 20 minutes, which meant it was too late for an Epidural. I was going to have this baby the old-fashioned way – without drugs. All I got was a little local anesthesia. As labor progressed, the doctor had a hard time getting my baby out. He tried vacuum extraction and forceps but the little guy just didn’t want to come out. Finally, after hours of pain, my beautiful baby boy was born. I was so happy! When they placed him on my stomach, I kept saying, “He’s mine; he’s all mine!”
Dave came by the next morning after his night shift. He held our son and I could see he was happy. Later that day, my parents took me and the baby home. The first week was wonderful. I loved when he would fall asleep on my chest – we would often nap together. I also loved kissing his little fingers. I did opt not to breastfeed; the thought made me cringe after the abuse of my childhood. About two weeks in, I started falling into a deep depression. My doctor said it was post-partum depression mixed with PTSD from my recently detailed memories of the incest I had suffered.
One night while trying to feed my son, he wouldn’t take the bottle and he wouldn’t stop crying. I didn’t know what to do and I felt a helplessness growing inside me. I was trying to get him to take the bottle and without even thinking, I think I shoved the nipple in his mouth. He started crying and I quickly realized that I must have done it too hard. I knew then that I could hurt him and I couldn’t allow that. I wasn’t going to hide it or act like it didn’t happen – I loved my son too much for that. The next morning I told my mom what had happened and asked for her help. I didn’t understand what was happening to me or why I was feeling so low, so sad, so angry, so hopeless, so afraid. From that moment on, my life began to spiral out of control. I was 19 years old.