Tuesday, 8th May 2012. S’s father stormed out of the house a few days ago. Since then I’ve tried to call, but he’s never answered, texting only occasionally and never enquiring as to how either S or myself is doing. This morning I wake up and find a text message on my phone:
I don’t want to keep doing this all my life Vicky, I am not go to keep walking on egg shells, I don’t want to keep waiting for the next time you decide you can take coming over here.
I don’t want to keep being hurt, I don’t want my kids to keep being hurt, my kids need stability they need someone who will always be there some who won’t let them down.
I am sorry this is in a txt but if I was talking I would not be able to get my thoughts out in any kind of coherence.
I love you and I will always be here for you bug not as in my partner. I will come to see you both on Thursday if you would decide what days you would like for me to come over and visit and what days you would be willin to bring Samaire over to see the kids. I am sorry and I do love you and this is not easy but this can not continue.
This was the day before S would be a month old. She was only just four weeks old at this point.
I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I began to panic, wondering how I would ever bring up a baby on my own… but alongside that, there was a sense of relief. I didn’t have to look after his children overnight any more. I didn’t have to work out how to care for my child whilst also caring for him, his six children and dog. I didn’t have to worry about splitting my life between our home and his.
I told myself I couldn’t afford to panic; I was alone, and that was that, but the baby still needed to be fed and life still had to go on. I ran myself a bath and tried to get on with my day.
To anyone reading this blog for the first time, that text might look like the genuinely loving text of a man who has tried hard to put up with his girlfriend’s terrible behaviour but can no longer cope. It might look like I was perhaps a little unreasonable. Like I was the one in the wrong, and he was just doing the best he could. Anyone who’s been here before though, knows that what I had been dealing with for the last year was an entirely difficult kettle of fish. His behaviour while I was pregnant and the events surrounding S’s premature birth meant that actually, this was the best text message of my life. This message set me free from months of abuse and torment, where I had become unsure of my own mind. I just didn’t know it yet.
A while later, my friend Faye texted to see how things were going since I’d come out of hospital. I replied that S’s father had split up with me and I wasn’t feeling too great but was sure I’d be ok. She replied, right, this is what’s going to happen. I’ll be round at 7, we’re going to bath the baby and put her to bed and you’re going to have a rest. No arguments. Faye had been the same person who’d told me off for spending the night in hospital alone when I went into premature labour with S. The same person who had 3 children of her own but had told me she would come to the hospital to sit with me over night. I had refused, knowing I would be in terrible trouble if S’s father arrived in the morning to find I’d asked someone else to be there, as if he were a bad person for not being. This time, I accepted her offer – I didn’t feel like I had a choice, or the ability to actually argue the toss with her any way. I felt relieved someone was going to come and tell me what to do.
I put a status on Facebook saying “it’s times like this, you find out who your friends are.” Within a few minutes, my mobile beeped:
God, bet you loving all the simpathy and attenshion now aren’t you.
Will tell everyone how I’m not seeing the baby how I have dumped you.
Bet you have not told them how you refused to bring the baby her or how you lock her in my room away from the kids or how ou use her as a bartering chip blackmailing the kids with her.
And now you will just ignore and not answer that ok because now I have sorted my benefits I can see a solisitor if you want to play it that way!
Notice the difference between the spelling and language in the texts… I suspect the first one was at least partially composed by his new girlfriend, who was already well on the scene by this point. Either her, or his boss – who has stepped into our arguments before, helpfully suggesting I have “passive aggressive personality disorder” and advising S’s father that he should change tack and be nicer to me in order to get what he wants. I’m fairly sure that these days he sticks to assisting the ex by falsifying his payslips so that he only has to pay £5 a week in child maintenance.
Twunty (as he has come to be known) knew which buttons to press; he knew I was terrified of spending years going to and fro with solicitors and court, as my mother had done with my sisters and their father. Over the next few weeks he would play on this – and other things he knew would work – numerous times.
As time went on, I managed (with a lot of help and support from my health visitor, the Freedom Programme and my friends) to loosen his grip on me. Before the end of May I had applied to the CSA (for what it was worth) rather than rely on his putting cash into my bank account each month. By the end of the month I had changed my mobile number and informed the police of my situation. He had a solicitor send me a letter asking me to go to mediation at some ridiculous cost; I emailed her saying he was known to social services and not a fit father, and I would not consider letting him near my child. In July I told him if he would go to counselling for perpetrators of domestic abuse, I would consider setting up regular contact.
On August 9th – the day S was four months old – I went to his work. He met me at the door, leaning out of the door way with one arm inside. I told him if he would not go to the counselling, I would not continue to bring S to see him. He began talking in a strange way, as if someone were listening. He said, “we both know she’s in no danger with me” and I said I believed she was. He told me to stop trying to cause trouble. He said he would see me in court and I said “ok, I’ll bring Social Services with me and see you there.” As I walked away, with S sleeping in the sling on my chest, he shouted down the street at me that I was not a fit mother. I was not mentally, emotionally or financially stable enough to raise his child.” I kept walking, thinking, yes I fucking am; I know I’m doing a damn good job because I’m walking away right now.
Some time later, I found out why he had been speaking so strangely; he had recorded our conversation with his mobile phone, holding it just out of my line of sight and thinking I would cave in and agree with everything he said, as I had done so many times before.
Three years on, I have achieved things I never thought would be possible. Not only has S survived as the child of a single mother, I believe she is thriving. She is happy and healthy and secure and safe. She wants for nothing but is not spoilt. She jumps and dances her way along the street when we go out; she sees it as a massive treat if she gets to spend time with Auntie Af while I go out.
Every night when she goes to bed, we have the same ritual as I leave the room.
It doesn’t matter if there’s never quite enough money. It doesn’t matter if our house is a bit of a mess. It doesn’t matter if our house is always a bit of a mess. We are perfect just as we are. I am proud of S, and I am proud of myself. My biggest achievement is to be a single mother, and to do a damn good job of it too.
We are happy together, just us two.
And today we celebrate three years of that.