This is my story of my marriage to an abuser. During my pregnancy with my 4th, we attempted a reconciliation. But my pregnancy with my 5th child was the beginning of the end. Warning: descriptions of violence and abuse may be triggering.
The new year of 2011 started with some good resolutions.. and a big surprise. On January 4th, I discovered I was pregnant.. again! It was a shock and at first I didn’t even believe it. But two weeks later a follow up ultrasound confirmed that another baby was on its way.
I told my husband who was ecstatic with the news. Apparently the Christmas present I had given him was going to keep on giving.. for 9 more months! And all my intentions of a slow, paced, careful reconciliation process went out the window. In a sense, I panicked. Here I was, with a 6 yr old, 2 yr old, 9 month old and newly pregnant.. in a 2 bedroom apartment, with no husband, no car, no job.. I was a mess.
Domestic violence survivors often struggle with confidence and self-esteem. After leaving an abusive relationship, survivors need support, counselling and patience. For more tips on what to do after leaving, check out this article on how to survive.
I was still nursing, and in fact nursed through 6 months of pregnancy. We immediately began looking for another place to live. A 2 bedroom apartment was not going to fit 4 children, and 2 adults. And my lease was up in September, so waiting till then to move was also out of the question — moving during a pregnancy is not fun!
I worked to break my lease, found replacement tenants, and a new house to move to, coincidentally? (absolutely not, God knew what He was doing!) in the same village that my inlaws lived in, just outside the city. My husband and I moved in together when we moved into that house, and that’s where our baby was born, at home.
Abusers will rush their targets into moving in together, into marriage, into signs of commitment very quickly. This is often called “love bombing“.
With all the stress surrounding moving and with my pregnancy, the issues of trust and abuse were not addressed. After my daughter was born, I slipped into a mild episode of postpartum depression. My husband stepped up into a role of taking care of home and children, and wife and baby, even taking extra time off to do so. It was, despite my fatigue and fog, probably the best time in our relationship ever (even since). We worked together, and we enjoyed each other. So much so..
One year to the day, after our reconciliation papers had been filed, ending our separation, we renewed our vows in front of our new home church. We hosted a party to burn the papers I had filled out to file for divorce. We symbolically recommitted ourselves to each other and to our family.
And a month later, we found out we were expecting baby number 5.
I was thrilled. Finally, a child I could say was both conceived and delivered while married and living together. It seemed fitting, to seal our new relationship with another baby. My husband seemed pleased as well, though unemployment and another pregnancy was definitely causing him stress.
Pregnancy can often trigger or escalate abuse.
But.. subtly, things changed. Whether it was the stress of unemployment, or the feeling of having “won”, my husband fell into old patterns. This time, it was a more subtle version.
The criticism was hidden in compliments. He targeted my oldest daughter behind my back. The fights and yelling were provoked, rather than incited by him. I found myself feeling like I was the one starting things unnecessarily. Things were twisted into making him seem innocent. Hurts were made to seem unintentional, or were ignored altogether. I was questioned constantly on my beliefs, my feelings, my needs, and I felt so off-balance that I wondered if I was going to lose my mind.
This form of subtle abuse is called ‘gaslighting’. For more information on what it is and just how damaging it can be, here is a description with examples.
I began to ask him to help, to change, to do something… to at least recognize the old patterns of abuse. And I began searching for things to help.