I am so thrilled to share with you all the story of Cassi (and her cutie Gemma!) I am also nervous and keep going back and forth on how I want to share these stories, so forgive me as I’m sure there will be a variety in the way I present these. I think the best way to share the stories of others is to directly post their words. So what you will see is from their hearts directly. It’s so incredibly humbling when you put yourself out there and ask for others to also be vulnerable. Cassi’s story had me in tears and as you can see by her photos, she and her baby girl are so in love. What this project has definitely taught me is that you don’t know what secrets someone has – On the outside, they might appear happy and together, and they may not share their life so openly with others – but everyone (or mostly everyone) has a truth that would shock you. So many times in talking to these amazing woman, I found myself thinking “Wow, I had NO idea.” And that’s the point of this. We are all battling something and we all need support and to be free of judgment. As women, we are taught to be strong and brave and keep our mouths shut with our struggles or we will be weak. It’s hard. But we can all come forward and share our battles and STILL be strong.
Cassi’s Story • Possible trigger warnings //
My story as a mom… I suppose it really starts in 2016. My husband and I were trying to decide if we were ready to start our family. Then in April 2016 my father was murdered. I was left reeling and things between us became complicated as I dealt with that grief. During this time my husband said he was ready to have kids. I felt like I needed to start living again, so I agreed. I thought a new life could bring a beautiful kind of healing to my family and new meaning to my own life. By December of 2016 I had been feeling run down but attributed it to the stress of the year. On December 9th I had a miscarriage. I hadn’t realized I was pregnant. I was left reeling yet again. My husband said he was unaffected by the loss. In hindsight I should have paid more attention to that statement and what it said about his emotional state. I have never looked forward to a new years like I did in 2016. I clung to it like a lifeline. 2017 would be better. It had to be.
In early April 2017, I found out I was pregnant with Gemma. I was only a few weeks along and after having a miscarriage I was terrified. I am the type of person who researches everything, so my life became consumed with reading everything I could get my hands on to try and alleviate my fears. I think I had the typical fears. Would I miscarry again? Would this baby be healthy? Would I be able to lose the baby weight? Would I be a good mom? How would my marriage be impacted? Every kick, every pain sent me into a fear spiral. We went in for the first ultrasound and found out the due date. December 9th. My true rainbow baby.
Personally I found being pregnant emotionally exhausting and lonely. It only got worse when my husband started having an affair with a new coworker when I was 7 months pregnant. The last few months of my pregnancy were pure hell. I frantically grasped on to any excuse I could think of on his behalf, but deep down I knew I was right. He wasn’t even trying hard to hide it. He was belittling, distant and emotionally abusive. Our 10 year relationship was falling apart right in front of me and no matter what I said or did I couldn’t stop it. After a few weeks, it started to take a toll on my health. My blood pressure was spiking and I was on watch for preeclampsia. We also found out the baby breech which meant a c-section. I was still desperately clinging to the hope that there was some other explanation and that things would change when Gemma finally came. They didn’t. The time spent in the hospital is still too painful for me to think about most of the time. He ruined the birth of my child. Something you dream about. He took that from me and so much more. When Gemma was 5 weeks old I confronted my husband again. He left. Suddenly I found myself recovery from surgery. Overwhelmed. Broken. Alone. With a 5 week old. THIS WAS NOT HOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE! I wasn’t sure how I was going to pick myself back up or even if I would be able to this time.
Luckily I have an amazing family and wonderful friends, that once I finally let in on what had been going on the last few months, swooped in and kept me afloat. They loved on Gemma and me and I will be forever grateful to each and every one of them.
Something I underestimated was the tremendous love I would feel for my child and how that would change me. You hear about it, but I didn’t understand the depth until I became a mother. At first I tried to forgive my Ex for Gemma’s sake. I thought the best thing for her would be an intact family. Then I realized that the best thing I could do for her is show her how a woman, really any human being, should be treated. That it is my job to model healthy relationships to her. Relationships that include respect, honesty, and trust. My marriage had none of that left and if she were in my shoes I would tell her to run. Run as far and as fast as she could. And that is what I ended up doing. There is nothing more motivating than your love for your child to make you fight for yourself, make you fight for her in your divorce settlements. That love lets you push through the exhaustion of being a single parent. The fear, exhaustion, and sleepless nights that I did alone. Night after night. That love also sent me on a journey to heal myself.
I may not be able to change the story of my marriage, or the fact that her father is willing and capable of betraying and abandoning his family, but I am the ONLY one that can give my daughter a happy and healthy mother, both mentally and physically. I am determined to give her that.
Becoming a mother has changed every aspect of my life. It has given me a new appreciation for my body, for my family and most of all for sleep. 🙂 It has taught me that I am a lot stronger than I ever realized and that my non confrontational self has a mama bear insider her after all. It has taught me that truly caring for yourself is what allows you to care for others. This has been the hardest and yet, most rewarding journey of my life. Every sacrifice has been worth it.
One of the hardest parts of the healing process has been grieving the dreams you had, while learning to find joy in the new ones. My dreams about meeting my child and being so in love with your little family. Dreams of watching my husband and child bond. Sitting together at her graduation. Those dreams will never be realized the way I imagined them now, but I am learning to reshape them. And who knows, the future reality may be even better than my dreams.
When we first split people told me that Gemma would be better off and that eventually I would appreciate the time she has to spend with my ex. At first it took everything in me to react very poorly to put it diplomatically. Inside i wanted to tell them where they could put that advice. After some space and time I am coming to see what they meant. It still kills me to hand my daughter over to someone who has proven he doesn’t put her interests first and who frankly doesn’t deserve to be part of her life, but those few hours allow me to reset and be a better mother. Between work and being a single mom I don’t have a lot of time to myself so those two afternoons a month really do help.
My advice for single moms would be find your community and admit when you need help.
For people betrayed by a spouse. Wow, It’s hard to pick just one, but the biggest realization for me was that affairs are abuse. Your partner has to emotionally abuse you to hide the affair and they put your health at risk if it is also a physical affair. Once that sinks in, it’s easier to move on. Get help for yourself and your children