Updated: Dec 7, 2021
Mike, my husband, and I hadn’t really had any meaningful conversations since the babies arrived. We grew more and more disconnected but we never discussed it. We were just trying to survive. Exhausted at the end of the day, and knowing we'd be up in the middle of the night, as soon as we got the girls down, we were "out" too. Mike worked at a job he hated, making very little money. This former musician was now going to school part-time to earn his college degree and earning a salary we could barely survive on. We weren’t happy (but we didn’t know it at the time), and yet being married and having a baby (or two!) was all I'd ever dreamed of. It had been my goal for many years, and I always imagined these years would be the best of my life. I would tell myself that when I had a family I’d finally be the happiest I’ve ever been. These years seemed some of the hardest, even comparable to my childhood, when I had been sick for most of it, eventually having a kidney transplant at age 13. I had never felt more on edge and so completely isolated.
I would hear the other moms talk about their playgroups and taking their children out to lunch together. I was invited by another mom at the preschool to join the rest of the class after school at a restaurant, which I had to decline. I couldn’t bring Tula along to any social events for fear she would ruin everyone's day. The only time we had a restaurant meal was every Friday at the McDonald’s drive- through. Tula would scarf down her cheeseburger and fries, no problem, then consume a sucker on the way home. At home, eating microwavable foods and lots of pasta was the norm. My ideal meal would be bread and butter and dessert. Mike and I were accustomed to purchasing whole sheet cakes from the grocery store and eating them over a few days, then buying another. Mike was overweight and drinking more often, not every night, but when he had a chance to drink, he would get drunk.
When the girls went down for bed, he would hide in the garage and drink beer. I learned later that he was "taking the long way home" from work because our house was such a stressful environment. Many times he would walk in the door only to hear Tula screaming and see a wife who had had it. I began to drag Tula, even at ages three and four, into her bedroom when she had been screaming for so long I couldn't take it. I would shut the door behind us and try to hold her as she hit me or head-banged me. I would be crying along with her and telling her that I loved her, though I don’t think she ever heard me. I felt bad for Thalia having to hear the constant screaming and needing to deal with it on her own. I would put Tula in time-outs but would still have to hold her in my lap as she continued to thrash. One day she even chipped her tooth on a table. There were times when I would squeeze those little arms tighter than I ever should have trying to constrain her. I had completely lost myself. I had begun to hate my life but I had no choice but to keep going.
On December 17, 2007, when the girls were 2 ½, I lay down on my couch next to our Christmas tree while the twins napped. A few minutes later I jumped up, hearing the loud ringing of a bell ornament hanging on the tree. By the time I reached it the ringing had stopped. I tried to figure out how the bell started ringing on its own but it was a mystery, since nothing had bumped into it. Later that evening, I discovered that Mike had been drinking much more than I thought he was and that I could no longer count on him for help in this condition. His constant negative, glass-half-empty attitude only made things worse. He broke down, admitting his addiction to alcohol, and since I was barely surviving myself, I told him he needed to leave the house and could return when he figured this out. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to live. Emotionally I was spent and leaving Mike would leave us penniless. He wasn’t making enough for the four of us to live on, and as he’d be living on his own, I would need to go back to work at my old job, which didn’t pay enough to cover the cost of daycare.
The next morning was one of the lowest of my life. Craving nothingness, no worries, no more screaming, I wanted to be obliterated, so I shrunk myself up in the corner of the room and cried hysterically. I wanted a new husband, different children, and I wanted a whole new life, a do-over. Waves of panic flowed over me. But I felt trapped, crying harder than I ever have. I cried out to heaven and to my deceased grandfather and asked why this was happening. It wasn’t until months later that I remembered that bell ringing just a few hours before I learned of the severity of what was really happening with my husband. I now believe what people call the universe, spirit, or other unseen presences were trying to wake me up to a new life of hope that was waiting for me. And that I would get my fairy tale ending after all.
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