Many times I have written about the scars of my abuse; the “trained” behaviors that I was taught as a child. It is very hard to explain the depths of these scars because there was such an extensive amount of damage done by my parents. They were the people responsible for teaching me the right and wrongs of the world; the right way to present yourself as a decent person to others, however there was no sense of decency in our home. In fact, my home was poor with no respect for each other in our family.
The natures I was taught were of drinking at 11 with my stepfather supplying the alcohol for parties as he got my mother out of the house, but later I paid the price by having to endure his disgusting touch on my body. There was barely any food at times and if we were lucky there might be toilet paper when you went to the bathroom; if not just use whatever towel was lying around on the floor. This wasn’t because we didn’t have a decent income in our home, because my stepfather was a coal miner in the 70’s and my mother a bartender. As many people know the coal mining trade has always been a good paying job and I know from experience what a bartender can make in just a weekend of work. We had three children in the home, but even though they both worked the alcohol took most of the funds that came in. Often the rent couldn’t be paid and we would have to move every couple of years until I was about 13 and they bought a small, cheap house through a friend. A home where all of the children slept in one bedroom and the parents in another.
As a child I was always taught that my wants, needs, feelings did not matter. All that mattered in my home was that I did my job as family care taker; cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and dealing with my stepfather’s sadistic behavior. This had always been my life and I didn’t know any other way, except what I would watch on television after my sister was put to bed at night and if my stepfather was too drunk to attack me. At the age of 12 I had to quit bathing in my home because that meant leaving myself trapped and vulnerable to my stepfather’s attacks. It never mattered if my mother was home, sitting in the next room or downstairs, nothing stopped him from coming in the bathroom to tell me how to bathe, what and how to wash my body. After I had no success at getting my mother to stop him I chose to quit bathing altogether.
The next five years were spent growing up in this terrorizing childhood. No one cared that I didn’t bathe, in fact they would tell me how disgusting I was, but no one protected me either. As my young body started to decay with the filth and infected sores eating at my flesh, there were never any doctor visits to get help for my rotting skin. As my teeth were breaking off and huge black holes growing in my mouth, there were never any dentist visits or even the supply of a toothbrush. It wasn’t that we didn’t have family insurance; the UMWA supplied complete family medical and dental care, my parents just didn’t care to get me any help. The only thing my mother cared about was that her house was cleaned, dinner cooked, dishes done, my sister watched and my stepfather was kept away from her. The one person who should have done everything possible to protect and love her daughter; the person who should have taught me about being a young lady and having dreams to better myself and respecting myself, instead turned me away and allowed the sadistic abuse to continue. The filth that had grown over my body invaded my soul and created a person that I am still ashamed of to this day.
After I escaped the disgusting hell of my parents home I promised myself that I would be different. I became obsessive about not only my body’s cleanliness but also of the home in which I lived. There was nothing that was allowed to get dirty and I tried to recreate the person they had raised. My first domestic relationship turned out instead to be just another cage of violence against me even though I had done everything that I could to change the person I was. By the time I was 19 the abuses of my life had left me horribly scarred inside and out. My skin was covered with the deep scars left by the rotting flesh; my teeth broken and filled with black holes both in the front and back of my mouth. I learned to smile and use my top lip to hide the huge holes that had eaten away at my four front incisors. To me my reflection is what I hated more than those who had created me. All that I saw was a girl eaten away by the abuses of her past.
Even though I carried these scars I hid them well from anyone’s view. It wasn’t possible for me to allow them to see the person I had been. I had to convince myself and the outside world that I was a decent, kind, respectable person who had grown up with values when in fact the only thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t matter to anyone. Then I met a man who would give me a chance of dreaming that I could be someone better than who I had been. As he and I grew to love each other I would be tossed in the middle of two different worlds; one of which was filled with nightmares & filth, the other highly respected with money and decency. David didn’t know how deep the scars were, but he didn’t seem to care. He showed me only love at first, but of course this would last only until we married and left the area I called home.
He was military so right after we married he left to set up house in our new place of duty, England. It would be three months before I could go over to join him and the man who picked me up from the airport was not the same man I had married. It wasn’t that he was physically abusive, instead his entire demeanor had changed. This man who had met me while sitting drunk at the bar every night had now become this vision of his family; highly respectable and expecting of my appropriate behavior. Unfortunately I was pregnant and our fist child was due within just a few months of arriving. There wasn’t much I could do but hope that it would work out for the best and our children would be happy.
When my son was born there was something that had changed inside me. I wanted to be the perfect mother; loving, affectionate, protective and doting. Everything about becoming a mother thrilled me. There was nothing I wouldn’t do to give him the best of his mother. He was teaching me how to be a decent human being, but the scars of my abuse would never heal. I had been taught that my feelings didn’t matter, so even though I didn’t much care for the way our household was being ruled into perfection there was never a word of that shared with my husband. I felt that my unhappiness with him would only bring pain to my son and destroy his perfect home.
The next four years were spent trying to hide everything I disliked about our marriage and no matter what my husband expected of me, his needs and desires would always be met. I was the perfect housewife and mother; I had taught myself that this was my new life; for my son, and my new baby girl, it was worth any sacrifice to keep them happy, loved, and safe. Their father was a good provider although there wasn’t much of his attention that he gave to his family. His focus was on what was good for his career and he would achieve that goal at any price. When we were preparing to come back to the states and our tour of duty in England was coming to an end, he walked in the door one evening and as he sat down at the prepared dinner table he simply stated, “We are going to the Netherlands for another 18 month tour.” There was no discussion about this, in fact I didn’t even know he was thinking about doing this. We had only discussed going state side again and getting stationed around his family so that our children could get to know their grandparents and grow up in a stable home. Now out of nowhere he was taking us to a country where we couldn’t even speak the language. To me this was devastating. I was already growing more depressed with each of the lonely days spent in England.
Our whole marriage began to disintegrate with this one decision he had made. All I wanted was to raise my children in a home where they wouldn’t have to keep moving around; leaving friends and everything they knew with each new place. Their father had taken my dreams, which we had talked about many times together, and shattered them in front of me. My only choice was to follow him, be with him and keep my family together. His goals for his career began to cloud the dreams of his family, but in his “all about me” attitude this did not matter. When we arrived in Holland, the Netherlands, my children and I were so desperately trying to find stable ground to regroup and put our family back together.
We spent 14 of the 18 month tour over there with him, but I was just going through the motions of the marriage. The man I trusted to honor my wishes and hold our dreams together had thrown all of it away for a move to better his career in the military and put my family in danger. The entire area was on high risk alert of terrorist attacks from the bombing of Grenada. The searches and constant sirens of preparedness would push me deeper into isolation and depression. As I spent my days spotlessly cleaning my house, baking, cooking, sharing time with my children; the depression would just continue to grow. Their father never said a word or questioned what was wrong as I cut off my hair within inches of my scalp; shutting myself away from anything except running errands with my kids and doing the best a wife and mother could do. He didn’t seem to care that the woman he supposedly loved was falling apart right before his eyes. He went into work each day with perfectly ironed uniforms and our life on the outside met all of the expected behaviors of the perfect military family, but I was the one who was sacrificing all of myself for that image he demanded.
After 14 months I begged him to send the kids and I back early to visit with my family, which I now desperately missed my mother and wanted only to be around people I knew again. It took a lot of debate, but he finally gave in and with that four months of distance between us our marriage would fall apart and end in our first divorce. He had no problems with agreeing to my having custody of our children. He had no problems with me keeping them in the town I had grown up in and around the people I had grown up with. He was moving on with his career and he didn’t much worry about spending any time for visits with them. When he had authorized leave it was spent elsewhere and not by coming to see his children or even calling them; but of course they were still babies then. He didn’t seem to worry about the care they were getting because he knew how devoted I was to them and how much they meant to my survival as a person, but six months later when I had attempted suicide I was concerned about myself for the first time in my life.
Living back around my parents was more of a nightmare than I had expected it to be. My stepfather stalked me and would hang out where I worked, inviting every man in the bar to screw his daughter and tell him all of the details. He would stalk around my house at night and then offered to supply me with assistance in finances, but only at the same price I had paid as a child. Everything about the person I had tried to create was falling apart inside me. The perfect mother and wife I had been was now grasping at every string to hang on each day. The house was still clean, my children still well cared for; but I was being drawn back into the bar life of late nights out drinking and smoking weed. This is the person I didn’t want my children to know. They were sweet, loving and innocent and they deserved only the very best of childhood. Inside I didn’t feel capable of giving them that person any longer and one night I downed about 80 mg of valium by chasing it with a half bottle of tequila. It struck me that my children would wake and be alone until God only knows when someone would check in on us; so I called a friend to come help me save my life and went to see my first therapist two days later.
It was then that I called their father to come and take them until I could go back to school and get the education I needed to better support them. He hadn’t even called since the divorce, but I knew that he would protect them until I could better myself and get them back. However; when my babies left a few days later I completely fell apart and could no longer function or even think about how to begin over without them. It led me to calling their father, apologizing for ruining our marriage and begging him to take me back. At that point I would have done anything to be back around my children. Inside I felt desperate to get away from the parents that had destroyed the person I should have become. Their dad was setting up life in Maryland and quickly he accepted me back as his wife, but of course that came with the high expectations of perfection. I still had not gotten the much-needed therapy and healing, because when I had gone to the first appointment and talked in front of my mother about the abuses I had been taught to accept, she turned on me; slapped me and told me if I talked about the family in that manner again she would make sure that I was shut out completely. For whatever reason, my mother was the one person I couldn’t go against.
Reuniting with my children after that six weeks apart was the most exciting thing in my world. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to keep their world safe, happy and perfect. I went back into the arms of a man I no longer trusted and felt our love would somehow heal. Quickly I became pregnant with our third and we once again shared the vows of marriage. In my heart I didn’t know if I could truly pull this off again, but I was desperate to try. During my pregnancy I went back to get my G.E.D. and then on to trade school for a degree in business management and accounting. I carried my still broken teeth and my scarred skin, along with the deep emotional wounds that had never healed, and went back to being the perfect wife and mother. My children were my world and each day was beautiful so long as they were in it.
Unfortunately it didn’t take long for the marriage to start to change. Once again his actions were turning my stomach and it was all I could do to get in bed with him each night. My degree was useless at this point because the cost of daycare was more than I would start on a pay scale. When our finances began to struggle I offered to go back to bartending part-time so I could earn the extra money we needed. As I got back into working a couple of nights a week and started making friends with some of the wives that came into the bar; they began inviting me along for girls night out. At first I would call to get permission to go out after work, being sure to ask if the kids were sleeping soundly before I agreed to go along. Then it became a regular routine, but my husband would begin to demand his needs be met at home. His actions were becoming more and more perverted towards me; treating me like I didn’t matter and calling me his whore in bed as he made love with me. This all came to a close one night when a handsome young bouncer swept me up for the evening and I cheated on the man waiting at home. That one night; that night that I became the person my parents had created; that night has never been forgiven in my own soul. It was that one night that changed everything in my children’s world.
Their father kicked me out of the house, stole my children and left the state with them. He packed up the three bedroom townhouse filled with eight years of collecting together and my entire world was gone. My drunken, stupid decision to allow myself to be taken in by the man who seemed so kind, would turn out to be the biggest mistake of my life. It not only left me abandoned in a state far from anything I knew with nothing but a basket of clothing, but that would be the destruction of the happy, innocent children I knew. Their father would fill their heads with horrible tales of their mother not wanting them; not loving them; leaving them for someone else more important. When I moved to the state where he was staying with his parents; arriving with my basket of clothes in a 10ft U-haul and $30.00 in my pocket, I had no clue how I was going to survive or what I would do, but I was there for one reason and that was to be around my children with the dream of getting them back in my arms.
He was furious that I had arrived only 3 miles from his parents home. As I started to build a life there he asked me to come back for a third try at our marriage, but it infuriated me that he would even think I would go that round after he had stolen my children and filled their heads with his lies. He had refused any contact with them for six months, even though I would drive the four hours to see them before I finally moved to chase after them. I didn’t have the confidence in myself at first to think I could survive with them on my own, but I knew that I couldn’t live without them in my life so I chased him to Pennsylvania and started putting a life together from absolutely nothing. It didn’t take long before he was willing to bring the kids for visits on my days off, but when I turned him down that night all bets were off. He became the vindictive man who I always known and the threats against my life would come with calls in the middle of the night. He would tell me, “Bitch you are only still alive because I am a nice person. At any time they could find your body floating down the Allegheny river.”
For four years I watched as he would beat my children leaving handprints on their cheeks or bloody noses for bickering with each other. I would repeatedly take him to court only to be shut down by the power his family held with their money and prestige as their older son was a partner in the law firm which defended him. He ran off once again with my children to Oklahoma, leaving just a phoned in message on my desk that he had left with them. The system was taking half of my pay each month to pay for child support and I was ordered to maintain their medical insurance as well. This order continued although no one would help me defend or even force him to move back to Pennsylvania with them and maintain the visitation that was ordered. I felt completely overwhelmed and helpless against him and his family’s money. The six months he spent in Oklahoma with a new wife and my children had caused irreversable damage. The children had been abused by her and her sons while they were there and my own son was terrified of me by the time he brought them back. It broke my heart when I took cookies to his class for his fourth grade birthday and he moved behind his chair for protection refusing even the slightest motion of a hug from his mother. The man who I had created these three beautiful children with had destroyed who they were inside; defending their father’s beatings as, “I deserved it – I was bad!” It took four long years of fighting and being there; accepting all of his threats and his family’s put downs before he finally gave up and sent them back to live with me.
There was already too much damage to the mother/child bond we had before. The years of weekend and holiday visits could not repair the lies he and his family had fed them during that time. To this day I still carry that huge mound of guilt deep inside for the pain I caused them and the destruction of their happy world. Their father still maintains that he has done nothing wrong to harm them; nothing wrong against their mother; nothing wrong in his perfect image of himself. The relationship between my children and I still has not healed, even after the more than 10 years of their mother providing the food, shelter, love, encouragement and support to guide them through. They refuse to see the disrespect they show towards me and the constant straining to maintain a relationship with them is tearing me apart. There is nothing I can ever do to repair what has been done, but I feel that even the slightest bit of truth from their father about me would somehow change what they see. As I view them today and watch them grow in their adult world, it saddens me to know that I am just someone they view as, “not that perfect mother” they once had, but instead someone they can attack with hatred in their words and stabs at my heart of disrespect. They have no endearing love for the mother that carried them, nurtured them, and loved them with every part of her being. They only view what I must do to help them in their lives because of that attachment I still carry so deeply in my heart.
I know how badly I have let them down and I know the damage they carry from the mistake I made so many years ago, but there is nothing I haven’t done to try to make up for what we lost. There is nothing I haven’t tried to provide them and nothing that will ever heal that horrible loss that I feel of the mother/child bond that their father and his family so determinedly destroyed. For all of the mother’s that continue to fight the system for their children against the odds of ever getting them back; I beg you to never give up. Although the relationship may never be the same and the scars of the abuse you carry may never heal, it is your children who wait for you and that is a fight worth enduring. I pray for your success at winning the fight to gain back your children. A mother deserves the chance to rebuild that love with her children. There is no greater loss than the love lost of a child towards the mother who knows no happiness without them.