How A Birthboard Ended My Marriage...and Ultimately Saved My Life

My first pregnancy in 2009 brought with it all the inevitable excitement that most first-time moms experience. After 8 years of infertility, I was thrilled to be able to finally do all the mommy things I had been anticipating for what seemed like forever. One of the first things I did was join a popular parenting website, signing up for weekly emails that would update me as to the fruit-sized dimensions of my growing fetus.

Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended shortly after it began. I was devastated, and I quickly unsubscribed from what was a painful reminder of what I had lost. It wasn't until five years later, nearing the end of my fourth (and first successful) pregnancy that I ventured back into that intimidating space, filled with fertile women and discussions of all things baby-related. I dipped my toes in tentatively at first, but as my baby grew, so did my comfort levels with sharing this new experience with others. I found friends I hadn't expected to find, from all over the world, from all walks of life. Women with multiple children, women who had suffered infertility and loss, women both older and younger than me. The one thing we shared in common was the birth month of our littles.

As our babies grew into toddlerhood, and eventually became preschoolers, our friendships deepened. I grew to know intimate details of these women's lives. We watched and cheered each other on as new siblings were born and as relationships crumbled. We fought bitterly over political and social issues, then made up and posted funny memes. We rallied around each other when heartbreaking losses happened. We talked about everything, from the trivial and mundane to the most significant moments in our lives. It was through this dialogue that I finally drew enough courage to admit that my marriage was struggling. More than struggling. It was through the lenses of these patient and insightful ladies that I saw how broken and one-sided our relationship had become. Slowly, over months, I confessed bits and pieces of the reality of our daily lives. I shared how isolated I felt, how angry, and how hurt over the verbal abuse my husband battered me with whenever I spoke up about my discontent. I told them about his drug use, and his gambling addiction. I explained how he used guilt and manipulation to keep me away from my family and friends. Finally, I confessed my deepest darkest secret: despite all outward appearances to the contrary, I was in an abusive relationship and I had no idea how to break free.

Last December, my husband suffered his first psychotic episode. He disappeared for a week right before Christmas, leaving me and our two children in a state of baffled confusion. Aching over the thought of holidays without him, I begged him to seek treatment. He agreed, and we muddled on for several more months. During that time his paranoia worsened, and so did his attacks on me. In addition to verbal assaults, he invaded my privacy, repeatedly rejected  and demeaned me, and used sex to manipulate and control me.  My online friends were the only ones I could talk to - the only ones I dared tell the truth to, and even then I hesitated.

These women, most of whom I had never met in person, supported and rallied around me like sisters. They encouraged me, held me together, and helped me see the truth: this wasn't a marriage, but a mirage, and I didn't have to stay. As my husband's behavior escalated into dangerous territory, these ladies gave me the courage to do the unthinkable: to take my babies and leave. To risk his fury and his vengeance was terrifying. However, given the events that have unfolded since, I firmly believe that it was 100% necessary. My husband is not mentally well, and had I stayed, I fear that neither my children nor I would have survived.

I am barely beginning down this long and winding road that ends in divorce. I have hired an attorney (thanks to these same women, who banded together to raise the retainer fee) to help keep my husband and his ire at a distance. I have an order of protection, and I am in the process of moving out of our home. In some ways very little has changed, but in the deepest possible way, absolutely everything has. I am not the same person I was when I joined that birthboard several years ago, and that is entirely thanks to the wonderful women I met along the way. The journey of motherhood is tough, and technology has allowed us to build a virtual village of support. In my case, this village helped me to change not only my self-image, but my confidence in my ability to start over and to build a life for my boys, free from intimidation and abuse.

To my online family (you know who you are): THANK YOU. Because of you, my marriage has ended...but my life has truly just begun.

Comments

  1. I don't understand how some people think that online friends are not real friends. Sometimes, because you don't have to sit in front of that person, you are able to reveal things about your life that you wouldn't be able to say out loud to someone else. I'm so happy that you feel supported and are making sure that you and your boys stay safe. You can do this.

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  2. Wow. Lots of changes in your life. I look forward to reading more about how things go as you move forward. All the best to you!

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  3. I was never part of a pregnancy/mommy board, but online communities have saved my sanity many times over the past 19 years. Non Sequitir Chica nailed it. Bravo for having the courage to take this difficult step. All the best to you & your kids as you move into the future!

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  4. Sending all the hugs and love I have. Though our experiences aren't the same, our end results are and I wish you all the strength to hold fast to your babies. Though I may not have been part of that board, I have followed you for a long while. I will be following along. Though I admit I rarely comment, i am reading for sure....

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