Can’t put it off any more!

To actually write this blog post scares me… It’s a topic I have known is important to tackle since I started writing the whole blog but in some ways it’s the one post that reveals so much of me as a person it terrifies me. I have been trying to find reasons why I shouldn’t write it for weeks, telling myself that no one needs to read about my battles with an illness (because that’s what it is) that no one talks about. God it seems has other plans and just won’t let me walk away from this post. It scares the living day lights out of me to write it down but if by writing it I can help just one person then it will be worth it. It is a topic that needs to be talked about and a topic that needs the stigma taken away.

What is that topic?

Post Natal Depression 😦

My battle with the dreaded PND was one that I managed to hide from a lot of people, including myself, for a long time as I have always had a knack of being able to put on a ‘happy face’ and get on with things. It was also a slow spiral for me that started with the birth of my second child so I didn’t really notice it happening and if I’m honest, if R hadn’t walked out the way he did, I’d still be suffering. The way R left meant that we got counselling both together and apart and for me that was the biggest blessing to come out of this whole situation. I can now write this post from a place of happiness, security and knowledge that I’m good enough, having worked through so much stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I still get bad days when everything feels really scary but those are few and far between now and the nightmares that used to plague my sleep have all but disappeared. I have an amazing family, 3 wonderful children, truly superb friends and a relationship with God that I know I can depend on. So here goes… My story of PND….

It all started with a routine midwife appointment at 33 weeks and 5 days with Mr 6. I didn’t feel 100% and after talking to the midwife about my symptoms she was concerned enough to send me up to the hospital for further examinations. The concern was that my hind waters had gone and that obviously posed a risk of infection. Having left the midwife who happily said I should go home, pack a bag, have some lunch and head to the hospital ‘but there was no real rush’ I walked home with Mr 8 who at the time was 22months old, phoned R (who went into a tail spin) and once everyone was sorted we headed out.

Well that was when everything went mad… I don’t really remember a lot about the next 36 hours as once we arrived at the hospital I was pumped full of drugs and lost control of my life, or that’s how it felt. It was discovered that I had a temperature so suddenly I was wheeled into one of the labour rooms, hooked up to a drip and they started an induction. I’m sure a lot more happened in between but for the life of me I don’t remember. All I remember is sitting on this bed, looking at my little boy who was strapped into his buggy, thinking ‘I haven’t prepared him for any of this as I thought I had weeks’. My mum being the star that she is drove from her home in Dorset to us in Oxford to collect our little man from the delivery room as we hadn’t had time to sort anything for him. Not being able to hug him goodbye was really traumatic for me but my thought was that I’d be home in a couple of days and everything would go back to normal…. How wrong was I!

I remember the nurses saying to me that the labour should be pretty quick as with my hind waters having gone, baby would be ready to go so it was a huge shock for everyone involved when it took 5 bags of drip at 98% and 26 hours for our little man to make an appearance. I was completely exhausted, completely traumatised as it was the most hideous labour and I’m sure there was a big lump of shock in there too, but our little man was safe and so I relaxed. Mr 6 was taken straight to special care to be checked over and weighed in at a good sized 6lb 8oz! (I don’t even want to think about what he would have been if he’d gone to term)

We had to stay in hospital for 10 days in total and there are so many moments during that time that I could tell you about but my over whelming feeling from that time is one of sadness. I was stuck in a room by myself (only slightly better than watching people come and go on a ward) with a little boy who had blue lights to treat jaundice and who wouldn’t feed for anything! I remember the nurses showing me how to squirt milk down his throat using a syringe as he couldn’t suck. I felt a complete failure. Not only was my 22 month old completely confused about everything that was going on and wondering where on earth Mummy had disappeared too, my band new, tiny little man couldn’t feed from me. I felt like my body had let him down and allowed him to be born too soon and now i couldn’t even help him with the food he needed to survive. I remember at one point wishing the doctors would say he needed special care so I could go home. Even writing that 6.5 years later breaks my heart. This tiny little bundle who I loved more than the world I couldn’t deal with because of all the emotions and trauma I was dealing with but had no one there to guide me through it. As Mr 6 was such a good weight and didn’t need to stay in special care, none of the support structures surrounding a premature baby kicked in. I was asked so many times during those 10 days if I was sure my dates were right and it didn’t seem to matter that my dates and the scan dates all matched, the medical staff seemed to take one look at his size and decided he wasn’t premature so I obviously didn’t need the support. How wrong could they be!! During this time both my mum and R were amazing. One of them was with me every day and the other was with Mr 8 but the nights felt so so long….

Finally we were allowed home and I have never been so pleased to get back to our little rented house and to begin to try and feel my way parenting both boys. This is when I locked the feelings up, put on the happy face and got on with things. We had visits from the in laws, a new bathroom fitted because it was planned in to be done before the baby and R went back to work.

There is so much to this story that I could probably write a whole book rather than just a blog post. From the morning I remember phoning my mum at 6am after R left for work, having been up for most of the night trying to get Mr 6 to feed. I just said ‘please come’ burst into tears and hung up, knowing I had to somehow get though the 3 hours it would take her to get to me, to the endless doctors appointments that still continue to this day.

One thing that kept me going through all the mess was the love I had for the children and my husband. Yes things were messy and it was a constant battle to get things done but I kept smiling, kept going and got through it, but at some point I lost me….

Its only looking back I realise how far from being ‘me’ I had come. I didn’t care about what I looked like or what I ate and everywhere around me I saw things that would be a danger to the children or R. I hated being by myself in the house as I was convinced someone was gonna break in. The idea of the children in a car with others terrified me as I absolutely believed that it would crash and I’d never see them again. I saw danger in everything. It sounds completely crazy now but in the place I was it was very very real. I look back now and wonder how I hid my fears and feeling from everyone. Letting people see what was going on inside my head was something I was determined couldn’t happen. It felt ‘normal’ to be ruled by that level of fear about everyday things but deep down I knew it wasn’t right. I have always been the strong one and the one to hold it all together. I had no idea how to even begin to explain how I was feeling so I didn’t. I locked it all up and convinced myself I was happy and everything was great… It sooooo wasn’t!

I know that many families who have premature babies have medical complications far worse than anything we had with Mr 6 and for that I will be eternally grateful however the battles we have had for him have been ongoing and long. I’m not going to go into that now as those are stories for another time but I’m sure that fighting for him in some small way kept me going. As well as being mum to 2 wonderful little boys I had one who needed me to fight for his speech and hearing and I couldn’t be prouder of how far he has come considering the rough start he had.

The turning point for me was most certainly R leaving. It wasn’t a concise decision but something happened inside my head when he left and although it has hurt like crazy and it’s been a really really tough road to climb, there will always be part of me that is thankful that it happened. Did my Post Natal Depression contribute to the failing of my marriage? Yes it probably did, but then I would also say that if R had known me well enough and cared enough, he would have seen I was struggling and got me the help I needed. Instead he took the easy way out. He had an affair and walked away…. Do I blame him? Kinda, but there is also part of me that knows I wasn’t that pleasant to live with and maybe he just wasn’t strong enough to support me in my recovery. Through this experience I have become so much stronger as a person and although I never lost my faith in God, it has been renewed beyond my wildest imagination.God has been and continues to be, my rock through it all and I thank Him for that daily.

The most important thing I take away for my battle with PND is that is ok to talk about it. It’s not a dirty secret and people understand. It’s actually amazing how many people have suffered with it and want to talk about it once someone has the nerve to actually admit they struggled. PND needs talking about. There are so many people struggling with this condition and until we take the stigma away for it, they will suffer in silence, too afraid to speak out.

I know that this whole experience was part of my journey and has contributed in making me who I am today but the thing that makes me really sad is that none of this needed to have happened…. When they broke my waters, both were in tact… 😦

Food for thought….

This last few weeks has been rough… Those of you I know well, will know that at the end on the summer holidays I lost my grandfather. He was my last remaining grandparent and although he was not the same man I knew due to ill health, I still saw glimpses of the man i loved growing up. My sister summed it up perfectly in what I can only call her ‘letter to Gramps’ at the funeral. There are so many things we have all learnt from the blessing of having him as our Gramps…. How to only punch with your thumb knuckle out, how to only drink whiskey with ice, how to tell people to S.Y.G. (Shut your gob) and how to give the best Chinese burns and dead legs….. The list goes on. One thing that stands out from my childhood are the hours playing cowboys and Indians when he would arrive home after work. He lived with us for a bit while I was growing up so him arriving home was always an event! He would tie his tie around his head, add a feather and away we would go… Within minutes we’d be tided to a tree or a chair, crying, and he would be inside, grinning like a loon with a beer in his hand, assuring mum we were all fine! We knew this would be the outcome but we still went back, everyday, for the same game, the same outcome and the same crazy fun, because we loved him.

Gramps was also the one who’s Christmas presents were envelopes with amazing adventures inside. He was the one who took us to see our first west end production – Jason Donovan as Joseph. He was the one who took us all to Center Parcs for the first time before it was really even heard of and started that amazing family tradition of getting us all together for a weekend every couple of years. A tradition we still try and carry on to this day. He was the one that took us all to euro disney…. When I look back at my life, Gramps is the one who is so central to so many of my wonderful memories. He quietly supported our hopes, dreams and aspersions while slyly giving a dead leg!

Boxing Day was always the day we did Mum’s side of the family as I was growing up. Although Christmas was always great, Boxing Day was the day that the really celebrations took place. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles (when they were around), dogs and general family craziness. I have such wonderful memories of Boxing days and although some of those memories are linked to drink fuelled arguments (and there was ALWAYS one or two of those believe me) the one person I never remember being involved is Gramps. He was always there, and now knowing the history a bit more between my Nanna and him and how they separated, I respect and love them both so much for being able to put aside that hurt and pain and be together for all of us for that one day a year. Boxing Day wouldn’t have been Boxing Day without Gramp’s mash potatoes and a walk with the dogs that always ended up with us eating crisps in the pub garden (or having a pint when we were old enough.)

We had to wait a few weeks before we could say our goodbyes as we had to wait for my aunt to be in the right stage of her chemo cycle before we could all get together. In some ways having that time between loosing him and saying goodbye was a blessing. It gave me a chance to kinda come to terms with losing him. Having to go through the funeral and everything that went before it though bought home to me how much my life has changed since my marriage ended. I had no one to share the pain with, I had no one once that door shut at night who realised how I was feeling and helped me deal with all of that and on the day of the funeral, although surrounded by family who were amazing, I had no one who was just there to support me. Through all of this though I realised that it wasn’t actually R I was missing because even before he left, he would have stood there and made the right noises but actually not truly known how much I was hurting. There are no words for how much hurt I felt on Monday as I listened to my son read and looked at that coffin but I know Gramps was proud of the person I am and I have every intention of continuing to make him proud.

It’s a funny thing, needing support. We are all good at locking our emotions away (I’m the biggest culprit) and replying to people’s questions of ‘are you ok?’ or ‘how you doing?’ with a standard answer of ‘I’m fine’. God sometimes uses the strangest moments to teach us our biggest lessons and as I sat in church this morning talking to my beautiful friend, I heard myself saying “there is never a moment when you would be a burden”… I realised in that moment I truly meant it, not that I ever doubted it but it was everything that went with that that hit me like a sledge hammer. Our friendship goes beyond and deeper than there being a ‘good moment for a chat’ and transcends all other day to day things. God has bought us together for a reason and given us this friendship. However much it’s hard to open up or hard to realise that someone else actually wants to help carry that burden, we have be blessed with each other for just that. I realised in that moment that there is nothing I wouldn’t do to support this friend but that I have been using the standard ‘I’m fine’ answer for the last few weeks when she has asked me…. I’m not by any means gonna start spouting my problems to the nearest person but this morning God showed me that I really don’t need to feel guilty or worried about sharing that load with the people who love me…. True friendship is about sharing the good, the bad and the craziness and I am truly blessed to have people in my life that God has put there for just that.

A great big dollop of healing….

It’s funny how during the summer holidays everything is different. Routines are different, eating is different (somehow getting the children to eat veg seems slightly less important) and bedtime is certainly less structured. Having a few minutes to put my thoughts down hasn’t really happened and if I’m truthful I began to wonder if anyone was really that bothered about the rambling thoughts of, well, me! This weekend though for some reason only known to Him, God has made it very clear to me that I am meant to be writing this. If that is to help me or others I don’t know but I’m sure He has a plan and I am happy to put my trust in that plan 🙂

i have talked before about the way that this whole life situation has helped me to rediscover and develop my relationship with God and I really really believe this summer has been a huge one in that journey. From having to place my trust in God when I left the children with their father at the beginning of the summer all the way through the different experiences, right up to the conference I went to yesterday (and I’m sure beyond). 

The week after R had had the children for his extended access, the kids and I went to New Wine. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is a huge Christian festival held in Shepton Mallet. We camped for a week with friends and I don’t even really know where to start when it comes to the things God showed me and helped me to deal with during that week, but I’m gonna give it a go!

The weekend that the festival started was a R weekend so the children weren’t with me during the whole setting up process. This in some ways was a blessing as I could concentrate on putting up the tent etc without worrying Little Miss 2 was running under a car! It did however open up the challenge of how to get the children onto site as they didn’t have their tickets. When I arrived on the Sunday I just casually mentioned the situation to the man on the gate and to my surprise his response was “oh that’s fine, just tell them to come through here and they can drive right up to you”…. Having to face R on site was not something I had even considered as I still struggled with facing him at all. His control over my emotions even at this point is still so strong. As much as I am happy in my own skin and so much happier without him, he still has the ability to leave me feeling completely worthless just by his action of walking away every time he drops the kids back as if nothing ever happened. I had to firmly remind myself that I was surrounded by people who care about me, who know what has happened and are not gonna be taken in by the fake smile and the saying of the right words. So that is what happened. At the exact time they were meant to be returned there they were (I actually wasn’t, I was parking the car) and as predicted he was chatting like nothing had happened, connected my gas bottle and sorted out the camping toilet before jumping back in the car like it was the most normal thing in the world and driving away. One of the people we were camping with actually gave me a hug and just quietly said “we know what he’s really like, don’t worry”…. As my mum frequently says, he could sell Ice to Eskimos! 

The week was truly amazing! God used it to put me back in touch with some wonderful people that even on a site holding over 11000 people, He made sure I crossed paths with. People from my past that I had lost touch with due to R’s inability to do social gatherings. He gave me space to process a lot of stuff that was floating around inside my head and He allowed me to admit that although I was mending and a huge distance from where I was, I wasn’t ‘mended’ by any means and showed me that that was ok… God placed in my path that week the parents of a childhood friend. I had no idea they would be there and they were actually on team for the event, running the radio station. Through this chance encounter God gave me opportunities throughout the week to talk through some of what had happened with someone who hadn’t been there during all the mess so was one step removed from all the pain, He gave me the space to talk to someone different and although there were no real revelations or tears during those conversations, they were a vital part of the healing that took place for me that week. 

The huge ‘impact moment’ if you like, came for me during a session by a lady called Arianna Walker. This wonderful speaker is part of an organisation called Mercy Ministries (if you haven’t heard of them then it’s worth looking them up, they do amazing work) and the message she gave during that talk, changed the way my life was going for good…. God used her words to reach the places in my heart that I didn’t even realise I still had locked away and that talk started a process in me that took me completely by surprise….. She talked about taking off the stabilisers, the things that we rely on when we should be relying on God and in that moment I decided I didn’t want to keep going back to the safety of the things I held on too, I wanted the stabilisers off and I wanted to get on with my life with God as my total 100% support system. 

God started something in my heart during that talk and in the afternoon, my lovely friend had my children for me and I took myself down to the pastoral prayer tent…. It’s not something I have ever done before, I have always preferred to pray with people I know and trust, but for the task God wanted to do in my heart He knew I needed someone removed from the situation so He gave me a peace with the situation I can’t put into words…. What happened in that prayer tent was truly incredible and something I’m not quite ready to share publicly as it was very very personal but I can safely say I walked out of that tent knowing that R no longer had the hold on my emotions that he had when I walked in…. I had not expected it and actually never thought it would ever happen but God came in, unlocked that pain and allowed me to start to deal with it. Not on my own but with His presence firmly by my side. 

There was a huge amount more that happened that week for me and the children and I could write about it for pages and pages but I won’t… What I will say is that I am truly thankful for all of it 🙂 

The rest of the summer has past in a haze of beach days, playing with friends, reconnecting with old friends, adventures and real heartfelt fun… The thing that has been proved time and time again is that life didn’t end when my marriage fell apart, actually life started to heal when that happened. There is music, laughter, arguments, shouting, mess etc etc but whatever is happening, life is good…..

And I thought I’d really turned a corner…. Then God stepped in yesterday and pointed out I wasn’t quite fully around the said corner and the hardest bit was yet to happen….. 

Myself and 12 others went to the Liberate women’s conference in Bath yesterday, led by Arianna Walker, and yet again God used her words and the words of the other speakers during the day to flip my world upside down, shake it up a bit and then put it back down again. There is still a lot I am processing and it is gonna take me a long time and lots of prayer to really sort out everything that happened but something I don’t need to work out is that during the last session God enabled me to forgive R for everything he has put myself and the children through. Through the words of the speakers and the words God himself shared with me, I saw clearly that the only person being held back by my unforgiving attitude was me! God showed me that by truly forgiving R, it doesn’t mean I accept what he did or continues to do, it just means that I have accepted it’s not my responsibility and that God will call him to account for his actions. By letting a God take that burden from me, I am setting myself free from the damage R can still cause. By forgiveness, whole hearted 100% forgiveness I have taken back the last bit of power R had over my life and I feel free…. And it’s incredible!!!!!  

Shopping, people watching and time away

I have never had any extended time away from the children and to be honest it’s not something I would have asked for, but the situation being what it is, that is the exact situation I have found myself in. R has decided to take up his ‘right’ to see the children for an extended period so for 5 days I am child free. This sounds like the most fantastic prospect but when actually faced with it, it becomes very daunting. What do you do with yourself for 5 days when you can’t be at home (his flat isn’t big enough so they have to stay at home) and everyone else is either working, being Mummy or generally getting on with their own lives????

You go away with your Mum!

At first the thought of R being responsible for the children for a whole 5 days scared the living day lights out of me and honestly that feeling hasn’t gone away, but I realised that as much as the children need to spend this time with their father and he needs it with them, I NEED this time away to recharge, regroup and rebuild the energy stocks to face whatever challenges are heading my way next. I’m not saying it was easy to close that door on Saturday, It wasn’t, but thanks to my wonderful parents I have 3 nights in a great hotel relaxing, shopping and doing whatever I feel like doing without having to sort anyone else but myself before heading back to theirs for a final night. It’s a chance for me to think about me for a change.

There are so many things about this situation that I could get myself worked up about. Will R get the boys to school with everything they need for the last few days of school? Will Miss 2 be ok while the boys are at school as she has never spent time with her father alone? (I know, sad isn’t it), will he ignore my wishes, sleep in my bedroom and bring the girlfriend into my house?….. The list of things goes on and on but in the end the only person who looses sleep is me and there is actually absolutely nothing I can do about any of it. That in itself is a very hard thing to accept. My children are in the sole care of someone I don’t trust as far as I can throw him but I have no choice so I either spend 5 days giving myself an ulcer or I can try and relax and enjoy the opportunity I have been given. This is the point where yet again my faith in God is my strength and I have to trust the words that were given to me in church a few weeks ago by the wife of a visiting speaker. She told me that God wanted me to know that He has His arms around my children while I am not with them, and that is What I have to now trust.

So this is where I find myself….. Sat in the bar at the Lensbury club in Kingston, enjoying a drink, writing this while watching the boats on the Thames and partaking in one of my favourite hobbies… People watching! Would I prefer the children to be here? I actually don’t know. For the first time in a long time I feel relaxed. Completely and utterly chilled out. I got up this morning and before Mum was even awake I headed for the pool and swam 16 lengths (causing me to realise yet again how out of shape I have got!) and had a sauna, we had a grown up breakfast while we sat and read the morning papers and then headed out and did some shopping. At no point did I have to think about anyone but myself and I can almost feel my body recharging. I know the children would love this place and Mum has said we will bring them but I also know it will be a completely different experience with them. Equally as lovely but very different.

So here is to forced time away from the children and to 3 more days of ‘me time’….. Cheers!

What a difference a year makes!

Wow… What a difference a year makes!

Today is R’s birthday and this time last year I’d had one hell of a day. Even after everything he had put me through I was still desperate for him to see what he was missing, see what he was walking away from and come home, so for his 40th I did the whole lot. Cake, presents, family tea in the garden complete with balloons etc. He arrived, ate, opened presents, made all the right noises and then left without a backwards glance and went off (to what I now know) to a birthday get together with his mistress and all his nice new friends. Would I change it… No, because in the place I was in then I needed to do it, I was still fighting for my marriage and my family.

Today however has been very different. Yes I’ve felt a little bit sad about him not being part of our lives but to be honest his actions are speaking louder than his words ever could. No contact has been made with the children today, no effort to see them (even though I offered), apparently work is very busy. I often look and wonder how he can do it, how can he not want to have every minute he can with the children and share special days with them but I am slowly learning that by trying to work things out using my view point is pointless as R is never gonna put anyone else first and his relationships with the children are so very different from the ones I share with them. 

When I think back over how far we have all come in the last year, I hardly recognise the people we were. I remember the feels of desperation when R was here for his birthday. My whole being wanting and willing him to realise what he was leaving behind and for him to see that we were worth fighting for. Looking back though, the best outcome was that he didn’t see it, he didn’t fight and didn’t come back. I know that sounds quite shocking and believe me it has taken me a very long time to get to this point, but I am so much happier without him in my life on a daily basis. Yes it hurts that he didn’t want me and my self esteem has taken an absolute battering but finally I am happy with who I am and I know that I deserve someone who loves me for being me and who is proud to be part of my life and the life I have with my children. 

As my friends and family read this I can almost hear the cheers going up and as I say it’s been a very long road and one that I am still walking on a daily basis. You don’t just get up one morning and everything is fine. It’s a grieving process and one that goes through some serious ups and downs. I know though that my little family are gonna be great. A year ago I wasn’t sure I could function without R by my side. I was going through the motions and it hurt… Lots! But a year on I feel amazing. I am blessed with fantastic children, truly wonderful friends and family and I am having the best time…. 

 

All i I need now is my divorce 😉

 

 

A busy few weeks…..

It’s been a while since I posted anything but in actual fact I have been attempting to write what is proving to be a very difficult post. Writing about my experience with post natal depression is challenging me beyond my expectations and is something I want to get right so I will continue to write it and when I am truly happy with it, I shall share it with you. Until then, some more of my thoughts….

The last few weeks have been a real rollercoster of emotions. There has been some amazing stuff happening both positive and negative but throughout it all the one thing that has surprised me the most is that apart from a couple of wobbles, I have been able to face the challenges head on, not let the experiences affect me in a negative way and have a bucket load of fun!

It’s been a long time since I have had the freedom or opportunity to have a proper girlie weekend away. It sounds terrible but in the 8 years since Mr 8 was born I can count on one hand the nights I have had away for myself and to be honest for a long time it didn’t worry me. Being at home with my children and my husband was where I believed I wanted to be. Would I change it now, maybe, but it’s all good in hindsight! Being away from the children gives me the chance to be myself and in my case, rediscover who that person actually is. I know who I thought I was but I’m what discovering slowly that all the experiences I have had, have given me a new perspective on life. I’m still very much ‘me’ but I’m slowly finding the confident, outgoing side of my personality that I’d kinda forgotten existed. It’s a scary process. From having the confidence to get up and dance (something I love to do and R didn’t) to shopping with the girls. That might sound easy but for someone who is struggling with not only weight but self confidence, being put in a position where you are opening yourself up to clothes not fitting or admitting, to yourself and others what size you actually are is a terrifying place to be. Luckily I was away with not only one of the best friends a girl could ask for but her sisters and their friends. Not once did I feel judged (apart from by myself), I felt very loved and can honestly say I laughed more than I have in a very very long time (even with the biggest hangover I’ve had since university).

The whole weekend and conversations we had, got me thinking about things. Having to be open with people about the end of my marriage was easier than I thought it would be and although it still hurts and I think it always will, I know I’d never go back and I know I’m worth more. I didn’t quite realise though how protective of me my friends are. During the pre-dinner drinks stage of Friday evening the topic of how my marriage ended came up. The look in my friends eyes when she was saying how badly R treated me, made me realise how far we have come together and it was for me, quite a special moment. Saddest thing is that she’s spot on! The way that my soon to be ex-husband has treated me has been disgusting.

Last weekend I attended my 20 year school reunion. I have to admit I was apprehensive about going and yet again being in a situation of having to explain to people that my marriage had fallen apart when the inevitable question of “are you married?” was asked, but I went with my head held high and feeling really good about myself. (Thanks to both my sisters for their help with clothes and hair) The one thing I discovered though was just how many other people where in the same position. Going through a divorce can be the loneliest place in the world but when you step back and actually talk about it, you find that so many others are going through, or have been through a similar experience. Chatting to one friend I haven’t seen in a few years, I discovered she was right at the beginning of the process and it had been suggested to her that she talk to me as I’d been where she was. During that conversation I truly realised how far I have come. All the emotion I was seeing in her, I had felt myself and although I couldn’t take that pain away, I was honoured to be able to be there for her like so many people had been for me.  The nice thing about the evening though was that nobody cared particularly about my situation. Not in a negative way but in a hugely positive way. I stood in a group of over 100 people who I have known for 25 years and everyone accepted me for who I was (or who they thought I was 20 years ago). Most wanted to chat and find out who I was now and what I was doing but there were obviously the few that still, even after 20 years, look you up and down like they did when we were at school and didn’t bother to even say ‘hello’, but unlike 20 years ago it didn’t bother me one little bit. I realised that I’m happy in my own skin (although loosing a couple of stone would be good) and I don’t want or need the approval of others to be content with who I am. It was an amazing evening filled with so many hugs and lots of laughter surrounded by good friends, some I’ve stayed in contact with over the last 20 years, others I have now reconnected with. I feel very blessed to have them in my life and have shared so much of my own history with such a wonderful group of people.

This last few weeks has also included the official court proceeding regarding the children and contact with their father. For quite a long time I was unsure as to whether or not he was going to make me actually attend court for access he freely admitted he didn’t want. What he was saying to his solicitor and what he was saying to me seemed to be two very different things, so I spend a lot of time confused and not sure where life was going to take us. In the end it comes down to control. One thing I have realised over the last 18 months is just how controlling R is and was, of our marriage, our money and also my emotions. At some point it shifted from being a partnership to being him ‘in control’ of the situation and now that I’m taking that control back he is using whatever he can to keep a hand on my life. I am also learning that he is a very very capable lier and can look me in the eye and tell me whatever he thinks I want to hear while planning to do whatever he wants. I suppose that’s how he got away with cheating for as long as he did! Thankfully we didn’t end up in court, my solicitor was amazing and we now have an order that everyone is happy with. I just hope he keeps to it as although I don’t really like him as a person anymore, he is still the children’s father and I will always do whatever I can to maintain their relationship with him.

The hardest thing about the contact for me is hearing about it from the children afterwards. Listening to them tell me about the time they spend with Daddy and his girlfriend while putting on a ‘happy face’ breaks my heart every time. The fact that the girlfriend is who he left me for and I’m pretty sure he was seeing her while I was pregnant with Miss 2 makes the thought of them spending any time with her completely sickening. Unfortunately there is nothing I can do about that so smiling and making sure the children feel like they are not doing anything wrong by being with her is the most important thing.

At first the thought of her being anywhere near my children made me physically sick. I wanted to run away with them and protect them from all of that confusion and pain and to stop them ever having any contact with her at all. In time I came to realise that I couldn’t do that and although it was very painful to hear, it was pointed out to me by one of the best friends I have, that a lot of what I was trying to protect them from was my own fears and emotions and that the children where not actually feeling any of it. True friendship is about telling you the truth rather than what you want to hear and she hit the nail on the head completely. I will never be comfortable with the children spending time with the new woman but it is something I have to deal with. The fears that I had, and at certain moments still have, about her replacing me in the children’s affections like she did with my husband, I now know are completely irrational. Does it stop me feeling it when I know they are all together? No it doesn’t, but I’m learning to accept it for what it is and to look forward to my time without the children to do things for me.

One day I will also have to meet her but I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet….

 

Family, friends and faith

When you suddenly find yourself in the situation I did, alone with 3 children and completely and utterly heartbroken, you realise who is important in your life and the lives of those children. Everything you thought was solid is rocked to its core and the one person you believed you could rely on through anything, is suddenly not that person anymore. For me, the last 18 months or so have proved to me what a wonderful family I have and what truly beautiful friends I am blessed with. They have sat with me while I cried, guided me through a path, that on my own, would have been unbelievably scary and made me laugh when I honestly didn’t think I would ever laugh again. There have obviously been the people who’s concern has been more to fuel the coffee shop gossip than to actually find out how we all were and I have had my fair share of what I like to call the ‘sympathetic head tilt’, but I learnt quickly that you have to rise above the gossip and the false smiles and look to those who are there for you because they love you, completely, for who you are. In that respect I am very lucky. I have been blessed with a handful of wonderful friends who have stood by my side through this whole mess and continue to do so on a daily basis. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I love you all and without you (and you know who you are) the children and I would not be as strong or as positive as we are today. God puts people in your life for a reason. Whether that’s for a short period or for a lifetime, that is not for us to decide. To make every day count IS our decision and one I made very quickly after R walked away. The thing I have learnt through this journey is to never take situations or people for granted, as you never know when it might change. I have learnt that it doesn’t matter if you sound sappy or emotional. Telling people you love them and appreciate the blessings they bring to your life, is one of the best gifts we can give them. You can never have too much love! While I was at university I had an amazing group of friends and I’m lucky enough to still be in contact with many of them today. We lived together, worshiped together, prayed together and partied together. It’s a bond you can’t replicate. When I left university and started teaching my faith started to slip. Not for any one reason, life just got busy. I struggled to find a church that filled the hole left by the Uni chapel and instead of praying and really trying, it was easier to make excuses and stay in bed on a Sunday morning reading the paper and drinking tea. When I met R, this didn’t change. His faith was only in the early stages and to be honest I think he was searching for somewhere to ‘belong’ and wasn’t really bothered what that was. Instead of building my faith through our relationship I let it slide further away. I never lost my belief in God and my faith has always been an important part of who I am but Sundays became a day when R and I would stay in bed till lunchtime, meet friends for drinks, go for long walks along the beach etc rather than church. I could talk for hours about the journey my faith has taken over the last 10 years or so but the point I wanted to make is that God has a way of putting people in your path who point you back towards Him. One of my very best friends is my guiding light on this one and she knows who she is! Without my friendship with her I wouldn’t be where I am today with my faith. God has used many of my friends along my journey to get me to a point where I was ready to accept the hand that was offered. Thanks to her, the children and I have a church we are happy in and a place to worship surrounded by people who care for us and each other just as we all are. For that I love her to pieces and I will forever be grateful. There are still many bumps in the road to negotiate, both on the road to getting my divorce finalised and in raising my 3 wonderful children while working out where their father fits in, but I know whatever life throws at me, I’m not in this alone. At the beginning of this journey ‘alone’ was the overwhelming feeling that I carried with me all the time. A fear of the future, a fear of letting go of the man I planned to grow old with. I didn’t want to be alone and I was angry at God, R and the world for putting me in the position that I had found myself. Again I believe God stepped in and helped me find a wonderful counsellor who guided me through the beginning of the healing process. It started as couples counselling but to be truly honest I don’t believe R ever had his heart in it. He had made his decision before he left the house that Saturday and did the counselling because he thought he should. For me though the counselling proved to be a lifeline. I have worked through a lot of things, including post natal depression and without R walking out I may never have dealt with it or even realised I was struggling. I have so many ideas, plans and hopes for the future and I know that along with my 3 crazy, funny, irritating, wonderful children, I have a loving family and a bunch of truly exceptional friends to share that future with.