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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just when you think it's safe...

When Brad dropped the kids off last night I asked 'Where are their jackets?"  I asked primarily because he is obsessive about them having jackets, not because I really care.

He said "It's a long story."  Then he started talking about how I needed to send a note to the school because they would not release Luke and he had to wait for him and on and on.  I asked a question because I was confused about which school and what had actually happened.  It seemed like he started the story in the middle and I couldn't figure out what the problem was and exactly what I needed to do about it. (Luke rides the bus from elementary school to an after-care program at a Montessori school.)

He decided that I had interrupted him, which is a heinous crime in his mind.   I eventually got the story out of him, but in between there was 10-15 minutes of him ranting and raving.

"You always interrupted me, that's why we're not married anymore. You never let me finish, you have to let me finish.  I hate you and I hate coming over here to drop the kids off and have to act nice to you.  Why can't you listen to me, I will tell you the story if you just listen.   You never take responsibility for your actions, etc."

He was raising his voice and occasionally yelling all of this at me in a very condescending tone.  I tried to explain that I had just asked a question to clarify and that I had not intended to interrupt him.  I went outside to the front porch to discuss it with him, but he would not stay out there.  He kept coming back inside where the kids were.  At one point he locked me out of the house for about ten seconds.

I kept telling him to leave, but he wouldn't.  He got so mad that he made a fist and punched in the air above my head.   I tried to get him out the door, but he blocked it with his foot, so I could not close it.

He kept saying "You have to listen, I have to have the last word."   It was terrible and terrifying.  I was finally able to close and lock the door on him.   It was exactly like every argument we had when we were married.   We weren't actually arguing about anything.  We were arguing about my bad behavior in the relationship.  It took all my willpower not to scream at him. I did not want to do it because the kids were there.

After he left, my muscles were aching and I was shaking with adrenaline.  I was furious and scared, but I had to act normally, put on one TV show for the kids and then put them to bed.   It's like an emotional bungee jump.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Little Awkward

My dad was here for the weekend for my daugher's birthday and it was great. I know now that my dad never liked Brad and had serious concerns about him years before the divorce.   Based on the way my dad saw Brad treating me and the kids, he pretty much loathed Brad; but he held his tongue thinking it was my life and my decision. 

Somehow Brad knows my dad hates him, or assumes he does.  He knows I told my family what he did to me and I think he's really embarrassed or ashamed in front of my dad - must be a guy thing.   So it's a bit awkward when they are in the room together.   We were all at the birthday party, and then Brad insisted on coming over to the house so he could see Cassie open her presents from her friends.   I personally think this was ridiculous, but Brad is very hard to say 'no' to. There's always the implication that if you don't agree to what he wants he's going to get mad and then you never know what's going to happen.

When Brad is around, my dad essentially ignores him. Boy do I wish I could do the same, but because of the kids, that won't ever happen. I can always dream, though. My hope is that over time, as Brad sees the kids more and as the pain of the divorce fades, he'll need to interact with me less. I really hope that turns out to be the case because right now it's pretty painful. 

I feel dread when I hear the phone ring with the special ring tone I have for him. I often wait for a while to listen to his voice mails. I do more of the drop-offs than I am legally required to do because it's easier for me that way since I don't go into his house, even though he always comes into mine. I could go on and on, but it gets pretty repetive.

I have not heard from or talked to Brad in almost 48 hours and it's been wonderful. Sometimes it's the little things in life that make you happy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wondering What the ?

I had a huge run-in with Brad today. 

All seems to be calm now, but basically he did not like the fact that my father was going to be the one to receive my daughter when Brad brought her back home after her birthday dinner.   He completely freaked when he found out.  He called like 20 times, left 16 voice mails and texted a few times as well. I did not talk to him for almost six hours as he was repeatedly calling and leaving voice mails, threatening to take me to court, etc. He wanted me to change my plans, so I would be there to receive Cassie, but I refused. I gave him several options via email of other days when I would be there and he was not happy with any of those.

I just don't understand why he was so upset.  He says I agreed back in April that he would never have to deal directly with my parents. I don't remember this. He says I agreed to let him have Cassie on Friday for four hours. Fine - I never he couldn't have that, I just said my dad would be the one at home instead of me.  Basically, he knows my dad does not like him - no kidding. And he said my dad would be 'giving him looks' as he dropped Cassie off.   I replied that he could just stay by the car as she walked to the door, but he wasn't having any of it.  One of his last texts said something like "kids will be in custody of CPS within 48 hours if you don't answer the phone and talk to me."  Nice, huh?  

Finally after that text about CPS,  I did call to talk to him and it went predictably bad. I hung up when he screamed f*** you at me.  He told me he'd spent thousands of dollars already preparing court documents, that I had to humbly apologize or he would follow through on the court proceedings.   It was terrible, I was very upset and I didn't know what to do.  I called my mom and we strategized.  I did not want to give in, but I was afraid of what he might do if I did not.  I felt like I had to stand my ground.  I was mentally preparing an email denying him some extra time I had given him when he sent an email with a proposal.

Finally,  he had relented and come up with a slightly different option, to which I quickly agreed.  I don't know why he finally compromised.  Once again, his reaction was completely out of proportion to the situation.   I vaguely think it was some sort of jealousy, but I can't be sure.  He had assumed I would be home and when he found out I would not be, he became unhinged. 

He went insane for several hours and then sometime between 5:05pm and 5:59pm became somewhat rational again.  I don't get it, but I guess I never will.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Visit

My son looks bigger and older now.   He's back from the kids' visit with Brad.   It's only been three nights, but somehow he seems different to me.  Cassie looks the same, though, sweet as ever. 

I got through the days without too much stress, I started missing them the second night, but I had a lot of house clean up and organization activities to keep me busy.   I tried to focus on staying active, not on missing them.   On the up side, I cleared out a bunch of old toys and made room for Christmas stuff. 

It seems the visit with Brad went well.  I was half expecting a panicked phone call sometime in the middle of it since this is the longest time he has spent with them, ever.   I have mixed emotions about the fact that it went well. On the one hand, I'm glad they got along and there were no major blow-ups (that I am aware of), but I also know that there are blow-ups coming.  Brad is just incapable of controlling his emotions in the long run, based on the past.

He called me Saturday afternoon while they were with him, basically to berate me again for being five minutes late last Saturday.  He thinks I am putting my 'friend', as he calls him, over my kids because of that five minutes.   It's just ridiculous - we had a huge fight and I got very angry.   I got some things off of my chest, though, and Brad has uncharacteristically taken responsibility for the divorce.  He seems to understand, at this moment, that his abusive behavior and his drinking were the problem.   He still maintains that it happened because I did not, or could not, love him the way he wanted me to.    But he realizes that his reaction to this was inappropriate.

It seems he's had a major breakthrough and I really hope it sticks.   I've been through this before with him, though, and he usually can't hang on to the feelings for very long.   His anger, his sense of betrayal, and sense of loss from the divorce all come crashing back when something does not go his way.

I tried to explain to him that threatening me does not make me want to talk to him or cooperate with him. He said he understood, but I'm not really sure.   In the past, he has gone back to his old abusive and mean behavior pretty much instantaneously when I don't agree with him.   

Only time will tell.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

He's Done

Brad insisted on babysitting if I had a date, his premise being why would I have a stranger watch them when they could be with their father.    At a high level, it's hard to argue with his reasoning.  

Well here is why: 

It was  his scheduled day to be with the kids yesterday and I asked him to keep them until 8pm, rather than 6pm, because I had a date.   He insisted I text at 7:15 to tell him if I was on time.   I was a little late in texting him because when I first looked, it was too early and the next time I looked it was too late.  I texted at about 7:20 saying would I be on time.   Despite my best intentions, by the time the check came and we walked to the parking garage and I got in my car, I was going to be about 5 minutes late.   I picked up the phone to text Brad and the phone was ringing.  It was him. I answered the phone and he said "Where are you?"  I told him I was in the car and I would be a few minutes late, and then he called me a sl*t.   Nice. He proceeded to call me 8 more times on my way home (it's like a 10 minute trip), but I never answered.   He was waiting at the end of the street and pretended he was going hit my car as I turned the corner. Again, nice.

When I got to the house he knocked on the back door and I let him in (I had the phone in my hand ready to call 911 just in case). The kids were still out back.  He proceeded to berate me, tell me the kids both need new shoes, the kids are both sick, the neighbor saw Luke playing out back without supervision Thursday, etc. Telling me I lied because I was late, that I did not care about the kids. It was horrible.

He told me he 'knew what I had done' or something like that, because, he said, I was wearing the same jeans as when I left.    This is particularly bizarre and I don't have any idea how he came to that conclusion.  I was wearing jeans when I dropped the kids off at his house at 9am.  I was wearing different jeans when I left for my date, but they were, obviously, the same jeans I had on when I answered the door to him.  It's clear that he thought I had had sex, but how the jeans play in, I have no idea.   His mind works in mysterious ways.

I almost forgot the best part.  After I asked him to keep them late, he concocted a scheme to play with the neighbors behind my house during his time with them. He told me several times Friday and again Saturday morning when I dropped the kids off that they would be out behind my house during the day and that he wanted to make sure I was not going to have 'my friend' over.   I know he did this on purpose to thwart any plans I had to bring my date to the house.  He is obsessed that 'my friend' not know where I live because he thinks if things go wrong this person might try to harm the kids. It's ridiculous.  Little does he know, he is the biggest danger to the kids, in my opinion. 

After he left, he called my cell phone three times.  I didn't answer. He left a voice mail that was one minute and 21 seconds long. I have not listened to it yet, and I don't think I will.    The only reason I might is for proof that he's not changed, in case I need it.  He keeps threatening  to go to court to try to get '50% custody'.  Episodes like this are definitely not in his favor.

So basically, he's done with the babysitting.  I will go out when he already has them, but I cannot ask him to keep them late, or give him any extra time with them when I need a babysitter  This is exactly why I was hesitant to let him babysit in the first place and it turns out, I was right.  He insists he wants me to move on, and be happy, and have a good relationship.  He condescendingly tells me he thinks I will be easier to deal with when I have a boyfriend.  In spite of what he says, however, he cannot handle my dating.  He is crazy jealous - this is the same exact behavior as when we were married.  It's coming up on two years since I kicked him out and I am still surprised at the strength of his emotion towards me.

Update: He called Sunday evening to apoligize saying he had no right to call me a sl*t (as if there is some circumstance in which he might have a right?) He insists he was just angry and not jealous.  Hmmm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cassie's Story Part 2 of 2

I heard the people in the recovery room before I saw them.  My doctor come over and said everything had gone fine.  I had lost a lot of blood, but the baby was doing well and was in the NICU.   I obviously had not seen my daughter yet.   After I was sufficiently awake, they moved me to the cardiac ICU.  I still had the balloon devices in my legs and had various tubes all over.  Two catheters for my bladder, IV for fluids and pain medication, blood oxygen monitor, heart monitor,  blood pressure monitor and two squeezy things on my feet to keep the blood moving in my legs since I would be immobile for a while.   They took the balloon things out of my arteries and then my left leg started bleeding internally.    A host of doctors were called and they decided to monitor it hourly before doing surgery to fix it.  Luckily, it did not get worse, so they did not have to do surgery. 

Overnight I had a bad episode where I felt like I could not breath and my lips were numb, more tests and more doctors.   It was discovered I had a hematoma (basically a bruise) the size of a dinner plate in my abdomen and a big air pocket as well.   My doctor and I decided not to do surgery then for the bleeding and to just keep an eye on it. They gave me some relaxing drugs and put a tube down my throat to help with the air pocket somehow.   Again, luckily it did not get worse and I survived my first night in the ICU.  I had my own nurse who was constantly checking on me.  She turned her other patient over to someone else once I started having problems.  I will forever be grateful to her quick thinking and attention to detail. 
They had brought me polaroids of Cassie.  She looked perfect, even with the feeding tube in her nose and all the other wires.   She would not take a bottle yet, so they gave her formula for a couple of days through the feeding tube.  I started pumping breast milk the day after surgery, but due to my medication they would not give it to her yet.  It made my heart ache that I could not see her.  I spent one more night in the ICU that was thankfully uneventful .

Finally on Wednesday they said I could move to a regular room, so I went via wheel chair and on the way I visited Cassie for the first time.  It had been more than forty-eight hours since she was born.  It was tough to see her in the NICU.  I could not pick her up because she was sleeping, only hold her little hand.  She looked so vulnerable, but overall she was doing well.  She had only needed breathing support for the first day and she had weighed 5 pounds 8 ounces at birth (probably because I had started eating large bowls of ice cream every night once I found out she was going to be delivered early, I was trying to fatten her up and it seems like it worked!)  She had a minor heart murmur and was being looked at by a pediatric cardiologist, who said she had a VSD.   This is very common in preemies and luckily she outgrew it by the time she was two years old. 

I more or less recovered and was allowed to leave on Sunday, still with a catheter in my bladder and a bag I had to change. I was not allowed to urinate on my own because they did not want the bladder muscle to be stressed.   Leaving the hospital without Cassie was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do emotionally.   I was sobbing as I got in the car.   I came home and ate dinner and tried to act normal, but it just didn’t feel right without her at home.  I spent some time with Luke, who had come to see me in the hospital, but had not seen Cassie yet. It was difficult to play with him because I had a vertical incision, and the catheter, and I was in a lot of pain.  I could hardly stand up straight and walked very slowly.  During the night, I woke up and became extremely nauseous and then was violently ill.  My dad came downstairs and found me in the bathroom, which was a complete mess.  I had not made it to the toilet in time and there was vomit everywhere.   He helped me clean myself up and then I went back to bed while he cleaned the bathroom.   
The next morning I felt like I was dying.  I had vomited everything I could, I had chills and terrible dry heaves.  I have never been so miserable in my life.   We called the doctor and they sent Brad for some anti-nausea medication that did not help at all.  Finally, I took a shower and my Dad and I met Brad at my doctor’s office.  Brad had stormed his way in earlier insisting the doctor see me, which was unnecessary but typical of his style.   I saw the doctor and she sent us to the emergency room for some diagnostics and then probably to be re-admitted.
After a long, cold wait in the ER, they gave me some powerful anti-nausea medication through an IV and did an x-ray to check for a bowel obstruction.  They did not know what was wrong with me, so I was re-admitted – just over 24 hours from when I left – I even got the same room that someone had apparently been in one night because I found leftovers in the fridge.  Brad stayed through the admission as my dad, holding back tears, left to go get my son at school.  It was pretty horrible.   I was in the hospital for another week, but they never did figure out what was wrong.  I was slowly able to eat more food and went home again without Cassie.  She continued to do well, but still would not take a bottle.   I continued to pump breast milk and was freezing it and taking it for them to feed her, which they gladly did.  Especially with preemies they prefer to give breast milk if feasible.

Finally she took a bottle and eventually they let me try to breastfeed her.   They said it was too tiring for her though, so I could not do it very often, and it was not terribly successful.   I went to see her every day she was there after I left the second time.    Finally they said she was ready and I had to bring the car seat up for a test.  They put the babies in the car set for a couple of hours to make sure they don’t stop breathing or have heart problems in the sitting position.    She passed the test and then they had to give her a Synagis shot to help prevent RSV , since she was born in December.  Once all of that was done, they had one more check with the neonatologist.  Brad and I had planned to go to a movie that afternoon as we waited for the final tests.  They called earlier than we expected and said we could come get her, so we skipped the movie and went to pick her up.  So three and a half weeks after she was born, she came home.   Her actual due date was still weeks away.
They had told me to alternate bottle feeding breast milk with breastfeeding because it was too difficult for her to breastfeed.  Luckily she was my second, so I more or less knew what I was doing and after 24 hours of complete frustration with the alternating process I decided to drop the bottles and feed her myself exclusively.  I’m glad I did, it was difficult at first, but she eventually got the hang of it.   I was still pumping, though, because I had too much milk.  She was little and couldn’t each much, my body thought I had a much bigger baby by then.  

She fattened up nicely and was a little behind in her milestones like smiling, laughing, sitting and crawling.  But by eighteen months she was completely caught up, and she is a perfectly happy healthy almost five year old girl now.   She is the light of my life and we will always have a special bond.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cassie's Story Part 1 of 2

And now for something completely different

A big part of my life that I have not shared on my blog in detail is about my pregnancy with my daughter and her birth.  It’s world prematurity day on November 17th, so I thought I would write my story.  For several years I could not really celebrate her birthday without re-living the drama below.  I would think about what was going on on the particular days in the year she was born and remember those stressful moments of my life all over again.  It got a little less painful each year and last year she had to have surgery for a completely different issue right before her birthday.  I was so stressed about that, that most of the other stuff got pushed to the back of my mind.  I still don’t know what’s going to happen this year, but I am hopeful that I will not be consciously re-living it as the days go by.   On to the story…..
I had some complications with my son’s birth, where the placenta was too well attached to my uterus and my uterus tore when they tried to get the placenta out after his c-section birth.   I lost a lot of blood and was in surgery for 3 hours as they repaired the holes to save my uterus.   It’s called placenta accreta.  I was on an epidural during all of this.  I was sort of out of it, but I heard a lot of what was going on as the doctors were talking to each other, calling for more doctors, and calling for instruments that they did not have there in the delivery operating room.  It was pretty stressful.   I spent one night in a segregated ICU type room before I went to the regular recovery floor for ob/gyn surgeries.  I was considered too sick to be on the normal post-partum floor with the other mothers.  I was in the hospital for a week recovering and luckily they let Luke stay in the hospital as well,  since I was breastfeeding.  

After I recovered and went back to work, I realized I really wanted a sibling for Luke, so I did some research and found out that this problem can be deadly.  If it’s bad enough both mother and baby could bleed to death during delivery or before if something were to happen, such as the placenta tearing.  I discussed it with my doctor and they really don’t know what causes it, so she could not say if it was likely to happen again or not.   We discussed that if I got pregnant again, I would need to be prepared that they might have to do a hysterectomy right after the c-section delivery.  It would be way too dangerous to consider a vaginal birth. 
After thinking it through, I decided that I really wanted a sibling for my son, so I tried for another baby and got pregnant again.    I was being taken care of by my primary ob-gyn and a perinatologist  The perinatologist did a higher level ultra-sound than normal to check to see if there were problems with the placenta, and he was worried enough to send me to have an MRI with another specialist.  I was 30 weeks pregnant when I went in for the procedure.  They did the MRI and another special ultrasound, which confirmed my worst fears.  There are three levels of this placenta problem and I had the most severe one, called placenta percreta.    I was devastated and crying.   I was supposed to go into work after the procedure, but I couldn’t because I was so upset.    Basically the placenta had started growing into my bladder and possibly my intestines and it was only going to get worse with time. The baby and I were both in danger.   I’m crying even now as I type this remembering  how sad and scared I was. 

I went home to digest what had happened and my primary ob-gyn called after a few hours.  She has consulted with both specialists and they decided the best course of action was to deliver the baby in four weeks and do a hysterectomy and bladder repair at the same time.  My baby would be six weeks early.   Again, I was devastated.   My need to have another child had put my life in danger and now hers as well.  She would be premature and usually that turns out okay when they are born at 34 weeks, but you never know for sure.  My doctor wanted me to check in to the hospital two days before Cassie was born so I could be given a steroid shot to help develop her lungs before the birth, since preemies often have problem with their lungs.

I went into action mode the next day.  I told my boss I would be taking leave earlier than planned.  I researched premature infants. We visited the NICU where they would be taking my daughter. I called my dad to come help in general and specifically with my son.

The next four weeks were torture.  I felt guilty and I was terrified.   I was instructed to go to the ER immediately if I started bleeding or felt any real labor signs.    I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions since early on, so that was particularly nerve wracking.   Every time I went to the bathroom I was praying that there wouldn't be any signs of blood.  It was horrible, knowing that the baby and I could both possibly bleed to death before we got to the hospital if something went wrong. 

Finally, I checked in on a Saturday, she was to be delivered on Monday.  This was a huge relief.  At least I was at the hospital and if something bad happened, it could most likely be taken care of.   Everyone was prepared.  We had a team of specialists lined up to deliver the baby, do a hysterectomy, and then repair my bladder and anything else that was affected by the overgrown placenta.

On Monday morning, they wheeled me down to put in a catheter and then do another procedure that put some inflation type balloons in the arteries in my legs.   After the baby was delivered, they would inflate the balloons to staunch the flow of blood to my uterus and the placenta as they did the hysterectomy.    I was sobbing the whole time off and on.  I was scared I might not wake up from the surgery due to blood loss or some other problem. I was scared the baby might not be okay.   My back was killing me from lying flat for so long at seven and a half months pregnant -  the procedure to put in the balloons was taking forever.  Finally they wheeled me up to the operating room.   Four doctors were there and more were coming later.  At this point, I was just ready for this ordeal to be over.  They put the IV in my arm to put me under and put the mask over my face.  Fade to black.  


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Will it never stop?

I had yet another run in with Brad today. He was dropping Cassie off after a soccer party and decided to pick up the Christmas tree. For some bizarre reason he wanted to ‘trade’ the one that I had (that he had bought for us a few years ago) with the one he bought for himself last year. No idea why, but I don’t care enough to argue about it.

The problem is that have had four dates with the same guy over the last month, so Brad has now gotten extremely anxious about a potential step-father for the kids. It’s just ridiculous to assume anything after only four dates, but that's how his mind works. He is really convinced I am looking for a replacement for him and that I want some other man to take over in the kids’ lives. Sure, I would like them to have a positive role model, which Brad is clearly not; but I know they love him and he will always be their father and I would never do anything to jeopardize that unless I thought he was harming them. But he doesn’t get that.

He very aggressively told me today that I have ‘be a good mom’ and not let some other man take over, and I have to make sure the kids see Brad in a good light. He was raising his voice and pointing his finger at me. He wants me to make sure they know it’s his birthday, buy him Christmas presents, etc. He said “I want you to do the right thing or know that I will come down on you if you don’t. So think about that, and make a conscious decision to do what I want you do if you don’t want me to come down on you.” He also wants me to tell him everything they do that’s cute, or whatever, and he wants all the ‘milestones’. Things like the first time they go snow skiing or water skiing have to be with him and not my future partner. It’s just crazy, I may not even ever have a future partner, but he’s already worried about it.

He threatened to ‘sue’ me if I did not tell him what they did when he was not around. His rationale is that I ‘have them so much more of the time’. Which is sort of true, but next year he’ll have them a lot more time and will have them overnight on his weekends. Plus, he sees them all the time with the various soccer practices, games and other lessons, so I don’t think he needs a blow by blow, but he feels entitled to one.

What he does not understand is that his aggressive stance and various threats actually hurt his cause rather than help it. He is completely incapable of understanding that his behavior is wrong. He feels  justified because he feels he is right. The argument got pretty bad and I finally told him he had to leave or I would call the police. He seemed to back down a very tiny bit when he realized how upset I was. But I know it’s going to come up again and I’m so frustrated because I don’t know what to do. Shutting him down and not talking to him makes him more angry, but talking to him sometimes leads to confrontation as well. I’m in a lose/lose situation and there really is no end in sight. 

It’s a little bit depressing. I hope that maybe once he has them more next year, his obsession will wear off, because he is truly obsessed with them. Perhaps once he has more of his own relationship with them he will not feel like he needs to rely on me to tell him what they are doing. I wish I knew. In the meantime I have to figure how to respond or not respond to him in these situations. Nothing I do will really make a difference because he is not rational, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. I have tentatively decided to tell him I will not tell him any more about my personal life and only talk about the kids. I may lose my nerve to tell him that, though. We’ll see.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I had to spend an hour walking around with Brad and the kids at Halloween.   It was awful, but it could have been a lot worse.  Since Brad did not go last year, he asked to take them this year and I agreed.  I had hoped the kids would let me stay home, but they didn’t want me to.  They wanted us all to go, so I went.  

I have mixed emotions about this for a few reasons.    I understand the kids want and need both of us, and showing them that we have a civil relationship is good.  But, I don’t want them to think that Brad and I are ‘together’, or that we might get back together.  Luke has never asked if daddy was coming back to live with us after he left, but Cassie has a couple of times.  She would say things like ‘If you and Daddy could stop fighting, he could come back, right?”  This, when she was three years old.   She hasn’t asked recently that I remember.   I think they see him as a distinct individual now, he as his own house and does his own thing with them.  So hopefully they won’t see any false hope from these types of activities.  Brad does have a girlfriend now and I wonder what she thinks, or if she knows, that we all went together for trick-or-treating.  

My biggest problem with the whole thing is that it continues to be very uncomfortable for me to be around Brad.  His controlling and invasive behavior is essentially non-stop.  His two current problems with me are that I occasionally feed the kids a can a sliced new potatoes and that I have started dating.  The food thing is controlling and annoying – he says he just wants to help and that he will cook potatoes and bring them over to avoid me giving them canned ones.  Really?  Because the reason I do it is because I’m in a hurry to throw something together after soccer practice, not because I don’t want to cook real potatoes.   Plus, they really like the new potatoes.
The dating thing brings up a whole host of other issues for him.   On the one hand, he says he wants me to move on and find a boyfriend, on the other hand he’s asking questions he has no right to ask.   While we were walking around, he asked me if I would be spending anytime over Thanksgiving with my friend.  The day before that he asked if had come home yet from my date Saturday night.   I’ve only had two dates with the guy, so I think it’s a little premature to talk about Thanksgiving, but Brad is anxious and wants to know right away.   After asking me on Sunday if I had been home yet, he also proceeded to tell me twice that if I ever let another man discipline his kids that he would “lay him out first and let him know only you or I can discipline them.”   So he’s already imagined a step-father scenario and has physically threatened my future husband.  Nice.

Back to Halloween. He could tell I was hanging back and not really trying to engage as we were walking around and he asked why it was uncomfortable for me.  I just can’t fathom why he doesn’t understand, but he doesn’t.  I explained I was uncomfortable because of the types of questions he asks, just like the one about my date and Thanksgiving.  He insists he is just being friendly and that he’s not critical.  He also insists that if I was nicer to him by telling him everything the kids do when they’re not with him, that he’d stop doing the things that annoy me.   It’s all very complicated and he’s very passionate when he talks about it, but bottom line it’s the exact same behavior as when we were married.

If I do fill in the blank with any over the top nice thing he wants  and prove to him that I can change my behavior to make him happy, he will stop fill in the blank with any abusive behavior his is currently doing.   This is how his mind works,  “I will stop doing bad stuff after you do good stuff for me”.  We had that same argument a thousand times when we were married and I could not, and still cannot get him to understand that it’s a threat.  And above all, it does not work.  He never stops his bad behavior regardless of what I do.  He really hasn’t changed a bit.  I feel sorry for the girlfriend.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The next phase

I find myself a little sad and depressed because we are in the next ramp-up phase of Brad’s visits with the kids.  He is getting eight hours both days on ‘his’ weekends.  This weekend is the first time he’ll have them eight hours both days in a row and I feel like I won’t see them at all this weekend, and it makes me sad. 

I’m also a little worried about him spending so much time with the kids.  I think he’ll get tired of them, or they won’t do exactly what wants, and he’ll lose his patience.  He's very controlling with them when I am around, so he obviously doesn't see anything wrong with it.  When you try to maintain such a high level of control, it invariably leads to anger because no one can live up to your expectations.   That’s when the yelling and threats will start, but I’ll never know how bad it is.   I really hope the kids will tell me if anything really bad happens, but I can’t count on it.   I’ve often wondered whether Brad is so angry because he’s controlling, or if he’s so controlling because he’s angry.  Or maybe it’s just chicken/egg thing and it’s all wound up together, and he’s fundamentally both.     Regardless, it's no fun to deal with, which I why I had to get out. 
I chose to be a single mother, and it's not as hard as I expected, once I got a routine going.  What is harder than I expected is feeling like I don’t have the money to do what I want;  and being divorced from Brad much more irritating than I thought.   I assumed based on his bad behavior that I would be able to keep his visitation much more restricted.  I did not think I’d have to give him almost standard visitation. I didn't think he’d want to come to every extracurricular activity.  

One the one hand, it has been very helpful to have him shuttle kids to soccer and gymnastics when I can’t be in two places at the same time.  On the other hand, each interaction with him has the potential for him saying something insulting, invasive or idiotic.   Like yesterday when he asked “Are you going to sleep with him?” when he found out I had a second date with a guy I’d met.   He obviously had no idea how inappropriate that question was.   I was stunned and really did not know how to respond.   I have since told him I thought that was inappropriate, and he said he said it because he wants me to be careful and not get hurt.  Huh?

To a certain extent, it’s nice to have time to myself.  I can go grocery shopping, exercise, take a nap.  It’s like it was before I was married, but there is always an undercurrent of worry and guilt.   I feel guilty that I cannot spend all of my time with the kids.  I absolutely know I made the right decision in leaving Brad, and we are all much better off, but I still feel just a little bit like I ‘took’ them from their father and created this situation.   Intellectually I know I didn't, he created this with his atrocious behavior, but I somehow feel responsible for the situation we're in. 
It’s really hard to give up on an intact family.  That’s one of the reasons I stayed as long as I did, and I still struggle from time to time with the ‘what if?’  Being divorced with kids is awful, and I hate that they have two houses and two beds,  and we are constantly sending soccer cleats, backpacks, and whatnot back and forth.   Trying to remember everything and keep up with the schedule is very challenging.    I truly wish it did not have to be this way, but I know in my heart of hearts that it does, which is why I get sad periodically.    I'm sure I'll be fine tomorrow.  I'll talk with my sister or my mom and they'll make me laugh, the kids will be ok, and life will go on.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

When do I get my hugs?

What Brad said to me yesterday after Cassie’s soccer game.  He’s been on this hugging kick lately and I can’t figure out why, and it’s really annoying.   He tried to hug me as we left and I told him again that I don’t want to hug him.    I told him I don’t think most divorced couples hug, and he disagreed with me.   Then I said “Well maybe they would hug after they haven’t seen each other for a while, but I see you almost every day.”   But, he says, he wants to be friends with me and he hugs his friends, so he wants to hug me.  

I told him there was a lot of unwanted touching in our relationship and I do not want any touching now.   That’s when he said “Well when do I get my hugs?”   I told him I wasn’t sure he was ever going to get them willingly, to which he replied “then I’ll just do it anyway.”  Really?  Forcing an unwanted hug makes you feel better, or in control, or what?   I have no idea.
 After going back and forth a bit, I told him the best way to improve our relationship right now is for him not to hug me.    He finally sort of seemed to accept this.   Then today he called to finalize some details for tomorrow and said that he had been thinking about what I said yesterday and the unwanted touching.  He said “you mean like when I would demand to touch your boobs?”   I didn’t know what to say, I was to taken aback, so I said “Yes, like that.”  
He seems to have forgotten all of the cornering, the shoving and grabbing, the coerced sex, the strangling.  He is a very large physical presence and his physical intimidation and sexual coercion was a very large part of our relationship.  I've decided, though, that it’s not worth arguing about.  He’s told me before and again just this last Friday that he only ever touched me to shut me up in front of the kids.  He admits he should not have touched me, but he says he did it to keep me from screaming and scaring the kids.   Yeah –that’s better – strangle their mother in front of them to keep them from seeing her scream and cry because of your abusive behavior.    The problem with his theory is that it is categorically not true, the worst incident happened when the kids were in the car.  A lot the incidents happened in our bedroom or after the kids were in bed.   Many of them did happen in front of the kids, and yes, sometimes I screamed at him to stop as he was yelling at me and chasing me down and making me crazy with his verbal abuse.  I guess it did not occur to him that walking away or backing down would have stopped my screaming immediately.  He has clearly invented a reality to deal with his abusive behavior.
Back to the hugging.   As of that moment on the phone, he seemed to sort of accept that I don’t want hugs and has his own version of why I don’t want them.  He is incapable of understanding the revulsion and the post-traumatic stress induced in me by each of his hugs.   Then he says to me that he’ll deal with it for now  (or something like that), but that he really needs the hugs because I am such an unemotional person, the only way he can think of to get positive emotions out of me is the hug.
What? Why does he need positive emotions from me?   I am barely enduring having to see him and he wants to be best friends, and needs postive feedback.  He says he wants to talk and be friends “like we used to be.”   The problem with that theory is that he repeatedly told me during our marriage that we “never talked” and that he did not like me, and he would never have been friends with me if we weren’t married.  He basically only dealt with me because he had to – or that was his story anyway.
It boggles my mind to think that he has fantasized some relationship between us that never existed, and he wants to get back to that mythical state.    I feel like saying “You’re lucky I talk to you at all under the circumstances,” but of course I can’t.  I hope he doesn't hug me anymore for a while, and I'll bite my lip when he discusses what our relationship was actually like.  Up is down and down is up in his world, but I know I’m right.  So I keep reminding myself which way is up to try to avoid tripping and falling down into his crazy world.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spinning Plates

It’s difficult enough to date as a divorced working mother with two busy kids, but I also have to deal with so many other issues because of my abusive ex-husband, and it really frustrates me sometimes.

I constantly worry about how Brad is going to react as I date.  He claims he wants me to date and be happy, and has even said that he thinks I will deal with him better once I am dating.  I assume this is because he thinks I’m unhappy and lonely and that once I have a boyfriend, I will be happier and therefore less ‘mean’ to him.   The fact that he has told me this is demeaning in and of itself.  And, of course, I am not mean to him.  He thinks I am because he is an abusive personality. 
It’s just like when we were married, with a double standard of epic proportions.  He does not see anything wrong with saying “you’re the meanest person in the world” to me,  but I am not allowed to answer his invasive questions with short answers.  I have to be overly friendly and if I am not, then I am mean.  It’s just ridiculous.    So even when I get a boyfriend, I don’t think he’ll notice any difference in my behavior and at that point I’ll be really worried about how jealous he is.  In spite of his protestations to the contrary, I know he is jealous.  It’s only natural and I wish he would just admit it and deal with it instead of denying it.   He’s afraid someone is going to replace him as the kids' father,  and I get that, but he needs to understand that his role in their lives and his behavior is completely up to him, not me.

The next big concern I have is around trusting and making good decisions.  Even after my experience with Brad, I am a generally trusting person.  If you say something, I believe it.   My concern is walking the fine line between trusting someone and being on alert for abusive behavior.   I certainly don’t want to make the same mistake again.  Right now I feel like I would never be in another abusive relationship because I know all the warning signs and I would get out before it got bad, but would I?  I see lots of stories of women who have been in multiple abusive relationships and the thought just horrifies me.   So will I be overly cautious and bolt at the first sign of conflict, unjustly removing good men from my life?  I just don’t know.
The last concern I have it how my past will affect the men I date.   Will they be hesitant to get involved with someone who has an abusive past?  Will they assume it was my fault and that there must be something wrong with me if I could let this happen?  Will they be afraid Brad might come after them in a jealous rage?  Possibly all of these will happen.

These issues are not trivial and I will never be able to ‘solve’ any of them.  I wish my life had turned out differently. I wish Brad had not been abusive, but it is what it is and I just have muddle through the best I can. It’s like a spinning plates act balancing my job, my children, my ex-husband and my personal life;   I pay attention to something for a while until something else wobbles and then I move over to that until the next thing wobbles, and on and on it goes.   If this all works out, maybe I can join the circus.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

“You’re the meanest person in the world.”

What Brad told me last Saturday when I did not respond in an appropriately appreciative fashion to a suggestion he made.  I was having some scheduling stress about soccer games and he offered to help, the problem was that it wasn’t a good suggestion and wouldn’t really have helped.  Perhaps I was a bit dismissive, when I rejected his offer.  I tried to explain why his suggestion would not work, but he wasn’t having any of it and he hung up on me.

Then he texted later and said I was irresponsible and unaccountable, and blamed everyone else for my problems, and asked “how are the kids going to have a good role model and learn how to take responsibility for their actions when you do not.”   Wow.  Look in the mirror, Brad, you just described yourself.   As in previous posts, a classic case of projection.  Everything that is wrong with him, he says is wrong with me.  We sort of made up later, and he put his arm around me and was very condescending about the whole thing.  I shudder at his touch which made it that much worse.
 I continue to find it very frustrating that I have to deal with him at all.   He has no sense of boundaries and is not rational.   He truly believes these crazy things he says, but I have to talk to him and respond as well as I can, because of the kids.   At some level, I wish he would lose interest in the kids and not be as involved, but I know that would probably not be best for them.  I really struggle with the question of ‘Is having a crazy, angry, irresponsible dad better than a disinterested or absent dad?”    I really don’t know and maybe I never will, but it plagues me constantly.  

When he’s with the kids, I see him being loud and controlling and capricious, and I think “I can’t let him see them anymore, I have to get them away from him.”  Then I see him being loving and trying to be nice and I think “I am glad they have this interaction with him.”   I’m totally torn about the whole thing, and I suppose I always will be.
At the end of the day, I hope the good with him will outweigh the bad, but I don’t believe it.  I feel deep down that something bad, at least emotionally if not physically, will eventually happen and I will be left to pick up the pieces.  I can only hope that by my behavior and my example, my kids will come to me with anything truly disturbing or abusive that Brad does to them, or in their presence.  Until then, I do the best I can to keep the peace and not take his abusive behavior personally, because I cannot change him, however much I wish I could.

Friday, September 30, 2011

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

After leaving my abusive husband and starting to emotionally recover, I decided to become a voice in the fight against domestic violence by telling my story.  My hope is that raising awareness will lead to prevention, because no one should have to live like that. 
But what exactly does this awareness mean?  For professionals in the police and courts it’s very important to understand the dynamics of an abusive relationship and make the right decision to the best of their ability.   More knowledge and awareness should mean better decisions.
What about for the average person?  I would like the average person to be more aware of what it encompasses and how hard it is to pull away from the abuser.    They would be more open to helping friends and family in abusive relationships if they understood more, and did not judge the victim.   The abused person needs lots of support before, during and after they leave their abuser.

What about for the person in an abusive relationship?  They also need to be more aware of what it is and why the abuser does what he does.  They need to know that it’s not ok. They need to know that they deserve better, and they need to know how to get out safely.  
My story in a nutshell – I am an educated professional woman with a good job.  I married and educated professional with a good job.   There were a few red flags  in the courtship, but I did not understand what they were and I thought I could deal with my future husband’s ‘emotional’ behavior.   I was wrong.   We got married and his behavior almost immediately deteriorated once we were living in the same house.  Verbal abuse and controlling behavior in the beginning, then the physical threats started.  When my second child was about a year old he started with the physical abuse, holding me down, grabbing my arms and eventually putting his hands around my throat.  It continued to get worse until I got a protective order and had him forcibly removed from the house and filed for divorce when my children where three and four years old.  Thirteen months later we were officially divorced.  That was six months ago.   I’ve compiled my list below of the things I want people to know by the category above.    These are strictly my opinions based on my experience and the experience of others I have come across in my research on many web sites,  in an informal poll,  and in about a dozen books.

For professionals
Right after a violent incident, the perpetrator has the ability appear completely calm and rational, leaving the victim to appear hysterical or lying about the abuse.

Men that abuse and manipulate their partners will continue to do so for the rest of their lives – aim to minimize interaction between them in setting up custody agreements.   They will take almost every opportunity to verbally abuse their ex-wife or to manipulate the situation.
Ex-wives are still scared and will give in to the ex-husband because it is easier and safer than fighting.

Men that abuse their wives are typically bad roles models and should not be allowed to have standard visitation with the children.  They have poor coping skills and are typically emotionally immature and it will eventually affect the children either directly or indirectly.

Battering intervention programs may help some men, but most men do not make a significant change.  Do not assume that if they have been through a program that they are ‘better’.
For the general public
Domestic violence  encompasses a wide range of intimidating, humiliating, threatening behaviors designed to control the victim.  These include verbal, emotional, financial, sexual and physical abuse.

It can happen to anyone.

Living with an abuser is chaos and torture combined.   Fights can go on for hours and often happen in front of the children.

The victim is always on edge and afraid of the abuser.
The victim did not do anything to deserve this behavior.

The victim believes the abuser can change.
Leaving means giving up on the relationship, which is very hard for the victim to do.

The victim is ashamed to tell you about it and ask for help.
Leaving an abuser is a scary proposition and, in fact, women more likely to be seriously harmed or killed after they have left than during the relationship.

Leaving has emotional, financial, physical, and safety issues and needs to be planned.
Just because a victim doesn’t leave doesn’t mean that “It’s not that bad.”    It’s is that bad and it only gets worse. 

The victim is scared and feels powerless to change the situation.
For the victim
It’s not okay – if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not.

Even though you might think, ‘it’s not that bad’, it is - no amount of abuse is acceptable and it’s okay to leave.
You do not deserve to be abused, and the abuse will always get worse.

Everything they do is an attempt to manipulate and control you.
You did not do anything to cause the abuse.

It’s not because of drugs or alcohol.
You think you can protect your children more if you are there with the abuser, rather than apart from him, but it’s not true. Think about how much the children are hurt by what they see and hear on and ongoing basis.

Boys that witness domestic violence are much more likely to be abusers – stop the cycle.
Girls that witness domestic violence are much more likely to be abused – stop the cycle.

The abuser will not change without significant time and effort and help from outside sources and even this is unlikely.
You are not a failure if it does not work out, he is.

Most women (75%) do eventually leave, so why not do it sooner rather than later.

Make sure you and your children are safe when you leave.
Be patient with your children. They've seen enough violence and heard enough yelling and screaming for a lifetime.  They will thrive in a calm environment.
The abuser will act normal for a while after you leave, but don’t fall for it. The abusive behavior always comes back.
If you have children, you will have to deal with his bad behavior for a long time, but it’s still better than living with him.

It takes strength and courage to leave and stay gone, but it will eventually give you peace.

I've put an 'End Domestic Violence' support sticker on my car, even though I’m afraid of what my ex-husband might think if/when he sees it.  So far he has either not noticed, or chosen not to say anything.   
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and I encourage you to do something positive to help others, or to get help yourself .

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Insulting, Invasive, Idiotic

The things Brad says to me.  I3, “I” cubed I’m going to call it  Here are a few I remember off the top of my head.

You let Cassie play with makeup? Do you let her do it before school?  (This when he saw her with Peppermint lip gloss and an old compact of mine at the soccer game.  As if I would let her wear makeup to school.)

Are they eating vegetables? (Implying that I am not serving enough.)
I’m giving the kids fruit smoothies to make sure they get their vitamins. (implying I am not feeding them correctly.)

You’re the least attractive women on the planet (this is not just insulting, but abusive.)
The kids are always tired when I get them.  Do you let them stay up late?

Did you give them fast food last night?
Do you text or talk to your ‘friends’ when the kids are around.  (Implying I am putting my needs to date in front of the kids’ needs.)

Does Luke do what you say? (Implying I am a bad disciplinarian, which was one of his hot buttons all along.)

I don’t trust you not to put your (sexual) needs over the needs of the kids. (The sexual part was implied by the context.)
You’ve done better the last few weeks at not saying rude things to me. (Of course, I am never rude, he just thinks I am if I don’t respond to his I3  behavior exactly as he wants. And who is he to judge my behavior and praise me one way or the other?  Just ridiculous.)

Are you taking a trip? (After seeing a coupon for a car service on my refrigerator.)

What’s that? (After seeing a pink cosmetic bag in my purse.)
Is that a new bra? I don’t remember it. (After seeing my bra strap when I was leaning over to put Cassie in her car seat.)

Are the kids having a babysitter this weekend? (Implying a boyfriend.)
Is there anything regular? (Again, implying a boyfriend, in spite of that fact that he says HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT ME.)

Is that a new kind of champagne, what are you drinking on a daily basis? (After seeing some bottles in my refrigerator, he obsessively bought a huge supply before I left him, that I have only made a dent in. As if I would be drinking daily, he was the alcoholic, not me.)

Do you like your hair longer? Why didn’t you have it longer when we were married?

I’m dying without a raincoat. (This in July after a few days of rain, before he had taken possession of all his stuff.)

My clothes all got ruined because you packed them in cardboard boxes and I want you to pay to get them dry cleaned. (I declined to pay.)
I need you to tell me all about the results of any doctor appointment for the kids before you tell anybody else. (As if I would actually agree to this.  Controlling? Indeed.)

You look nice. Did you have a good Isabelle day?  (Said when he saw me at kid pick-up.  I have no idea what this means, but I think it vaguely might mean “Did you have date?” – in which case it would also fall into the Invasive category.)

To Cassie - Where did you get that stamp on your hand? Is mommy taking you to bars now? (After gymnastics where she gets a stamp on her hand.  This could also be included in the Insulting category.)
Luke’s feet smell because he is not wearing socks and his shoes are made in China out of man-made materials that are might get into Luke’s skin and harm him. So make sure he always wears socks.   (Not really sure how he knows anything about how/where the shoes are made, but the foot smell is accurate though, it’s pretty bad.)

I'd call you 100 times when you don't answer if I knew it was making you mad. (Whaat?)

I think it will help me to deal with these things he says if I categorize them. File it and move on. I need to take them less personally, so they won’t make me so mad.   I have tried to push back when he says these things, but it almost never goes well and typically escalates.  He feels completely justified and no amount of convincing changes his irrational mind.  This is one of the things that is so hard to deal with being divorced from an abuser, at least for me.  I couldn’t make him change his behavior when we were married and I can't now, either.  It’s like arguing with a two-year old.
Maybe I’ll get a little notebook with a tally sheet for the categories.  It’ll work great until he somehow sees it and asks what it is…   Add one to Invasive.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Leaving is a process

I’ve read that over 75% of women eventually leave their abuser.  This is the good news.  I’ve read that it typically takes 7 or 8 times for a woman to truly leave an abusive relationship.   This is the bad news.   Why is it so hard to leave?  A lot of good reasons, most of which applied to me, are outlined here.  When I read about how many times it typically takes to leave, at first I scoffed.

“ I left the first time, and stayed gone, I thought.  I’m better than that.  I’m stronger than that,” I said to myself.
Then as I was going through my journals and writing this blog, I realized that it wasn't true.  It's true that after I had him forcibly removed from the house and filed for divorce, I didn't go back.  Before that, though, I called the police on him and even saw a lawyer, but I let him come back.  Two other times, I had been scared enough to leave and go to a hotel with the kids. The first time, I was afraid and I was hoping he would take me seriously now that I had made a bold gesture and start to change.  The second time, I was ready to file for divorce.   Both times I went back.  

The amazing part is that all three times he was somewhat apologetic, but still blaming me, and not nearly as contrite as he should have been when we talked. He thought I had overreacted; he thought the abuse was not that bad.  He was even verbally abusive in the negotiations for my return.  Hearing the conversation, most people would have thought I was crazy to go back.  In hindsight, I can hardly believe I agreed to come home with the way he was talking to me, but I did.  You never really know what you will do in a situation until faced with it.  It took a long time for the pain of living with him to overcome the perceived pain of leaving him.   But it finally did, as it does for most women, since most do leave.   

When you leave, you are trading this:

For this:

For me, it was a good trade. I only wish I had been able to do it sooner. Luckily, I was financially able to leave. Luckily, I had the support of my friends and family. Luckily, he did not try to hurt me physically after I left. The process that you have to go through to leave is emotional as well as logistical. Emotionally I had to admit defeat. Emotionally, I had to accept that he was never going to change, and that the chaos of our lives was damaging our kids and our kids’ future. Emotionally, I had to be ready to tell my family and friends what was going on. All of these are huge barriers. Logistically, I had to prepare my finances. Logistically, I had to prepare from a legal perspective. Logistically, I had to prepare for the safety of the kids and myself, which is by far the most important. For me this process took about a year and a half and a couple of tries, but it was worth it.

As I sit eating dinner on the back porch with Luke and Cassie, enjoying the nice evening now that the heat of summer is over, I am happy. I have lots of ups and downs with Brad.  Being divorced from him is stressful, and I feel bad the kids will have to deal with him as a father, but I know I made the right decision to leave. After living under the veil of impending doom for years, I finally have some peace.