For those who don’t know me quite as well, I’ve done this before. And by “this”, I mean marriage. I’m 28 years old and not only do I have a husband but I have an ex-husband. At the age of 20, just weeks before giving birth to my daughter, despite feelings of fear and uncertainty, I vowed to be with the man who impregnated me “til death do us part”.
Months later I found myself packing up his belongings, loading up the trunk of my car and driving to his parents’ house to drop off his things. He had violated my trust and had done this so many times before. It didn’t end there, but I was young, naive and desperately wanted my child to have her father. At the time, I believed that would happen through marriage.
We went to counseling. While I secretly wanted out and feverishly hoped he wouldn’t put forth the effort, if she – my baby girl – ever asked me, I one day wanted to be able to tell her that I tried. I didn’t just give up. I tried.
Not long after our first session, I found myself counting my pennies and checking my credit card balance before heading to the paralegal office to start the divorce process. For a long time I felt such shame. My parents divorced, my grandparents divorced and so many of my aunts and uncles had done the same. I wanted to be different. I felt like I had already failed at so many things in life.
Looking back, in a sense I did keep our vows and I honored him until death we did part. You see, in being with him, a part of me had died. For the years I was with him I lost my sense of self. I was no longer me. My self-esteem had plummeted and I isolated myself from my friends and family.
And then there was her. When I gave birth in Sept 2004, I didn’t just birth a beautiful baby girl. I birthed a new me. In caring for her, in dreaming for her future, I found my voice, my fight and my sense of self worth. I realized that I wanted more for her and for me. We were valuable and if he failed to see that, surely someone would and in the event that no one else did, that would be okay too because I saw our value. I knew our worth.
So I moved on and moved forward and thankfully I came alive again. I focused on making a life for me and my daughter, surrounded ourselves with people who loved and supported us, continued college and in the meantime met someone who did see our value. He and I encountered our share of challenges too, but we ultimately decided that the three of us together made perfect sense. In 2010 we married and the following year, his adoption of our daughter was finalized.
The fact that I can write this today is a testament to the fact that I am no longer the woman I was. I am transformed. Yes, I am a work in progress and forever changing, but I am no longer ashamed to say that yes, I’ve been married before. I am not a failure and I realize that regardless of my faults and imperfections, my value, my worth, is as great as ever.
My faith has taught me that God can turn what seems like a hopeless situation into something good. But I also believe that faith can only carry us so far and that we have to do our part too. I had to fight to get out of the situation I was in, and as painful as it was, it fueled my desire to do better and to be better.
For many of us, there are moments that have literally transformed us, and with their occurrence, the trajectory of our lives is forever changed. Looking at my situation and the growing belly on my 19-year-old body, so many of those around me believed that my life was over. For a moment, I feared it was too. But it wasn’t. Out of my pain and loss of self came a tiny angel of light and my life was forever changed. Thankfully, I was forever changed, too.
I believe in looking back from time to time. Not necessarily to dwell on what was or what could have been, but to reflect on just how far each of us has come. In looking back, perhaps we will be reminded of our ability to triumph in the mist of adversity and of our ability to not just survive, but to thrive. So today I encourage you to take a moment to look back, even if just for a moment. If you are able to look back, that means that you are still here. You, my dear, are still standing and you are as lovely, as precious and as valuable as ever.
Featured image by David H. Chu on Flickr