The last time I thought I had it all figured out was one year ago today, February 21, 2013. That was the day the man I loved told me he didn’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore. I was eight months pregnant with our son.
It’s not been my intention to keep the anniversary in my head, but there are noteworthy dates in close proximity that built up to it. It was thirteen days after I’d written him a letter detailing my fears and concerns and my needs and wants. Eight days after a hurtful text argument sprung from said email that culminated with me telling him we were done and he was free. Seven days after Valentine’s Day, when I asked if he wanted to see me to talk about it in person and he declined. Five days after he barely spoke to me at my pre-birthday dinner. Two days after the loneliest birthday I’ve ever had. That week between the break up and the actual in-person talk was agonizing, really. There were indeed incidents in the relationship that had taken a major toll on me and I knew he felt the same way. Still, I was certain we could get past it. After all, I was about to have a baby. I’d canceled a move to Pittsburgh to build with him. We were going to get an apartment in Brooklyn together–me, him, my seven-year-old daughter, and the upcoming babycake. He’d called me the game changer and said that he was excited about our future. We were in love and made a commitment to each other. He assured me that he wasn’t going anywhere. We’d even talked about the timing of the next baby after this one. Expecting a baby is a lot of pressure, though, particularly when it’s unexpected, so bumps in the road are par for the course, right? When I told my Mom we broke up she actually laughed. “Break up? You’re about to have a baby. Work it out.”
He had another perspective, however. On 2/21 he said that he wasn’t interested in working it out. He listed a lot of reasons but the one that hit me the hardest was that he didn’t believe God wanted us together. It knocked the wind out of me. I cried a lot. It felt abrupt and ridiculous and sickening. I’d be walking (kind of waddling at that point, actually) down the street and wondering what that sound was…that whimpering. “Oh, that’s me.” That’s when the first beads of shame started their trickling. Being miserable while pregnant? Uh uh, honey. Pregnant women are supposed to be glowy and adorable. Our backs and feet are expected to ache, sure, but we’re supposed to smile through that because worthy sacrifice. Not cry on the 3 train on the way home from work. That’s when the panic started, too. “Oh my God. I’m pregnant and…single.”
It was unfamiliar territory for me; I had a happy pregnancy with my daughter. Her father and I were very much in love and he was supportive and affectionate. We lived together and had combined our finances, so a few hurdles were already out of the way. That was my association with pregnancy–joy and security. So I was devastated that this time around was so different. I kept telling myself that this wasn’t supposed to happen to ME. I was embarrassed and afraid that if people found out they’d look at me negatively. They’d think I was so unbearable that he couldn’t even stay until the baby came. That I hadn’t done my womanly duties to “keep” him. Not special or worthy enough to be anything more than a babymama. And then I’d beat myself up incessantly for beating myself up in such a manner. I’d never been one to believe that a woman’s worth is tied to her relationship status, or that it’s up to the woman to keep the man from leaving. I would certainly never let any of my girlfriends talk that way. I knew that the concerns I had raised in that letter were legit and I wasn’t wrong for broaching them. Nevertheless, I became obsessed with chastising myself. His critiques of me echoed inside my head and became louder than my self-affirmations. Much of my pregnancy had been about him. He wasn’t as far along as I was in his career, education, mental health journey, emotional maturity or parenting, so I knew there would be some major growing pains. But his adjustments, his process, his state of readiness became more paramount than my feeling safe or being tender with myself. And it seemed that expressing my wants = getting dumped. That was the equation. So jumping to shame wasn’t much of a stretch.