19 Feb 2014


Since my divorce was finalised a few weeks ago, I've been trying to write an entry about the whole experience. This is my ham-fisted attempt at putting the last three and a half years into words.

My marriage ended due to adultery. There is no way to make it less stark. He cheated on me, repeatedly, over several weeks, and when I found out, something inside me snapped. I knew immediately that I could not remain with someone who could do that. It explained much of his foulness towards me, which I had been willing to live with for the sake of our marriage and children, but adultery was the final straw. So, off I went to hide at my mother's.
Our son was 18 months old, and I was 15 weeks pregnant. Both our children were planned, which made the rejection much harder to bear. For the first twelve hours, I went silent. I tried to cry, but nothing came out. I tried to scream, but nothing came out. I smashed some pictures up. I stayed awake all night. I didn't eat or drink. I am eternally grateful to my parents, who put me on suicide watch, and my siblings who simply rallied round without question. The first twelve hours passed, and then came a difficult and painful phone call which I cried throughout. I asked all the horrible questions that I didn't want the answers to, to try and get the extent of the pain out in one go. When did it start? How long? How often? How did you meet her? Why her? How could you?
Why? Why? Why?
Funnily enough, I never really got an answer to the last one.
I was left with no real income (£500 a month from my job), and more than double that in outgoings a month. I had to go and see a solicitor, to make him pay the mortgage and give me money to live on. I couldn't increase my working hours because I had no recourse for childcare outside what I already had. Phoning the tax credit office to explain that I was now a single parent was horrible. Phoning the council tax office to say the same, equally awful. Not being able to tell them where he was living because I simply had no idea...awful. Somehow, I found the energy to do all the practical bits, to tidy up and make order out of chaos and at least guarantee me and my son had somewhere to live and something to eat.
Emotionally, I was a mess. For three days, I was simply convinced I would die. How could I survive pain like that? I couldn't. I would have to die. That was the easy bit.
Then I realised that I wouldn't actually just die. I would have to live or I would have to kill myself. This became a constant circular chorus in my head. "If I live, I'm not good enough to raise two children by myself, I should die. If I die, I fuck them up for life - I should live." Equally, I had the constant chorus of "I cannot take care of two children, I should have an abortion. If I have an abortion, I will not be able to live with the decision."
I chose to live. I chose to keep my baby. These were the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make, indeed it never really felt like I was the one making the decision.
I spent a week crying. I spent another week crying, with occasional smiles. In those weeks, I met up with my ex, which ripped me open. A pattern was established. Very light healing, and then dramatic ripping open of scabs. Eventually, I scarred up over the pain. It became part of me, something in my history that I cannot erase, but must live with.

After two weeks, I went back to work, couldn't hack it and took another week off. Certain members of staff were wonderful, and have my lifelong love and respect. Others could not understand my decision to continue to talk to my ex, or why I was keeping my child, or why I chose to move away from the area. Work became something I did to get me out of the house, and to bury myself in. At home, I was surrounded by 'our' things. It stopped feeling like home without him. I did small things like put up new pictures, and buy new bed linen, but it was a ghost of a home.
Pregnancy was awful. I didn't want the baby. I just didn't. I didn't want to be pregnant, I didn't want to have to give birth, I didn't want to find out what happened next. His 20 week scan was an utter blur, brightened by the sonographer assuming me and my best friend were lovers. After I hit 24 weeks, the cut off for legal termination, I became increasingly depressed and suicidal. My ex's family lived far closer to me than my family. They struggled, understandably, with the elephant in the room that was the unwanted foetus - the literal elephant as I got bigger and bigger. My ex disengaged completely from the pregnancy. He felt the baby kick once, and that was the sum total of his post-separation involvement. My pregnancy did not stop him causing me huge amounts of stress. We saw each other regularly, and it was horrible.
In March 2011, I went for a regular antenatal check. My midwifery team knew how I was feeling, and were supportive and kind to me. The baby, however, was a bit too small and apparently breech, so I went for a checkup. I saw him for the first time since the unhappy scan in November, and he was beautiful and looked like his brother and I wanted him. It took me five months to want him. Six weeks later, he was born (two weeks late) in the middle of the night, at home and completely naturally. When he was born, his cord had two knots. One knot is frequently fatal. My little boy had somehow survived all the stress, plus this murderous cord. I don't know how he did it.
However, life continued to be difficult. My ex was awol during the birth, and finally caught up with us some ten hours later. His contact was erratic and brief. I moved house when the baby was six weeks old, and had copious support from my family and friends, and felt free. Birth itself was tremendously cathartic. I felt like I was pushing out the pain, and the agony, and the grief.
I filed for divorce when my baby turned a year old. I felt it was time.

There was two shining lights throughout the whole experience. The first was my eldest son. My clingy, silly, giggly little mummy's boy, who stayed glued to my side throughout the whole thing, and who accepted his baby brother without flinching. He was very brave himself. It must be terrifying to see your mother go through such hell at such a young age. I had to be strong for him in turn. He gave me purpose where there was none.
The second was my Tom. I went to school with Tom, and he lost his job as I lost my husband. We connected over this shared life-ruinery. Our first date was four weeks after my ex left. FILTHY HASTE according to some, but I was on the rebound, and twanging around the dating possibilities like a pinball. He lived two hundred miles away for the first two and a half years: a safe distance. But he was a constant source of comfort, laughter and distraction. He made me laugh, continuously, when nobody else could. We are getting married in August, by which time we will have been together almost four years. These have been simultaneously the best and worst years of my life. I hope the years we have together from now on are solely the best.

Losing your husband (or indeed, wife) abruptly breaks you. My husband didn't die, but it felt like he had. I didn't recognise him anymore. We had been together for nine years, and literally grown up together. All our shared memories and experiences were gone. All our in-jokes, gone. Our friends didn't exactly take sides, but it was difficult for them to remain neutral.
As time has gone on, we've forged a relationship that works for the children, but it is nothing like our marriage. We are like distant cousins. It's not always a smooth relationship, but arguments are rare. We have to be in each other's lives for as long as our children need their parents, and that is more important than bellowing at each other over old bitterness.
When he left, my entire life up to that point dissolved. I had to find a new one, and that is impossibly hard. He went directly into a co-habiting relationship, straight into a life not dissimilar to the one he left behind. I could not. I had to learn independence, something I'd never required until that point.

It still hurts. I still get upset, because it is hard work parenting in this manner. It is hard work ensuring they get enough time with their dad and his family to build a lasting attachment. It is hard work assuming most of the responsibility for two other lives, and making sure they understand the concept of step-parenting. I expect many more issues will arise as they get older.

Am I a better person for having gone through this? Unquestionably. One thing you learn very quickly when something like this happens is who your friends are. I am a lot pickier about who I keep close to me now, and more ruthless about cutting people out if necessary. I discovered that I can live by myself, that I do not need a boyfriend or husband to make me whole. I also discovered that not all relationships are poisoned by inequality. I can say, without doubt, that I would not being two thirds through a degree if I hadn't been divorced. My ex would not have supported me studying. It is due to all these things that I do not regret the end of my marriage. Neither do I regret it happening in the first place.
However, I lost everything. I lost my home, my community, my job, my sense of personal security, my financial security, many friends, memories, and feeling like I belonged. I have gradually built all that back up again, but in a way that cannot be taken away from me on a capricious whim.

I have not lost my faith in marriage.

Should anyone read this, going through something similar, wondering if they will ever feel whole again, I can assure you that you will. It takes time, but you will.

Benefits Britain: A look from 1825

In 1825, ish, a doctor named William Turnbull wrote the following on the poor of Britain:

"Many a decent family, which has long been maintained in comfort by the exertions of the parents, has been brought to real misery by the sickness of the father or mother; or as is frequently the case, the earnings of the parents are all consumed in the means of cure, or in alleviating the anguish of child suffering [...] A poor family is driven, during sickness, to depend for the very necessaries of life upon their credit with their neighbouring Shopkeeper ; and a system is thus introduced, which, more than any other tends to degrade and demoralise the character.
The feeling of compunction which at first arises at running into debts, which they have no prospect of discharging, wears off by degrees; and when the possibility of supporting themselves creditably is gone; when hope, the great stimulus to exertion, is no more, all further effort is palsied, a sort of moral despair succeeds and they are contented to leave their debts unpaid, to forfeit all their independence of spirit, and idly to rely on a Parish for the future: thus they become useless, if not hurtful, members of the community."

Nothing really changes, does it?

Turnbull, W (1825) An Appeal on Behalf of the Intended Hospital at Huddersfield, Huddersfield Library

9 Feb 2014


It's been an age since I wrote about my studies. In that time, I've got divorced (huzzah), engaged (more huzzah), and my eldest has been diagnosed with autism. So, it's been a busy few months, but I have hit the halfway point on both courses.

A218, or history of medicine, is the bigger of the two courses. In the last few months, I've learned far more than I thought I would ever need to know about the rise of medicine from the Ancient Greeks to the Enlightenment, when things actually began to change. What interests me most is the way governments used the new discoveries and trends in health to keep an eye on the population (and pathology, but there's not been a lot of pathology thus far). This interest in public health has led me to elect to do a level 3 module in it next year. My TMA results have been solid - 80%, 79% (that would have been 86%, had I not gone massively over the word count) and 84%. I am really pleased with these marks. I wasn't sure if I was cut out for history, but I'm loving using sources to back up arguments in a way you can't with sociology.

SK277, or human biology, is the shorter of the courses, but by no means the easier. The biology is mainly framed as "This is the system, this is what happens when it goes wrong", which is fine but SO intricate. There is a lot more cellular level biology and biological chemistry than I was expecting. I started this course thinking "I know LOADS about anatomy and physiology" and I do...but not nearly as much as I thought. So far, it's covered cells, nutrition and the GI systems, neurology, skeletal system, muscles, the senses and my arch enemy, endocrinology. My TMAs have been really good - 83% and 88% - but don't contribute to my final mark. That's all on the exam. Eek.

It's been a challenge doing 90 credits, moreso since eldest still isn't in full time schooling because of his special needs, but I've found it rewarding and enjoyable, with the odd moments of despairing, hateful anxiety (TMA weeks, I'm looking at you). I can't wait to do the next half...except for the exams. I bloody loathe exams.