Time Stood Still

TRIGGER WARNING: DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE, RAPE

 

May 13, 2005
On a dingy bathroom floor in a house full of addicts, she waited. The test sat on the counter, scarce inches away, yet she couldn’t look. One… two… three minutes passed. It was now or never. Her hands shaking, she picked up her future, wrapped in a disguise of plastic and paper and urine. Positive. She closed her eyes, unsure if she was relieved or disappointed. Time stood still.

January 27, 2006
The hospital was crowded, as if everyone in a fifty mile radius had decided to give birth right then and there. A blur of lights and sleep and strange beeps and frantic calls and pain, oh the pain! She couldn’t quite remember how or why she had ended up in the operating room or why they wouldn’t let her hold her daughter right away or anything beyond the overwhelming agony that every second away from the child caused. A bundle was placed in her arms – The bluest eyes she’d ever seen, the blackest hair, the most perfect little mouth. The world melted away and she finally knew the meaning of her life.

July 15, 2006
She could smell the whiskey on his breath before he entered the room. Her heart beat faster as she clutched her baby closer. One foot out the window, easy does it, twist and turn and grab the ledge … – his hand wrapped around hers and in a single breath she was on the bedroom floor again. The baby bawled in his arms as he hurled accusation after accusation, stepping more firmly on her throat with every uttered syllable. Her life flashed before her eyes and in the moment before the stars became darkness, time stood still.

June 1, 2007
He stumbled in at 9am, drunk, though god knows he’d gone to work last night. She lay awake – eyes closed, breathing regular – hoping he’d think she was still asleep. Their daughter stirred; a heavenly coo from the cradle next to their bed. She jumped up to attend before his clumsy hands could reach the tiny being, but not before a slurred “Stunned cunt, let me sleep” escaped his lips as he collapsed into the pillows. When the darkness overcame him, she methodically packed her belongings and drove to the new apartment across town. Furniture would have to wait, but in that moment, her life started over.

December 17, 2011
The night was young, the music loud, the tequila flowing freely. Across the table, he winked and smiled and she had never felt so sexy. The bar closed, the after party started, and before she knew it, 3am had arrived and it was only the two of them awake. He kissed her, she kissed back, he reached up her skirt. She said no. He stopped. He tried again. The no became more urgent. He conceded and allowed her to drift into unconsciousness. She awoke long enough to kick him and roll over as he peeled her panties off, then returned to the nothingness she had been roused from. Seconds… minutes… ages later, her mind snapped out of the fog, feeling him inside her, momentum building, grunts of pleasure escaping his lips. Her body froze. Words caught in her throat. As he emptied himself into her, time stood still.

July 19, 2013
Eight hours of magic was coming to a close. She thought it was going well, but one could never quite tell with a first date. They placed a bet on the last bowling match – if he won, she had to say yes to a second date. She lost, albeit unintentionally, though she was far from disappointed at the prospect of more time in his company. He walked her to her car; she thanked him for a wonderful day. The sun was setting just behind him, a brilliant cascade of light gleaming over his left shoulder. He hugged her and she could feel the restless energy stirring within him. In a moment of impulsive desire, she pressed her lips to his and held on tightly as the rest of the world became irrelevant.

November 8, 2013
They lay in bed, her head on his chest, his arms protectively cocooning her. He kissed her goodnight, and just as he was dozing off, a timid whisper asked if he was still awake. Now alert, he asked her why. Seconds passed as she took a calming breath and responded with some off-pitch statement about needing to tell him something. With a hint of suspicion, he probed her intentions. Her heart beat faster as she attempted to gather her courage. “I love you,” she breathed, barely audible, as she buried her face in his neck. He gently lifted her chin, gazing into her eyes through the dark. “I love you,” he responded, kissing her tenderly as time stood still.

It Takes A Village

How many times have we all heard the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child”? Parenting is not easy at the best of times. Parenting alone is even harder. Why is it, then, that we vilify single mothers who utilise the resources and help available to them?

I have been incredibly blessed with supportive parents. They certainly weren’t happy when I came home pregnant at 19, but once I committed to continuing the pregnancy, they jumped on board. Mom was always there to listen to my pregnant gripes, to answer any questions and to share my wonder at the fluttery little kicks coming from my womb. Dad was always there to deliver greatly-craved green apples or strawberry ice cream in the middle of the night (when my daughter’s father refused to get up) and to indulge with me so I didn’t feel quite so alone. Both my parents were at the hospital to hear my daughter’s first cry and visited frequently during the week she was in the NICU. As she grew older, they always offered to take her for a couple hours or overnight when I had errands to run, wanted a night out, or simply needed some time to myself. When I left her father, they supported my decision, helped me move and helped me find the strength to get a restraining order. When the time came for her to start school and I fell in love with a ridiculously expensive private school, they offered to contribute the extra funding I wasn’t able to afford. My father is retired, and picks her up after school so that I can continue to work my decent-paying 9-5.

 My friends are equally supportive. I can’t count how many times they have played with my daughter, read to her, picked her up when Dad couldn’t, and helped me bake umpteen batches of cookies for school bake sales. This past January, several friends and I pulled an all-nighter to completely renovate  my daughter’s playroom from a boring blue room to a garden paradise.

Recently, I’ve received some flack for “not raising [my] child [my]self” and for “depending too much on others.” Frankly, I think this is complete bullshit. I work an average of 50 hours a week to ensure my daughter has a home, food, clothing and superior education. I wake her up every morning. I help her with her homework. I read to her before bed every night, tuck her in, and sit up with her when she has bad dreams. I watch her Tae Kwon Do class every Tuesday, and make sure that I take her hiking and bowling and to the library on our weekends. I teach her how to help around the house, and, once her chores are completed and allowance has been received, I have taught her how to save and donate a portion. I listen to her thoughts and feelings, validate them, and guide her toward being a better person. I discipline her when need be. I make sure that she always know that she is strong, smart, funny, compassionate, beautiful and loved beyond measure. In my opinion, this is what raising a child is about.

So yes, I am fortunate enough to have wonderful people in my life who love my daughter dearly and do whatever they can to help enrich her life. This does not mean I have passed the torch of raising my daughter on to them. This means, simply put, that I have recognised that through communal effort, we can create a better life for the next generation. Putting up walls and boundaries between our family and our friends may ensure that we, as parents, do it “all on our own.” However, I think this approach denies our children the joy of sharing their lives fully with their extended family and community at large.

Yes, I am proud to be a single mom. Yes, I am proud of what I have accomplished, both as a professional and  as a parent, despite her father’s absence. But I will never insist on going it alone to the detriment of my child. We can all use more love, more friends, more support, and it is shameful that so many mothers do not have the opportunity, or refuse to take it when offered. It really DOES take a village, and I am proud to say my daughter has the best “village” she could ask for.