‘He said the baby wasn’t his. I knew they could see the bruises and fake smile. I wanted to have the baby.’: Woman stands up to abuser, finds strength in ‘taking care of yourself first’

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“In 2008, I met my daughter’s dad. It was young love and I lost my virginity to him. I used that to motivate me to keep trying to make things work between us. He made me feel so important, but he kept breaking up with me whenever I was being needy and whenever I had too many emotions to express. He didn’t want to take the time to understand me. I would call him repeatedly begging him to come back. When he wouldn’t pick up my calls, I would show up at his place. I would always beg him to take me back.

The first time he put his hands on me was because he wanted to go hang out with his friends, but I wanted him to hang out with me instead. He pushed me so hard that I fell. I should have left at this point, but I didn’t. Every time we hung out, he would want to leave to hang out with his friends, but I was needy. I would always beg him to stay but he wouldn’t and would push me. The first time he hit me on my face, he busted my lip. I still didn’t leave. All I knew was that I wanted to be him, and I thought that if I kept trying, he would eventually change. My mom saw my busted lip and asked how I got it. I lied to her and said I was being bullied at school. She believed me. Around 2012, when he became homeless, my parents allowed him to stay with us because of his troubled childhood and my undying love for him. He stopped going out with his friends and he went to school and got a job.

We thought that he had gotten a stable job, so we decided to move out with his brother and his girlfriend. After a while, I got pregnant and he lost his job. He started going out with his friends again. He came home one night, accusing me and said that the baby wasn’t his and he hit my stomach. I eventually left him and went to my mom’s. She had told me to get rid of the baby, but I didn’t. I wanted to have a baby. A few days later, he begged for me to come back; I loved him, so I did. Things were going great and 9 months later, I had my baby.

Courtesy of Mai Der Vang

Issues arrived with him and his brother, so we had to move back to my mom’s. There, the abuse began again because he wanted to go hang out with his friends again. I would let him go because I didn’t want to cause any problems. I had asked him to watch our daughter while I made food and he didn’t, and she fell off the bed. He had hit me so hard that I ran to the kitchen and my dad came to rescue me. I called the cops and he was arrested. Once he was released, he begged me to come back and again. I loved him – so I did. We were sleeping in motels one night at a time searching for a place of our own. Until eventually we found a studio. This was when my worst nightmare had come true.

Every day, he abused me, saying, ‘I’m not even hitting that hard,’ and accusing me of cheating on him with his friends. He would abuse me in front of my daughter, and she would start crying, and he wouldn’t even care. He would hit me so hard on the side of my face, leaving bruises. I never went out, the only time I did was with him. My family wanted to see my baby and me, but he wouldn’t allow it. Finally, on the day of my daughter’s birthday, he allowed my mom, my sister and my brother to come over to wish her a happy birthday. I knew they could see the bruises and the fake smile I had, but I stayed strong for my daughter.

Courtesy of Mai Der Vang

A couple of days later, I called my mom when he had gone out and told her that I couldn’t take it anymore, I was so unhappy and wanted to come back home. She said, ‘You finally found a place of your own, us siab ntev,’ which meant to hang in there, so I did. He continued his bad behaviors. Then one night when he had returned home from his friends after smoking weed and drinking. He accused me saying, ‘Your boyfriend is in the RV parked outside, isn’t he? How dare you bring a man into our home, in front of my daughter.’ He hit my face and I would cry. He kept hitting me, saying, ‘I’m not even hitting that hard, stop crying.’ Then he brought out his BB gun and pistol-whipped me. After that, he used a fly swapper and swapped my back and knees. I would block the hits with my hands, but he didn’t stop.

Courtesy of Mai Der Vang
Courtesy of Mai Der Vang
Courtesy of Mai Der Vang
Courtesy of Mai Der Vang

I couldn’t take it anymore. My daughter was crying, and I thought to myself, if I don’t leave now, he would surely kill me. I didn’t want my daughter to think that it was okay for a man to strike you and say that he loved you. That night, I snuck into the bathroom and closed the door. I was so terrified that he would wake up and hear me. I dialed 911 and they came right away and arrested him. I took my daughter and never looked back.

It is now 2014, and after a few weeks, I got into another toxic relationship. He didn’t abuse me, but he was just as damaged as I was. I tried so hard to be with him for years, but apparently my behavior was unacceptable. The years I spent with my daughter’s dad had damaged my mental health. Her dad didn’t allow me to talk or be friends with guys so I wouldn’t allow him to talk to girls. I was very insecure and thought he was doing stuff behind my back with them. I would hit him from time to time until he told me to stop and I did. I never allowed myself to heal from what her dad did to me, so I mirrored him a lot in this relationship. I remember finding out about a girl he never told me about. I was hurt that he never told me about her. I questioned him over and over to tell me everything he had done and said to her, but he refused. I was so furious that I had pushed him around a couple of times and ended up calling the cops to retrieve my house key back from him, but when they arrived, it had turned into a domestic violence call. They arrested me and I had to call my brother to tell him that I was going to jail and that he had to pick up my daughter. They told me I would only spend 3 days in jail, but I spent a week. The whole time I was there, I thought about how bad my behavior was and how I wished I never did what I did. I missed my daughter so much, I just wanted to get out so I could be with her again. Once I got out, we agreed to stay friends with benefits, in hopes of him wanting to be with me again, until I met this man. This man changed my life.

In 2017, I met this man. This man helped me break the never-ending cycle with my ex. At first, our relationship was strictly just fun and games, but I fell for him hard. The first year with him, he had taught me how to lose weight and how to work out. The second year, he had helped me get rid of the baggage that both my ex had left me. He gave me so much freedom that I wanted to be a better person for him. He was just so different from both my ex. He was a lot older, so he had more experience with life. He opened my eyes to the world I never knew existed. He was too good to be true.

Every time I had a negative emotion to share, he would dismiss them. He told me that I had to control my emotions, that having emotions made me less attractive. I knew I had needs that weren’t being fulfilled, but I listened to him and I hid them because every time I brought them up, he would get upset. I tried to control my emotions, but some days were harder than others. All my baggage from my ex was still there, I never took the time to fix them. He hated that I didn’t know how to communicate with him, but it was hard to. I wasn’t used to expressing myself, so he would break up with me. I would always apologize and tell him I’d try harder. I always knew there was something wrong with that though because he never tried to understand me; he was so quick to dismiss my feelings and turn things around to make it all about him. The only reason I stayed for so long was because when things were good between us, they were great.

I wasn’t always the greatest mom, because I would choose going out with boys instead of watching my daughter. I would let the TV or tablet watch her while I was on my phone. I never taught her anything. Whenever she was feeling emotions, I would dismiss them. I would yell at her whenever she wasn’t acting the way I wanted her to act. His constant approval of how well I was raising my daughter made me want to raise my daughter correctly. But then in 2019, he started saying things like, ‘Your daughter will grow up exactly like you, not knowing how to control her emotions.’ His constant negativity was making me unhappy, so, I let him go, I let him go for my sake and my daughter.

Courtesy of Mai Der Vang

I spent a lot of my time listening to self-help videos, motivational videos, the law of attraction videos and even learned how to work out by myself. Deep inside, I still wanted him back, but I wanted him to realize that he was wrong about me. So, I continued to work on myself. After a couple of weeks, I saw him again. I just had to run back to him. He changed my life. He pulled me into the light when I was in the dark and I had to have him back in my life. We got back together, and things were great for about month and then things got worst. He started emotionally abusing me, and then physically. He would say to me, ‘You were a piece of shit then and you’re a piece of shit now,’ and  ‘I don’t need you; you don’t do anything for me but bring stress.’ It was then I realized I had to let him go.

Here I am now; I am so much stronger than I was before. My experiences with all my exes have shaped me into a stronger person. I still have my moments of weakness, but I don’t stay there for too long. I seek help and take every opportunity that I can to better myself. I alone have to ability to change and make myself happy. It did take me a very long time to understand this. From 2008-2019, almost 11 years, just to finally understand that it was in me all this time. Love and take care of yourself first, because, in the end, that’s all you have.”

Courtesy of Mai Der Vang

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mai Der Vang of Sacramento, California. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful stories from courageous women:

‘His scheme to butter me up to lose his virginity worked. ‘Wow, he really cares about me.’: Domestic violence survivor reveals she’s been ‘scared to speak my truth’ for years, but finally realizes ‘I’m stronger for what I’ve been through’

‘I was tossed like a rag doll off a deck by my hair. He tried to take my life in front of my kids.’: Domestic violence survivor escapes abuser, ‘takes her life back’ with the help of her ‘tribe’

‘You look so much more beautiful with a black eye.’ My entire life revolved around staying alive. There was no tomorrow, no next week. Just the now, and an escape plan.’: Young woman escapes domestic violence, finds love with ‘selfless’ man

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