“No one ever told me my fairytale would end like this, only to begin a new chapter in an entirely different book.
My first husband and I met at a local county fair. Yes, I married a carny. My big dream was always to be a missionary in Africa, so when I accidentally dropped my keys and a handsome South African man named Bennie picked them up, I was in heaven. He promised me he would take me to South Africa and was only 6 months after that, he moved to the states and we got married.
I got cold feet after he proposed, and moved to Mexico the next weekend to work at a school and do Missions Work. When I got there, it dawned on me – I don’t speak Spanish, and I really did want to marry that man. I wish I could say that part was made up, but I am a rather free spirit who sometimes goes wherever this wandering mind takes me. Bennie bought me a plane ticket back and sure enough, we were married the next Tuesday.
We were married for 11 years when our marriage came to a sudden halt. I say sudden, but I guess all of the events that led up to it weren’t really sudden at all. We really did have a picture-perfect marriage for many years. He was kind, gentle, had a great accent and always told me he was working hard to make our dreams come true. I remember once I even told him I felt attracted to someone at work, which was a very hard thing to admit. Bennie responded with these words:
‘He may want to get to know you, but I know you, and I’ve made it a goal to spend all my days trying to make you happy.’
He was the kind of guy that during our first fight, I slammed the bathroom door and sat on the floor crying, and I heard a sweet voice from under the door say, ‘You can say a lot of things, but never say the D word, because divorce isn’t going to be a part of our story.’
Our next adventure was having a baby, until I was told I wouldn’t be able to have one. We decided we would keep trying, praying, and believing anyway. We prayed for 6 long years. It was like a roller coaster we couldn’t get off of. Every month was excitement, and then disappointment.
On the sixth year, the night before Mother’s Day, a lady from my church texted me and said, ‘God is going to give you a baby… I had a dream about it.’ I remember looking over at my husband, tearful and angry, saying, ‘That’s just mean. Does she not know how long we’ve been trying?!’ I hated Mother’s Day. It was the hardest day, and always a reminder that my miracle had not happened yet.
So, Mother’s Day morning came, and this year, that day was different. I took a test, just in case, and saw the smallest plus sign – it changed my life. It was almost like God said, ‘Happy Mother’s Day to you!’ My husband and I wept together and were so, so thankful! We named our little one Zaylee when she made her arrival in this world. It was very fitting because it means ‘a heavenly divine woman.’
Just 10 months after that, we were blessed with another child. A son!
When my son was two months old, my life took a turn I never expected. I remember the day like it was yesterday. The day that changed everything. I bent down to pick my baby up and felt something snap. I dropped my baby in his crib and heard my toddler screaming in the other room, but I couldn’t move. I called my husband and he came home immediately and took me to the ER. I couldn’t feel anything but pain shooting from my back all the way down to my toes in my right leg. The ER gave me the run around. ‘It’s probably just a nerve,’ and so on.
I went to another doctor who tried epidural steroid injections for a few months. She also decided I needed to be on hydrocodone and valium, and 1800 mg of Gralise, a form of gabapentin. Needless to say, those drugs took a toll on me, but I was able to walk and do the things a house wife needed to do. I remember beginning to feel different, very sad. I felt like driving off a bridge was a good idea. All of my inhibitions were out the window. I called my doctor and said, ‘Something isn’t right. I’m positive and bubbly, but all I can think about is how dying is a great option.’ She told me this would pass, and that she takes the same medicine and these effects would wear off.
I called her three times, and three times I got the exact same answer. Finally, the day came when I drove to Walmart and I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I went from being a stay at home mom, to a useless person who could barely get out of bed most days. I couldn’t pick my kids up, bathe them. I felt couldn’t be a good mother or wife at this point. I took a bottle of pills, and for some reason only God can explain, I woke up in that same parking lot. I was sent immediately to a hospital in Little Rock, and they had to wean me off all this medication and explained I needed back surgery. Four of my lower disks were out of place, and that’s what was causing such tremendous pain. I had never even heard the words Degenerative Disk Disease before that day. Also, the one medication I was on had a high risk of suicidal ideation. It would have been awesome if my doctor had told me that at any point.
I did indeed have back surgery, and my mother-in-law flew in from South Africa to help with the kids while I recovered. It still took me an hour to stand up. I had to have help doing everyday things like putting my socks on or going to the restroom. While my mother-in-law was here, her daughter Gina, my sister-in-law and very good friend who was only 29, went to the hospital with a severe headache and never came out. I remember hearing the words we all dreaded: brain cancer.
She began to lose her vision, her speech, and motor function very quickly. I was left with the task no one wanted – I had to tell my mother-in-law she needed to go back to South Africa because Gina was sick. I didn’t want to tell her everything. She explained she wasn’t leaving, that Gina would be fine, and then the moment came when I had to say, ‘She isn’t fine, she has brain cancer and she is dying quickly.’ The crazy part is, I knew that God could heal Gina. I prayed and wept, and asked and believed even more than I had for the 6 years that I tried to have a baby. God had a different plan for her though. She died 7 days later from a brain tumor on Valentine’s Day. She had two children and a beautiful life. His mom barely made it back in time to see her before she lost all brain function.
It was that moment that my husband looked at me for the first time with disgust. He couldn’t leave me alone and fly to South Africa with the kids. I couldn’t even get out of bed on my own. I cried, I felt guilty. Why did I get to survive when I tried to selfishly take my own life, and she didn’t even get an opportunity to fight for her life? Why do her kids have to be motherless? Why did all of this have to happen? That was the beginning of the end of our marriage. Some things that are supposed to draw you closer ultimately ended my fairy tale love story. I checked out of the marriage, Bennie checked out of the marriage and then lost his job.
My back surgery didn’t solve anything. I still could barely walk, I couldn’t pick up my children, and I had to have help doing daily things. Shortly after, we got divorced. I left. I couldn’t handle looking at someone in the eye who felt as if I was the reason he didn’t get to see his sister one last time. No one explains to you how much your children go through when you divorce. They don’t tell you about all the guilt, shame, regret, and pain that comes with it. They just say, ‘You are finally FREE.’ I’ve struggled with my freedom since it began then, if that’s the case. We did get back together and try to make it work for the kids, as divorced parents, but the love had changed so much, it was impossible to go back to what we were.
I had a second back surgery and decided that no matter what happened, I was going to get better. The surgery was a little more successful this time, but I still had to hire a personal trainer to help me get my strength and mobility back. During that time, I, myself, decided to become a personal trainer. Everyone said I couldn’t do it because of my back problems, but I was so determined to do it anyway, and I did. I began working as a personal trainer after losing 60 pounds and getting back what felt like was my life.
I didn’t think the gym of all places would be where I met my second husband, but sure enough, he came strutting in one day swept me off my feet. I got remarried very quickly afterwards. He was perfect, sweet, and funny. He was handsome, had a great job, great dreams, and we had a very passionate relationship. He also came with a beautiful 6-year-old girl. We now had my 5-year-old and 4-year-old children, and his 6-year-old.
No one told me that blending families would be more of a struggle than most could imagine. That there would be hard days where kids didn’t want to mind their elders, pushed past every limit, and it would cause chaos between the two of us in our parenting.
As you know, most people with passionate love also have pretty passionate arguments. We were fighting around every corner because of different parenting styles. Before the first year of marriage had come, we had separated. We loved each other, but just couldn’t agree on anything. At one point in time, we were trying to reconcile, and I asked God for a sign… anything to let me know we could make it. That same day, we were all at the pool, and my daughter said, ‘Look mom, there’s a heart in the sky. Sure enough, there it was, as odd as it sounds – my sign from heaven. It was such a significant moment that I had to take a picture of it because no one would even believe me.
We slowly moved back in and began counseling. One year in and we are pushing through, loving each other and learning how to listen to one another. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been beautiful to learn how to love a child that didn’t come from my womb, as if she did. To see them now run around as brothers and sisters who wouldn’t want to be with anyone else but each other warms my soul. I never imagined starting over with a new man and a new life, but that’s the journey I have taken.
My ex, Bennie, and I still share custody of the kids and have learned how to co-parent even though some of the pain is still there. But here I am today, in a different kind of fairy tale relationship that I like to call real life. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t make it through the pain, but I found that God is always faithful, even when we are faithless.”
[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there and you are not alone.]
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