Authentic Me: A Story of Strength, Perseverance and Faith
My first book, Authentic Me, was published in November 2015. The book is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The book is authentic. The pain is real. And the decision to move beyond the pain to discover purpose will serve as empowerment to all who read it. Read an excerpt below then order your copy! Offer feedback on the book using the hashtag #AuthenticMe. Thanks for your support. ~Author Tiffany Hill
Authentic Me, Chapter 1: Love, Marriage and a Baby Carriage
I will never forget the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. I was so excited! The excitement was displayed through tears of joy which immediately turned to worry. Would I have a normal pregnancy? Would the baby be healthy? How would the delivery go? How would I handle being a new mom? My worry turned into fear. Yikes! Will I really have to push a baby out? How much will the baby weigh?
As the questions plagued my mind, my level of anxiety heightened. Labor and delivery shows made me nervous. I had nightmares about horrific delivery procedures and baby abnormalities. I was totally elated about the pregnancy all while being completely terrified of childbirth. Well, it was too late for that fear now. The baby was inside of me growing and doing well. At some point, a precious newborn would make their debut into the world, whether this mommy-to-be was nervous or not.
I soon learned I was giving birth to a baby boy. The joy of it was indescribable. I wanted everything to be perfect for him. The nursery had to be color coordinated and fully equipped with the baby essentials: the crib, car seat, stroller and other newborn baby items, all of which would be selected only after reading consumer safety reports and endless customer reviews. I was anxiously preparing for motherhood, my first child. It had to be perfect and according to plan.
Later, I began having complications with the pregnancy. My heart literally stopped beating for a moment. Preeclampsia was the diagnosis. No surprise. It was indeed a stressful time. I was newly married. I had recently relocated, started a new job and was getting settled into a new home. I was also studying for the Michigan bar examination.
As a result of the preeclampsia diagnosis, the doctor ordered bed rest. Bed rest?! I thought, “What exactly does that entail?” Maybe I hadn’t fully explained to the doctor the extent of what I had going on and how busy I was. I couldn’t possibly put aside all of my responsibilities and be confined to a bed! In hindsight, I now know it was something I should have welcomed as a break from the fast pace of my chaotic world.
My husband Kyle, whose career was in higher education, had recently secured a position as the student affairs administrator at a university in Michigan. We lived in a small college town and hadn’t been there long enough for me to establish a strong support network. I was nervous about being there without family support, especially after experiencing sickness during the pregnancy.
When I gave birth, my mother came in town to stay with us for a few weeks. My son was born premature and remained in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital for two weeks after I was discharged. The drive from our home to the hospital was one and a half hours. Rather than make the long drive daily, my mom and I opted to lodge in a nearby hotel to be close to the hospital.
My baby was perfect in my eyes. I spent so much time at the hospital to the point that my mother began to encourage me to go to the hotel and rest for a few hours in between visits. I couldn’t understand why Kyle wasn’t as equally excited about the baby as I was and wondered if it would be unfair to him to raise it as an issue. He was certainly busy at work. Perhaps I was overreacting. He was a male, which in my opinion somehow made him less compassionate. I was worried and concerned for the baby and decided not to let my apprehension spill over into our marriage.
When Kyle stopped by for a visit, he informed me that he would be traveling to attend a student affairs conference the next day. So much for avoiding an argument! The baby was only a few days old and was being fed through a feeding tube. It was insensitive to consider leaving with the baby in that condition.
“You’ve got to be kidding me! You’re going to leave while our newborn baby is in the hospital to go to a conference that is conveniently in the city where your mistress lives? Is Dana that important?”
Dana and Kyle had a long history. They dated prior to our relationship and were once engaged to be married. They went a period of time with no communication, but Dana resurfaced when she discovered that Kyle and I were married. She professed her love for Kyle and the regret of not following through with their plans for marriage. Initially, Kyle was very open with me about Dana and set boundaries between them. Later, the phone calls increased in frequency and an intimate relationship developed.
Although I was agitated, I remained cognizant of the fact that the baby could sense tension. He needed us to be attentive to him, not arguing in his presence. I committed to blocking out the marital frustrations and becoming solely focused on the baby’s needs.
I was basking in the joy of being a new mom. I couldn’t be more amazed that I’d given birth to someone who depended on me for everything. The feeling was surreal. My prayers had been answered. The baby made much progress during his stay in the hospital. He was a healthy, happy bundle of joy and that was all that mattered to me. The day he was discharged and able to come home was one of the happiest days of my life.
Honestly, this wasn’t my first pregnancy. A few months before I started law school, I became pregnant by my high school boyfriend. The timing of that news could not have been worse. I was at a point where I was ready to fulfill my dream of being an attorney, but how could I accomplish that task with a newborn baby? Did I even want to try? I decided that I did not. I had an abortion.
I never spoke with anyone about the abortion which consequently allowed me not to have to deal with the emotions that came along with my choice. It didn’t occur to me that a single selfish act would shape my future decisions. When I was faced with difficult problems later in life, I resorted to that comfortable mechanism of handling issues: avoidance.
Years later those emotions surfaced, causing me to remain in an abusive marriage and aiding in the process of my self-worth being devalued. I believed that domestic abuse was the punishment for my previous mistake. I’d killed an innocent being to pursue my professional dreams and aspirations. When I married, I had the lifestyle I longed for yet had the audacity to be unhappy when it came with additional baggage. Would years of physical, emotional and financial abuse be the price I paid for the fairytale lifestyle I desired or was it too much to endure? I often questioned myself, yet there was little time for a pity party. I’d dealt myself these cards and now it was time to play my hand. I learned to play my hand very well. I would even argue that I became too good at playing the game, at the expense of denying myself the authenticity and happiness I deserved.
“You’re a stupid bitch!” he yelled, before he hit me so hard in my face that he knocked me down onto the living room floor. It took a second for the reality of the moment to set in. When it finally did, my mind immediately went into overdrive. I was angry! This motherfucker actually hit me! Truthfully, the fact that he hit me wasn’t what I was most upset about. I was furious he called me a bitch!
“I know you didn’t just call me a bitch! Have you lost your mind?” I stormed over to the closest telephone to dial 911. He wouldn’t call me a bitch and hit me in the process! He was going to pay for this!
Kyle pleaded with me not to call the police. My head was pounding so his requests sounded like distorted rambling. “I’ll leave,” he said. “We don’t need people in our business. Think about our jobs. How embarrassing would it be for everyone to know that we had a fight?”
In my mind I thought, we didn’t have a fight. You hit me. You called me a bitch. You lost your temper. It’s not my fault!
“911 what’s your emergency?” the dispatcher asked.
“My husband and I were arguing and he hit me in the face,” I replied. I burst into tears. The dispatcher requested that I remain on the telephone as she sent a police officer to our home.
As I held the telephone receiver, I became sick to my stomach. I was dizzy and felt an overwhelming urge to vomit. I was very afraid. Had I overreacted? I’d called the police on my son’s father, my husband. I certainly didn’t want him to go to jail. What kind of person would that make me? I hung up the telephone.
My mother-in-law was in town visiting which added tension in and of itself. After hearing all of the commotion, she rushed into the room where we were. Kyle gave his mother a brief synopsis of what had taken place. She immediately began orchestrating our talking points for the police.
“Neither of you should put your jobs in jeopardy over a silly argument,” she said. “When the officers arrive, you should tell them it was just a misunderstanding. Do not agree to press charges. The last thing you need is police involved in your private affairs.”
I couldn’t comprehend the words. In my mind, I was repeating to myself, HE HIT ME! He’s my husband. I thought he would protect me. You would think at that very moment I would have realized I’d married into a family where true happiness was secondary to the opinions of others. Public image mattered in an unhealthy, abnormal way and this family would discredit anyone to keep that image intact.
The doorbell buzzed. All eyes looked to me. The police had arrived. I looked at my husband: his face was filled with terror. Guilt set in for me. I felt the need to protect him. He’d gotten upset, extremely upset. Did one act of rage make him a horrible person? Surely it would never happen again. I’d known Kyle for almost two years and he’d never been physically abusive. Perhaps it was a mistake and he really was sorry.
“No officer, he did not hit me. We had an argument and I called the police because I was upset. It was just a misunderstanding.” I recited the rehearsed script robotically. The look on the police officer’s face confirmed he did not believe me. He told me that without my statement there would be little that law enforcement could do to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. I assured the officer that I was okay. After he secured witness statements and finished his investigation, I grabbed my baby, went into the bedroom and locked the door to prevent anyone from coming in. I was violated by my husband and unsure of whether he would hit me again as a consequence of calling the police. I needed some time alone to process the events that had just taken place. I finally fell asleep holding my baby in my arms.
We slept for a few hours that seemed like days of rest. I was hoping it would ease the pain of what I had endured. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling guilty. I regretted calling the police. Rather than viewing the phone call to the police as a necessary act of protection, I instead felt I had done something terribly wrong.
To add insult to injury, the ‘simple misunderstanding’ script we rehearsed prior to the arrival of the police had been revised. My mother-in-law gave a witness statement indicating she was present during the altercation. According to her, the incident was solely my fault.
I was completely shocked and I felt betrayed. I wondered if I’d made a mistake by getting married. We hadn’t been married a full year and there were already signs of trouble. Yet, I believed it was too soon to give up on our union. I took ownership of Kyle’s problem and began brainstorming ways to resolve the conflict. People can get help if they’re physically abusive. Perhaps the solution would be to go to counseling with him.
I replayed the events repeatedly in my mind. Subconsciously, I began to doubt myself and wonder if I indeed triggered Kyle’s anger and the domestic abuse. I eventually resolved that both my husband and my mother-in-law were right. I had to let it go. To do otherwise would only create more problems. In an attempt to be strong and make the marriage work, I decided to stay. I would forgive this first act of domestic abuse and view it as an isolated incident. I promised myself that if he ever hit me again I would absolutely leave. It was the first of many times that I would recite that same promise.
A few days later, Kyle casually stated in a text message that he would never allow himself to get that angry again. I read the message but did not respond. I wasn’t sure if this was his version of an apology. He never actually said the words “I’m sorry.” Though I’d been consumed with how to make the situation better, we did not discuss it as a couple. Rather than admit there was a problem, we both operated as if the incident never happened.
After a few weeks of tension, things slowly started to return to normal. In his efforts to regain my trust, he bought me expensive gifts and a brand new luxury car. We took lavish vacations. He befriended everyone in my friendship circle and constantly reminded them of the nice things he did for me. Kyle was charming and created the perfect persona for himself. He needed everyone around us to believe that he was a wonderful person, without flaws. It was the process of convincing people that he was incapable of abusing me before they were even aware of domestic violence.
Three years passed and the joy of motherhood was still a natural high for me. I wanted that experience again. I wanted another baby. Kyle was doing well in his career and figured if a second child would satisfy me then so be it. We soon welcomed another baby boy into our home. I was blessed beyond measure. Motherhood truly is life’s most precious gift.
The love that my children brought into my life made it easy to disregard the fact that Kyle and I were slowly drifting apart. He spent the majority of his time at work. I spent all of my time with the children. When Kyle requested that we go to dinner or do things as a couple, I instantly declined. I was consumed with motherhood and showed little interest in doing any activity as a couple. Being a wife was secondary, which furthered the divide within our marriage.
The years that followed proved what I already knew to be true: if you don’t get to the root of a problem and address it, the problem will continue to manifest itself. For a while Kyle was able to keep his promise. He was not physically abusive. I felt good about that fact and hopeful for our marriage. I couldn’t stomach the thought of being in a relationship where every time there was a disagreement I feared being physically assaulted. However, in the place of physical abuse, I found myself being subjected to emotional abuse and those scars ran deep.
As a result, there were numerous times I packed my bags and left, children in tow. I thought that if I left home enough times Kyle would stop disrespecting me. I hoped he would miss my presence and work harder to address our marital problems. My actions had the opposite effect. Kyle began to make jokes during arguments that suggested I should leave and go to a hotel. He told me how much better he slept when I wasn’t at home and that he wished we could live separately forever. I didn’t blame him at all for his behavior. Instead, I blamed myself and questioned what I had done to warrant this treatment.
It would be years later before Kyle physically harmed me again. Yet, emotionally, I was in for a roller coaster ride that no one could have prepared me for. If it’s true that your hardest times reveal your character, mine was about to be tried, tested and revealed for the world to see.
“You’re insecure! That’s your problem,” he yelled as he stormed upstairs. We were arguing about Dana again. This particular evening, I’d heard the garage door open. His vehicle pulled into the garage, but he didn’t come inside the house until well over an hour had passed. He remained in the car conversing with Dana.
The fact that I felt his relationship with Dana was disrespectful was somehow my fault as well. He masked his wrongdoings in condescending remarks aimed at making me feel inferior.
“You never question a man who takes care of his household. Most women do as they’re told when a man is providing for them.” Didn’t I know that? No, I didn’t know that because I was stupid. If only I were older, maybe then I would understand. Marrying me was a big mistake. He would talk to anyone he chose to talk to, male or female, at any time. And, that was that.
Their relationship planted the seed of distrust that continued to grow in our marriage. It was a battle between female intuition and my desire to have faith in Kyle. I certainly didn’t want to appear immature or insecure. In an effort to prove that neither was the case, I vowed to never question him about his relationship with Dana. I knew that I had no control over his actions.
We never discussed Dana again and I never offered forgiveness. I also didn’t leave. I stayed with a hardened heart that would refuse to be mended.
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