“The part of me that is angry is because I wanted to be loved so badly that I left common sense and good judgement at the door.”
That was 2005.
A lot can happen in six years.
A lot HAS happened in six years.
First, I want to start by saying that motherhood was never something I pursued. Sure, in theory I wanted to be a mother some day. I also wanted the rich, church going husband who whisked me away to his mansion and gave me one of his matching Mercedes to drive.
That would have been nice.
But the motherhood thing? Six years ago, it wasn’t even on my radar.
What was on my radar was trying to find someone to love me.
The father of my children was not my first relationship. Before him there was an 8 year relationship which turned into an engagement its final year. There’s not enough time to discuss where that relationship went wrong, but the sole reason it even began in the first place was because of my pursuit of a man’s love.
I needed it so badly and felt like I couldn’t function without it. It became addictive, a sedative. It calmed me down for a moment, but soon had me roaming the streets looking for my next fix. I drove for miles looking for it. I allowed questionable characters to be taken into my confidence and sometimes, into my bed, looking for it.
When the 8 year relationship ended in 2004, I went looking again. This time, I found a man I didn’t even like. That wasn’t anything new. I’d met several men who didn’t impress me at first sight and this one wasn’t an exception. He was somewhat tall (about 6’1″), brown skinned, wore jeans, a throwback jersey and a ball cap cocked to the side. I was not impressed.
I was introduced to him by my hair stylist and wanting some attention and affection, I decided to give him a call and he immediately asked to come see me. He came over and the conversation was unremarkable. He looked like a walking stereotype. I immediately judged him.
He wasn’t on my level.
Several months passed after our initial meeting in 2004. By February of 2005, we reconnected. One evening he came over to my place to hang out. He sat on my sofa as he usually did and I sat across from him on the chaise. After several minutes passed, he removed the ball cap allowing me to finally get a good look at his face and his eyes. There was something about his face that immediately struck me.
I knew then I wanted him.
And back in the day, Melissa usually got what and who she wanted.
We continued our physical relationship for several months and although I was not 100 percent content, I was willing to tolerate his inconsistent behavior because after all, he was a nice change of scenery. But the more he came around, the more I felt myself getting attached to him. I decided that the next time we met, I would end things.
But before I got the chance, there was some news the both of us would have to learn…
I was pregnant.
The next year was hell. I say that because I was already an emotional wreck before getting pregnant but combined with hormonal changes, it became worse. I was used to feeling depressed but it deepened. I was used to feeling alone because I had been living on my own for several years. But it became even worse.
I didn’t know how I ended up here.
I didn’t want to be pregnant. I wanted to be loved.
I was too old to be pregnant and unloved. I was 27 yrs old when I found out I was pregnant. This sort of thing happened to teenagers, right?
What I soon discovered was that although my physical age was 27, my emotional age was far, far younger.
I needed to grow up and someone was about to be born who could help me do just that.
When I began this journey and this calling of motherhood, I felt beyond ill-prepared. I felt as if being pregnant was a consequence to own and live with. I wasn’t capable then of seeing the hand of God in it all. I knew God was involved because He began speaking to me in dreams more than I’d ever had in my entire life. He told me I was having a son. He told me to name him “Matthew” which means “gift of God”. But even with all of these confirmations, I still didn’t put the pieces together.
I still couldn’t see God in it all.
I couldn’t see the “gift”.
All I saw was that I wanted a man to love me but ended up with a baby. Not only was I about to be a mother, I was about to do it alone. I was about to be a “baby mama”, a statistic. I didn’t even have time to care about the ramifications of my actions against the backdrop of my Pentecostal Holiness upbringing nor my father’s position as an Elder. All I knew was that I had to face what I’d done and I would.
I wish that I could say that I embraced motherhood with enthusiasm and selflessness as every parent should, but I didn’t. I spend a great deal of time mourning, complaining, and weeping for the love I wanted but never got. I mourned for the fantasy man in the music video who would shower me with gifts and affection that never came. And I mourned for the life I was told I should have and deserved to have but didn’t.
I was a baby mama now. How delightfully humbling.
But six years later…
My life looks nothing like it did then.
Not only am I the mother of Matthew, I went on to have another child with the man in the throwback jersey and cocked-to-the-side ball cap, our beautiful daughter, Caitlyn.
We tried to make a household work early on. He ended the relationship with another woman he was with shortly before Matthew was born. A year after Matthew was born, he officially asked me to be his girlfriend. We lived together off and on up until 2010. We tried to be a family.
We’ve cussed, fussed, fought and cried our way through the last 6 years. It wasn’t until we ended our romantic involvement for a season that we both had a chance and opportunity to reevaluate our lives and our roles as parents. Quite honestly, I fell right into the “single mom” stride and didn’t look back. I worked full time, picked up a part-time gig, paid bills, made doctor appointments, established bedtimes and routines. I did it all.
And I used our children to build a wall between myself and their father.
It’s not like he made it easy to forgive him for his wrongs. It’s not like he was consistent or even responsible.
But what I learned last year and this year was that forgiveness is a gift and opens up new possibilities.
I could either let the darkness of our past continue to blanket all of our lives (our innocent children included) or I could let it go, forgive him for not being the man I wanted him to be and allow him to be the man he was.
I had a choice to make.
Grudge or Glory?
I also realized that the greatest motivation for change in my life was our two children. Although he wasn’t doing a very good job of trying to actively participate in their lives, I also wasn’t doing a very good job with my attitude of allowing him to be a part of it. I didn’t want him to be a part of it at first. If he didn’t want me, WE didn’t want him.
And that’s where I was wrong.
I didn’t want my children shuttled between two households. I wanted the picture perfect family with mommy in an apron and daddy in a smoking jacket, all under one roof. I wanted what I wanted and as I said before, Melissa usually got what she wanted.
But one thing about true love of any kind that I was soon to learn was that love that doesn’t leave its recipient better than when they first got there isn’t love at all. Real love has transforming power.
If the love you show doesn’t transform anyone for the better, it’s probably a lovely form of selfishness.
My love for my children was selfish.
My love for the father was selfish also.
I think a light bulb went off in my head and Marc’s head once we realized that our son turns 5 in just a couple of weeks. Maybe it’s the realization that we now have a child who will one day be a man and as the oldest, be responsible for his sister and possibly for major decisions regarding our health and property. Maybe it was the realization that our 5 year old child has a super good memory and with that in mind, we want to plant good things on it. Maybe it was my realization that this year, he starts kindergarten and as we release him to the world, there is nothing like the comfort of a superhero father who will protect and defend you from all wrongs that you may face.
Maybe it was my realizing that the love of God that I professed to have was not being shown to the man whose children I bore. What good was it to claim to be a believer when I treated him like scum?
And maybe we both just grew up a little in six years.
Whatever it was, something clicked this year and I’m thankful it did.
This birthday will be different for Matthew.
Sure, his father and I have a long way to go in communicating effectively and respectfully. We do not live together. We’re not engaged. When pressed for a relationship status, the best he can offer to me is “we’re taking it one day at a time”. But what’s different is that we’re back at the table, trying to work together, communicate and do this parenting thing together. I don’t care how strong we claim to be ladies… there’s NOTHING like having some help from a man.
I’m thankful for the help that Marc is now able to provide. Five years ago, I made a decision not to put him up on child support. There were many days I thought I regretted that decision. I know many of my friends disagreed with it. But I knew in my heart and still do that he is capable of stepping up to the challenge of fatherhood. I’m thankful that he does contribute each pay period to their care without a court order. I am thankful that he wants to take them each weekend to spend time with him. I’m thankful that my heart is open now to allowing him to do it.
I’m thankful that despite our dramatic past, we were both able to forgive each other and move forward. I’m thankful that we’re learning the value of mutual respect so that our son and daughter can see it modeled before them. I’m thankful that my children have two parents who love and adore them just for being on the planet.
Six years ago, Marc was every curse word I could muster. He was so far beneath me and my fantasy filled expectations. Today, he is the recipient of my love which flows from my heart because it was placed there by God. I’m thankful I can look at him through eyes of compassion, not fault finding. I’m thankful that when he makes a mistake, I see the intent and not only the action. I’m thankful for a second chance by him to prove that I can love as Christ loves and let my light shine.
I’m thankful that he’s the father of my children.
I’m thankful that he’s trying to be a better man.
I’m thankful that he wasn’t a “walking stereotype” and proved my judgements wrong.
I’m thankful that despite his shortcomings, he never stopped trying to be a father to his children.
When our son Matthew and daughter Caitlyn look to us, I’m thankful that they will see two parents who are fully committed to them and their well being.
I’m thankful that today, the man with the cocked-to-the-side ball cap now has a name, Marcus, my respect, and a place in my heart and family.