Monday, February 6, 2006

How could you leave your daughter like that?

It was when Sam told me that the courts wouldn’t look at my intentions only the fact that I had gone to England that all of the hope seeped out of me. I’d been trying to reason with him. I asked him again and again how he could just file without ever telling me that he realized he had a problem letting Audrey come to be with me. It only made things worse when he said that he didn’t have an answer for that. When I demanded again and again that he tell me why he let me go in the first place, why he didn’t just tell me, why everything, I had so many questions, but his answer for them all was that he had no answer. I was so confused and hurt and more betrayed than ever before in my life, and it had come from someone who had been so intent to posture himself as my friend.

It was in August that Steve and I began to discuss moving to England together. With his mother bed-bound due to a stroke, he wanted to give her a chance to be close to her grandchild for a while. He wanted to be back in his home town for a while. I told him that I would talk to Sam and see if we could work out a way for it to be possible. When I told Sam that we were considering a move to London, Sam revealed that he was considering a move to Hawaii. And from there we discussed actualities and inevitabilities and visitation arrangements. Foolishly enough I took our discussions as reality, his words as truth. In the end our agreement stood that Sam would have the first go with Audrey, because he was moving the following spring. So he would have her for four months, then she would come out with my mother in time for Bubble’s birth. While she was with me Sam would move and get settled in Hawaii. Audrey would then go to him for the summer and return to me for the school year. From that point on she would summer in Hawaii with her father and school with me in London. I bought my plane tickets, explained everything to Audrey and Steve and I flew off to London.

How naïve I was, how trusting. As I read the papers over and over, I wondered how I could be so stupid. But it was confusion more than anything else. Try as I might I couldn’t understand how it had come to Sam filing for full custody without saying anything to me first and more cruelly, allowing Audrey and me to discuss plans of her coming here every time we spoke on the phone. She couldn’t wait to see Big Ben, because it is in Mary Poppins. And she was ecstatic about a trip to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs, which she was determined to “feed.” She couldn’t wait to see Bubble. My heart ached for her and for myself as well.

The “why”s repeated constantly in my head pushing me lower and lower. I wasn’t sleeping or eating. I stared at the wall from my bed for hours on end barely noticing the tears that streamed from my eyes.

By Friday, the fifth day of since the horror had begun, I couldn’t handle it any longer. I sobbed to Steve that I couldn’t be in London any more. I couldn’t bear to be so far away and so helpless. I could see no other way that to fly back to Seattle. I would just hide the pregnancy from the airlines. They wouldn’t need to know that I am 38 weeks along. Perhaps the small belly would be even more of a blessing than just a savior from stretch marks. Steve got on the phone with the airline to find some flight information from me, but then it hit me. If I left, I would have to have the baby without Steve. The idea sent me crashing. I couldn’t bear that either. Swirling in a sea of mixed emotions, the horror of it all just seemed too much to bear. I was caught in the tide between my unborn child and his father and my daughter and her father. In the end, I ran myself a bath and cried until I couldn’t cry another tear. I cried because I knew that I couldn’t fly away. I couldn’t put myself or the baby in that position. I cried for Audrey because the pain of missing her all those long months had intensified so much as everything that we’d planned together was erased with the knock of the door. I cried for the amicable relationship that I thought Sam and I had and wondered where it had gone, wondered how he had gotten to be so hard that he could let me go on about bringing Audrey out here when all along he knew what he and his lawyer were putting together. By the end of the bath, I realized that I was doing nobody favors by crying at the wall, certainly not Audrey and definitely not the baby or myself. As the water drained out of the bath, so too did my despair and hopelessness, and I realized that I had to crawl out of the pit and forgive myself for leaving Audrey, for trusting Sam and for ever giving his mother a hug.

The next week I spent researching online with my newly restored broadband; I tried to focus on keeping myself up and more emotionally stable for the sake of the baby. I had to believe that everything was going to be okay. The hate for Sam is something that I am coming to terms with. I believe it is wrong never to forgive somebody, but I will be hard-pressed ever to find forgiveness in my heart for what he is putting us through. Somewhere deep down he believes he is doing the right thing, he must, but there is no right in the way he went about this. I asked him what changed. He said he didn’t realize the repercussions of his decision, so Audrey and I have to pay. I asked him why he didn’t tell me, look, things have changed, either move back to Seattle or I will file for full custody. He said that he thought that I would just threaten to do the same and then trailed off without completely his explanation. I asked him why he didn’t tell me that he filed instead of letting me find out when I was served. He said he thought it was in Audrey’s best interest. Imagine that. I asked him if we could settle this without a custody battle that will go until at least the trial in December. He said that he wanted it to be settled in court.

I don’t think I will ever understand this, but I have to fight it and have strength to do so.
This weekend was one of the most stressful weekends of my life. For, as I waited for the baby to come, hoping each moment that the waters would break or the contractions would start, each moment that did pass brought be closer to the hearing, which was scheduled for Monday, my due date of all days. It was the hearing that would put into place Sam’s proposed parenting plan, which allows me the luxury of 4 supervised hours with me daughter every two weeks, among other things. My nerves were shattered. The waiting, the expecting, the fright all split between baby and trial. Sunday night the tears were back. What if the judge ruled against me? What then? How bad was I going to look? I knew everyone would be thinking, “How could you leave your daughter?” for more than anything I know wondered it myself. But my question was longer. How could I have left her in the hands of someone like Sam?

This morning I awoke with the hearing just hours away. I felt like David going up against Goliath without any of the smooth stones to fuel my sling, Goliath being Sam’s lawyer. I needed help and God was my only ally. My mother and I prayed before putting the call through to the commissioner of the court. With my armpits pouring out nervous sweat, I answered that I could indeed hear the proceeding. My telephonic court appearance was underway.

“I understand that you have been granted a telephonic appearance purely on the grounds of asking for a continuance in this matter,” spoke the clear, strong voice of the female commissioner.

“Yes,” I said nervously, wondering if Sam was there beside his lawyer hearing my voice.

“Please explain your reasons,” she continued.

“Your honor,” I said, while asking myself if ‘your honor’ is the right this to call a commissioner and did I really know what to say or how long I could talk without making them all start shifting in their seats and looking at their watches. I opted for concise. “I was completely shocked by the filing of this paperwork. I am forty weeks pregnant, and unable to travel. I have found it extremely difficult to find legal help from where I am in London, nor do I have the funds to hire an attorney. I am returning to Washington state on March 15, which is the earliest I feel I should travel such a great distance with a newborn baby. I would like to have time to seek some sort of legal council or advice, because at this point, I really don’t know what I am doing or how to respond to all of this.”

“How long do you think you need upon returning?” the commissioner asked.

“As long as you can give me,” I said, “But preferably a couple of weeks.”

Then Sam’s lawyer spoke, “I have no objection to the continuance, but this is a matter that involves a child who has been abandoned. This is a case, as far as I understand, of the mother running off pregnant with her boyfriend and leaving her child behind. This temporary order puts in place the father’s parenting plan and also if this is left until the end of March that would make 5 months that the father has had the daughter without financial support of any kind from the mother.”

I could take it no longer. To hear myself talked about in that manner. I couldn’t even see myself, but some white trash hillbilly and her wife beater wearing, MGD guzzling, unemployed boyfriend. I blurted out, “May I respond to that, your honor?”

“Briefly,” she said firmly.

“First of all I did not abandon my child. Sam and I had an agreement,” I proceeded quickly to spell that out for her, “Secondly, Sam and I had always agreed that neither of us would seek child support from the other, even though I have always been the primary parent, I haven’t asked a dime of him. I am not working, nor do I intend to be. I am about to have a baby, and planned to take care of both of my children as a full time mother.” I stopped abruptly. The anger I’d been trying to suppress had taken over, but I was glad it was anger and not tears that wore in my voice. I would rather Sam hear how angry I was, that how incredibly upset this has all made me. I tried to remove the emotion from my voice as I continued, “Your honor, the whole reason I am fighting this temporary order is because I feel the parenting plan is far too excessive. I need legal help before you determine anything.”

So it was ordered. I got the continuance. The new hearing date is March 31. Neither of us may remove Audrey from Washington State. But she did say that Audrey would remain in Sam’s custody until the hearing. I was so filled with relief at being granted the continuance that I didn’t let the last part get me down too much. I just had now to figure out where in the world I would get legal assistance and freaking relax because I’d just read that stress was a problem when it comes to getting labor going…something about adrenaline being a labor inhibitor.

I got off the phone with the court and began to cry. I was so glad that I had my own little victory the first battle in my newly waged war against Audrey’s father. I prayed that there will be many more to come and that I will be able to bear further instances of hearing myself painted in such a terrible light. For now, I am going to put this behind me and focus on giving birth and being whole for this baby. When March comes, I will strap on my armor again and grab my sling.

I speak to Audrey every day. She doesn’t understand why daddy won’t let her come to England, and it takes every part of me not to tell her exactly how horrible he is, but I can’t do that to her. I love her too much to hurt her like that. I just count down the days until I can see her beautiful face again. Gone are our plans of exploring Hyde Park, now we are going to go to the nursery and pick out flower seeds and plant a garden together. It’s something we both can look forward to, and it takes our, or at least my, minds off of all that was supposed to be. Bubble didn’t come on Sunday like she requested, but she is still eagerly awaiting his arrival. Soon, she says, he will be her big brother, and he can come and play with her and her (imaginary) sisters, Gina and Sara.