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MY STORY-Playing House Part 2

Before I move on, I think its worth mentioning a word about Craig's background...without getting too detailed. Adopted twice in his life, he had been abandoned at the hospital at birth. His first adoption from his native country was at age 2, straight out of an Orphanage. As I have matured, I think this knowledge has made it very easy for me to forgive him. Ironically, I think its one of the reasons I had a difficult time walking away from him as a teen. After having the two foster babies last year, especially the 13 month old, with all her control issues and manipulative behavior, it really brought home for me the extent of behavioral issues that can arise from atypical bonding.

In order to paint the picture a little clearer, let me describe scene #2:

We are newly married. I am 6 months pregnant. (I can still see the shirt i wore all the time, while sitting in the chair, and my protruding belly in my mind.) Everything in our 550 square foot apartment is brand new. The dishes, pots, pans, utensils, bedspread, towels, and even the liquor display shelves Craig brought home from work. They now served as my 'baby shelves'. Like my mom before me, I bought cloth diapers to use as burp rags and had pacifiers, bottles, nipples, rattles, receiving blankets, and other pastel colored objects slowly accumulating. With nothing else to do but wait for the birth, no extra money to spend, but trying to act like a 'good wife', i kept that place spotless. My bedroom at home, only 2 or 3 months before was always clean, too. Clean and organized. I alphabetized my music albums and color coded my closet, separating the long sleeves from the short.

Craig was a busy guy. He went to school full time at the local jr. college, worked at least 20 hours a week at the grocery store (liquor dept.) and played tennis after school for 2 hours each day. An avid hunter and fisherman, he often went hunting on the weekends or fishing at the wee hours. Of course, his social life didn't suffer either. At 21 years old, he had plenty of activities he could engage in during after hours. In hindsight, I don't think his life really changed all that much after getting married, except for having to feed me.

I was lonesome. Most of my friends had left for college. My parents were not only less than enthusiastic and embarrassed of their pregnant daughter, they actually avoided coming by. At the time, I felt fortunate to have such a 'hard working' man who would stand by his commitment to me and his future child. Until late one weekend night. Craig was out, later than usual. A bit accident prone, a middle of the night panicky phone call to his parents was not unusual. He had come home late before, getting his truck stuck in mud while fishing and having to dig himself out. But I had never lived outside my parents' house...and i was afraid to be alone at night. This night was not any different. I called his parents for reassurance and had just hung up the phone, when i heard some commotion on our front porch. The next thing i know, the door swings wide open and bangs against the wall. He staggers in, drunk and pretty obnoxious. Apparently, some friends (???) dropped him off and left him there. He slurs a few words to me, then goes to lie down. I am appalled, but find it pointless to make my case while he is oblivious. I go to bed, too. Not ten minutes later, he wakes up, leans forward, and pukes! Vomit spreads all over the pink roses that covered our bedspread. I jump out of bed and cry hysterically hanging out in the living room to escape the offensive odor finding its way to my overly sensitive pregnant nose. Not ten minutes later, he finds his way to the toilet and has an explosion out the other end that defies gravity. Feces spills over the sides of the toilet and onto the floor. And then, as if that wasn't enough, he stands up, staggers over to my tidy baby corner and proceeds to urinate, soaking blankets, diapers, and all.

To say I was livid is an understatement. To say I was beside myself doesn't even come close. Fourteen years later, while pregnant with my last child, while i was in the midst of that nesting behavior once again, do you know what came up??? Not my anger at Craig, I forgave him long ago. Not my shame or guilt. I felt mixed emotions of thankfulness that God gave me a new husband who loved my pregnant body and affirmed me rather than call me fat, tell me i needed to work out, (I was tiny after the baby) or treated me like a trophy, but I really began grieving the utter hopelessness i felt at that time. Why didn't I run away right there and then? It was such a violation on such a personal level, that my adult self is utterly appalled. It speaks volumes of my naivety, my immaturity, my desire to please other people, my level of guilt. I felt paralyzed. Speechless.

I had no where to run, no one to turn to. I was the black sheep. The 'bad girl' who made a bad choice and i felt the fingers pointing every time i went to church, went to visit my parents, and especially when i went to the doctor. My only hope was that maybe the baby would smooth things over for me. Maybe i wouldn't feel as rejected.

Craig never did apologize for that night. In fact, he denied it even occurred, except for his cleaning the toilet the next day. Only 2 months into our marriage, and I resented him.

I thought being married was what GOD wanted me to do. After all, we had "become one flesh", and didn't that mean we were practically married in God's eyes anyway?? Actually being married brought out a whole host of other misconceptions I had about God's plan for marriage. Since my body now belonged to my husband, regardless of my desire for it or not, I felt obligated to have sex. I was anxious to not become a statistic of teen pregnancy either, so I naively went around telling people, (and hence, myself) that "divorce was not in our vocabulary'. I certainly didn't want that for my child. I couldn't afford any more mistakes.

I don't remember too much about that year, except the birth, of course (See Blog on First Birth). I remember cooking dinner like a good wife, lots of pancakes. I remember our church attendance mirroring Craig's mood. I also took my first college course at the jr. college in the evenings: Child Psychology. I thought i would learn all kinds of positive things about how to be a good parent. I did. My over-riding feeling, however, was wondering why my parents didn't know this stuff.

I remember his friends hanging out at our apartment while we played house. The Keystone beer cans and the arguments over whether he should continue to chew tobacco or not. "After we get married, I'll stop." "After we have the baby, I'll stop." More lies. Our toddler son nearly taking a drink of tobacco infused sputum was almost more than I could stand.

After we split up, he stopped.

I remember being a bit scared of not having a boy. All Craig talked about was his son, what he was going to do with his son, how his son was going to be a Cowboy fan, a Cubs fan, a Laker fan. How he was going to take his son fishing and hunting. We didn't know the sex of the baby.

Thank God, i had a son.

Meanwhile, i was only beginning to catch on. I had saved enough money from my part-time job to go see a friend of mine in Canada. Much to the dismay of my mother-in-law, I left with my boy to visit my friend. Our arrival was no small miracle. We left the day after Christmas, our plane delayed, and increment weather all the way there. Upon entry, Customs nearly turned us away without a signature from the baby's father that we could leave the country. Add a baby, with a head cold, and nauseous from the turbulence, and no clothes after pooping and puking all over the place, and you would think the trip was ruined. Quite the opposite, i was so thrilled to taste freedom, i didn't care. I was drinking age in Canada. She had a lovely New Year's Party, complete with Brie cheese and young men dressed in suit and tie. It was a completely different world than the one i found myself in at home, and i quickly regressed to my boy crazy roots. I was completely smitten by a tall, lanky Canadian with a cute accent...and quickly, for the first time, realized the predicament i was in. I was a married woman. This was the first time reality began to sink in.

A month later, we moved to the city. I don't remember having much of a say, but i don't remember disliking the idea either. Craig was proving to at least be my ticket out of Hometown. It got me away from the weight of judgement i felt every time i left my house. The move preoccupied my mind as I set up a household in a new one bedroom, one bath prison.

Once settled, the old, tired pattern emerged again. Craig went to school all day, played tennis after school for 2 hours, worked at the grocery store, and partied on the weekends with his new-found college buddies. Only this time, my loneliness began to turn into madness. I thought that if i have to watch one more bloody episode of "All my Children" my mind was going to dissolve. Then one day, some friends from mine came for a visit. Amidst the bliss of having company, we walked one evening to the store. Walking home, i had a feeling. My son had stopped nursing about the time we moved and I had had one period. For some unknown reason, I decided that if i squeezed my nipple and saw colostrum, I just knew. Sure enough, I was pregnant. Again.

My immediate thought? "OH, GREAT! This attaches me to him even more." My sentence just got longer.

As my life became more imprisoned, my resentment deepened. He had total control. Over the money, over where we lived, over what i ate, over whether i could attend school (because i was dependent on him to 'babysit'), and literally every single aspect of my life. I used to tell people, half jokingly, that if 'you are what you eat", my daughter is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat, because i learned in my second college course (Nutrition) that PB&J was at least a complete protein, and much better than the Top Ramen instant fried noodles Craig insisted upon buying 8 for a dollar. Since he had total control over the money, he could lie about how much we had, or didn't. He didn't give me money for groceries, instead took me grocery shopping to control what we bought, and therefore what i ate, while he was gone all day. There were times I would find receipts in his pockets for $60 tennis rackets (after he told me it cost him $20) and $300 stereos he would buy every time the stereo got stolen from his truck in our apartment complex.

A huge blessing came one day in an unexpected way. Our apartment overlooked the pool area, where I saw a tall, black man following his small, toddler son. His son looked about my son's age, and desperate for conversation, I hurried outside. Turns out, this man's gf just had another baby boy a week before, and they were living in the same complex. The couple was not married, yet they had two kids together. Maggie was from Berkeley, the complete polar opposite mind-set than i had ever been exposed to, and he was from an island in the Caribbean. Modest in income themselves, he was a graduate student, she, a SAHM (Stay-at-home-mom) and over time we shared ideas, intellectual conversation(!!!), recipes, and best of all, they shared REAL food and name-brand diapers with me! The kind that didn't leak at night. To this day, she is one of my most cherished friends.

I highly doubt anyone with the old mentality i came from would believe that me becoming good friends with a bi-racial, liberal couple from Berkley, "living in sin", could possibly do any good. :) But to me, they were a GOD send. Maggie was the catalyst that helped me feel good about my intellectual self and realize the controlling, oppressive environment i lived in. And if you think i am exaggerating, she was there. Of all the judgments i have faced in my life from well-meaning but grossly inaccurate assumptions, if you have any doubts, ask someone who was THERE.

And if you think it sounds as if i became a tad bit resentful of the misdirected version of Christianity i perceived as i made these naive are right.


  1. Nat, this is so good. Oh my goodness. I can't decide if I want to forward it to my mom, but I'm kind of tempted to forward to every mother I know - mostly because I really thought so well of your mom and know (I'm pretty sure) she loved you so much and was really, truly, doing her best. And how much of that kooky theology was really what your family passed on? I think by the time we got to these years, it was all peer-driven - what did our friends in the midst of their own naive youth tell us what Jesus thought? How could they know? It makes me want to keep my kids out of youth groups now that I think about it.

    So glad you're writing this. It's so ...I don't know, helpful? revealing? healing?

  2. Every time you comment i want to call you! You keep cheering me on, and i can't even express the emotions and fear i have in being this frank. I don't want to come across like i was totally bitter about God, i really thought i was doing the 'right thing' in that moment.

    I think it was both YG and my parents' false views they got from well-meaning churches and friends. My pastor now wrote 2 books: 'Father Wounds' and 'Church Wounds'....probably need to read them. :)


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