There is no Wednesday Wrap up this week. Instead, I wanted to get a little more serious and talk about the tattoo I got tonight. Yes, I am blogging within a couple of hours of getting a tattoo. I know, I must be crazy. But this is seriously very important.
This tattoo means so much to me. Like, to the point that while I knew generally what I wanted and what the tattoo was about, I was really struggling with it. See, this tattoo is a memorial tattoo of sorts. It’s in memory of my late, estranged husband Charlie and for the daughter we lost several years ago. And so tonight, I got a Tinkerbell tattoo.
My daughter is very much alive, mind you. But she isn’t in my custody. Look, I’m being honest with you here. I wasn’t Mother of the year and I don’t need anyone on the internet to tell me as such. I have a lot of mental obstacles to overcome… and it’s a lot less than it was back then. I know someone is going to comment with something nasty (and it’ll probably be my first husband’s sister because it always is). I know someone out there is reading this and judging me.
My first marriage was abusive. Let’s be truthful… we were abusive to one another. It doesn’t matter who started it because I’d like to think that I finished it by walking away. If you really want to know more about that mess, you can read about Why I stayed. But it boils down to this: I couldn’t be a good parent because I was fighting a lot of demons – an abusive husband, voices in my head telling me I needed to stay for the sake of our child or that things would get better. I started losing the ability to get up in the morning but to give her her basic needs. This isn’t me giving excuses. This is me admitting that I had a serious problem and like so many other people in this world suffering from abuse and depression, I felt like I had no one I could turn to for help – including my parents.
When my first husband and I divorced, the child custody battle was brutal. He didn’t want Hailey for himself – he just didn’t want me to have her either. It was his one last sliver of power over me. He pushed me until I almost considered going back to him and allowing him to control me just for the sake of making the custody battle stop. Why? Because being told on a regular basis that he could kill me and get away with it was less painful than not having my baby girl with me. The bruises and cuts on my skin were nothing compared to what the fight for her was doing to me. I could have lived with getting slammed into walls and punched. I would have… just to have her.
But that’s selfish. I knew it was only a matter of time before he hurt me in a way he couldn’t take back with hugs and apologies. I didn’t want her to see that. I didn’t want her to live in a world with the possibility of her never seeing me any more. I opted to let go. I fought that custody battle as hard as I possibly could. I ran out of money. I ran out of sanity. I was cooped up in one room all day, every day. Why? Because I couldn’t stand to look at the rest of the house she once played in. I couldn’t handle seeing her toys… which were touched only every couple of weeks for a few hours when I got to have time with her.
“I could never let anyone take my baby away from me.”
“I always put my child first and nothing could ever make me do otherwise.”
“Yeah, I have depression but I just get over it because my kid needs me.”
“You aren’t a real Mom if you can’t just suck it up and deal with life for their sake.”
“I’d starve before I’d go a day without my kids.”
“I don’t care what it costs, I’d pay anything if it meant keeping my children.”
“You obviously aren’t a good person if you don’t have custody of your kid.”
“You must be a horrible parent because they don’t take kids away from Mothers.”
“You clearly don’t love your child if you gave up so easily.”
Look, I have heard it ALL. There is NOTHING you can tell me here that I haven’t heard and I even agree with some of it. But the fact of the matter is… you have no idea how far or how not far you can be pushed mentally, emotionally and physically until you snap and you just… can’t. In the end, Hailey went to live with her Paternal grandparents. My first husband couldn’t have custody of her either. I consider that as much of a win as it is a lose.
During the custody battle (seriously, it went on for a couple of years) I got remarried to my second husband, Charlie. We loved each other very much and keeping with the “I’ll do anything for my baby” mentality, I married him because it seemed like that’s what the family court system wanted from me. They looked down on me as a single mother with a male companion of any sort. That’s just how ass backwards things can be down here in the South. So I said “Fine… I’ll just marry him then” and that’s what I did.
Charlie came to be more of a Daddy to my little girl than I could have ever hoped for. He loved her fiercely and with everything he had. I didn’t always feel this way, but in retrospect… Hailey was his daughter. It was very hard for me to accept that years ago because I was very protective of her. I had had so little time with her and I wanted her to myself.
The battle for custody tore us apart more than anything. My only regret in life is that I didn’t fight just a little bit harder… held on a little longer if not for myself, but for Hailey and Charlie.
So about that tattoo…
Hailey is autistic and one of the few things she took to as a toddler was a Tinkerbell doll Charlie and I bought for her for Christmas. She’d already been watching Peter Pan for several years and she loved Tinkerbell very much. After we lost Hailey, Charlie and I talked about getting matching Tinkerbell tattoos. The original concept was to have Tinkerbell flying over a broken heart, sprinkling it with pixie dust and healing it. We never got the tattoos due to lack of funding and eventually, the strain on our marriage caused by the custody battle, my downward spiral into depression and his ever-growing medical issues caused us to separate. So, we never went together to get the tattoo.
Charlie passed away this year on Valentine’s Day. We’d both more than moved on and were leading completely separate lives. We’d been apart for several years by then. I wish we’d kept in touch more considering we were but a click away over Facebook, but what’s done is done I guess. Regardless, his passing hit me very hard. Harder than I ever imagined it could. I don’t think a lot of people (my closest friends included) realize how much I still cared – about him, about our defunct marriage, about everything we went through. The truth is, you never forget those things. You tuck them away. You push them to the furthest corners of your mind and you go on with your life. You have to. It’s the only way to maintain yourself and continue to function.
I’ve struggled for years to get to where I am. I still have to talk myself into getting out of bed some mornings. I do it, because I finally realize that if I want to continue to succeed and be happy, I just have to suck it up and go to work to do my job. With each passing year, I feel like I’m a little bit closer to ever being reunited with my daughter on some level. I’ll never have the relationship with her I was meant to have or maybe deserve to have, but something… anything. But Charlie won’t. He may even have deserved her far more than I did and he’ll never again have the chance to bounce with her, make French toast for her, wear her bumblebee antennae at Halloween when she decides to take them off. It’s all just… gone. Worse, she’ll never have him. He’ll be but a memory that will only fade as she gets older.
That’s what this tattoo is for. It’s for Charlie and for Hailey – in honor of the unbreakable bond they had and the hearts our little girl holds forever. It’s the one place they can both exist no matter what.
I’m pretty wiped out from the tattoo, not to mention this emotional post. I want badly to share the details of the tattoo and the road to getting it but that will have to be for another day.