It's a warm, 75 degree day in November 2006, my life has just forever changed in the best way possible. "Love" was born, I looked into her eyes, she looked into mine, the whole world stopped. I couldn't get over how much she looked like me, nor how connected I felt to her. I knew what she needed the second she needed it, It was as if we could communicate without words.
I was an amazing first time mom. Some new moms struggle to decode cries, figure out the right position for breast feeding, trouble with latching, colic, lack of sleep, and everything else that comes with a new baby. Somehow, I had a high level of patience, and even loved waking up every hour to get the chance to tend to her every whim. However, there was still darkness in all this glorious heavenly light.
During the pregnancy, Love's father had tried numerous times to get me to give her up for adoption. He said he wasn't ready to be a father, he couldn't afford it, and he didn't want to give a child a split household. So two months before she was born, after another phone call from him, I told him, "don't worry about it. You aren't her father, so just leave us alone." He didn't call again, but once Love was born, my mom called him to let him know she was here and healthy. (Although she had a few complications and had to stay in the NICU overnight.) He came up with his family and connected to her the same exact way, he had fallen helplessly in love with the little 4lb 10oz bundle of Love. I was still angry and hurt, but knew she needed a father. I told him he was welcome to come and visit whenever he wanted. He was ready to be a part of her life.
For the first few weeks he would come and visit, but wasn't happy that it was all on my time. I was fortunate enough to have a great friend and her boyfriend who let me rent a room in their house, so visiting was limited to while they were at work so as to not interrupt their family life. Pretty much at anytime Monday thru Friday he could drop by between 8am to 3pm, when my friend's step-son would get home from school. This arrangement worked for about 2 months, and then I started working.
Since he had off on Mondays and Tuesdays, while I worked normal office hours, I figured it just made it easier to have her stay with him during my work hours on those days. I would wait until 8:00 each night to pick her up, so he got a full 12 hours with her those days. By the time Love was 3 months old, he started pressing for overnight visits, but I wasn't ready to let go of my baby, she needed me so much because of our amazing connection. I was the only one who was capable of taking care of her during the night, at least in my eyes. So a big custody battle started.
Around the same time, my friend and I got into a big fight and I made the decision that I was ready to get my own place. Love and I moved into a one bedroom apartment and suddenly I was facing motherhood without a 24/7 support system under the same roof. I managed, but struggled even more.
I don't think there will ever be an easy custody battle, because when you love someone so much, it's really hard to let them go, even if it's only for a few days. The battle had worn me out. Everything I ever said or did was thrown in my face, including the cutting, my depression, and alcohol abuse. Suddenly, I wasn't such the super mom I believed I could be. I fell back into a depression, started smoking again, and drinking one or two drinks every night. I beat myself up, that inner voice telling me I wasn't good enough. As well as emails from him telling me that he thought Love would be better off with him, full-time, permanently.
This, of course, wasn't going to happen without me fighting back, and being mostly Irish, I know how to fight back. I got a lawyer and stayed tough. I put his parenting skills through the ringer too. It took almost 9 months of mediations and court hearings for a judge to finally decide the custody situation. He was granted one overnight a week for 12 weeks, then he was allowed 2 overnights a week thereafter. My spirit was broken, my heart was shattered, and my soul was gone 2 days a week, but I knew the judge was right, I knew that Love needed that quality time with her father too. She was almost one, it was time to let go, cut the cord, and let him have her too.
I got through it, thanks to a new relationship. But that's a story for part 3, so stay tuned! I promise it gets even better!