On a brisk November evening I stood looking down from the bridge in the exact spot where only a month ago a young woman stood with her 3 year old son and I wondered, "how did she find the courage?" It took a lot of courage and strength to lift herself and her son over the guard rail and leap into the on-coming traffic to end her misery. And now here I was contemplating the same thing.
As I looked down and thought this was the way to stop the torture I was going through, a voice in my head asked "who will give the children their breakfast tomorrow if you jump?"
I agreed and walked back to my car.
This is what all of the verbal and mental abuse that I was suffering from lead me to for deciding to leave a miserable marriage.
For me marriage and children were the natural order of things after I graduated from university. To my surprise both were met with disapproval, as usual. I assume because of my age. I suppose I was to travel and build my glamorous career. I really don’t know but announcing that I was getting married to my college sweetheart was the worst thing I could of said. Actually no, announcing my pregnancy was the worst. I have never heard ‘congratulations!’ from anyone in our families only ‘why?’ I was comfortable and ready to be a wife and mother but no one else was ready including my husband. At 23 I was alone in marriage and motherhood. My parents and siblings lived so far away and my husband found work overseas to get away. It was just me and two children at the time. Fortunately for me, he made enough money that I could stop working and focus on the children. I wanted to homeschool and breathe life into my daughters; impart my knowledge and values and culture. On this new, bewildering journey where we defined our education, I found other mothers with the same values. All of us were college graduates, former corporate career women and did not regret becoming the mothers we were meant to be.
Taking control of children’s education through homeschooling then lead me to explore homebirthing. While my husband was home between contracts I became pregnant with my 3rd daughter. I was so tainted by my birthing experiences in the hospital that I explored midwifery. Somehow I came across the concept of unassisted childbirth and discovered two incredible books "Unassisted Childbirth" by Laura Shanley and "Childbirth Without Fear" by Grantly Dick-Read. These books transformed feminism in me. My daughter was born at home attended by only my husband (home on leave) and myself in the most serene and natural setting imaginable. There was no screaming, no prodding, no restrictions and for a period the pain stopped too. Later that morning an elderly neighbour came to see the new baby and told me "You have the power!" I never forgot this but as usual I did not celebrate anything I "accomplished" because I always thought to myself any woman could have done the things I have. I never saw the importance in sharing that experience. Once when I did share it with a woman, a nurse, she told me I should be arrested! As the mother of now 3 children I was completely committed to their growth and chose to live a simple lifestyle.
A time came when the need to expand my intellect became so overwhelming that I explored ways that I could work while still being available to my children. I was still growing and accepting the concept of self-sufficiency; believing that we all had the power to care for ourselves with what we wre given and limited reliance on stuff. I believed I had the capacity to educate my own children through homeschooling. I believed that a woman’s body could naturally birth her own children, without medical intervention, through home-birthing. The natural progression of this enlightenment was a home based business. Prior to having children and before my husband leaving I had much success in corporate marketing and communications. I was head hunted for to support a new online business. I decided to work as a freelance marketing consultant. This was an immediate success! I created a business plan that helped me set direction for my lifestyle and the business. In my first year I earned $90K and was still teaching my children at home! I was feeling good. Then my husband returned home permanently. There were times that we were in the same room and still miles apart. We no longer knew each other and I knew how to live successfully without him. He struggled with my independence and I did not want to surrender. For the sake of our extended family and preventing arguments, which scared the children, I gave in and stayed for appearances sake. I used to whisper "one day I am going to leave you" under my breath and he would say "you are not going anywhere" and laugh.
One day while I was in the library, I found a book: "Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self Recovery" by bell hooks. I was introduced to her in my college women's studies class but on this day, bell became my mother. She taught me so much about who I was and the power that my elder told me I had. She changed feminism in me. I decided to get the hell out of that marriage trap, even if it meant chewing off my own leg! When my husband abruptly decided to return to work overseas I knew that it was time. In the days that I was packing up, I found out I was pregnant again, with twins! I know... I know... Now I was suffering from morning sickness and the mental anguish of breaking up my relationship and added to that facing single motherhood with 5 children. Through all of this my business was still going very well and able to support the children and I. I attribute this to proper research and planning. It was the bright spot in my life even ahead of my children at times. who were healthy and completely trusted me. I, however, internally was having a mental breakdown. When I finally told my husband, who was still overseas at the time, that I was moving out, he made threats from across the world that shook me at my core. Family was still completely unsupportive. They blamed me and left me to figure everything out. This is when I ended up on the bridge overlooking the highway.
I wasn't strong enough to handle the fact that I was tearing a family apart and leaving a “good” man that provided for us financially but was never there. I was told I was ungrateful and wanted too much from him. I was wrong and would have to deal with the effects this would have on the children.
"Who will make breakfast for the children?" pierced my soul. I drove straight to my local women’s shelter for support. I was received by a counsellor. This was the exact moment healing started. I had never thought to ask for help before because in my culture you don't talk about your problems. I found myself again and built myself back up. I allowed my children to heal and adjust and went through their ups and downs knowing that they would be happy again. I also rewrote my business plan.
Today I am the 2012 Microskills Entrepreneur of the Year. I have taught and presented as a panel expert on business planning to the future entrepreneurs of tomorrow. I have supported the start-up and growth of over 30 small businesses and mentored 20 female business owners including the recipient of the 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year award. I have re-built a new brand and vision to encourage self-sufficiency for generations by helping others build businesses for their families and communities! My five children are award winners and excelling in everything they love.
I wish I had the chance to meet that young mother, and tell her that the courage she had to jump onto the highway she could have used it to find the help she needed. I bet she never knew that she could influence others.