real life

When our second baby was 8 weeks old, my husband told me he was 'done being a dad'.

Fourteen months ago, I brought my second baby boy into this world.

Eight weeks later my husband left the three of us – me, our almost two-and-a-half-year-old, and our new baby.

Today is one year since it happened.

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Ironically, we were literally painting our very own picket fence when he told me.

Our neighbours had come over and inspected the colour we had selected. Then we were away, paining our picket fence.

Our eight-week-old was asleep in his bassinet in the front yard, our two-and-half-year-old armed, paintbrush in hand.

It was a sunny day, our home by the beach, my little family complete.

As with any family home improvement task, there was a brief, passionate discussion between my husband and me about doing it this way and not that way. Nevertheless, we proceeded.

Halfway through, I took a break. Standing was difficult post-birth despite it being eight weeks ago. Unfortunately, I had sustained a hematoma on my labia during the birth of our second child. Apparently, that’s not something you learn about when becoming an obstetrician or midwife. And it’s something that, 10 years ago, I would have died from.

My right labia had swelled to the size of a football, instantaneously after delivering my second child. Slightly amusing, incredibly traumatic, and agonising beyond comprehension. I remember the look on the obstetrician’s face as he broke a sweat applying pressure to stop the swelling, and when I asked what was happening, all he said was “It’s not good”.

The vomiting began as my body went into shock and I tried to hold my baby. Doctors and midwives filled the room. I recall the shocked look on my husband’s face.

I was unable to sit or stand for almost four weeks post-birth. I had a catheter for three weeks and the bruising resembled a purple pair of knickers so precisely.

Midwives documented and photographed my vagina with an iPad, second opinions were sought and a four hourly cocktail of Endone, Tramadol, Voltaren and Panadol allowed me to breastfeed, change over my ice pack and empty the bag of wee strapped to my thigh.


Surely I had overcome the worst?

I continued painting the fence. A slightly heated discussion arose regarding missed spots between pickets and before I knew it my husband had announced he was ‘done’. Done being my husband. Done being ‘just a dad’. Done with this ordinary family life by the beach in the suburbs.

My ability to comprehend what was happening was hindered by the newborn fog, accompanied by the effects of Endone.

What transpired over the following weeks and then months was enough to break anyone.

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I rode his wave, after all I loved him. Through counselling, arguments, him coming and going for days at a time. Sworn to secrecy I was ordered not tell family and friends. My eight-week-old picked up on the stress I was under and stopped sleeping. So did I.

I cried every time I looked at my two children. I couldn’t begin to comprehend saying goodbye to them every second weekend – they were so young. I confided in a friend and a professional, and I was told to have no regrets, if I thought it would save my marriage, keep my family together, to do it. And I did. I did it all.

He took advantage of my efforts to keep us together and abused it, in every way.

A question I repeatedly get asked is: if I look back on everything now, did I know this was coming? My answer: “No f**king way!”

As far as I knew, we had our sh*t together. Both successful and driven in our careers, we achieved a lot professionally and subsequently financially. We had two beautiful, happy, healthy children.

We supported and loved each other effortlessly. Perhaps, there was the standard lack of ‘hot, tear each other’s clothes off’ sex, after almost seven years of marriage and more so after having our first child. But nothing most new parents can’t work through, or so I thought.

I was wrong.

Today marks one year since I became a ‘single mum’. A title? Label? Stigma? Category?

Regardless, something I never contemplated referring to myself as, and I don’t think I will. I wasn’t called a ‘Married Mum’, I don’t want to be called a ‘Single Mum’.

Now I am staring down the barrel of starting again, from scratch. There is something equally refreshing and terrifying about this. I guess I did always enjoy a challenge.

The author of this post is known to Mamamia but has decided not to be identified for privacy reasons. The image used is a stock image. 

Feature image: Getty