Today’s post is a bit more personal than any of my others thus far, but its on a topic that I think many single mothers struggle with, so I feel its worth opening up about.
There was a time when I hated Clara’s father. I don’t throw the word “hate” around casually, but its the honest truth. I hated him. I hated him for a million different reasons: For leaving, for not caring, for not calling, for not answering, for not witnessing every back ache and swollen foot I endured while carrying his child, for depriving my baby of a father, for making me hate him. I was filled with it. Every experience I had I could twist into another reason to despise him. I spent the whole of my first ultrasound hating him for not being there with tears in his eyes, awed at the tiny speck that was his child. I hated him for not being at my OB appointments, sitting in the waiting room looking elated and anxious. I hated him for not being there to cook for me when the smell of hot oven burners made me sick.
I hated a lot in those first few months. It consumed me. It drove me. I think its one of the only reasons I didn’t fall into a deeper depression – I was too mad to be sad. But it also ate away at me, and tainted all of my experiences. I couldn’t ever be properly excited or happy. I obsessed about how I would explain to my child that her father didn’t want her. How it would affect her. And I hated him for that too.
My bitterness poured out of me like something tangible and everyone around me could feel it, but no one could talk me out of it. I hung on to my anger like it was my only life line. It was righteous, it was real, it was mine. It gave me a sense of control in a situation I felt I had little control over. I didn’t realize at the time that my hate had control over me, not the other way around.
And then one day, a very wise friend of mine completely diffused my anger with a few words that I will never forget. This friend was helping me move some boxes, and we were outside talking. I was, as always, spewing my hate by lamenting that Clara’s father should be the one moving these boxes for me. Finally, he interrupted me and said “you know, I actually feel really bad for him.” I looked at my friend in shock — how could you possibly feel bad for him?? “You know Carisa, he’s the one that will have to look at himself in the mirror every morning with the knowledge that he has a child in this world he’s never met. That’s got to be awful. His fear must be really powerful if he’s choosing to go through that every morning rather than coming around. Its got to be a terrible existence.”
Boom. Just like that, all of my hate and anger was gone. I had never thought of it that way before. I was so focused on him being a “bad” person that I never considered that he was probably just a really, really scared person, who was too weak for whatever reason to overcome that fear. All of a sudden, I realized that he was just a frightened little boy who didn’t know how to cope. I pitied him, but I no longer hated him. And finally, I was able to enjoy being pregnant, and focus all of my energy on being excited about the arrival of my baby girl. The hate didn’t own me anymore.
Though that was definitely a transformative experience, the resentment still elbows its way in every once and while. The difference is, I don’t hold on to it these days. I recognize it, feel it, and then let it go. I have a beautiful baby girl now who deserves all of my focus, and I’m not willing to shortchange any of our experiences together by feeling bitter. I’m also not willing to let my anger touch Clara in any way, ever. I know now that when she asks about her daddy, I’ll explain that he’s just really afraid. He’s not bad, just scared. We can’t make him be brave, but its ok, because we’ve got each other. And that’s all we’ve ever needed.