ADVOCACY What is love?
“How do you define love?”
She looked down, forehead creased. She’d told me about growing up in foster care; her relationship with her mom was strained. She choked up talking about how perfect her older sister was, and what a failure she was in comparison. She’d been married once, and she was barely over 20 years old, but already she’d had a divorce and six children!
In her marriage, she said she could handle cheating, that was no big deal, as long as when he came home he treated her like “someone worthy of being around”.
When she couldn’t take it anymore, she left him, eventually ending up with a friend of his. When she became pregnant, her ex-husband (who she had not yet formally divorced) threatened to use the child to destroy her current boyfriend. In fear, she allowed him to set up an abortion, and she used her skills learned from her time living with her mother to block off all emotion related to that loss.
Her ex-husband kept the other three children, and after a miscarriage, she left his friend too.
When efforts at blocking memories failed, she turned to alcohol, then drugs. Prison time followed. Released from prison, her friends threw a party for her. Drugs and alcohol were involved. She woke up in the bed of a man she knew was dangerous, and so when a baby resulted, she had another abortion.
Broken, desperately seeking safety and love, she found another man who promised they would both find jobs and get custody of their children from previous relationships.
A year later, she was diagnosed with cancer, and discovered she was pregnant again. She called a pregnancy center, looking for help. She was worried her current boyfriend would become dangerous if he found out she was pregnant, but she had no other way to get to an appointment. He answered her phone for her, he drove her everywhere, she said she was afraid to get a job, because he might do something at the house while she was at work.
She wanted to lie to him about the baby until it was “too late for him to do anything”. But she couldn’t get to the office without him.
“How do you define love?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know if I even believe in that anymore.”
“Do you love your kids?”
“Yes. I want them to be happy. I want them to feel alive, to find what brings them joy, to learn and grow and have good lives. I don’t want them to feel the things I felt growing up. I want them to know that I care about them, and when I tell them they did something wrong it’s because I love them and want them to be better than I am. I want them to know I care, and I want them to be everything they can be.”
“Does he want all of that for you?”
“No. I don’t know anyone who wants that for me. I want that for him, but no one loves me like that.”
She made a decision that day. She signed up for a maternity home program; they’ll help her start over. She has hope now, that once she’s separated from all the people who use and abuse her, she’ll surround herself with people who do love her. She’ll regain custody of her children, and raise them all, including the child in her womb, with real love.