Two weeks earlier, Phillip, my husband of eight years — my high school sweetheart, best friend, father of my two toddlers, Carrie and Isabelle — had told me he was unhappy. He was going to stay at a hotel for a few days to think. But the days stretched into a confusing blur of weeks. I missed the signs, little and big. He never let me park in the garage. He was always needed at work dinners, at business meetings that lasted until the wee hours and on frequent trips. When he was home, his eyes were trained on his BlackBerry.
Can you put it down for a bit? We started seeing a marriage counsellor. I thought we were going through a slump, that it was normal. The contents of that envelope marked the end of my marriage. It is nearly impossible to describe the depth of pain you feel when you suffer a loss.
In one instant, I had lost my best childhood friend, the boy who took me to prom, the person who could articulate my thoughts better than I could. My dream of teaching our kids to ride a two-wheeler outside our home together had just vanished, along with our plans to take our kids on an African safari when they were teenagers.
I will never forget his pasty complexion when he was forced to admit his year-long affair with a waitress. His face was so blanched it was as though he had doused it in flour. I had never felt so disappointed, diminished and humiliated. I hated myself for being so unlovable, so unwanted and so goddamn dumb.
My feelings just died. He said that he and his girlfriend had split and that he wanted to give our marriage a second shot. I wanted to feel sorry for him, to put myself in his shoes, but I just felt dirty. People are supposed to be born with a conscience. There is right and wrong; there is no in-between.
I never would have had the nerve to lead a double life, to constantly lie to the person who loved me most. I hope our kids grow up to be nothing like you. And just so you know, one day I will write about this. I ripped our wedding photos off the walls, took down family photos. Suddenly I hated the big one of us kissing while our kids smiled, perched on our backs.
Had he been sleeping with her when that photo was taken? How old was Isabelle when the affair began? I was constantly trying to work out the math.
And then I wondered: What the f—k was I going to do with the 10 pads of personalized letterhead I had just ordered with all the members of our family cartooned across the top? Everything went into the garage.
I took my wedding rings off for good. I was happily married with kids. Here's why I had an abortion They say there are five stages of grief: I wanted to pass through all the stages as quickly as I could — rush the whole process — and forget this had ever happened to me.
I felt everything at once. My body physically ached. My chest heaved with sobs. Snot dripped into my mouth. As the weeks dragged on, Bruno Mars sang to me. Did they hold hands? Have their own special memories and songs?
Had they ever thought of me, even once? In those first few weeks of single motherhood, my family rallied around me. My brother Jarrad was constantly at my house, fixing whatever my kids had accidentally pulled off the wall that day.
My sister came over and helped me put my kids to bed on days when I was too empty to do it myself. She raided my closet for frumpy clothes. I liked that store. My brother Daniel would pick up the phone at any time — during business meetings or in the middle of the night — to listen to me sob.
My parents helped with the kids, reassured me that things would be okay and came with me to meet with lawyers. Can I be a cancer "survivor" when the bullet only grazed me? Well, f—k you too. I pulled up my big-girl panties. I started seeing a therapist, one who would not let me feel like a victim for long. She helped me realize very quickly that my kids needed a happy mother.
That was not going to be our life. No matter what it took or how hard it would be, I was going to get back on top. I started by telling my older child first. Some have a mommy and a daddy, and some have two mommies, or no parents and just grandparents. I looked at her carefully. It just happens sometimes. I wanted to let it all go and just move forward.
The gym became my outlet. I punched so hard in my cardio boxing class that people stopped and stared at me as though I was the Hulk. His girlfriend got a hit to the face. Punch punch punch punch punch punch. I hoped people would think I was just sweating from my eyes. But I just kept punching. I was sent to a cardiologist for a heart test. I knew what was wrong all along.
We agreed that he would take them for dinner two nights a week and for a sleepover every Saturday night. He rented a condo nearby and bought them beds and Cinderella sheets and toys so they would feel comfortable with the new arrangement.
I was desperate to hear them breathing in their beds. I wanted to hug them and nuzzle their warm necks. I was so lonely. Had I made the right choice? Should I have let Phillip come home when he had asked to try again? I turned on the heating pad and crawled under my blankets. Who was going to want to date me and my two kids?
Who would love them like I do and want to live with us? How would I even meet someone, and would they ever know me as well as Phillip did?
I bought several pairs of high heels, flirty dresses, designer jeans and low-cut tops. I was completely out of my comfort zone, but I had lost so much weight — 25 pounds in three months — that I needed new clothes anyway. The truth was, I had completely lost my appetite. I survived on coffee, dark chocolate and plain crackers. My biceps became defined, my collarbones poked out of my skin, my ribs protruded. I barely recognized my own body. I was starting to feel like our separation was a blessing in disguise.
I had made new friends. I was learning to date. I could walk in the heels my sister had insisted I buy. I had taken up hot yoga, and as my appetite returned, I nourished my body.
I took on new assignments at work and started teaching. My husband left me for a waitress. I started to wear my status like a badge. It was me who carried them up to bed by myself when they fell asleep in the car.