If someone had told me that I’d finish university with a daughter and degree, I wouldn’t have believed them.
First year – summer
I did a 10-week internship in Valencia. I stayed with a local Spanish lady, who became and still is a good friend.
I fell in love with the city and was invited to stay with mi amiga for New Years that same year. That’s when I met him, my daughter’s dad. He was from South America, he had all the moves and confidence and we stayed in touch on Skype when I came back to the UK.
When I say we stayed in touch, I basically had Skype on 24/7, which was easy enough to do when I had essays and deadlines up to my eyeballs! I went back to stay with him in Spain during my second year in March, April, April again, May, June… a large percentage of my assignments and reading clearly took place over France on the plane.
Second year – summer
It didn’t click that I was pregnant for a couple of months and I just spent the most part of a busy summer wondering why I felt sooo sleepy and had gone off food (which NEVER happens).
I remember so clearly packing a bag before plucking up the courage to tell my parents, just in case it all went wrong and I had to make a quick exit. I decided to tell my mum first. My mum was shocked and thought I was joking. She rubbed my back and repeated, ‘it will be ok, it will be ok,’ I think it was a pep talk for herself as much as me.
University were amazing and agreed for me to take a year off. My daughter’s dad was surprisingly very excited, more so than I was. That September was just naps, feeling nauseous, sipping soup (tomato soup only) more naps and obviously, another trip to Valencia.
It became more and more evident that it wasn’t a good relationship. I’d say evident to myself but to others, I tried to cover up that everything was fine.
Skype became my prison. My mum was pushing for me to get married and yes, he did propose and I did say yes! I will always value what one true friend said to me, ‘you’re having his baby but that doesn’t mean you have to be with him.’ Of course it took another painful few years to make that decision.
I started third year when my daughter was 5-months-old. My university gave me a generous grant for being a parent and also paid for 85% of the childcare (working out at 75p per hour for me). They were also flexible in giving me extensions and even let me withdraw an essay to re-write the last page because I had written the cryptic conclusion at 4am typing with one finger and propping up a poorly baby who couldn’t sleep with the other hand. So I would recommend looking into what universities can offer you as a parent to help you through your studies before you rule further studies out completely.
The hardest thing about third year was coping with my daughter’s dad.
I visited Spain 5 times between Sept and June. Back in London, I lived on Skype and if I wasn’t on Skype there was a problem. My every move was monitored, interrogated and double checked. ‘You’re wearing a dress, is there someone you like at work?’ ‘You can’t wear that,’ or ‘you look fat,’ a minute before guests arrived for my birthday. It was getting harder for me to hide how desperately unhappy he made me, as obviously I wanted my family to like my husband-to-be. I was on trial for everything and I just stopped any attempt to be social for fear of upsetting him.
Just before summer, I started to open up to others about what was going on. I found myself arguing with my pastor that I should make the relationship work but surprisingly my pastor disagreed. ‘Listen’ he said, ‘would you want this relationship for your daughter?’ The answer was a definite no… so why then was I suffering this crippling relationship, living in fear, withdrawn and isolated?
Summer after final year
My exams and essays were finished although I had a much needed extension for my dissertation. It was mid-June and I had a one way ticket for us booked for Monday to stay in Spain indefinitely. It was too complicated for him to come to the UK so we would live there with him, with me travelling back solo a few times to get my uni work done.
The Friday before that flight we argued badly. My housemate tried to cheer me up the next day and get me out the house, ‘look I’ll watch Luna, you have a shower and then we’ll go to the shops for a few hours.’ Sounds simple enough, right? Of course I had to tell him I was going to have a shower and how long I would be before I was back on Skype but I couldn’t find my phone anywhere. I knew he would ring my parents to check where I was so I left a note at my mum’s, ‘gone to the shops, back in a few hours.’
I found my phone when I got home from the shops. 85 missed calls, and the word LIAR LIAR LIAR written over and over in rows and rows on Facebook messenger. He also rang my mum telling her ‘she’s lying’ that I had been to the shops. I spent the afternoon crying at my mum’s and had 76 more missed calls. It was unbearable. We needed to break up before he broke me completely. If my fiancé couldn’t trust me when I was in my final year, sinking in nappies and deadlines, then when would he ever trust me?
I never did get on that plane.
It took me 10 more months of Skyping every day and 2 times changing my number to stop all contact. My parents also had to change their number, my dad ripping their phone out the wall one 3am because he couldn’t bear the early morning calls either. I think the police would have been involved if we were both in the UK but what’s the 0800 help line for international affairs?
After we ‘broke up’ he constantly demanded I come to Spain but I just didn’t feel it was safe to. He eventually smashed his fist down mid-Skype, freezing Skype and breaking my work’s laptop, which he still has in Spain. I get he was frustrated and couldn’t be the parent he wanted to be, but I also couldn’t be a functioning human, let alone a good mother living under his control and in constant fear.
I decided I would be better off in no relationship than in a wrong one and although being a single parent was tough, feeling trapped and isolated in a toxic relationship is far worse. I certainly didn’t want Luna to grow up thinking that mummy and daddy’s relationship was the norm.
I wrote this blog to encourage any young parent to love themselves enough to break free of a crippling and destructive relationship, or at least let someone know how you’re truly doing, which could be a first step of many towards a more positive future, a future that you both deserve.
At 26, I married a man who turned out to be even more deceitful than Luna’s dad, but thankfully we did not have a child together. After our five-year marriage ended, I’m learning to love myself enough to not let this happen again and to listen to the ‘red flag’ warnings next time.
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