I fought through the panic to breathe and focused on the task at hand, even though just mere moments before my son’s father was cornering me and yelling at me. He had even laughed at me and mocked me for panicking. I had been striving and failing for months to keep myself together. I had to keep myself together for my son, my beautiful boy, then only 10 months old. Things with his father were not good, and for the sake of the forgiveness I have since bestowed upon him, I will not mention specific instances. They say people may not remember what you do and what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel. In this case, that is very much the truth. I know my son’s father struggled with many of his own issues. Neither of us were really prepared for the responsibility of parenting, and we both made some mistakes. We were not a good fit together as a couple and it took a great deal of time before we realized this.
I had reached my breaking point and on this fateful day. I called my aunt and told her what was happening. Promptly she arranged a drive to get me out of the situation. A situation that I had promised myself long ago I would never be in. Oh how things change. I left the house and went to a local shelter. I was naive enough to believe it was a “safe house” not a “homeless shelter” so when the staff behind the desk asked me if I had ever been in a homeless shelter before, I broke down.
I bawled like a little baby and I knew: this is what rock bottom feels like.
This is what it feels like to be all alone, to have nobody, no home, no support, no money. Of course I wasn’t completely alone. It was me and my son, and that was all that mattered. Making sure the two of us were safe. Everything else at that point was secondary.
Through my tears and heartache, I registered and I took myself and my baby upstairs where I just held him and cried. I had no idea what morning would bring. I had a house full of people that I had never met before and I had to pull on my faith harder that night than I ever had before. In a shelter, they do periodic room checks. I remember sitting there a bawling mess that first night, and the door opened. It’s incredibly startling, especially if you’re not expecting it.
We stayed there for about two and a half months, that first night being the hardest of all. Learning these women’s stories were inspirational, they made me realize how very lucky I was. The women there had stories ranging from abuse to alcoholism to addictions, one resident had actually lost everything in a fire. There were women with mental health issues, and one that had a psychotic break.
We were there for my son’s first birthday, his first Easter. The staff at the shelter baked my son’s first birthday cake; something I wish I had done, something that I wish I had been able to do for him. They arranged his first easter egg hunt, which I admit was probably more fun for me than it was for him. I regained through all of this a sense of family and togetherness I previously felt I had lost.
We learned to lean on one another. Endless hours of talking and comforting each other and learning from the ladies taught me to see behind the issues; to see the person and not her struggle. I’m not sure where I would be without learning that sense of community. My son lit up everyone’s day. And I still to this day have so much pride knowing that his presence was enough to bring a smile to these beautiful women on even their darkest days. He toddled around laughing, learning, smiling. He didn’t look at anyone and see their struggles. He loved everyone without bias, unconditionally. He taught me that a smile truly can make a difference in someone’s day.
Things did get easier over time. I now know that walking away, as difficult as it was to do, as much strength as it took to make it through, is not what makes me feel strong as a mother.
My true strength, my true inspiration, is my child, my beautiful boy.
It is because of him, FOR him, that I was able to forgive the actions of his father. It is for him that I have since been able to recognize my own faults and build upon my strength of character. There is not a single day that I don’t look at him and know that he is my reason for being. I may have given him life, but he has given me love. He has given me reason. For that reason I realized I am eternally grateful for my struggles with his father, because without them I would not be the mother I am today. I have since moved on and met someone that loves us both unconditionally and we now have a daughter. My son is an amazing big brother, full of just as much love and compassion as he always was. I know now that no matter what life throws at me, I can get through it.
I am empowered by my children. I find strength in them, I find inspiration, and most of all, I find love and happiness.
Terri Singer is a stay-at-home mother of two beautiful kids, she lives with her common law husband and her two fur babies (pit bull and a kitty), and loves her family fiercely. She survives on coffee and sarcasm and enjoys the hectic way of life she and her family have quite immensely. They tend to search for humour in every situation just to keep their sanity. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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