Appearances once mattered to me. My nails were manicured, my dark roots never showed — I looked put-together. I enjoyed lunch with friends, my Pilates workout and shopping. I had a beautiful house nestled in a suburban cul-de-sac. My husband and I had the house built, and for months we lived with color swatches and paint strips hanging from our pockets. We had great expectations for our home, but we soon learned cement, bricks and a lifetime warranty on shingles only provided one kind of security.
Despite appearances, my family was disintegrating. For seven years I fought to save my marriage, despite suffering both physical and emotional abuse. I always wanted a family and was desperate to keep us together.
I embraced the great salve of denial, pretending all was well. When tragedy struck, there was no more pretending. We lost a baby through miscarriage and 11 months later, our daughter, Angelica, was stillborn.
Grief consumed my world. My postpartum body and emotions kept me in constant torment. The life I had knit together with thoughtful precision unraveled before my eyes. The volatile situation escalated, and my husband moved out.
A new life
While debilitated with grief, I struggled to adjust to my new role as a single mother to our son, Jordan. We lost our home; I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Jordan wasn’t used to seeing me so stretched. Guilt was my constant companion. Pilates, bistro lunches and manicures were faded memories. My roots showed and were almost as dark as the circles around my eyes. My life was joyless; I felt defeated in every way.
For many reasons, Jordan and I moved back to my hometown. We didn’t have the money to buy or rent our own home, so we moved what we could into my parents’ basement and gave away what we couldn’t fit. We settled into the upstairs bedrooms of my parents’ house. At 31 years old, I was humiliated to be in such a predicament. But I felt safe, and that kind of security I had not felt in years.
A different life
On Jordan’s first day of school in our new town, I was more nervous than he was. I felt like an insecure little girl. I was skeptical of any glance from another parent.
I felt judged. I wanted to shout to the crowd of seemingly perfect mothers, “I used to be just like you!” And it didn’t help that my rattling ’93 sea foam green clunker was parked in the school parking lot, crowded by rows of SUVs and decked out minivans. And a tired, sad face ruins the appeal of even the most well thought-out outfits. I simply wasn’t the woman I used to be.
On an afternoon when just about everything was going wrong, my car died. I had to walk to get Jordan from school. It wasn’t a long walk, but it was wintertime and bitter cold.
Jordan was angry. “I’m not walking!” he protested. When he realized there was no choice, he stomped alongside me. “That car is old and junkie anyway; it’s time we got a new one,” he scowled. Jordan irritated my open wounds. We were silent for a few moments. Finally, I turned to him and cracked a silly joke. He grinned. We kept it up — starting to talk and laugh.
Our wintertime walks became routine, as did the talking and laughing. When I did drive, Jordan was disappointed. I soon realized it wasn’t the frigid walk he anticipated; it was the time with me. Jordan wanted his mom.
A meaningful life
That sweet realization gave me a new perspective. I discovered many of the insecurities I felt about myself were because I was focused on the things I had lost in my life. Yet what I owned didn’t tell the story of who I was.
I lost everything that would make me appear successful, yet when I saw my son’s face light up when he had my undivided attention, I redefined success. I wasn’t a failure; I was a survivor. I made a new commitment to God and reprioritized. While I would grieve my losses, I determined to be grateful for my new life.
Sandra Ring is grateful for her son and their life together in Ingersoll, Ontario.