She was only ten years old. My beautiful daughter. I met her when she was two. I said vows to her father and also her when she was five. I’d been her mother for eight years. She never called me stepmom and I never called her stepdaughter. We belonged to one another. As far as we were concerned, she was mine.
I sat down across from her hours after resigning from my job. Hours after being questioned in a police station. I sat down across from her because her father, my husband, told me I would never see my children again. He told me he was going to file for divorce and take them from me and I would be all alone. And my heart was shattering into a million pieces because I believed he not only could but I knew that he would. I was only just beginning to see the monster I had married.
With tearful eyes and my voice cracking every few words, I did my best to explain to my daughter what was happening. With choppy thoughts and broken words, I choked out that people make mistakes. Sometimes horrible and terrible mistakes. And that we suffer consequences because of them. I told her that I had made one of these mistakes and I whispered that I hope that someday she could forgive me. I watched her innocent brown eyes swim with confusion and worry. I pulled her into my arms and I cried. I reminded her of my love for her. I held her close and smelled her hair and felt the smoothness of her skin and I told her goodbye as I tried to memorize the last moments of how she felt in my arms. She did not understand. I really did not either. I left my daughter with tear stained cheeks and a “Momma, please don’t go” and another piece of my heart splintered.
I made my way to the home daycare where my boys spent their days. There was a little swing set a hundred yards or so beyond the house and I walked my then three and four year old sons out to it. I took in their beautiful smiles and their giant brown eyes and their tufts of curly dark hair. They looked so much alike and yet nothing alike at all. My three year old was oblivious. Waddling around in the way that toddlers do. In his own little world. Content to be outside with mommy and his brother. But my four year old was zoned in on me. His eyes concerned and his little hands cradling my cheeks. He stared into my eyes and he knew. Oh God, he knew that something terrible was happening without any words being said. I remember my eyes blistering and my head aching with the effort it was taking to not fall to the ground in a sobbing heap. I smiled at my little boy and I told him, “Everything is going to be okay. Mommy loves you. Mommy will always love you. And no matter where she is, she will be waiting to hold you.” I held my little boys. I pushed them on the swing. I helped them down the slide. But the clock was ticking and time was running out. And then it was gone and it was time to say goodbye to my little boys. My sons. My babies…
I never in a million years will ever wish those moments on my worst enemy. I never could choose the words to explain how incredibly devastating that was in a way that anyone will really understand it. No mother should ever feel the pain of telling her babies goodbye like that and thinking it will be forever. I’ll never forget their cries as I left. I had no intentions of letting him keep them from me but I believed his threats. I believed he could. And so I said goodbye to each one of my three babies. I knew I was gonna fight like hell to make sure there would be a hello. But in that moment… oh, how my heart crumpled.