The story behind my face is so much more than a word or a topic, it’s a series of battles and storms. When I was first approached to do this, I thought hard about what my story represented. Right from the beginning, I was a fighter. I was born with a hole in my heart and back then there was so much unknown about this type of congenital defect, there were many surgeries throughout my childhood to repair damage. I spent much of my childhood sick, in hospitals or with restricted activities. My parents were very young, kids themselves, eventually my mom left us. She didn’t want to be a mother, my brother had come along by then, leaving my dad to be a very young single parent. His parents helped us greatly, my grandparents and my dad are such loving and compassionate people. I wouldn’t be here today, without them.
Moving forward, I hated school. I graduated by the skin of my teeth. Going to a school where it seemed everyone had money but us was difficult. I never felt that I fit in there. Thinking about those years, the word dreamer comes to mind. All I could think about was getting out of there. I got that diploma, not for me but for my dad. I felt he deserved that after all he’d gone through to make sure I survived all my sickness, he was always at my bedside, always held my hand. He was the last face I saw before going into surgeries and the first I saw when I woke up. He battled for me my whole life. That diploma was for him.
My senior year, I fell in love. I was married right out of high school. I was so excited to start my journey with this man. He was so strong, protective, I felt safe, wanted, such an amazing feeling. We got pregnant right away because I longed to be a mommy. When my mom left us, I promised myself I’d be a good mother. When my daughter was born, as soon as they handed her to me, I promised her I’d never leave her, after my mom left me I never felt good enough or wanted enough by anyone.....ever. The word that comes to mind here is, determined.
I had another beautiful daughter a few years later, despite our marriage being a rocky mess. I didn’t ever want a divorce, I never wanted to do that to my kids. Sadly my husband and I were just kids ourselves and we had no clue what we were doing. Our families did try to help us work it out but we just wanted completely different lives. There were some horrible things that happened in that marriage that I didn’t know how I’d get through, for a very young, new mom, who was so heartbroken that her dream was ending, it was torture. After months of trying all I could to fix it, I had to accept defeat. I packed up my babies and went to stay with my dad. I filed for divorce and got a job. I tried to figure out what would be next, as this was not my original plan. I was thin, and sad, and lost, but I did what had to be done. Overcome is definitely the word for this part of the story.
I quickly began getting on my feet, the divorce was agony, but finally over. I was finding success at my job, I’d moved in with my grandma for a little while so she could watch my girls while I worked. I soon got my own apartment and things were looking up. I’d begun getting out of the house once in awhile. This was new to me since I’d had these two little ones. Going out with friends was a whole new world. I kinda went overboard for awhile because I’d never had those experiences before, but my family quickly reeled me in. However, in that time I realized more about myself, who I was, what I liked, what I wanted, the choices available to me. This was the awakening period.
I soon was introduced to a man who would forever change my life. He was hilarious, always laughing and joking. My sides always hurt from laughing so much around him. The man woke up smiling! That was crazy to me, he was fun to be with, he never let life get him down. He easily could of, as he’d had many struggles of his own. I immediately fell head over heels for him. We quickly moved in together and one day he said “I’m gonna marry you, so let’s move to my hometown so the girls can start school there” with no hesitation I said “ok”. It was a whirlwind! I quit my job, we packed up, found a house to rent, and I started a home daycare, literally in the blink of an eye. I was crazy about that man. He eventually convinced me to marry him, I was against marriage after my divorce but he had changed my mind. We bought a home, got married and quickly got pregnant. He loved my girls as his own, he was such a good dad, we were blissful! This was bliss.
I was loading the kids and all the supplies for the school carnival I was helping with, running late and dealing with all day long morning sickness. I was pregnant and cranky. My husband called to say he was running late but on the way to help me unload things at the school. The girls and I were there setting up, he called to say I’ll be there soon and he loved me. I was aggravated that he was late and then time went on and he didn’t show up. Soon I was told to go home, there’s been an accident. The girls and I got home to a house full of people, some I didn’t even know, my husband had been very well liked in his hometown, everyone knew and loved him, they all knew......my husband died that night in a car accident. There I was, carrying a baby, with two small girls already and my husband was gone, in every possible way, gone. This. Was. Hell. Pure hell. The word here.....broken.
This period is a blur. It was a lot of making arrangements, transferring documents, accounts, titles, paperwork. Funeral paperwork, hospital paperwork, bills, insurance claims. It was awful. I was on autopilot, going through the motions of daily life. Making sure my kids were ok was my only focus. We moved into a new home, and there was all the stress of that, and we had to quickly get ready for the baby to be born. Getting her room ready without her daddy was heartbreaking. Everything was heartbreaking. The girls and I were getting settled, and getting into a routine as best we could. My daughter was born, healthy, no complications, and I swear she came out smiling. She is her father's daughter all the way, such a bright light. This was God’s gift to me, she’s got so much of her daddy in her. She was a good, happy baby, who brought the joy back to my girls and I. This period was light in the darkness.
Here we are, two girls in school, one learning to walk. I’m just being a mom, all day, everyday. I always wanted to be a mom, I love it, and I love my children more than life. I just never planned on being a divorced mom and certainly never a widow in my 20’s. There was so much adjustment and acceptance during this time, throw in another failed relationship and some more disappointment. Trying to navigate through daily life as a single mom of three was hard enough but then came a surprise. God gave me a son. That’s right, a son. I was shocked, I thought I only made girls. My pregnancy was unexpected but wanted from the moment I found out. I was instantly in love with my kids once I knew they were coming, it doesn’t matter how they were created, they were all loved from day one. My pregnancy with my son was very difficult. My body was weak, still grieving, the pregnancy triggered horrible gallbladder attacks to the point I was hospitalized. I went into premature labor but they did stop it. Soon after my very difficult delivery of my son, I needed emergency gallbladder surgery, soon after that my heart function dropped, and there was heart surgery. My health was plummeting. This is when I realized I had to dig deep and take control. I was letting the grief destroy me, and my kids needed me. It was time to take my health back. This was the battle.
I went to a team of specialist and did everything they said. Changed my whole life, eating healthy, daily exercise, self-care, yoga to de-stress, drank more water, got more rest, walked constantly, read constantly, whatever they suggested I did. It paid off, my health improved, my heart function reached normal. I was in amazing shape. In my many walks, I must have caught the eye of who would be my third husband. A hometown guy who kinda just started hanging around us and never left. After a few years, he convinced me to give marriage a try again. I started my home daycare again and life was ok. I wasn’t in love though, it was a mistake. He’d been good to my kids and I think that’s why I did it, but soon things went bad, he had a lifestyle I didn’t want, it ended badly. My son was very heartbroken, still is, but I couldn’t stay with someone I didn’t love. This was a time of hard lessons.
I quickly fell head over heels for a music man. I love music, it’s always been a huge part of my life. It was always playing in the hospital when I was there. My dad played music constantly and many of his friends were in bands. My grandpa was always singing growing up. Music was always around and always a comfort and this man was a musician who completely stole my heart. There have been many hard times, breakups, reuniting, but there’s always been love and there always will be. He showed me a whole new world, helped me rediscover myself, and did the same for my kids. Time with him is always precious and I’ve never loved someone the way I love him. The music he and I share will never go silent. This period is easily, new life.
Today, I’m a hardworking mom. Working outside the home again, working a couple jobs actually. Still trying to stay in good shape and good health. My faith has gotten me through some very hard times. My kids are still the air that I breathe. There is a lot I didn’t say in this story because of people involved but know this, I’ve faced divorce, death, physical and mental abuse, heartbreak, disappointment, health struggles, and I’m still here. It’s so hard to chose one word to describe the story behind my face, I even ask my kids their opinion. They said, “Mom you’ve been through so much, how do you choose?” They’re right. I guess if I sit back and think about it all, I think I’ve been through awful things, like so many other people, but I try very hard to stay positive and create positive. My kids and I have worked with charities, missions, and organizations to try and help others, to shift the focus. We hold an annual donation/free garage sale, we hold an annual Santa’s Workshop also free, to try and give back, to show kindness and spread some hope. Whatever you’re facing, know you’re not alone. Know that everyone can help someone, in some way, know that you can push through and overcome. Know that every storm passes and light will find you again. Me, I’m a mom, and I’ve realized through this project that in the end, I’m a warrior. When you look at my face, a warrior is looking back at you.