*Stories are true; names are changed to protect person’s identity* – (As told in Chrissy’s words…10/24/07.)
…….Many people tend to describe themselves as the average person striving for success in a competitive world. But I am not average. My life experiences have made me realize that I am who I am, “a phenomenal woman”.
I grew up in a single parent household, along with one brother. My mother gave of her best with the little that she had. We did not see the ‘little’; we saw only happiness. I lived a typical childhood that had so much cherished moments. I migrated to the US in the early nineties, against my wishes. It was a culture shock, but I eventually adjusted to the New York life. I survived in part, due to the close network of friends that I had. They were not only friends, they became sisters by choice.
I left the security of my mother’s home to pursue college in upscale New York. It gave me the independence I sought, but at the same time I was able to be close to family. I was adamant about dating in college, because I did not want to lose sight of my goals. It was just a personal choice. I said ‘love could wait’, but I fell in love with my student advisor. He pursued me and we were very discreet about our relationship. See, I had the tendency to sabotage relationships, because I enjoyed being single. I recalled being taken to this intimate restaurant and he said “I know what you are trying to do to us, but because I love you I will not allow you to this to us”. I started crying, because it was true. I tried every possible way not to allow the relationship to continue. Finally, I broke down all barriers and we officially dated. We dated for about four years. During the dating experience, I assisted him with his finances because I was very good at finances. I would venture to say, it brought us even closer together in the relationship.
I graduated with honors with my associate degree and I was asked to be valedictorian; I turned it down. Why? We had planned to relocate to Atlanta and I had to wait around for graduation. It’s a decision that seems so foolish now. However, I changed my mind about moving with him to Atlanta and we decided to go to Brooklyn College. I just knew we were going to be married! I went along with him to his family reunion in Canada and his family welcomed me with open arms! I was ecstatic! During this time, I was a teller at the bank, while continuing my degree at Brooklyn College. After the family reunion trip, I knew at anytime we were going to be engaged. One month became two months and I am trying not to become anxious. It was at this time I was held at gun point on my job as a teller. It was a normal work day and I was completing my work as usual. Next in line was this gentleman. He came up to my window and lo and behold, the guy slipped me the note that says “Give me all your money”. Fear gripped me but I didn’t panic. I discreetly attempted to reach out to press the silent alarm, but he tapped the glass, letting me know he knew what I was about to do! The bank was extremely busy and the teller beside me did not even realize I was being robbed. I was very calm. Prior to the robbery, I emptied my drawer of almost a million dollars in cash and checks. Therefore, all I had left in my drawer was $2000 to be exact and the bait money. So I cleaned my drawer and I gave it to him. My nerves were shattered. The events that follows made me realize that the color of your skin makes a difference in this country as to how you are perceived in circumstances like this. I was drilled! And drilled! And drilled! Subsequently, the FBI came in. I was frantic with all the unnerving questions! There was one moment in which the FBI agent asked me a question and I was so frazzled emotionally by then, I just turned to him and said “How old do you think I am? You just think I am just any kind of black girl without any education? I know you had to do your job but you all are having plain disregard for what is happening to me emotionally at this time.” On top of that, my boss expected me to come to work the next day knowing my state and what I went through. About a month later they terminated my services because, I was making costly mistakes on the job. I didn’t argue because I needed a long vacation.
In the midst of all of this, my boyfriend received an opportunity to receive a job which paid him $100,000 a year. I assisted him with his resume and supported him in getting this job. However, in spite of what I was going through with my job situation, I was sensing something was wrong in our relationship. He took me to a social gathering and he introduced me to some of them, including a white female friend of his. Somehow, I was a little uncomfortable with the interactions that took place between them at that meeting. I began to wonder about her but never made a fuss about it. About three weeks after I was fired from my job, he took me to a ‘New Edition’ concert at Madison Square Garden, just to cheer me up and we were in the VIP section. Few days after the concert, we went to a NY Knick’s basketball game. It was right after the game, that I had the bombshell. He said he wanted to talk to me. I tingled with trepidation because somehow I knew it was not the proposal I was waiting on. I sensed something was off from his body language. He calmly said “Chrissie, I enjoyed every minute spent with you, but unfortunately I have grown out of love with you”. When he said that, I cried. I had loved him like no other man. He did not fall out of love with me; he fell in love with his white female friend. I sunk into a state of depression. I did not argue and did not retaliate. I knew something was happening but I did not know that it would be this extreme. I stopped eating. All of this occurred in during my second to last semester of my bachelors. I struggled to complete but instead I went from a 3.8 GPA to a 2.65 GPA. I dropped out of college to prevent further damage. The hurtful thing of all this was when he says he wanted to be friends because he values our friendship. But I refused his friendship and every gift he gave me, I gave him back.
Time went by and in a little over a year, I felt I was beyond this episode; I was healed. My mother and I went everywhere together; she was my best friend. My mom was going to a wedding and she asked me to go with her. I did not want to go, but after awhile, I decided to go, just for the fun of it! It was at this wedding I met my husband. While at the reception, the food was so delicious, I remember saying jokingly: “The person who cooked this food, if he is single, I will marry him today!”. It just so happened that the bride did not have enough servers and my mother volunteered. She was always willing to lend a helping hand and I’m usually her ‘not by choice volunteered sidekick’. My mother asked me to help, and I was livid because I looked ‘good’ for the occasion. When I went to the designated spot for servers, she introduced me to a gentleman, who happened to be the chef for the reception. One chat led to another. I complimented him on the way he cooked the food.
A few months later, we stated dating. Dating my husband was a fairy tale made in heaven. He treated me like a queen. He pampered me, albeit I was taking cautious steps as memories of my breakup with my former boyfriend was still fresh in my memory. At one point, I had received his business card and I tried to set him up with my best friend. She was not interested because ‘he was not my type’, she says. But he was quite persistent. He would cook for my family and he did that quite often.
As a child of God, I always liked confirmation in ‘threes’ and I have to be one of the people receiving the confirmation. My mother came to me and told me that he would my husband. Prior to her saying that, I was having devotions and I felt it impressed so strongly in my heart that he was the one for me. The courtship lasted a year, and on the night of my birthday, he catered a birthday party in my honor. It was ‘black and white’ affair. He catered it all and to this day, friends would mention that the cake was to die for! It was simply the best I have ever tasted. The night of my birthday, a friend told me that the night might be my proposal night based on the ambiance. So I got my three confirmations and when he asked me to marry him, it was an unhesitant ‘yes’. I received the wedding of my dreams. I was floating on cloud nine. He was the first for me, in body, soul and mind.
We had discussed our future plans and it was decided that I finished my degree before I start having children. We flew to Puerto Rico for our honeymoon. An incident occurred while on our honeymoon and I was upset. He turned to me and says ‘Don’t bother spoil a good thing’; it was not what he said, but how he said it and my antenna went up. However, much to my chagrin, my daughter was conceived on the honeymoon. I knew I was pregnant after three weeks in my pregnancy.
The honeymoon ended the same day we returned home. Two months later, I moved back into my mother house and said ‘this marriage was over’. There was too much bickering and arguing between us. This was all new to me and I did not know how to handle this. Arguments pursued and he would lay all blame on me all the time. Three months after I moved out, he became syrupy sweet in his treatment towards me. But he had something up his sleeve. It was a ploy. He wanted to bring his daughter from Jamaica to stay with us. Did I mention he had two children prior to our marriage? They were in Jamaica and were with their mothers. I agreed and we brought her from Jamaica. He did not have his green card and so I filed for him and the daughter.
When his daughter came up, I was three months pregnant. His daughter hated me. She had an attitude and she came prepared to destroy our marriage. You name it, she gave me while he was not around, but once he was home, she was the sweetest child known to man. My frustration reached a pivoting point with all the disrespect from his daughter, the constant arguments, his failure to address my concerns about his daughter and the constant blames. One day I lost it. I told him that he only wanted his green card and he does not know how to commit to relationship and make it work. We argued and it escalated. I was about 7½ months pregnant and I don’t know what came over me but I leapt on the bed so that I would be on the same 6ft 2” level as he. In the midst of our argument, I felt a trickle of blood run down my legs. He saw it on the sheets and immediately there was concern when he asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I was still angry and I shouted at him ‘No, all you want is the green card and you care nothing about me’. Somehow, we managed to cool down and I still felt a little woozy, but I made it through the night. I went to work next day, and I shared it with my boss’s wife, who was a nurse that I was bleeding. She was very concerned and despite my protests, she ushered me to the hospital. I had kept it all hidden from my mother and did not tell her what was happening to me. I came home from the hospital that day, and I did not tell my husband anything and he did not ask me about my condition. However, much later in the, he asked ‘how is everything’. By then, I felt he didn’t deserve an answer.
The roller coaster ride of our marriage came to a stop when I was about three weeks close to my due date. I recall it was a major thunderstorm and I didn’t feel well at work. My boss was making jokes and I felt my stomach tightened and then it relaxed. My boss told me to lie down in the office. He called the limousine and he took me home. I felt for Chinese food, chicken wings and fries and I sent someone to get it. I sat in front of the computer and I ate the food. As I got up to throw away the remains, I felt something running down my legs. I looked and thought I was peeing myself. For some reason, I did not realize that my water broke. I got someone to call my mother and she came and cleaned me up to go the hospital. I went to hospital and after twelve hours of labor, I had dilated only 1 and half centimeters. Then I received Demerol to induce labor. After another fifteen hours, nothing happened. The doctors and nurses gave me epidural for the pain. I was in labor for almost 48hrs and my baby’s heart rate started to plummet. I had an emergency c-section. I hated my husband during my pregnancy and so I requested my mother to be in the delivery room instead of my husband. Little did I realize those were my final moments with my mother. When I heard my daughter’s first cry, I said to my mother “ I have a greater respect for you as a mother and I love you beyond infinity” and my mother responded “I love you too” and she leant down and kissed me on my forehead. She waited until my daughter was cleaned up and mom held her.
Mom came the next day to visit me and her new granddaughter. I was released from the hospital the following day. They had to drive very slowly because the staples were still in my body. When I got home, my husband and my stepdaughter stayed with my mother because I had to climb stairs at my home and I was in no shape to climb stairs at that time. Mom was very attentive to me before she ushered me off to bed. I recall turning to her husband (my stepfather) and jokingly said, “It’s her baby, not mine”. In the wee hours of the morning, the baby was crying non-stop. I could not understand why she was crying so much. I heard a vague thump in my mother’s room, but I never thought much of it as I was attending to my fussy daughter.
Later in the morning, my husband got up to wake my step daughter for school. I was a little groggy as my daughter kept me up for a bit, but I sensed a slight commotion in the household. I got up and everyone seemed to be in my mother’s room. I came to the door and it’s as if everyone was barring me from entering the room. My husband was there and soothing me (which was odd) and saying relax, I will take care of everything. My husband was a little too attentive so I was suspicious. I was a little confused. Somehow, I pushed past them and I entered the room and saw my mother on the floor. I realized they were trying to shield me. Someone was trying to conduct CPR and I recall saying “You are doing it all wrong”. I was CPR trained so I immediately crouched down. She was lying deathly still. I looked at her teeth and I saw discoloration on her teeth. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had lost my mother. I got up calmly, went into my room and lost it. In that moment, I was neither mother nor wife. I could only see that I was motherless. That was the first moment, I rejected my child. No one else mattered to me in that moment-not even my daughter. I called my brother and broke the news to my brother. I also called my step father who was in Florida at the time, to relay the news. I was weak and exhausted. I shut down from the world and from everyone around me. When the coroner came and signed her officially as a dead person, and they wrapped her in the sheet and took her out, I felt myself leaving my body. I felt death in my own heart. I called my favorite uncle, who was visiting in another state, and he flew over. I also called my best friend and she came to assist with the funeral arrangements. When my step siblings came into town, they wanted the funeral to commence immediately. They also wanted to take her clothes, bank accounts and other personal possessions. All of which I ignored and they left.
Prior to the agreed date of my mother’s funeral, there was a snowstorm which makes the roads dangerously icy. Per my doctor’s request, I was able to attend the funeral service, but not the burial, which was a relief to me. I wasn’t prepared for that. After the funeral, I flew to Florida for three months to recuperate from my loss and most importantly, to bond with my daughter. Unfortunately, my daughter had rejected me and bonded with my friend. As a result, I had to forget about my grieving and step up to the plate of being a mother. Things improved and I had reestablished my relationship as a mother.
I came back to New York and the bitter reality of marriage surfaced. The constant arguments ensued, along with the tension with my step daughter. Few months later, we purchased our first home and to add insult to injury, I became pregnant again. A big part of me did not want another child to come into the midst of my misery. My husband encouraged me to have an abortion, even though I did not necessarily want to. It was not right. Eventually, I caved in and I had the abortion. The guilt was immense. In the space of another three months I was pregnant again and the sad part to this, I was on birth control and he told me to do another abortion. This time I was adamant. I emphatically refused to do so. He says he would leave me and the two children to suffer. Once again, I lived in constant argument and some didn’t make sense to ague. I became passive and I started to choose my argument battles.
One night I was chatting with a male friend of our family and we were reminiscing about my mother, and my husband went into a jealous rage. This episode triggered off early contractions. “A yu cause this, and is attention you want” he yelled. This time, I was admitted into the hospital and I stayed the overnight to stop the contractions. When I came home the next morning, I showered, got dressed and went to work, because I did not want to stay at home with him. Work was my haven and I undeniably knew my marriage was over. I stopped having intimate moments with him because I had no desire for him anymore. Somehow, I managed to get him to counseling in a last attempt to save our marriage. We went to counseling for sometime and nothing changed with him. He would not comply with the marriage counselor’s suggestions or comments, and so I gave up on my marriage. Suffice to say, my husband rarely helped out at home.
The birth of my second daughter gave me the opportunity to become the mother I had intended to be with my first daughter. I shared every moment with both girls and when it was time to return to work, I had difficulty leaving her. Instead of leaving her with babysitting facilities, my brother changed his schedule to be there for her. My first daughter stayed home with her dad until my step daughter would come home from school to watch her sister until I got home from work. Much to my dismay, while she was babysitting her sister, she would be entertaining her boyfriend in my home.
On occasions when I would forget my cell phone at home, my step daughter would use my cell phone to call Jamaica and when the bill came, the total was approximately US$2000 dollars. True to form, my step daughter denied making the calls. My step daughter went further to intrude on my privacy when I was not at home. She would go through my diary and my drawers. When her father was not around, she would become quite oppositional, disrespectful and non-compliant to anything I would say. When her father came home, she was the sweetest little girl. My husband would also correct me in front of her and I took a stand against that, which resulted into more arguments.
I had a friend who needed to find somewhere to live and we offered her the basement for rent. This friend was the one who took care of my first daughter when I was overcome with grief from my mother’s death. She was a great friend and we spend a lot of time together and that added fuel to my husband temper. One morning on my way to work, I wished him well for the day, and he started an argument. I instructed his daughter to put the children in the room that I shared with them, not with my husband. And my husband went on and on and on. I was so tried of it all. I had remained passive for a long time, but this time I began to retort with the same anger. When he could not express himself eloquently he began to use profanity. This was another argument that was going no where and I was frustrated. The only thing I could say to him at that point was “f- you” and proceeded to walk away. Yes, I said it and it was the first time in my life I had every used a profanity. He was caught off guard by what I said and he grabbed me by the throat. I was gasping for breath and at the verge of losing consciousness. He realized that I wasn’t fighting back and released me. Instead of him walking away when I fell to the floor, he began to viciously kick me. The only thing I would have done was to curl up like a fetus and protected my head from fatal injuries. His anger escalated and he picked up the computer chair and out of nowhere, I felt my grandmother sitting on me (she was visiting me from Jamaica). She was pleading with him not to throw the chair. Foolish me, I did not press charges at that time. Why?? I told the cop that I wanted him removed from the home. I went to family court and filed an order of protection against him. But I did not place the children under that protection because I want them to have their choice in having their own relationship with their father.
He would stalked me and threaten to kill me. It got the best of me and I lost over 50lbs. Sometimes you have to suffer great loss to attain your own peace of mind. God created an opportunity for me during my lowest point. My husband had to travel to Jamaica because his mother was gravely ill. I used that opportunity to rent an apartment and started all over with my two girls. I gave up the house and all the furniture to be where I am today.
The divorce came through a year later. He told so many lies in court that backfired on him that I won custody of my children. After the divorce, I moved out of the state of New York, and moved further south. In spite of everything, I encourage my children to have a relationship with their father. They needed to have the freedom of choice to do just that. They will spend time with him, and will talk to him on the phone, when he calls, which is on occasions. He had never once sent child care money to help take care of them and he’s mandated to do so. I have been providing for both of them from day one. I strongly believe that you never know what good you have until you have lost it. To this day, my ex-husband is pursuing me. He rarely calls for the children, but he would find time to call me and have casual conversations to inquire about my wellbeing.
My life is centered on the happiness of my two daughters and I must say they are the only treasures that came from this union. I love them dearly. Can I love again? Yes, I can. It will take time and the person will have to understand that trust will take longer than most people because of my experiences. I have begun to move slowly in that direction again. But this time, I have gained wisdom from my past experiences.
I am a Jamaican woman who can survive it all. I gave up a lot and now, I have more than what I had acquired in my marriage. I thank God everyday for a strong Jamaican mother, who taught me how to be strong in the day of trouble and also how to rely on God in my times of distress. Her wisdom kept me through those turbulent times and my will to live gave me the strength. When I could not even pray, the warm tears on my cheek fill in the memories of my mom and I’ve treasured her short lived moments in my heart.