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When I had my first child, it was easy to get lost in motherhood. After all, I was well used to losing myself. I often hid from myself in relationships. Preoccupying myself with throwing myself, heart & soul, at one person or another. Then, in cherished moments of clarity, running as fast as I could to find myself again. Leaving. I loved leaving a terrible relationship. With a note, with a changed phone number, with a move to a new town. Like fasting to get rid of toxins. I fasted and got rid of toxic relationships.

I was fast buried in the relationship with the dad when I became pregnant. I’ve read recently that it is normal for women to immerse themselves in motherhood and how romantic relationships suffer for it. Mine was destroyed by this phenomenon.

The dad who did not want to be a dad in the first place could not understand how he had lost me to our baby. However, he did nothing to win me back, as–in retrospect–he had done nothing to win me in the first place. My being a whirling dervish of epiphanic revelations & neurosis–I never required being won. I was used to doing all of the work. In fact, should a man try to win me, it would only cause me to spin away–confused by the foreign notion of kind words, supportive efforts, and loving gestures.

I want to be treated nicely, but I don’t know how…or what it looks like, exactly. I know what abuse looks like. It’s not that I trust abuse. I just recognize it. Therefore, it enters my life more easily than love and support.

When I look at a picture a friend has posted, with sweet words, of his wife and children. A picture worth a thousand words. You can read the love he feels so thoroughly through the lens of a camera and the screen of a laptop. He adores his wife and kids. He probably even washes the dishes. He probably helps with his children and comforts them when they are upset instead of referring to them as “shit stains.” He probably never accuses her of plotting to kill him, blaming her for everything he feels is wrong with his life.

There are no pictures like that of me and my babies.

I wonder how lost I would feel in my role as a mother if I had a partner telling me that everything was going to be okay instead of disappearing, physically and emotionally, as if our existence is more than he can bear.

I want to know how it feels to find myself again. Long enough to breathe again and be a good mom and be who I am without feeling like I am wrong for it.

I need to leave. It should have happened a long time ago. All I can tell myself is that I had to create these four beautiful souls from our union before severing the relationship the kills me a little more each day.