The hardest thing I’ve ever done

Well, enough avoiding the subject. I have hinted at big things going on. I have griped about mysterious difficulties in my life. And, I have let this blog languish in silence as I have barely survived without internet access in my new home. *twitch twitch*

I have just done the hardest thing I have ever done. I have taken the MCAT, twice, once five years after taking organic chemistry, and Step 1 of COMLEX and the USMLE. I survived “hell week” at my midwifery school, which involved attending every delivery and clinic for a week. I was so tired by the end I was sleeping on the clinic floor as people stepped over me. I have made it through the first two years of medical school, during some of which I was also pursuing an MPH. I won one of two research fellowships for a full tuition scholarship for my medical school. I also gave birth to two children without any anesthesia, the first with Pitocin augmentation, strapped to a fetal monitor and flat on my back, with three hours of pushing through an inflamed cervical lip. I have quit smoking cigarettes after a pack a day habit.

(Trigger warnings)

None of these were the hardest thing I have ever done.

Last week, I moved out of my house.

I left an abusive relationship.

I stopped blogging about my personal life a long time ago. On the surface, I told myself it was because I wanted to protect the privacy of my family. But really, it was because I didn’t have anything positive to say. My first husband, and the father of my first child, left me for one of my closest friends. That was hard. I started dating the brother of a friend a mere six weeks after my devastating separation. There may have been red flags, but since I had no experience with abuse, I didn’t see them. And, the real abuse didn’t start until we were living together, and I found out I was pregnant.

He never hit me. Other than a “dope slap” and some brief rough handling of my older son early in our relationship that I said I would leave him over if I ever saw it again, he never hit the kids.

But, the emotional and verbal abuse was almost constant. At first, I was completely bewildered and horrified. I still remember the first time it really happened – I had just found out I was pregnant, and I was sitting next to him at the computer. I was talking to him about something really inconsequential: Michael Jackson was under suspicion, again, for molestation, and I was musing how the song “Man in the Mirror” may be about him literally begging himself to stop molesting. My then fiance turned to me, and laid into me. Asked me why I never shut the fuck up, told me how irritating I was, and how sick of my constant babbling he was. I was about 45 seconds into the conversation. Not that it would have been OK if I was half an hour or three hours into the conversation, but I remember how shocked I was because it didn’t even make any sense.

I ran out of the house, jumped on my bike, and rode away, blinded by tears. I called my best friend, who was living in Toronto at the time. “I am marrying a monster,” I said. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know what happened. No one had ever talked to me like that, much less someone I was supposed to marry in a month. She told me to come to Toronto. I was in Miami. It wasn’t really a practical solution.

My fiance found me, apologized, and promised it would never happen again.

When he cursed me out on the steps of the chapel before my father’s funeral, I told him to sit in a separate pew, and that we would be getting a divorce when we got home.

That was five years ago.

We have been through five therapists. He has been on two medications. But, excuse my language, there is no cure for asshole. There is no pill for a bully that has been indoctrinated by generations of abusive bullies.

I have been in the Vagina Monologues for three years. One year I co-produced the performance, and have contributed in raising more than $10,000 for our local domestic violence charity. I blog about feminist issues. At school, I was afraid people would see through me, know I was a fake. They would know that my husband screamed at me about the way I prepared dinner as my five year old hid under the dining room table. They would know that I was staying when I knew I should go. At the same time, people in my life, including my mother, told me that I couldn’t leave him. I had rotations and residency ahead. I already had one divorce and one custody arrangement with one ex-husband. My husband and his family (who also took turns abusing me when we were together) told me that they were normal. My standards were too high. And I better not break his heart. In fact, the chance I might break his heart is why his father supposedly treated me with such naked hostility and hatred. Or, it was because I didn’t clean up enough. Or, because I didn’t have a job on top of going to medical school. Or, I was just too big for my britches.

I told myself if I got the research fellowship, I would use that year to transition into a separation and divorce. He begged me to stay. His new therapist begged me to give him a few more months. The research fellowship ticked away, and his addiction and abuse problems did not improve. I told him it was really over this time, and he asked for one more, one hundredth last chance. I left for the ACOG Annual Clinical Meeting. I came home. He told me he owed $400 to his dealer. I wrote him a check to pay him back, on the condition he didn’t get any more. He got more. He got red in the face and shook visibly with rage the next evening when I asked him to write his medical insurance number on a form his insurance company had been sending once a week for a month.

I told him it was over. He begged me to take him back until one in the morning. I sobbed, my entire insides screaming “Just take him back” with terror. Against every afraid cell in my body, I reached down into the depths of courage I never knew I had. I said no.

I packed the entire house myself, often with him snarling and cursing at me. I had to call my mother to pick the kids up twice because he was screaming at me and manipulating the kids. He and his mother stood in my driveway and yelled together and called me a liar in front of the children.

I have been in my new house since Thursday.

I am facing rotations, residency and a medical career as a single mother of two boys, and it will still not be the hardest thing I have ever done.


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63 responses to “The hardest thing I’ve ever done

  1. QoB

    You have done the right thing. I can’t fathom how hard this must have been – and how hard it will be -but you are courageous and strong and I hope that asshole gets his dose of karma somehow.
    I wish you the best of luck.

  2. Couldn’t just read and run. Big hugs to you, strong mama. It only gets better from here, the worst is over. You are finally free.

  3. Christopher

    If we were in the same room, I would give you a hug.

    I am happy that you were able to find so much courage within yourself.
    I wish you the absolute best.

  4. *hugs*

    I grew up in an emotionally and verbally abusive family not at all unlike what you describe (sans the addiction but probably adding silent alcoholism). To say that this is the hardest thing you’ve ever done is no exaggeration.

    Blame it on pregnancy hormones if you like, but I have tears in my eyes as I am compelled to say that I, who will probably never meet you in person, am so, so proud of you.

  5. You are strong, you are powerful, you are smart, you are capable and you CAN do anything! You have already proved that a million times over! You will have ups and downs (maybe) as you move forward! Act intentionally, follow your heart and believe in yourself! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! ANYTHING!

    I wish you peace, I wish you strength, I wish you wisdom, I wish you conviction. I wish you love and light!


    PS: Can I still secretly hope you (or not so secretly???) that you end up here in Seattle? I would love to help you on the journey to absolute success!

  6. Rebecca S

    You are strong.

  7. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been going through this. And so glad that you were able to get out of it, and knowing that this will only bring better things to your life and to your children’s lives. Hugs!

  8. I could have written some of these very same statements myself, about 8 years ago. Wait, I did say some of those very same things, as I also left my abusive spouse. Hang in there girl, this was the hardest first step. There will be more rough roads ahead, but they are NOTHING compared to the huge step you just took. You’re amazing!!

  9. I applaud you. I sincerely do. You are amazing, and I feel like such a lazy bum! You are strong, and smart, and you’re doing such a very good thing for you and your babies. It’s not healthy to be in a relationship like that. I know that you already know that.

    You deserve better. You deserve love unconditionally. You deserve soft words, said in sweet tones.


  10. It takes a mighty wonderful man to beat no man (does the former exist?). Welcome to the wonderful world of single motherhood. You are much braver than I – kudos to honesty, forthrightness, and openness.

    You can do it! Raise amazing children in a healthy environment. Create that in your family and career. I’m on my way – and every week I feel stronger and less toxic. Your inner self is going to thank you, emerge, and shine.

  11. Beautiful post about ugly, ugly things. Enjoy the peace of your new home, and that strength you found.

  12. MomTFH

    Wow, thanks everyone! I wondered if it was the right thing to post about it, but now I definitely know that it was.

    I already feel one million percent better. I am going to face a nasty divorce and a contentious custody battle, but that is so much better than living with him for even one more day.

    One of the many reasons it was so hard to leave is that I may not be able to go to away rotations. I will have two ex husbands who will battle me if I want to leave the state for residency. I would have to be a single mom in a new city or state, away from my family and support system, starting an ob/gyn residency. And, I would be uprooting my kids again. Sigh.

  13. First, you freaking rock for throwing down for your kids and yourself like that. I am so, so proud of you. You can totally do this.

    Second, if you don’t already, get some loans out for a solid nanny and a good backup babysitter. I have a full ride, too, and that’s part of what the excess fundage for. It will make all the difference for the next few years.

    No shame in your game, lady. Many, many of us have been there in one way or another. It makes us fierce advocates and genuine physicians. You survived with your integrity, drive and grace intact, and you should feel solid for that.

    • MomTFH

      Thanks. I moved half a mile from my older son’s grandma, who is wonderful and will watch the kids for free. And she even said tonight if I end up in Seattle for residency (yup, Seattle, Sharon!) she would somehow help me make it work.

      I would probably end up getting an au pere or full time live in nanny if I moved for residency. I am just not sure if a judge will let me take the kids out of the area if I am going to be a single mom with an 80 hour a week job for four years. Sigh. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  14. birthingway

    I read you only sporadically (I do everything sporadically these days, I am in my final year of midwifery school) but I must comment on this post. My second marriage–the one that was supposed to be forever–ended in 2007 for similar reasons. I had people telling me to stay and people vilifying me for breaking up my family. I have never felt so judged or alone in my life, and I also seriously wondered if I would have to give up my career.
    It took me a long time (too long) to get up the gumption to go, and it was the smartest thing I ever did. It took me a long time (it’s likely still a work in progress) to heal my teenagers, who were harmed by this man in ways that I still shudder to think about. We are all still healing, but we are now *safe*. And so are you.

    You were put in an untenable position, and you did the best you could with what you had. Be proud of that, and remember what a strong example you are setting for your kids.

  15. I am so proud of you. I have been there too and it was so hard. It is strange but true that it is sometimes easier if they just hit. Then it is obvious that what you are experiencing is abuse. But verbal/emotional abuse is so hard to understand. You wonder if you’re crazy or if he is. And I know exactly what you mean about feeling like a big fake. You will get through this and be so much better for it. You are already a strong woman but leaving has a way of proving it to yourself. I wish you the very very best as you begin this journey.

  16. That sounds like a very, very hard thing to do after living a very hard life taking all that abuse. Wishing you blessings and peace.

  17. Oh, I would just like to wrap my arms around you – it sounds like you’ve had to be the strong one, with no respite, and you’ll continue being strong, but dang, sometimes we all need to just be taken care of for a while. I am glad you’ve got one grandma who’s supportive, and your mom too (the way you describe it). You will need tons of love and support. And you deserve it, by golly.

    I threatened divorce once over similar issues – they were (mostly) chemically induced (moral: don’t go off an SSRI cold turkey), and they’ve receded about 99%. Even that remaining 1% scares me. I can only begin to imagine what it’s like to live with verbal abuse year after year. You stay for the kids – you stay because you want to give him and the marriage every chance – but ultimately it corrodes your own sense of self and cannot possibly be good for the kids either. They need you to model love and respect.

    Your kids may not understand it now, but it will be better for them in the long run. You will all be okay. As my mom likes to say, this too shall pass. I’ll be sending good wishes your way. (And if you should come my way – Athens, OH – you must drop me an email.)

    Big hugs from your friend and cheerleader, Sungold (aka Patty).

  18. Jessi

    *Applause* Good for you!

  19. Paige

    I love you and could not be more proud of you for standing up for yourself and your boys. I’m ALWAYS here for you.

  20. When I was 21 I left a man that sounds very similar to the one you just left. At the time I didn’t realize I was in an abusive relationship. Over the years I’ve come to understand that what he did, (the screaming, the belittling, the demands, etc.) were not the behavior of a normal, mature adult but rather the tactics of an abuser. When I left my family treated me like a crazy princess and if only I’d go home, everything would be ok again. I was 21, $30,000 in debt because he had taken out cash advances in my name to pay for lord knows what, and without familial support. I thank God that we didn’t have any children. You are a smart, strong, woman. You have done the right thing. You can make it.

  21. SOOOOOOOO many hugs to you right now. you are not, and have never been, a fake. we all have and live contradictions. you were making the choices as you needed to make them based on the circumstances YOU were dealing with.

    i’m so proud of you and send you so much love and strength.

  22. Big hugs to you. I am so proud of you and so glad that you have broken free.

  23. Olivia

    Best wishes to you on your new journey. Like you said, the hardest part is over.

  24. Wow. I’m in tears. I’m so proud of you. There are many of us whose outward passion and inner reality don’t align. And far, far too many of us living with abuse. I can’t imagine the courage it must have taken to step into the unknown like that, but you deserve so much better and are incredibly strong and resilient.

    As the thriving, surviving, daughter of a mother who did the same thing 25 years ago, I salute you.

  25. Amy

    You can do this! It will be ok and you can live in a peaceful home. You are not a fake, you are human, and you have your own path to go down.

    Im proud of you!

  26. Angela

    BRAVO! Truly.

    What a fine example you have set for your children—that it is NOT ok to treat others in such a way.

  27. Oh, I’m so sorry (to hear about the abusive situation) and so glad (to hear that you’ve left it). I had no idea about your situation.

    I did a research project on spousal abuse back in my undergrad days and the big theme running through and through all the research is that abusive people rarely, rarely change and that their spouses have a really hard time leaving, even if they know they should. The constant cycle of abuse/repentance/abuse/repentance traps women in the hope that “finally this time, he will change.” I had a cousin who married a guy who seemed like prince charming and turned out to be an abusive jerk. We’re just glad that she had the guts to leave just 8 months after marrying him. Then he got remarried really quickly and my cousin tried to warn the new wife…and she wouldn’t listen, she was convinced her fiance was the man he seemed outwardly.

    This really hits home on the email discussions we’ve been having about abortion over at chez moi. There are so many challenges that women face, and I wish all the energy in the abortion debates (especially from the pro-life side) could turn itself to, say, supporting and helping women in so many other ways, in ways that would actually make a real difference.

  28. I’m so proud of you for getting yourself and the kids out of that!

    My only experience with that was a boyfriend in college (not a husband or longterm relationship, thank goodness) and it was awful.

  29. There are so many people whose lives have been touched by abuse. You are not alone. You have many of us out here cheering for you and supporting you.

    I am so proud of you for getting out and stopping this, for your own sake and for your boys’ sake. They don’t need this distorted vision of manhood; you don’t want them to grow up like him. And good for you for taking care of yourself too. I hope you will continue to do so. You deserve SO much better.

    You’ve taken the hardest step. There will be hard parts in the future, but view this journey one step at a time. Enough time to worry about crossing future bridges when you come to them. Concentrate on the here and now, and celebrate the major victory you just won.

    Wish you lived closer so I could lend you a hand settling in. [All the more reason for doing your residency at that particular place we discussed!!!]

    Take a deep breath and look around, listen to the quiet, and ENJOY your FREEDOM. Blessings on you!

  30. Emily

    You are incredibly strong, a wonderful mother, and you ABSOLUTELY did the right thing. My thoughts are with you and your children. You will get through this.

  31. MomTFH

    Thank you to everyone who comments. I am still without Internet in my new home, but I can check the comments on my phone. Every single comment and virtual hug means so, so much to me. It was hard to leave because it was hard to believe that verbal and emtional abuse was real abuse. But, the very real effects it was having on my sons and me was undeniable. I value every single confirmation I get that I did the right thing.

  32. Mennelle


  33. Mennelle

    Oh and in case profanity is not allowed – you are $#@#!!! amazing.


  34. Thank you for posting this. You will help many people and touch those that are in similar situations right now. The ones that are reading this while their spouse is hurling words at them. The ones with children hiding in rooms, under beds & under tables. You are now helping them. You are powerful. You are finally independent and free. Your children will thank you. They will.

    I too came out of a bad relationship. In the middle of school, student loans, living off credit, a broken piece of junk car, a head of lettuce in the fridge. I had to start over. Creditors called every day and I worked my butt off, pulling overtime in between every 12 hr shift I could, surviving on one muffin a day just so I could make rent and pay my bus fare to get there. Slowly, slowly the light emerged and I pulled it together. I had to make the decision for myself to never, ever go back. I was worth more. I deserved more. I was going to rule my own life.

    You can too. When the self doubt comes just look at your beautiful kids and remember all the things you have already accomplished without his support. You were already a single mother years ago. You didn’t need him and you still don’t. You have tremendous control over your own abilities and strength already. You are fabulous!

    Congratulations to finally being who you really are and truly deserve to be. All the best!

  35. Jubas

    Oh Hil I am so very very proud of you. I support you in your grief in the end of the abuse. You will be provided for, and it will be on a daily basis. I love you.

  36. Larissa

    Good for you! I can’t imagine how hard it must be to go through that kind of abuse, that is definitely terrible for you and your children. I hope you find peace.

    You are an amazing person and I have no doubt you will be able to make it and do school on your own (with help from family of course!)

  37. RachelB

    MomTFH, I offer virtual hugs and mugs of whatever tasty beverage sounds good to you. In leaving, you have done a very good and very difficult thing– protecting yourself.

  38. Interrobang

    I’m so happy for you. I hope your placement issues work themselves out to your satisfaction.

  39. Karin

    I’m very proud of you and wish you the very best for the future! *sends strength and hugs*

  40. Another Rebecca

    Congratulations. In case there is any more lingering doubt: you were right, without question.

    In order to leave my mentally/emotionally abusive relationship I had to go through the point where I believed what he told me, that everything was my fault and no-one else could want me, to the rock-bottom point where the idea of life alone with no-one to love me forever more was actually preferable than staying. Even so it took me a long time to realise that I had made the right decision.

    Because of that I know how hard it is to leave – even without kids and med school to worry about – and I am so impressed at your strength in making that decision. Even though you’re a stranger, I kind of feel proud for you 🙂

    Hugs and best wishes for you and your childrens’ wonderful future ahead, free from abuse.

  41. Quercki

    No one should have to endure that sort of thing.

  42. I’m so glad you left. ((hugs)) You’ll get through this. And if you need to talk, I’m here, and I’m sure anyone commenting is here, too!

    I just wanted to show my support for you, and to let you know you have an ally in Kentucky, if you ever need one.

  43. Hettie (AZBLUE)

    I had tight grip in my chest just reading this, I can’t imagine what it felt like to actually do this. No matter how strong you are this is not going to be an easy transition, even if it is the right one. I wish I could put love, time and peace of mind and heart in an envelope and send it to you. The right way is never the easy way.

  44. I’m proud of you, and I know you can do this.

  45. ohands

    This is so great.

    ((HUGS)) if you want them

  46. manhattandoula

    Wow, I am so proud of you. Thank you for posting this. I hope it will give courage to other women who need to be similarly strong.

  47. natalieushka

    Wow, you are so strong. Good for you and your kids. I don’t know you, but I am proud of you.

  48. MomTFH

    I am thankful and bolstered by each and every comment. I had a wireless modem for my computer for one day, then one of the kids apparently sat on it. It’s OK, we’re still trucking along and healing every day.

    Love you all, thanks for the hugs, and I am finally proud of me, too. It was hard to be proud of any of my accomplishments when I knew I was choosing to stay with an abuser. (I know that sounds harsh and I definitely don’t judge anyone else who stays like I did, thinking this time he really means it)

    I now not only feel better about my personal life and relationships and household atmosphere, but I finally have the self esteem to be proud of my successes.

  49. Pingback: Interesting posts, weekend of … missed weekends « Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction

  50. Michelle

    wow, you are stronger than you ever knew you could be. i am so sorry that you experienced such a monster but i am so proud of you for leaving. there is no doubt in my heart and mind that you have done right by yourself, for your children, and indirectly even to the abuser by not staying with him. much love and hugs are going out to you and your children.

    ~ POB

  51. Phledge

    Late to the post, but, shit, congratulations. If it makes any difference, I’m inclined to agree that your rotations and residency will not be as hard as what you’ve just done, which means it’s downhill from here, right? You know where to find me, and I’m so happy for your courage and commitment to your boys and your own mental health. You were never a fraud–you’ve been the real deal the whole time. Love and hugs.

  52. Another Rachel

    Sending you lots of love and hugs and strength. You did a great thing for you and your boys. You can do this. ❤

  53. B

    *huge warm bear hug*

    Your personal life can now reflect the ideals that outwardly you have been expressing – and that is that you are a strong woman who is valuable to society, and who should never accept mistreatment by anyone, especially her husband. It must feel fabulous to be free from the abuse, even if a little frightening to be going it alone. *hug*

    MomTFH, you’ve done the right thing for your boys too, because they need to know that verbal and psychological abuse are not acceptable.

    I admire you for your strength, and I wish you and the boys lots of peace and happiness to come.

  54. Erin

    My father was physically and emotionally abusive. I’m now almost 30, and the most lingering effect that the childhood abuse has had is on my long-term self esteem. It would have (and, let’s be honest, still may) affect your kids if you had stayed. You made the right choice in protecting yourself and your boys from future harm. I wish my mother had had the courage to do the same. Much love.

  55. You are so brave. I hope your surgery goes well.

  56. Wow – I’m so sorry to hear about your relationship, and am so happy that you decided to leave. Congratuations on making that hard decision. Leaving a relationship is always sad, even when that relationship had many problems.

    Even in the worst relationships there was something that brought people together. It takes a lot of courage to one day decide that those few things that were good weren’t good enough to keep it all going.

  57. (((HUGS))) to you. You are strong and courageous and powerful and smart and inspiring. What a brave and wonderful thing you’ve done for you and your children.

  58. Just catching up with my reader, and WOW, I am amazed by your courage. I’m so sorry you had to endure this for so long, but so happy for you and your future. Congratulations and all the best vibes I can muster.

  59. Good for you! You’re a REAL hero – to your kids, other women… and yourself.

    I did the same thing (although we ended up homeless for a time when I left) and it was absolutely exhausting, overwhelming and insane… and it was also the BEST thing I ever did for my children and myself.

    Don’t let fears about custody overwhelm you – the fact that you’re building a future and he ISN’T is key. Hoping for the best for all of you!

  60. Wogglebug

    Wow. Good for you for leaving.

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