Life has a way of reminding us of how fragile each of us and each relationship connecting us can be. As I’m working through my recovery from surgery and ongoing chronic pain, I’m trying to support a younger cousin to hold her life together while it disintegrates in front of her. She’s pregnant with her third child and her partner walked out on her and their two young children, who are five and two, days after her doctor ordered her on bed rest. From the sounds, and looks of things, he’s been planning to leave for some time but failed to mention it to my cousin who is now eight months pregnant.
As much as I’ve seen and experienced in my life, this shocks me, and I don’t understand – even with my parents’ history – how someone can walk away from his or her young, and unborn, children. I don’t understand how one person can believe they have the right to make such a significant decision knowing it will negatively affect the lives of four other people and move on with their life without missing a beat. I don’t understand what he tells himself when he chooses not to answer his phone when my cousin calls him in the middle of the night because she might need something for one of their children or she might be experiencing severe cramping, or be in labour – premature or active. I don’t understand how he can cut himself off emotionally from having any interest in knowing how the child she is carrying in her belly is thriving – or not. He doesn’t attend her prenatal appointments, he doesn’t ask about test results, he doesn’t ask about her pain or if she’s resting and he never asks if she’s eating well, or if she needs help caring for their other children.
I know that no relationship is perfect – and I certainly don’t believe my cousin has no fault in the breakdown of this one – but I don’t understand how he could choose now to leave. What did he tell his five-year old daughter when she asked where he was going as he packed his things? How does it feel not to be there when his children wake up in the morning and when they go to sleep, when he has been there every day of their lives since they can remember? How did it feel when he walked out the door leaving the heavily pregnant mother of his children behind?
I’ve been speaking to my cousin every day since this crisis erupted in her life a few weeks ago. I don’t believe the pain I’m feeling because of my illness is anywhere near as severe as the pain she’s feeling from the breakdown of her family. To ease my pain I can take pain medication but there is nothing I can offer her to reduce her pain. She speaks of her heart breaking. I can offer no cure, but because I’ve had my heart broken, I know the only balm that will give her pain relief, and possibly heal the rupture, is time.
I also know I must show her that our connection is not fragile. However, the only way my fragile, pained body can show that is with open ears and open heart, and I hope that’s enough to help keep her whole and strong.
The Five Stairsteps – O-O-H Child