I’ve been told that I should write a book based on my journey. Not only the surrogacy journey, but what led me to surrogacy and everything leading up to Guy’s birth. It’s hard, really, knowing where to start with everything. I’m sure it would upset some to know that I was on birth control when I got pregnant with Jayde, or that I had thought about adoption because I was scared. Terrified actually! Terrified that I would never be enough for her.
This was a thought of mine up until I held her. She locked eyes with me and let out the largest sigh, and I knew that was her way of letting me know that everything would be just fine. Maybe not the perfect picture I had in my mind of starting my family, but that everything would be fine in the end. Some of you also may not know that her dad wasn’t at the hospital when she was born, nor did he want to meet her until she was nearly a month old. I went home from the hospital to an empty house, like no furniture other than her crib sort of empty. It was quiet in a scary sort of way. Here I was a new mom, alone and not really knowing how I could do this all on my own.
Life has a funny way of providing what you need, just when you need it and my life is no exception to that rule. When Jayde was two weeks old, I returned to one of my two jobs full time. Three days after I had returned to work, Jayde was hospitalized with a high fever and chicken pox! The doctors told me they were baffled that she had contracted chicken pox at such a young age. They were also concerned that she had a fever over 103. The fever turned into pneumonia and Jayde was placed in isolation. The medical staff wanted to know yet again if either of the families had anyone, past or present, with Cystic Fibrosis. After filling out numerous forms indicating this wasn’t the case, they did a sweat test just to ensure she didn’t have CF. My pregnancy was considered somewhat high risk because during a routine ultrasound they saw a build up of mucous in her lungs, her pancreas didn’t look quite right, and the long leg bone seemed to be an issue. I was told that she would be born with CF, and most likely have issues moving her legs. They really thought she would be born paralyzed. Oh, and one more thing; after seven different ultrasounds they were certain it was a BOY!
I didn’t listen to what doctors were saying and continued purchasing all things girl because I just knew. I had a feeling deep down inside that it would be a girl. I also wasn’t so sure that there was anything wrong with her legs because of how hard she would continually kick me and how I could see a knee or foot pushing so hard from the inside that you could definitely tell what it was from the outside. The CF part though, really worried me. After the sweat test they classified her issue as a “breathing condition.”
When other children would catch a cold, Jayde would ultimately get pneumonia. This happened multiple times each year up until she was in middle school. After middle school came around, it was down to maybe once a year, and now, never. Jayde hasn’t had pneumonia in so long, that I can’t even tell you how old she was.
Back to Jayde’s dad. He kept his distance until she was nearly a month old, then wanted to move in with me because he was certain this was what he wanted. Many of you have met him, known him, hated him or were scared of him. There was something about him that made me believe everything would be just fine though. He moved in with Jayde and I in October of 1997. This was after I had returned to working both of my jobs so I wanted to believe that I could rely on him for watching his own daughter here and there so she wasn’t with my mom at her business so often. It ended up being that I got her ready for a long day with Grandma every morning. I would actually go to my mom’s house and put Jayde in bed with Grandma and Grandpa because I was leaving for work right around 4:30 am. Jayde learned to love these mornings in bed with Grandma and Grandpa so much, that on the mornings I didn’t work, she would be awake and ready to go snuggle in their bed.
Michael took us to New Jersey to meet his family for the first time in November of 1997. This was the first time I was really able to see who he really was. Let me tell you one thing, looking back on all of this, I should have been able to see how much of a disappointment he was going to end up being. We got off the plane and went to his mothers house. After he introduced me to his family, he left with his sister. There I was in a house with his mother and a dog that wanted to continually bite me and was all too happy growling and barking at Jayde. For those of you wondering, no, it wasn’t a pit bull. It was a shepherd cross (maybe shepherd lab?). About a half hour later, his mother left to go play bingo so it left me alone in a strange city, house I’ve never been in before and with a dog that wanted to use me as his next meal.
This happened nearly every day we were there. Michael had no regard for whether or not Jayde or I were fine being there. Nor did he have any regard for the “family” he wanted while he was out meeting up with his old drug buddies. He was messed up the entire week we were there and didn’t really care who knew about it or what they thought. This was the time that I knew he was doing any type of drug and what they turned him into. I grew up in rural North Dakota in a town that had less than 40 people. I didn’t know what any drug looked like, smelled like or what the effects really were. You’d think that I would have been more aware since my parents owned the bar in town, but at the same time, I was very sheltered and that was fine with me.
When we returned home from that trip, the abuse began. I was asking far too many questions on what I saw from Michael, or what I saw him doing. He reminded me over and over again that I was not allowed to have an opinion. He would let me know what my opinion was supposed to be and I was just supposed to accept it. He told me that he had more life experience in his little finger than I did in my entire body so it was my job to listen and not ask questions. Coming from someone that was always quite independent, this was a tough pill to swallow.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, this was the pattern. I took care of Jayde every minute I was at home and he did his own thing. He worked seasonally in construction as a pipe fitter so there ended up being more months that he didn’t work than what he did work. Again I was naive to believe that when he wasn’t working that he would take care of Jayde. He would spend his days laying on the couch drugged while my mom watched Jayde, or he would take Jayde to my mom shortly after he woke so that he could go fishing, ice fishing or to meet up with one of his “friends” to have a good time.
As the time went on, I could tell that I was losing myself in this situation. It was common for me to be yelled at and put down in front of Jayde, my family or any of my friends that dared to come around. It was common for me to hope that Jayde would stay awake just long enough for Michael to fall asleep so that I could find an excuse as to why I never came to bed. It was also quite common for me to close Jayde and I in the bedroom so that we didn’t need to listen to the yelling and being constantly put down.
I won’t go into graphic details about the bruises left on my skin because I’m sure people would be offended or that it would be a trigger for abuse victims like myself. I will say that my house was nice before Michael moved in, but after, there were holes in the walls of every room and nearly every door was broken. This also was true for many windows as well as just about everything of value. I never called the police out of fear, but the neighbors living closest did. It’s sort of hard to explain the size of the yard to provide prospective. On the block that we lived, there were three houses and a small building that was my parent’s business. Everything was spread out pretty evenly, so for them to be able to hear what was going on, to see things being thrown at the windows and my screams, was pretty hard to believe.
I’m not going to pretend that I was a total innocent bystander in all of this. I was so lonely and so broken that I had been talking to a good friend of mine who just happened to be a man. Michael didn’t want me talking to anyone unless he approved, and this he definitely didn’t approve of. There was a day that my mom asked me to come see her so that she could show me the obituary of someone’s dad. I was really close to this person and their family so I was utterly heartbroken that their dad had passed away from a massive heart attack. I called the family to give my condolences and let them know I was only a phone call away. Taking the newspaper clipping of the obituary home was a huge mistake. Michael saw that I had it and demanded that I give him the family’s phone number to which I refused. More things were thrown, more things were broken and it was the first time that I seriously thought I was going to be taken out of the house by the coroner.
Again, I won’t go into great details but Jayde was taken to her God parent’s house to be protected, and I went to the hospital. I’m not happy about what the authorities said to me since it was my house and he moved in with me. They told me that it would be best for me to leave since I had many friends and they were allowing him to remain in my house. He remained there with my parents down the block. I didn’t know if everything would be OK, or if I needed to continue worrying. A restraining order was in the works to protect Jayde and I.
The funny thing about being abused is that you never feel like the victim. You end up feeling that you provoked it somehow and that you deserve everything that ended up happening. I’ve heard this from so many others that are in an abusive situation as well. It seems that once the abuser contacts the person they hurt, that there are so many ways they have at manipulating you to believe that somehow it was your fault. This happened to me time after time and I never realized it. Michael convinced me to drop the restraining order because he would never do it again and that I needed to try and not do something that would continue to make him so mad.
For months I walked on eggshells in my own house. I didn’t want to say anything wrong, do anything wrong or upset him in any way. I think back and wonder if I had changed just one little thing, how much of a profound effect it would have had on my life.I will never know the answer to that question just as I will never know why no one was able to convince me that I wasn’t causing the abuse. That it wasn’t all my fault he was doing what he did.
In the end, Michael ended up taking Jayde one day while I was at work and I really wasn’t certain where they were going. I didn’t know if or when they would return and I didn’t know if she was safe. I called the family I knew he had and was provided the same response over and over again, that he wasn’t there. Days, weeks, months passed before I saw her again. You know how you hear about NY or NJ and people having connections to get them anything they want or need. Yep, that’s what happened. NJ took jurisdiction of Jayde because of some “dirty” authority indicating Jayde had always lived in NJ and I was the one that left NJ without her.
I showed up in NJ unannounced with a few family members to bring her home. I knocked on the door and the person that opened it clearly wasn’t expecting me. They let me know that Jayde wasn’t there and neither was Michael and to return later. I didn’t leave the driveway! Michael showed up with some of his friends and was equally as shocked that I was there. What he didn’t know is that I had an attorney in ND advising me that we had equal custody of her since we lived together in ND and once I had her in my possession, not to let go! When I was finally able to see Jayde, she had been sleeping and wasn’t quite sure who I was. She asked me in that perfect two year old’s voice “Are you going to be my new MOMMY?” I’ve never experienced pain like that before or even now. It’s that gut retching pain that you will never forget.
In the end, Michael was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (his car) and Jayde and I were able to return to ND for six weeks. The courts explained that she needed to return to NJ while the states fought for jurisdiction and so that Michael could have visitation. I ended up getting a job in NJ over the phone explaining my situation to the business owner. I was able to rent a room in a house with a single mother that I had never met before but was highly recommended by the person that gave me the job. I packed my car with everything I thought I would need and nothing really I “wanted” and embarked on what my future would be with less than $500 in my pocket.
There is so much more to this story though. This just happens to be the maximum negativity I can deal with for the day. I don’t want to get to the point where I’m spewing every thought I have on Michael, his family or the entire situation. I want to remain calm about what was and how far I’ve come in such a short time. Everything happens for a reason and dealing with Michael was no exception. Some pretty amazing things ended up happening because of all the bad things.