Rosemary became pregnant with her first child at the age of 18 after just a few months of dating the child’s father. She knew that eventually she wanted a family, but hadn’t planned for it to happen this way. She made the decision to stay because he had a good job and a home. To Rosemary, that was safety and security for their child.
Rosemary pauses thoughtfully, “I was 18. I thought I knew everything. I thought I was in love. I certainly didn’t know, or believe, that love was supposed to hurt.”
Eight months after her son’s birth with a second child on the way, Rosemary felt pressure to marry her then partner. When she became pregnant with her third child, Rosemary learned of his affair. Shaken, she left and went to a local woman’s shelter where she felt safe to finally opened up and share her experiences for the first time – being pushed down stairs while pregnant, hot coffee thrown in her face and constant and consistent control over her life and her decisions, which were no longer hers.
Rosemary had a restraining order put in place and moved her young family into a new home, welcoming her third son into their lives with her mom by her side.
Six months later she was struggling with the challenges of being a single mother to three young children, bills were piling up and depression was settling in. “He, of course, promised me the world and slowly came back into my life.”
Rosemary decided to work with a counsellor for support and life seemed to settle into a comfortable routine. “The controlling behavior came back so slowly, so subtle that I didn’t even see it coming, didn’t even see it occurring.” Others did and because of that Rosemary began to distance herself from once-close friends and family. And stayed for 7 more years.
Rosemary recalls, “I was not allowed to have a job, not allowed to go to school.” She was unable to work toward her life-long dream of becoming a hairdresser. According to her partner, hairdressers were sluts and that was not going to be what she did for a job. She was constantly accused of cheating and called the worst of the 4-letter words on a regular basis. Those became the only names she knew.
“There was one night I was laying in the tub wondering how much longer I could take this – how much longer could I continue going nowhere in life and contemplated suicide. I thought if I took a few too many sleeping pills it would look like an accident. Then I prayed for a sign. A sign to help me be strong.”
Later that same week Rosemary learned of another affair. He was cheating again. At the time of the discovery, he was away for a period of time and she knew this might be her one and only opportunity. She packed in three hours, taking only what her and the children needed and fled into the night. Her parents welcomed her into their home for whatever time was needed.
“I drove over to Women’s Rural Resource Centre (“WRRC”) and sat outside in my car for a long time wondering how I got here again. I am a smart girl, I graduated with honours, I had great friends that I missed, and I used to laugh. Where did all that go? I looked at the face in the rear view mirror, smeared with mascara and knew I couldn’t go in looking like this. I started the car and drove around the block but something steered me back to WRRC. I knew it was time. I went in and asked for help.”
Rosemary acknowledges, “Without WRRC I am not sure I would be sharing this story today. From day one I was able to access help when I needed it. Someone is always available. That first night I sat with a counsellor who listened while I shared my story and she let me cry. She said “stop saying you used to be, because you still are”. I will never forget that. She told me I gave my power away, and I can also take it back. Those words drastically changed my view.”
WRRC also supported Rosemary by connecting her with Community Employment Choices and helped her enroll in their annual Holiday Hamper program. “We didn’t have much that Christmas and I can’t believe how much our sponsors gave. I will never forget them or this experience.”
Rosemary shares her thoughts on what is important for women to know and what will help:
Rosemary’s journey hasn’t been without challenges. She shares, “I wasn’t used to having the children visiting their father, it hit hard and I was lonely. On the weekends they were away I turned to alcohol and parties to ease the loneliness, but soon understood I was only masking emotions and it really wasn’t fun.” She decided to get busy instead and discovered an interest, and talent, in woodworking, creating wooden signs, a bench and various projects. Currently, she’s working on a coffee table. “The success and achievement is so gratifying.”
Rosemary also went through a period of financial struggles and during tough days thought that going back might be easier, it might solve everything. But she knew in her heart it wasn’t worth it. She could do this. For her, the hardest part of this new journey was starting out with nothing. No furniture. No bed. Just an air mattress. It took time to get the everyday things she needed, but she did it. She achieved it.
Rosemary now feels that she has a solid future to look forward to. She is in school full time and on her way to achieving her life dream of becoming a hairdresser. Her children are safe in subsidized day care. She feels strong as a person and could never fathom going back again. “It’s been 15 months and I can now look in the mirror and be proud. My children are happy and our home is now peaceful. As a single mother I now have the gift of being able to raise three beautiful boys and teach them how to treat women. How to treat people.”
Rosemary has also started running again. So far, her best is 7k. “I run out the stress. When I’m done, I’m exhausted and ready to carry on.”
In closing she shares, “Don’t dwell on the past, it only causes depression. Don’t worry about the future, it brings on anxiety. Only think about today – ask yourself, how am I going to make today a better day?”back