My boyfriend banned me from breastfeeding and tried to take control of me.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was 17 years old and very naive. I did not have a clue about what I had let myself in for and looking back now, I can see that I was severely unprepared for the events that would follow.
I lived with my mother and her boyfriend along with my 3 siblings but as soon as they found out I was expecting, I was told that I would eventually have to move out. That suited me fine as although my boyfriend Sam and I used to argue sometimes, in general I was happy at the thought of setting up home with him.
No other girl had a boyfriend as cool as Sam
Sam was 4 years older than me and had a car. I always felt like the luckiest girl in the world when I was around him and was totally in love. No other girl in my class had a boyfriend with a car who was as cool as Sam.
I was still at school and all was well until I hit the 6 month of pregnancy. At this stage I was still living at home but would spend most evenings at Sams house as his mum was really friendly and welcoming. One evening whilst I was there, he caught me as I was walking out of his bedroom to go downstairs and told me he thought my arms were getting too big. I was taken aback as he had never really made any personal comments about me before and had always been so caring and attentive. He always wanted to be with me and never let me do anything alone so I had always assumed he was being protective. After he made that comment I told him that wasn’t very nice and he laughed it off.
Things became progressively worse
After that point things got worse. He became more and more emotionally abusive for no apparent reason, telling me that I was going to be a terrible mother and that my spotty face was a turn off (I had terrible acne whilst pregnant). Once he even told me I was too dumb to be a mother and that when the baby was born he was going to get rid of me and force me to hand the baby over to him. He said that no one would listen to me because I was young and dumb and that the baby would be given to him because he had a job and a car. One evening when I was at his he took my clothes from me and made me sit in his bedroom totally naked. It was December and freezing as the heaters were not working properly but that did not bother Sam. He just laughed and ridiculed my pregnant body as I shivered.
So what was my response to this abuse? Nothing.
I did absolutely nothing. Didn’t tell anyone because I was too embarrassed and I didn’t stick up for myself for fear that he would become physically abusive. At one stage I didn’t go home for 4 nights because Sam decided to lock me in his bedroom whilst he went out with friends. He told his mother that I was unwell and asleep so she didn’t bother to check on me. As stupid as it sounds now, I didn’t even shout down the stairs to gain her attention. I just sat there and waited for Sam to return which he eventually did the following day. By the time my due date had approached, Sam had found us a flat to move into but I really didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay with my mum who had started to get concerned about me as my whole demeanour had changed. I rarely smiled, wasn’t eating properly and my confidence had been ripped to shreds.
The controlling became out of control
Sam decided to make a list of rules that would apply during and after the birth. In the birth plan that he wrote, it stated that Sam would be my only birth partner even though I had wanted my mum there too. It also stated that as soon as the baby was born, Sam was to cut the cord and hold the baby.The baby wasn’t to be put on my chest or have skin to skin as he told me I was not going to breastfeed. Sam was to give the baby his first bottle and only after this point was I allowed to hold the baby. I said that I wanted to breastfeed the baby as I thought it was better for him but Sam said he didn’t care and that his rights as a father were more important. He didn’t want the baby to bond more with me. The baby was to be fed by Sam during the day and me at night and I was to change all the nappies.
Sam had decided that I would go and find a job when the baby was 4 weeks old and Sam would stay at home and raise the baby. I was absolutely confused and bemused at this point, wondering what had happened to my boyfriend whom I loved so dearly to become such a monstrous, controlling person. I confided in a close friend and decided I had to do something before the situation got worse. When I went into labour, the midwives must have read the birth plan and became immediately concerned because one of them actually asked me straight after delivery if she could put the baby on my chest. Before I got a chance to answer, Sam did and said “Did you not read the birthplan?” The baby was given to him and given a bottle as he had requested. I had lost my voice.
Later on the ward as I was recovering, a midwife came to chat with me when Sam had gone home. She said that she sensed there was an issue and asked if there was any domestic violence in the home and it was at this point that I found the strength to tell her everything. I knew that although I thought I loved Sam, he clearly didn’t love me and if I was going to have any say in how my son was raised, I would need to get out now. My friend and my mum came to see me, listening to me intently when I swallowed my embarrassment to explain all.
“Why didn’t you tell me?!” was my mums first response.
We spent the next few hours talking about how I was going to end the relationship with Sam and I was also referred to social services for support. I became a coward and couldn’t do it so I got my mum to call him for me. He didn’t respond well and threatened to come to the hospital to cause damage but he never came. I felt I just wanted him to leave me alone with the baby so that I could bond with him. When the baby was 18 hours old, I was almost ready to leave the hospital and asked the midwife if it was too late to try and breastfeed as he had only been fed formula since the birth. “of course not!” was her response and luckily he latched on straight away.
That was the beginning of a beautiful journey and I haven’t looked back since. My son is now 11 years old and doesn’t see his father. He was given supervised contact once every 3 weeks which worked fine for the first 4 sessions then Sam stopped coming so that was that. I have heard that he has 3 other children with a couple of different women and I feel lucky that I was able to escape. Even though many women experience awful domestic violence and many are killed through, I am glad I listened to my gut instinct and the midwives. I’m glad I had the support of social services who deemed him too much of a risk to be left alone with the baby. They thought Sam may have had an undiagnosed personality disorder.
I’ve since learnt that 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse and much of it can begin during pregnancy. In most cases it does not get better. The best thing you can do is leave.
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