Four years ago, I was on the cusp of separating from my husband of almost 15 years. I was ramping up my doula practice again after taking time off for having my son, teaching once weekly to students, facilitating red tent circles, and speaking at conferences. My birth professional life was thriving, but I was miserable. My ex-husband can easily say that I wasn’t around a lot during that time. He was right. I would be home with the kids during the week, but once he was home in the evenings and weekends, I dove into my work as much as possible. I didn’t realize how miserable I really was. I was lashing out at everyone I loved because everything felt so out of control. I spent a lot of time blaming others, especially myself. I found joy in my children and my work but the glue of my life, my marriage, was pure misery.
One evening, my husband and I got in one of our frequent fights. I can’t tell you everything that was said because I don’t really remember. I decided to walk away at some point and I do remember him saying, “you’re always the victim”. I was walking up the stairs and I actually mumbled, “Yep, I will always be a victim if I stay with you.” That was it. It wasn’t an accusation towards him. It was in that moment that I realized I couldn’t break my habitual patterns that were so embedded in our dysfunction. I realized I had to take control of my happiness, and no matter how much I loved him, I couldn’t do that in the context of that relationship anymore. I didn’t have all the answers as to why our relationship had gotten there, but I knew it was there and I had done everything I was supposed to do to try to fix it. Multiple marriage counselors, individual counseling, self-care, date nights, etc.
It was hard admitting that I failed at something. I didn’t want my marriage to be a failure. I was terrified of parenting alone. While I was a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t see the intense value in everything I did, so I had no self-esteem left. I was just so tired, I didn’t know how I would have the energy. I also knew deep down that doula work wasn’t going to cut it as a primary income. It had always supplemented our family as a way for me to stay home and bring in a little more for paying off debts, help do some good in the world, and give me something meaningful outside of motherhood (which cannot be the only thing a woman does, she’ll get lost in it). It took me a few months to admit that to myself, but I finally got there. Walking away from my marriage was also the time I had to walk away from my calling and that was almost harder. It was a failure on top of failure.
I had to start over at everything. I had no money, no place to live, “friends” dropping like flies, and learning to parent children of divorce when I had no experience doing so. It was not easy and there were times I just didn’t think I could do it. But I started getting glimpses of happiness. The clouds were lifting. As time went on, they lifted completely (with the help of some serious self-reflection, cutting booze out of my life, and beginning antidepressants). I got a great job, my circle of friends became much smaller and less superficial, my kids adjusted (though we still have ups and downs), I’ve learned to have less guilt about self-care and fell in love again (I vowed to never get in another relationship when my husband left). I’ve come a long way, but it’s better. In the beginning, though, I was scared as fuck. I used the labyrinth as a metaphor for my divorce, just like in birth. In a labyrinth, you cannot get lost, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will find your way.