On new motherhood and leaving a toxic relationship

A student describes learning what love truly is through difficult relationship with the father of her child.


I met him when I was 18, the year I graduated high school. I was no longer living with my parents at the time after I’d left over a disagreement, and I didn’t want to be alone. 

I really just wanted someone to love me, and so I gave him a chance. 

At the start, he was doing everything right — he gave me money for transportation when I needed it, made sure I ate and fought for me to stay at his father’s house when I had nowhere to go. 

I spent the year living with different people in his family, just moving from house to house. Every attempt I made at bettering myself during that time fell through the cracks. 

But over time, as I started to get more comfortable in the relationship, his attention toward me started to fade, and so did his way of providing for me. 

One day, I noticed he was texting other girls. My heart panicked, and a sense of fear came over me.  

It didn’t hit me then, but I truly felt like I wasn’t loved. What used to be consistent actions of him treating me right, loving me and providing for me, turned into moments of love throughout the rest of the relationship. 

A sense of fear turned to uncertainty of how I felt about him, but I continued to convince myself that I was happy with him. It was too hard to admit otherwise. 

The more he changed, the more I did, too, and my depression worsened. 

He made me feel worthless. I’d go on long walks and cry listening to music — those tears were the only way I could confess I was truly broken inside. 

Nevertheless, I found out that I was pregnant with his son during the third year of our relationship. I was preparing to be a new mother, but I was still suspicious of his behavior.

The day I came home from the hospital with my first child was supposed to be the happiest moment of my life. Instead, that day I found out he was cheating on me when I saw a contact on his phone titled “half girlfriend” with what certainly wasn’t my number.

The day that was supposed to only bring me joy made me burst into tears.

It was like everything I was trying to build — for my son, as well as for myself — came crashing down. I felt humiliated and that I let myself down, wondering how I was so blinded by this relationship that I genuinely thought this was real love.

I felt defeated as a mother very early because I brought my son into a toxic situation. I wanted to give my son a family with two parents raising him together, but I chose the wrong person for that vision.

But then, something changed in me, something that felt both natural and new. Looking into my newborn son’s eyes shined a light in me that I hadn’t seen in three years. 

My child made me feel a new type of love, one stronger than any emotion I’d felt before.

A newfound strength came about, and at the moment, the independent crown I used to wear — the old optimistic, carefree me — came back. 

I spent some time staying at his mother’s house while I found a new apartment for myself. After moving into my first apartment, I left my son’s dad, and in doing so, found a new, kinder love for myself and for my child.

My son brought me out of the darkness of a toxic love and transformed me into a determined and loving mother.

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