This is Part 3 of 4 on my blog about my own personal experience with domestic violence. If you haven't already, please read 'I Was Just A Kid - Part1' and 'Break Me, Rebuild Me - Part 2'.
Have you ever heard a bone crack? I hadn't until this very moment.
My back was against the wall, like so many times before. I wrapped my arms as tightly as I could around my stomach to protect my unborn baby from what was about to happen. I didn't know how severe this attack would be. I didn't care. I knew I could take the pain, but my baby had no chance of surviving unless I did everything I could to protect it. I tried to comfort myself with thoughts that everything would be okay, I just had to get us both through this. I don't know if I actually believed myself or not, but it was all I had to hold onto.
His first blow hit me in the ribs on the left side. I had never felt pain so severe. As I gasped for breath, his fist had already recoiled and hit me again, this time slightly lower down from the first blow.
I couldn't hear a single sound but that of my bones breaking. A high pitch noise began to ring in my ears. It was as though time was slowing down. I stared blankly in front of me, with a glazed over expression. My brain couldn't comprehend what was going on. My arms unwillingly dropped from my stomach, not because I couldn't hold them there, but because my knees began to buckle so my body was preparing to catch the fall. I didn't make it to the ground before I saw both fists clenched in front of me, he came in close, just millimetres away. Stood over me, asserting his dominance once again. I still struggled to catch my breath. The ringing in my ears intensified and the corners of my eyes started to go black.
For a moment he paused, as if to compose himself, before using both fists to repeatedly punch me in both sides of my ribs. One blow after another, knocking me from left to right like a punch bag. After around the fifth punch, I fell to the ground. The agonising pain intensified as I fell to the floor. I barely caught myself. Unknowingly, the fall had caused my three broken ribs to push into my left lung. I used what little strength I had to try and drag myself away from him but I didn't get far.
'M, please stop.'
I rolled onto my side, my left arm cradling my baby, and my right extended out in front of me as I pleaded with him to stop. He briefly paused again. I can only imagine it's because he saw me coughing up blood after I deeply inhaled for breath. I looked up into his eyes, desperation had me believe that the last remaining part of his humanity would stop him. It didn't.
With all of his strength, he repeatedly kicked me in the stomach. I never thought it would end. Tears began to fall as I already knew the damage he had inflicted. Only after he had stopped could I gasp for breath again. He didn't say anything to me, he didn't need to. His actions were more than enough. I couldn't look up at him, I didn't have the strength to lift my head from the floor. But out of my peripheral vision I watched as he stepped over my body and walked out of the room. My breathing was laboured, blood was spluttering out of my mouth with every desperate inhale and exhale. It was so hard to breathe. Tears and blood stained the carpet beneath me. My whole body was shaking. I still had my hands cradled around my stomach. Even though I knew the damage he had caused us, I couldn't let go.
I tried to protect you, I'm sorry I couldn't. I didn't know you for very long but words can't describe the love I had for you. You didn't do anything wrong, you just weren't meant for this world. You would have been born into chaos and destruction. A lot like me. With a father who despised you and beat your mother. A father who wasn't capable of love, just hatred. You deserved so much more. Looking back, a little part of me is glad you never had to experience the childhood I did. But please don't doubt for a second that I don't miss you. I think of you every day.
I don't know exactly how long I was lying on the floor. The darkness continued to consume my vision, the ringing in my ears continued. I started to lose consciousness.
Until I felt something.
An excruciating sharp stabbing pain resonated from my stomach like a lightning bolt. With a broken cry, I curled up into a tight ball. Both hands grasping onto my lower stomach and my eyes shut tight. As the pain subsided I opened my eyes to see blood on my hands. A wave of panic washed over me. I knew what was happening. My pain was like nothing I had ever felt but when I knew my baby was at risk, none of that mattered.
I felt an overwhelming determination, like nothing I had experienced before. I used both my hands to push myself up onto my knees. I winced with every slight movement. I took a moment to compose myself. As I did I looked at the bleed as it worsened. Blood stained my clothing and the floor where I lay. With a painful inhale of breath I grabbed onto the sofa that was in front of me and dragged myself to my feet. Through gritted bloody teeth I let out a cry.
'Come on, you can do this.'
As I steadied myself and regained balance, I put both hands back on my stomach. I stumbled towards the bedroom where I knew he would be. To my surprise the door was open. Why? Did he realise he had gone too far? I grabbed onto the bedroom doorframe with my bloody right hand as I looked up towards the bed where he lay. His back was against me.
'I need to go to hospital, I'm bleeding.'
He didn't stir.
I waited just a few seconds for him to reply but it felt so much longer. Time was crucial at this point.
'What will you tell them?'
I was shocked by his response. A man who attacked me with such confidence was now worried about the consequences of his actions. It was almost like seeing a little spark of humanity. I was taken back by it. I shook off the confused emotions I began to feel. My focus came back to what was important, my baby. I reassured him that I wouldn't tell them what he had done. I'd tell them I was attacked. In my mind, technically, I wasn't lying. I wasn't going to tell them the truth, I was too scared. Not just scared of what he would do, but I was scared of losing him. That's how powerful coercive control is. It took no effort to convince him to take me. He grabbed the car keys and walked me to the car. Every step hurt. At this time I wasn't aware of how serious my injuries were, which is probably a good thing. If had known I probably wouldn't have been able to do what I did. He opened the car door for me and as gently as I could I slumped into the seat. I watched in the rear view mirror as he ran round the car to get into the driver's side. Why was he showing such urgency?
As he put the keys in the ignition, we both briefly glanced at each other and our eyes met. He looked more scared than I did. It just added to my confusion. It was as though he was remorseful for his actions and was worried about the damaged he had caused. At this point, from one look, I had already forgiven him. A worried glance from him was all it took.
Three broken ribs which had partially punctured my lung. Severe swelling and bruising down both of my sides. A laceration and grazes to my face. Grazes to my hands. Severe bruising, swelling and bleeding from my abdomen. A miscarriage.
I lost my baby.
My reason to fight was gone. My reason to find and create a better life was taken from me. I felt empty inside. Even after being told I was having a miscarriage I held onto my stomach. In a desperate attempt to comfort a life that was no longer there. Even as doctors tried to stabilise my condition I refused to let go. I had to hold onto you for just a little longer. No amount of physical pain I felt could come close to how painful it was losing. Nothing could compare. No words comforting enough to ease the heartache and grief I felt.
During my time in hospital, being treated by the doctors, 'M' didn't say a word. He would occasionally look up at me as I cried out in pain. I told doctors I had been attacked but I didn't go into further detail. They were so focused on treating me that the cause of my injuries wasn't their greatest concern. I remember the doctors occasionally glancing over at 'M' with concern. They knew what had really happened. They would look at me, with the same worried expression but I would always comfort them with a reassuring smile.
It would take a minimum of eight weeks before I would begin to fully heal from my injuries. The slightest movement caused severe pain. Sitting up to try and get out of bed took such effort. The pain would bring tears to my eyes. In a way I was grateful for the physical pain I was feeling. It would temporarily distract me from the mental torture which ensued. The grief of losing my baby consumed me. I could barely look after myself. I had no desire to eat or drink, no enthusiasm to shower or even get out of bed. What was the point? I began to slip deeper into depression. It took a hold of me. I didn't put up a fight. I let it take over. For weeks I would cradle my stomach and cry, knowing that a life that once flourished was now gone. I repeatedly thought back to when I first found out I was pregnant and how disgusted I was. But that isn't surprising, considering my pregnancy was a result of rape.
After four weeks and very much against doctors orders, I returned to work. I was only on light duties. My employer had only known that I had a miscarriage and nothing else. I didn't tell anyone what had happened to me. I couldn't. I was too scared. Scared at what 'M' would do to me when he found out. Scared of being alone, without him. Scared of returning back to my father who beat me as a child. Fear consumed my rational thinking, it was easier and safer to carry on in the relationship with false hopes that one day he would change. You can't just leave a domestically violent relationship. It isn't possible to just pack your bags and walk away from such a volatile and dangerous person. You're conditioned to believe you're not good enough to be happy, to be with anyone else. That you're so badly damaged, nobody else could possibly love you.
A few days after returning to work, a friend who I worked with at the time had to rush me to hospital. I was passing severe amounts of blood in my urine. She knew something wasn't right, that this wasn't just a miscarriage. On the way to the hospital I came clean, I told her everything.
'When we get to hospital, either you tell them the truth or I do.'
I didn't show it but I began to panic. I was being put in a situation I had no control over and I had no way to back out of it. This was happening whether I wanted it to or not. She walked me up to the reception area and briefly explained the situation. I looked down at the floor in shame. I didn't want to see the pity in their eyes. I only spoke to give my name and date of birth. We didn't even get chance to sit down, a doctor was called straight away and I was taken to a room to be treated. When the doctor asked me what had happened, I fought hard to hold back the tears as I explained the real reason for my injuries. I didn't give him any eye contact, I couldn't, I was too ashamed. After checking me over and finding the cause of my bleeding he was happy for me to leave. Before I left he handed me a card. It placed it in my hand.
I inspected it. It was a business card for a hair salon. I looked up to him with a confused look as to question what it was. With a pitiful look in his eyes he explained how it was a domestic violence helpline. If I ever needed to, I could call the number to get help. It was disguised as a hair salon business card in case it was ever found.
'That, is a brilliant idea.'
It was the first time I had smiled since the attack. I did keep the card, I still have it to this day. I never did use it but it was a little comfort to know it was there just in case. I didn't have to worry if he found it. The doctor explained that even if he called the number, they would act like a salon until you answered or asked certain questions. I smiled, but not for myself. I knew I was never going to use the card. I smiled at the thought that other women and men in my situation would have help available if they needed it. I smiled thinking how many lives this simple card had saved and how many more lives it would save in the future. Such a simple idea, but beautifully brilliant.
Even after admitting to others what had happened to me, I still wouldn't admit I was in a domestically violent relationship. I honestly didn't believe it, I couldn't see the similarities. A few weeks later, still recovering from my serious injuries, my friend sat me down to show me something. She said she had a picture to show me. I didn't know what it was.
We laughed as I joked about what kind of picture it was she was about to show me. My laughing came to an abrupt stop as she passed the phone to me. It was a picture of me. One she took in hospital. I was sat in front of a huge poster, at the time I wasn't even aware of it. As I realised the poster was explaining the signs of a domestically violent relationship I began to cry.
It was me.