Cortland

My Cortland. A true gift from God. After having three devastating miscarriages, I was finally going to be a mommy. I had prepared my entire life for this role. I even chose a career based on the future family I would have. And when Cortland was born, I finally understood why God had made me wait. He was pruning my heart for the most beautiful love ever imaginable. 

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Those 9 months that I carried him, were probably the only time in my life when I felt most at ease about myself, in my own body. I also remember feeling selfish, but glad that I was the only one who knew what he felt like. So much so, that as much as I loved holding my baby in my arms, after he was born, I felt an overwhelming loss. I no longer had that bond with him that he and I shared. For months after, a sense of jealousy would come over me each time I saw a pregnant woman. I just didn’t want that feeling to ever end. 

Here’s the other thing, when you are in an abusive relationship, you hold so tightly onto the feelings you have because they become your only escape. Those inner thoughts that your abuser never hears become your secret weapon. So each time I was called a name, was threatened or attacked, I was able to retreat to the sensations of pregnancy. It was my escape from the wretched reality. This was where my pure joy could be found. I often felt I could talk and sing to Cortland in my mind and he would be able to hear me. Every turn, twist, kick, punch and hiccup I felt from Cortland was one that my husband wouldn’t ever be able to steal from me.

The day of Cortland’s birth was beautiful. I was surrounded by love. My mom, sister and nephew came to support us. Even my ex-mother-in-law was there. I felt loved. We all felt love. My husband was so kind, loving and supportive. He held my hand through every contraction. He didn’t leave my side. I was convinced Cortland would bring us closer. 

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But, boy, was I wrong. The following day was unbearable. He left the hospital the night I gave birth. He went home to sleep. I was left alone with the baby in a cold hospital room. He didn’t return until after 6:30 pm the next day. The doctors had already discharged us from the hospital. But I had no way of getting home. He said he was cleaning the house and getting it ready for us. But the house was in the same condition it had been in when we left. He said maybe a total of 5 words to me that night. 

It was just the three of us at home the next day. He didn’t want any of my family to come visit. I was sitting on our red couch, stumbling to nurse our son. I just wanted my mom there with me. I’ll never forget the disdain in his voice as he yelled to me to cover up. He implied that I was trying to get attention by sitting in my living room and feeding the baby. I put Cortland down, made him a bottle of formula, took him into my room and never tried nursing him again. I held my baby in my arms and apologized to him for bringing him into the chaos that was our house and the tears from my eyes fell onto his little blanket. 

For the next six months, there were some scattered good days, but most days were awful. I hated the thought of leaving my baby and returning to work. What got me through was knowing that for most of the day he would be in the arms of a loving caretaker and not being exposed to emotional toxicity.

I never got a chance to give Cortland the kind of life I hoped he would have as an infant. I tried leaving. But guilt, manipulation and deceit pulled me back. That’s one of the greatest regrets of my life. 

Cortland taught me about unconditional love. His smile, when I would walk in to pick him up from daycare, was a consistent reminder that despite the circumstances, he counted on me. He became my reason for continued endurance and strength. He reminded me that even though his heart was beating outside of my body, we would forever have the special bond we had during those 9 months.

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Almost 6 years later, Cortland continues to amaze me. He has intelligence surpassing his years. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He randomly tells me he loves at least 4 times a day. He corrects any mistake I make, but makes sure to do it with a smile, so my feelings don’t get hurt. He takes pride in his role as the big brother. He smiles with his eyes and radiates an aura of greatness. I’m honored that I was chosen to be the mother of this beautiful soul. Happy 6th Birthday, my love! I love you more than there are stars in the sky and sand on the beach. 

Father’s Day

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I have a bone to pick about Father’s Day. Let’s take a close look at its name: Father’s Day. Father: as in the male figure in a family. I bring this up because since I have been a single mother, I have had multiple messages wishing me a “Happy Father’s Day.” I get it. It looks like I take on dual roles in a family. It probably seems like I am the father in our family also. But the reality is that I’m not. I’m a mother. There’s no father in our household. Harsh truth, but reality. 

I’m doing what any good mother does. I do whatever I have to in order to make our family function. When I change a light bulb, take out the trash, put together a piece of furniture or throw a ball for my kids to catch, I do not suddenly turn into a dad. My children do not look at me in those moments and think, “Oh, that’s my dad.” I’m still their mom and that is all I will ever be for them. I never feel like a father. My title never changes. 

My kids realize they don’t have a father in their immediate family. There’s no need to pretend like there is. Missing a dad does not change the expectations I have of them. I want them to know that they will always be pushed to the highest potential possible through support, discipline, guidance and pride. Does having a dad in their life every day help make that easier? I would think so. But just like every other task of parenting is more difficult for me, this is also a challenge I will overcome. 

Fathers are the men in our life who see the possibilities in my children. The reality is that the man who biologically gave them their DNA is not their dad. The truth is they have lots of dads. Their dad is the coach on the baseball team who practices with him a little extra because he knows there’s a chance his mom doesn’t know how to throw a ball properly. Their dad is the friend who is willing to take them wall climbing so they can have some male-bonding time. Or the one who will teach them how to throw a punch to defend themselves in a fight. Their dad is the uncle who is willing to take the boys to the mens’ restroom so they learn how to use a urinal. Or the uncle willing to “play” chess for hours even though they keep forgetting the rules. Their dad is the grandfather who is willing to watch for hours as she sings and makes up dances in costumes. Their dad is the pastor who gets down on one knee and looks at them in the eye and reminds them they are special and God loves them.

As you can imagine, Father’s Day is a day of mixed emotions. But luckily there are some amazing “dads” in our lives, who have all so graciously taken my three blessings under their wings and have become a father-figure to them. So no, don’t wish me a Happy Father’s Day. I haven’t earned that honor. Instead, celebrate the men who step in to teach my kids the true essence of fatherhood: love beyond measure. And for that we are eternally grateful.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Lesson Learned

It was a cold, December night. We were getting ready to have our first Christmas in our new home. The divorce was final. The kids and I were finally free. A Christmas parade was going to be passing right in front of our house. I set up some lawn chairs in our driveway and bundled the kids up in warm blankets. We each had a cup of hot chocolate and Christmas carols were playing in the background. 

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Cortland was 4 years old. He looked up at me and said, “Mommy, why don’t I have a daddy?” I felt like someone punched me in the stomach unexpectedly. The reality was I had been preparing to answer this question since the day I left my husband. But not today and not so soon. I looked over at him and said, “Honey, I’ll explain it to you one day when you’re a little older. You just won’t understand.”  But Cortland didn’t accept my answer. With tears welling up in his beautiful, brown eyes, he begged with a quiver in his voice, “No, mommy. Please, please, please tell me why I don’t have a Daddy.” 

Cortland had, in all the years, since he could speak, never begged me for anything. I knew my answer was not good enough. I looked up to the sky and asked God for the words my little boy needed to hear from me. I kneeled down next to him and said, “When boys and girls grow up to be moms and dads, they have to make good choices. It’s a mom and dad’s responsibility to make sure all the people in their lives are doing that. Your daddy made bad choices. That’s why you don’t have a daddy. He made some bad choices so I had to make sure you, and your sister and brother were safe and happy. I love you forever and always and will always try my best to protect all of you.” 

That was all he needed to hear. “Ok, mommy! I love you, too!” 

Months later, a child much older than him asked Cortland where his daddy was. I stopped, fearing how he would answer. To my surprise, he confidently answered, “I don’t have a daddy, because he made bad choices.”  The tears didn’t stop flowing for a while. I was so proud of my boy. But mostly, I was relieved. One of the biggest fears I had about single motherhood was the reactions my kids would have when others asked them about their dad. 

But in those few words, Cortland had quelled a worry I had been carrying with me. His words not only reassured me that I had armed him with the tools to protect himself, but also, he made me believe I was enough for him. Without him even knowing it, he didn’t allow his circumstance to define him. He took ownership of the situation, accepted it and moved forward. 

He taught me a lesson, I now hold dearly. The trials and tribulations of single-motherhood will never be an excuse for me. My advice to all single mothers is simple: be a mother. Not a single-mother. Not a divorced mother. Not a widowed mother. Just be a mother. Don’t overdo for your children and don’t underdo either. You are enough for them. They will love you simply because you’re Mom. 

Baron

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School was out for summer. It was the 3rd summer in a row I would be having a baby. He was due on June 30. But I prayed he would arrive early so I wouldn’t have to take any time off work again. God answered my prayers. Baron was born on June 9, 2014. 

The plan was that if I went into labor my mom would drive to our house and stay with the other two babies so we could go to the hospital.

It was a Sunday evening. I started feeling small, sharp pains. We had just taken some pizza over to my step-children. We came back home and the pains grew more and more. I knew I’d be delivering the baby that night. But we had a problem, my mom was on a trip to Las Vegas. And her flight was delayed. I still hoped she’d make it to watch the kids. 

My husband was checked out. If he denied the fact that I was in labor, it wouldn’t happen. His attitude about this pregnancy was different than the other two. Initially, he tried to persuade me to get an abortion. This pregnancy was also the reason I gave him the ultimatum that if he wanted our family, he’d have to move closer to my job. I refused to commute from Downtown L.A. to Riverside anymore. He was resentful for that. How dare I make him move from his beloved Los Angeles?

He went to sleep. I walked around the couch of our living room probably about a thousand times. My mom’s plane landed at 11 pm. She went home. She was tired and my water hadn’t broken yet. I told her to rest. At around 2:30 am, it was clear that I was in labor. I called my mom. She was too tired to drive the long hour. I agreed. We would figure it out. 

I walked around the couch for another hour and a half breathing my way through the pain of contractions, alone and in tears. My husband continued to sleep. I finally wobbled up the stairs and told my husband we needed to go to the hospital. And we’d have to take the kids with us.  His drowsy response, “Your water hasn’t broken yet. We still have time.” He took his time getting ready, showering, gathering his computer and charger and headphones. He made himself a bowl of oatmeal. 

In the meanwhile, I was in labor with major contractions and had to change two babies and gather snacks, bottles, diapers, and what seemed like everything in the house. 

We loaded up the car with two, now awake babies. My hospital bag was their diaper bag. I threw in whatever I could remember. I actually forgot to pack clothes for the new baby. I got in the passenger seat. My husband came out and looked at me surprised. Why wasn’t I driving? On the way to the hospital he complained about having to drive. Why was I so selfish to have him drive with a suspended driver’s license? I secretly wished he would’ve just stayed home. If only I could’ve driven myself. 

On our way to the hospital, my sister called and said she would be there to pick the kids up. I was relieved, but a little worried about how my husband would react about having to watch the kids while I was in the delivery room.

Upon the doctor’s initial check, I was 8 cm dilated. Phew…it would be a little longer. I had time. My sister came and my husband followed her to the parking lot. An exchange of car seats had to occur. But they couldn’t figure it out, so we were left with no car seat for the new baby. And our bank account was so slim, I wondered if we would be able to get one. And the baby was coming quickly.

I was screaming at the top of my lungs in pain, begging for an epidural. But it was too late. Where was my husband? He needed to be with me. He arrived just in time. 

Our little Baron Preston Pratt was born at the break of dawn. The stress of the night didn’t matter. He was perfect in every way. He had a little round head. And squirmed and stretched. He fit perfectly in my arms as he laid on my chest. My heart grew a billion times over. He slept like an angel and I watched him take his little breaths.

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It was a great day and night at the hospital. My husband was kind and loving. He held me. He kissed me. He was a proud dad again. He did all the things dads typically do. He went to K-mart across the street and bought a car seat with some money my dad had gifted us when he came to visit the baby. We headed home.

I drove. I wasn’t about to ruin a perfect day.

The next two days continued to be amazing. The older two stayed with my mom for an extra night so we could rest. Baron, my husband and I enjoyed a few hours of peace and calm. 

But on day 3 of Baron’s life, things went back to the normal sense of agony. Vicious words, threats, arguments were all back. And I now had a 2-year old, an 11-month old (who was really like an 8-month old because she was early) and a newborn to take care of alone. You see, I was married, but really I felt like a single mom. I cried and cried for two days. I didn’t answer calls or leave the house. When my family and friends texted me, I pretended things were great. 

Thankfully though, Baron was an amazingly calm and relaxed infant. He would stay in his swing for hours. He laughed and giggled and hardly cried. It was as if he knew I couldn’t bare any more stress. 

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Baron was the last thing I needed before I left. On the third day of his life, I knew I wouldn’t stay married. It was just a matter of timing. Baron was 6 months and 10 days old when I finally left my marriage. He won’t ever remember his father, but that’s ok. He has plenty of amazing “dads” to guide him through life. 

He’s the cuddliest of my 3 kids. He has a favorite “bwown blanket.” If he sits next to me on the couch, he’ll turn and kiss my arm. He loves babies. He loves dogs, but is too scared to go near them. He doesn’t pronounce his “r’s” correctly yet. His big sister is his best friend, and he wants to be just like his big brother. He loves with all his heart and he’s completed mine. He’s my gift from God and the reason I had to stay in that awful marriage. Because if I had left when others told me I should, I would’ve never had him.

He’s the reason I have faith in God’s plan for my family. Amid my greatest struggle, He gave me one of my greatest blessings. 

Happy 4th Birthday, my Bear-Bubbas! Mommy loves you always and forever! 

Psalm 84

The Beginning of the Story

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I’m an immigrant. And a child of immigrants. My family, of Armenian descent, lived for years in Iran. My earliest childhood memory is my mother and grandmother running me and my sister down to our basement because the sirens were going off. I remember reaching just above the basement window watching as tanks rolled down our street. Shortly after, my parents decided they couldn’t raise their daughters in a Muslim country. So, off to America we went, by way of Italy. And so just 16 days shy of my third birthday, we landed in the United States. My parents worked hard, very hard, to ensure that we were raised Armenian. They sacrificed so much to enroll us into our local Armenian school, where we learned all the regular subjects, plus an extra hour or two of Armenian language and history. 

My extended family would eventually all settle in the United States, also. We were Armenian at home. We were to only speak Armenian at home. As a matter of fact, anytime my grandmother heard us kids speak English, she quickly reminded us, “you are Armenian.”

In our community, you spoke Armenian. You ate Armenian food. Your friends were Armenian. Your extracurricular activities were through Armenian organizations. Church was Armenian. No other race or ethnicity was allowed to infiltrate. And under no circumstance, were we to associate with others who were not Armenian. 

After I was in college at UC Irvine, my parents divorced. Then shortly thereafter, my beloved grandmother died suddenly. My world was in shock. Everything I had ever known to be stable was no longer. 

My sister, my one and only true confidant, left for Chicago to attend medical school. I was the fat kid left in the same place trying to make sense of my life. I had goals, ambitions, but anything I actually recognized in my life was gone. Each of my people made decisions for themselves contrary to the values they had instilled in me. My dad remarried. My sister met an American and married him.

Here I was still fat and attempting to make a life that was somewhat recognizable to myself. The reality was that I was living a double life. 

I had started dating a Black man, nine years older than me. We dated for five years. I thought it was a healthy relationship. I was too blind and naive to recognize that I was just the side dish. We never went out in public together. Our relationship was a secret. I didn’t meet his family for years. He cheated on me. I forgave him. I was broken and damaged. 

I thought losing weight would be the solution. I blamed no one but myself. All these horrible circumstances were because I was fat. So I needed to do something about it. I decided upon lap-band surgery. My family was supportive. I was in the last year of getting my Master’s degree in School Psychology. I would finally be skinny and have a Master’s degree and would be any man’s dream woman. 

So the October after my surgery, about six months later, I came across this man on a free dating website, who appeared to speak right into my soul. He was handsome, appeared successful and clearly was intelligent. We spoke on the phone and I instantly knew he  would be in my life forever. We planned our first date. 

I picked him up from his apartment in Riverside. An amazingly handsome man, who also smelled amazing? And he was interested in me? I was in awe. I was right. The surgery worked. I finally was able to meet a kind, handsome man who thought I was beautiful. We went to a park. We sat and talked for hours on a park bench. He held my hand. And it felt real and the energy between us was magnetic. 

We had to leave. The Angels, his favorite baseball team, were in the playoffs and he wanted to watch the game. As he left the car, I got out to hug him. He kissed my lips tenderly. And in those five seconds, my heart became his. He promised he would text me later. And to my surprise, he did. 

Little did I know, this was all part of his grand scheme. The butterflies in my stomach would soon turn into cockroaches. 

Stay tuned for more…