Facing and Healing from Abuse During Pregnancy by Barbara Verneus

On October 28th I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. It was not a joyous discovery because it was followed by rejection from the baby's father, along with verbal and emotional abuse. I wrestled with major depression during my pregnancy while battling with whether I should keep my daughter or not because I feared raising my daughter by myself. But I was grateful to be surrounded by people that cared. On June 17th, 2014 I had my daughter and the road has not been easy. Her father is still not present in her life. I had to let go of the idea of him being present in her life as she approaches her second birthday this year. I grieved a lot through this especially because he is fully involved in the life of his other kids. But I had to hold myself responsible for my part as well. And this got me thinking about other sisters that maybe dealing with the same thing.

Within the Black community we have an intergenerational curse of broken families. And we need to grapple with how we can begin to mend this brokenness. We often enter relationships with the hope of resolving issues that were created during childhood, thinking that another person can help to resolve them. But if we are not willing to do the self work to do the healing and take responsibility on our own part, then we will simply repeat old patterns.

I am not sharing my experience with my daughter's father for you to hate him. Instead, I hope that you can see that his actions came from an immature child mind-state and from never dealing with his own issues emotionally, mentally and spiritually. He came from a broken home as well, meeting his father for the first time at the age of twenty-two. He didn’t have a healthy upbringing. I’m not making excuses for him. But I do believe that we must take a special inventory of the state we are in individually when we enter relationships. Our family's composition may not be considered "normal" but we are still able to create a safe space for the adults and children in it. This is possible as long we are willing to take responsibility for our actions and to put in the work towards our own healing and toward creating healthy families. After all, what is a "normal" family nowadays? I also learned that we cannot think we can go into relationships thinking we can save someone; we must see circumstances and people for what and who they are and not what we want them to be. Two sick people cannot know how to love one another. As nurturers, women have a natural tendency to nurture the best out of a person, but what if that person is not ready for that vision you see for them? Will you continue to live off a delusion or accept the situation for what it truly is and being honest with yourself? Will you continue to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually abused?

You see, I knew my daughter's father since the age of 18. I did not realize he was emotionally abusive until I discovered that I was pregnant. Abuse of any form is never okay. Growing up I watched my mother being physically abused for 7 years by her boyfriend and vowed that would never happen to me. Little did I know that I was allowing myself to be abused emotionally for so many years. I ignored the signs because I wanted to believe that he would change in order for us to be together, but that never happened. So in the Fall of 2013 we decided to part ways, but two weeks later I found out that I was pregnant. There were endless days of arguments, verbal disrespect, blaming me everything, crying myself to sleep and even drinking during my pregnancy as a result of the abuse. I was deeply depressed and had irregular eating. I would go through the process of grieving everything I felt I was losing because of my mistake.

It was a very rough transition and without the support of my Christian family in Boston and Philadelphia, I would of never made it through. God's grace and mercy displayed through His people is what kept me, even when I questioned my own faith. God showed me that He still loved me even though I was being rejected by the one I wanted to love me. Most of all we must be careful who we allow to plant spiritual, mental, emotional, verbal, and/or physical seeds in our gardens because having to uproot those weeds is not easy. The Bible says “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life,” (Proverbs 4:23) and this rings so true to me after this experience. When the heart is damaged through rejection and abuse, it is very hard for it to come back from.

This is just the beginning for me and I am excited about others I may help by sharing my story. Part of my healing comes from helping others and sharing my experience lessens my fears and shame little by little. I truly believe that my experiences were blessings that have empowered me and forced me to grow. In all that I have gone through I express gratitude because I am able to see the mercy, grace and glory in it all from start to finish. It’s far from over! After the birth of my daughter I finally pursued a dream I had since 2000 which is to become a Counseling Midwife. On May 7th, 2016, the day before Mother's Day, I walked the stage with my daughter to receive my diploma and this the best gift a mother can ever have; to achieve a huge accomplishment with my daughter in my arms. Moving forward we will be relocating to Dallas, Texas so that I can become a Certified Professional Midwife as I work as a doula. Through everything I see God's redemption. He saved and is saving me. And will continue to save me through His love for me. I am excited about my daughter's and I future. You ready to take on the world Glorious-Zoelle?

Barbara Verneus is a doula, life coach, and mother of one who will be relocating to Dallas, TX this summer to pursue her dreams of becoming a Certified Professional Midwife while working as a doula at North Dallas Doula Associates www.northdallasdoulas.com. If you would like follow her journey and see how you can help her pursue her dreams you can do so on instagram at @tinyandbrave and gofundme.com/mercyinaction. Barbara has completed her Masters in Counseling with a concentration in marriage and family.

Note from BWBJ: 1 in 6 women in the U.S. are abused during pregnancy and black women are twice as likely to experience lethal violence as white women. If you or a loved one are experiencing emotional or physical abuse, please make a safety plan and reach out for help. The National Domestic Violence hotline can provide support and resources: (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or (800) 787-3224 TTY.

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Join the conversation! Read chapters from Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy and Childbirth for free and comment online at www.bwbj.org.

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