Today is the 19th of April 2017 and it is the last day of my twenties.
I am even with the bad days, so clear, so awake and so fucking alive as I approach the ‘big’ 3-0. I wanted to float in a written piece through my third decade – so I might never forget what it taught me, so I might only move triumphantly onwards through mistakes and tribulation and never, aside from nostalgia, look back.
It’s 2007 and I am twenty and life is strange; I meet him and things get serious, fast. We rack up some debt, and I give up on some dreams. We rent a flat, and we can’t always pay the bills. We sell our phones and television. We fight and we scream. I am unbearably miserable but afraid of my reflection. I am trapped. I am fat, again, and he is too. We push and we pull. I ignore my friends. I shut out my family. I cringe as my phone blares obscenities at me that he’s sent. He breaks things and shakes me. We eat pizza with money cashed in from the copper jar. We paint the rooms and watch the TV, bought on credit. We ignore the Barclays envelopes. He starts to take my personal property and destroy it. He starts to watch through the blinds as I ride by on the bus home from work. I swallow it down. It’ll get better. I cry and he cries harder. Two broken ships. We persevere.
It is 2009 and by now he and I have already lost a baby, actually, two. I am inwardly devastated. I feel loss. I feel shame. I feel failure. I emerge the other side of grief both confused and determined. I join Slimming World. I am hungry. I am yearning. I am lost. We move into a new house. We get a dog, he is called Lloyd. It’s May and I am pregnant. This baby is coming and I thank God. He is a boy, to be born in February. I pour over name books and booties. I fantasise about holding him, about his face. He quietly tightens his grip. The boot is now firmly on my neck. My dad moves away. Rage. Jealousy. Rejection. The house we rent is suddenly pulled from under us. We panic. We live in my nanna’s old house. I spin in a circle in the living room. The smell of smoke and the little kitchen hatch bring me such comfort. Christmas comes around as the year grows to a close; my last as just ‘Siobhan’ before I become forever someones ‘mum’.
It is February of 2010 and I am a mother. I am elated and terrified. I am confused and exhausted. I am in pain. I am so in love with this small thing. I name him Eddie Jay Speed. He is a whole lot longer and wider than I had imagined; he is so beautiful. I take him home. The dog is confused. I’m nervous. He is so angry. I’m on the edge of the bed rocking back and forth ‘shh, shh’, shh’. I am alone. I am afraid. I am suffocating. I am starving. I am bingeing. I am kissing and singing to this baby. I am loving him so hard and he pushes it away. Screaming, screaming, screaming. I want to call for help, but I feel shame. The boot on my neck is heavier now, the tread of the sole on my windpipe. I cry inwardly. I smile outwardly. I laugh with my mouth half open. I miss my freedom. I love being a mother. Internal conflict. We move into another house, this time in Hoyland. He goes to work, I sigh relief. I breathe in my own space. I smile at the baby in the basket. He screams. Colic. I bounce him back and forth, hard, in the rocker. I stand at the baby gate. I hold tight, hysterical. I collapse. I plan an escape. I go to Slimming World. I starve. I binge. I begin to meet with old friends. He sets his timer. I watch the clock. I ignore my phone. I feel nauseous as the clock strikes twelve. I am Cinderella without the glass shoes. I am a child, with a child. I am still so fucking lost.
2011. I try to find my feet again. I meet friends, friends with children. We are still perpetually skint. I resign from my job and stay home with Eddie. He promised I could go back to college; but there are too many men. I feel stifled. I reach out. I find friends. We do playdates. We do loud mumsy-drunk evenings. We do laughter and tears. He suffocates me, even still. The timer. The shouting. The restrictions. The boot grows heavy again. This time everyone sees. They see and they embolden me. I begin to believe I am better. I begin to push back against the weighty boot.
2012. He is gone. No more control. My time is my own. My friends back in my life. He comes home with a sausage sandwich and a hot chocolate one day. He’s walked out of his job. I hand him his bags. He asks me to tell him I don’t love him; it is so easy. He leaves. I cry. I dance. I twirl around and around in the kitchen with music in my ears. I sign up for college. I drink. I drink a fucking lot. I take Eddie to daycare and go to Barnsley College. Nervous. I breathe in. I put on make up. I feel alive. The boot is finally lifing. I flourish. Once free, I shrink. I smoke. I drink some more. I send an email. And P sends a reply.
2013 comes around. My body, a temple. A hollow, but aesthetically pleasing temple. Still smoking. Still drinking. Lonely. Going to college. Breezing through, breezing through. April comes around, and May and I write out that email. I send it. Blood like fire. He replies, he is kind. June arrives, cool but bright. I’m in Chester. He’s pale. He’s excited, nervous. I am petrified of rejection, but play it cool. There is a feeling of familiarity, of comfort. We are entwined. I am in love. He is in love. Whirlwind romance becomes a real relationship. He meets Eddie. The summer is short and moves too quickly. We spend it together. I know by August he is the man I will marry. Different families and different rules; we spend Christmas and New Year apart. I miss him. Next year we vouch it will be different.
2014 sneaks up on us and changes are coming. I meet his mother. She calls me Sinead; I’d never know if it was intentional. We make niceties and I stop wearing perfume. He has news. He’s moving to Sweden for work. Nausea. Now what? I visit. It’s beautiful. We romance in a new city, walking hand in hand. We eat steaks and drink wine. We kiss in dimmed booths and laugh at YouTube clips. Reality is always waiting for me back over the pond. One half of my heart, always in England; my boy. Eddie and I visit regularly now. We go for Easter, we go for the summer. I’m at university now. I made it. Tired. Hungry. Anaemic. Scrutinising my reflection. Running too far and eating too little. We play games online. We endure long silences and uncomfortable disagreements. We bridge the gaps. Amsterdam in October marks our first trip away. We smoke. We drink. We laugh. We fuck. Christmas this year we spend together. Snow, air filters and Coffee. Contentment marks the end of the year.
2015 arrives. Excitement. I have a vehicle. I am enamoured. I am pregnant. It is twins. I am afraid. He is in shock. I worry. I vomit. I check for blood. I find blood. I am miscarrying. I am alone. I am exhausted. The old boot strap appears at my door. He performs an audition; the ‘nice guy’. I pick myself up. I dye my hair shocker pink. I have my nails done. I drink. I buy my mother flowers. I crash my beautiful car. She is towed away. She is written off. I am ashamed. I am sad. I check my bank balance. I lost, again. I reclaim control of my emotions. I get a new car. She is different, but the same. I am elated. I am free. Music loud and windows down, I push the gas pedal. Fast and slow. She is wonderful. October brings Amsterdam. I fly with my brother and meet P. We smoke through windows. We eat. We laugh. We choke. We have silent conversations. We eat raw pop tarts. We slide across wooden floors. We watch Dutch TV. We fly home. November rolls in. We see Prodigy. We dance. I scream. Vibrations in the souls of my feet. I have a checked shirt on and shocker red lips. I am pregnant. I am alone. I am fighting untimely circumstance. I am fighting resistance. I am taking aspirin. I am nauseous and weak. I am thin, so thin. I am determined to keep her. People tell me to eject her. People tell me to remove her. Nevertheless, I persevere. Christmas arrives, she’s still here. Boxing day we visit York. Mondeo hire car. J and L. Back massages. Hot showers. New Years Eve brings insecurities. But I have my babies. I have my babies.
2016 arrives as it should. Frosty and cold. Hospital stays and iron infusions. Tube feeding and hydration. Scan pictures show me a jelly bean baby. She is beautiful. I keep on with the aspirin. I am silently scared. We make preparations. Pressure is mounted. Opinions are given, but no help. My dad and his wife make arrangements; they shoulder the weight alongside me. I am to be married. He makes some mistakes. I try to forgive. I make myself forget. I stand at the church front. My legs are shaking. All the faces in one room; the last time for a long time. I give my hand. He gives me his. We exchange rings. I am now Mrs. I see familiar faces. Beautiful, kind old friends. The celebrations end and P flies home. I am alone. I am stressed. I am exhausted. I am very pregnant. I see a lawyer. I’m moving to Sweden. Bootstrap opposes. Fuck him. I cry as I leave. I take in the features of my brothers face. I scan his eyes, nose, chin, mouth, as though I might never see them again. Intuition. I am in Sweden. Eddie flies in July. We are together, but not alone. It is heavy. It is unnatural. I am suffocating.
2016 cont: Eryn is born. Early. Small. Peaches and cream. She feeds. I struggle. We persevere. I am healing. Time to return to our house. House, never a home. She’d found the sweet wrappers. Humiliated. Belittled. Chastised. I weep alone on the bed. I pray for some privacy. I need respect. Eryn is taken from me. I cannot rest. I am lost. He is at work, a lot. We fight. I cry. I see the small hours on the clock. Eyes heavy. No appetite. No thirst. I hear the whispering and I feel the stares. The humiliation continues. The slamming of doors. The screeching of chairs. I need to leave. I reach out and find help in unexpected places. I am eternally thankful. I am on the edge. Shaking. Vomiting. She is eerily calm. No emotion, just rapid movements. Cramming clothes into bags. I accept responsibility. P finds that hard. I blame him for her. I resent him. I begin to detest his company. I cannot leave. No documents. We find a new home. Molndal. He returns to work. I feel as trapped as before, worse even. Why can’t we leave? Why won’t they just leave? I cry. I wail. I fucking howl. I eat. I eat so much. I flinch when he touches me. I fucking hate him. Christmas arrives and she imposes herself. She announces she will arrive. I leave. It is 5pm on Christmas Day. I call my mother and hear people laughing. I wander in the dark. I sit on a boulder. I call my friend Jo. I speak to my dad and his wife. I laugh whilst I cry. He picks me up. Angry, so angry. Four hours in the cold. She has no limits. New Years Eve is quiet. Eddie is in England. We walk with Eryn. We watch the fireworks. We drink fizzy wine. We hold hands. We made it. Hot tears on my cheeks. I inhale the sweet smell of 2017.
January 2017 I begin to find myself. I journal. I write. I read. I listen. My mind begins to open itself once more. She is nowhere to be seen. I feel free. I detest my body, but I try to give it love. I am bigger than before. I am healthy, even still. I am making an effort. I keep reading, keep learning. Eddie does well in school. I start venturing outdoors. I start speaking more Swedish. I start to recognise in me all the strengths that have always been there. I start to unleash and harness the power of my articulation. I start to understand all the things I punished myself for over the span of a decade were never my fucking fault.
I am not the reason my parents got a divorce – they fucking are. Married now myself, my eyes are wide open. I carried them both through it, but it was all on them.
I am not he reason the bootstrap treated me that way – he is. No disease nor epiphany in the world could change him.
I am not to blame for how I felt about my body, nor was my mother, nor her damn mother – society is.
I am not to blame for how his mother treated me, or others she takes a dislike toward – she is.
I am worthy.
I am articulate.
I am beautiful.
I am strong.
I am resilient.
I am kind.
I am compassionate.
I am fierce.
I am loyal.
I am a woman.
I am Siobhan.