“Marshall, I Love You”
This is the simple, but very loaded question I am asked, more often than not, when someone finds out that I do not have primary custody of my only son, Marshall. Even those closest to me, the ones who know me best, know my situation and say that they support me and my decisions, seem to have a hard time wrapping their head around why a mother, like myself, wouldn’t have custody of her only child. Most think that non-custodial mothers are either selfish, or unfit. While this may be the case with some mothers, this is not my story.
Let’s back up 4 years. It was winter, December 13, 2014. My ex-husband, myself, family members and many close friends were about to celebrate Marshall’s third birthday. The theme was cute and simple. Rainbow Colored Polka Dots. An assortment of colored paper plates filled the walls. Streamers hung artfully across the ceiling creating a whimsical ambiance. Balloons bobbed up and down gleefully from the floor, a “ball pit” for the children present to play in. Each wall of the family room had 12 carefully selected photos capturing smiles from each of Marshall’s first three years of life. A photo collage movie, highlighting the happy memories from Marshall’s life, played with soft music in the background. And best of all, there was a huge cake surrounded by cupcakes and other appetizers and treats for all to enjoy. We were more than ready to celebrate!
Except, as people started to arrive, I was nowhere to be found. I was upstairs in my bathroom, crying uncontrollably and feeling alone.
“Emalee! We are ready to start!” someone called from downstairs. “O.K.!!! I’ll be down in a minute!” I replied. “I’m just changing my clothes.”
But I wasn’t changing clothes. I was sitting. Staring. Sobbing. I couldn’t go down stairs and face everyone knowing what the future was about to behold.
“This day is the beginning of the end.” I said to myself over and over and over again. The end of something I have longed and worked so hard for. My picture-perfect family. My husband with a satisfying and fulfilling career, working hard to financially support our small family. Me, the stay at home wife and mother tending to the needs of the home and our current and future children. Marshall playing on the grass in the backyard as friends and neighbors came to visit. Our dog, Eddie. Family outings, activities, vacations and the like. The American Dream and it was all going to be over in but an instant.
Despite hearing the celebration beginning downstairs, that was all I could think about. The end of my dream. The result my failures.
As I continued to sit on the bathroom floor, my mind raced from thought to thought, replaying events from that past couple of years in my mind. I felt like I had tried so hard. I fought with every fiber of my being for him, for my son, and for us, despite the indicators that had told me that my efforts were in vain and things weren’t going to work...