I had seen signs early in the relationship that sent up warning flares: Beware! Danger! Do not proceed! It was things like him demanding to know where I had been when I had been out with my friends, leaving an obsessive number of messages when I wasn’t home, being angry if I didn’t return his calls right away, telling me to change a shirt because didn’t like the way I looked in it—things I should have noticed, but when you are looking for an escape from hell you don’t always realize you are stepping out of a flame and into a raging inferno.
I was 16 ½ when I found out I was pregnant. I just knew I was finally free. He asked my father for permission to marry me, my father signed the paper, and that was that. I wasn’t in love with him; I had feelings for someone who could have asked me not to marry “B” and I wouldn’t have. After the wedding we moved into a little apartment. Soon afterward, my parents and siblings moved back toCalifornia, leaving me completely at B’s mercy. My father’s odd sense of family meant he could abuse and mistreat his children, but no one else could. As soon as my family left town, I got to know exactly how dangerous my new husband could be when he was mad. Unfortunately for me, the sky clouding over could make him angry.
When seriously angry, he went into blind rages. It was like he left his body completely and lost control. He literally had no memory of anything he did during these fits. One particular night he threw me down and dragged me across the floor, and then kicked me repeatedly in the stomach. I began cramping and bleeding and miscarried at the hospital. He said he was very sorry, and I got roses and a teddy bear and his promise that it would never happen again. And I believed him.
I got pregnant again right away. He enlisted in the Army and it was decided that while he was in basic training and tech school, I would return home to my parents’ inCaliforniaand then join him at his first duty station inHawaii. So, he left forKansas, and I boarded a Greyhound bus forL.A.
I truly believe that I was able to successfully carry my baby because we were apart. He went through basic and tech school, and then the Army sent him TDY toJapan. That is where he was on April 5, 1985 when 3lb. 12oz. Kayla Kathleena came into the world 7 weeks early, after 38 hours of labor and a C-section. She was the most precious and beautiful thing I had ever seen. She was also what I had waited my entire life for: unconditional love. When the Red Cross contacted B to let him know that the baby had arrived, he called me in my hospital room. The first words out of his mouth weren’t asking about his new daughter, or how I was; they were asking if I’d sent him the money he wanted. I hadn’t, since I was in the hospital in labor when he got paid. After becoming further angered to discover that the baby was a girl and not a boy, he hung up the phone.
The baby was in the hospital for the next four weeks until she reached five pounds. Then, against my better judgment, she and I left to join B inHawaii. My gut told me not to go, but I felt I owed it to my child to try and give her a family. It was one of the biggest mistakes I would ever make.
Looking back to that time, it is difficult to describe how I felt about God or His role in my life. At the time He seemed non-existent, even after all my Catholicism classes, although I can’t help but believe He was somehow there. It would be much later when I would truly discover Him—long after this time in my life that still seems like only the beginning.
Shea Clarke was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and after a 10-year detour in Boston now lives in Aiken, South Carolina. Having left behind a life that had played out like a bad Lifetime movie filled with addiction, abuse, and depression, Shea has now been happily married for the past six years to her very own Prince George. She jokes that he was worth the wait after sorting through a great number of toads. Shea is Mom to Kayla (26) and Marygrace (16)–her princesses here on earth–as well as Olivia (b/d 6-23-07) and Alessia (born still 11-13-08)–her Angel Babies in Heaven. She is also Grandma to perfect little Lorelei, who doesn’t allow Autism to get in her way. A dedicated canine rescuer, Shea highly esteems all of God’s creatures and loves bringing hope to the hurting.
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