Surviving and Escaping Domestic Violence While Pregnant – DV Series Part 1
This is the heart breaking, inspiring life story of Zoe Kimpton of Spiritual Services South West – who has proudly told me to use her real name as she no longer lives in fear.
It is rare I have no words – but I have none, I love this woman, I have doulaed for her in ecstasy and I have doulaed for her in pain. Now I love her even more.
This is the first post in a series of blogs around domestic violence and I am open to sharing as many stories as I am sent – the more we share, the more we heal, ourselves and others and the wider the escape route gets for women around us.
I felt disorientated and as though my brain was shaking backwards and forwards inside my head in slow motion. It took a good few seconds to identify any sensation at all, to gather myself and even now in trying to verbalise that feeling it is confusing to me.
I awkwardly twisted my body to pull myself up. I was on the floor and didn’t know why.
As I dragged myself up to sit on the edge of the bed I turned my head to the right to see my partner sat there. He was looking at me unfazed.
Puzzle pieces slotted in quickly then. I pieced them together on my own
I asked him ” Did you hit me“?. He didn’t move his gaze from me but said nothing. In fact he had punched me in the back of the head because I looked away from him in an argument so as I didn’t see it coming.
I had been recently bereaved then and I was 4 months pregnant. We had just moved miles away together with my children, away from all my friends and family to start afresh and to heal from my unimaginable grief.
Lee had been a childhood friend. He was largely the annoying tactless one in our shared group of friends. He asked me out constantly as we were growing up which became tedious and odd in places.
His jokes towards others were always a little close to the bone and I saw him physically hurt a boy we knew because he was black. He jibed at him consistently for being brought up by grandparents after his own parents had died. I even stood over him once to stop Lee smashing his teeth off the curb and took a misplaced punch to my face which he apologised profusely about.
A good few years later Lees own father sadly died. Knowing him well and remembered fondly, I attended the funeral with many mutual friends. Lee was grief stricken of course and his eyes were alive with soul, depth, feeling, something I had never seen in him before, he had matured and endured great sadness.
We reconnected and something casual began between us shortly afterwards. I helped him through his grief and he was my friend more than anything, through a turbulent time that I myself was going through. We just fell together, both needing something to fill voids in our lives. I had given in to him after years of trying to woo me into relationship and there we were.
Losing my father later on hit me harder than I can explain. Moving away came next and the surprise pregnancy during it all. I was in a vulnerable place emotionally and looking back I now understand that Lee knew this.
After the first time he hit me, he did it again not long after. There was no remorse following, in fact he was eerily smug about it and used it as a leverage to silence me when my pregnant grieving got too much for him. Things worsened dramatically quite quickly and as my lost parent had always been a protective force in my life the regular events that were now occurring only made me want and need that support more, so my grief worsened and the isolating fears grew.
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He would often tell me that I had no right to cry for a man I’d murdered and that my dad hated me for what I’d done and always would.
That shattered me because I hadn’t yet come to terms with turning my dads life support off months before, the inner conflict was immense as I struggled my way through bereavement for a man I’d idealised with all my heart. I was devastated that something I’d done in selfless love and pain was now a punishment and probably true. He probably hated me.
I felt hopeless, constantly on edge and I too felt angry as time and time again I tried in vain to end the relationship. I did my best to keep things away from my children but sometimes it wasn’t easy and things were escalating.
That made me ache even more for letting them down and ruining everything we’d had before I’d got into this.
I’d never understood women, especially strong women like myself, that hadn’t walked away from physical and mental abuse, but as a scared, vulnerable, pregnant mother with a violent man refusing to leave our home, I got it. I got it.
Every other day was a tight rope. The smallest of things would cause terrible rage and I literally walked on egg shells to keep the peace. A look or a tone of voice would cause the all too familiar butterflies in my stomach and when I felt those beginning the rest was inevitable. My panic would silently heighten, usually causing me to throw up and feel weak as his voice rose and the anxiety made my body shake uncontrollably to which I was beaten for, for treating him like he was something to be afraid of when he ‘ wasn’t ‘ all he’d done was love me !
He’d make things up out of nowhere ” What did you say?”, implying I had called him something. “Did you just push past me?” in our tiny gully kitchen by this time, with a very swollen bump in front of me, and he was spending our every penny on himself whilst the rest of us were sad and hungry.
One night I’d had enough and tried to leave. I was petrified and shaking from head to toe as I led my children quietly out of the back gate. Before I knew it I’d been dragged by my hair across the path the length of the garden and there I was, inside those four walls again but this time the windows and doors had all been locked and keys confiscated.
He stamped on a photo of my dad until it smashed and pointing a shard of glass at me said to me “Nobody would ever love you but me, you’re f’ing evil and ungrateful so you f’ing try this shit again I’m gonna kill your kids and make you watch so watch your thoughts”.
Watch my thoughts, all I did was think. By now I’d decided I was screwed no matter what and believed he’d snap and kill us all.
When our baby had been born he woke up crying at around 3am at 3 days old, my bedroom got turned upside down in a rage because Lee had been woken to the noise that ‘ I could’ve kept down, the baby was so upset of course that he was struggling to latch. I was strangled till I lost consciousness because I refused to give in and bottle feed to shut him up.
There had been many many desperately unhappy situations before the birth but following it I was headbutted in the face for bleeding postpartum for too long!
I actually had finished bleeding two weeks earlier but I’d rather be headbutted than be touched by him. Of course if he wanted sexual gratification he would suddenly “love me more than anything”, “couldn’t live without me”, and I became the “best thing that had ever happened to him”.
I still have the scar between my eyebrows where my head split open so badly I had to throw the entire pillow away. The following day he was still enraged by my turning down sex on the grounds of ‘ bleeding heavily ‘ and for “MAKING HIM” hurt me, he held me face down on the sofa and punched me so hard in the spleen that I cried in pain everytime I tried to move myself even slightly. I wee’d in a bowl he brought in for me because I literally couldn’t get up for days. No doubt I should’ve been in hospital. Instead I felt utterly degraded and my eldest was absolutely heartbroken as was I.
He said sorry this time, he cried and apologised so much that I thought he meant it. He even left for a few days as he couldn’t handle it ! He really made me believe that he wouldn’t be returning because the whole situation had really reached crisis point.
In truth he was meeting a girl he knew back home and less than a week later he broke in to our house on my refusal to let him in and he in turn refused to leave because “he loved us too much”.
I felt so light once he’d gone too, for us all, I felt like life could start again and my head was full of plans but that hope just vanished with the first bang on the door.
A few months later after a couple of relatively quiet weeks he attacked me with our baby in my arms. The back story to this is a terrifying night where in the kitchen he sat on the floor with a lighter and a knife with the cooker and hobs raging with gas. Telling me “it is time we all f’ing died”.
All I could do was shake and try and talk him round telling him I loved him and would never leave him but he of course knew that my words were not sincere. He jumped up and attacked me as I held our crying baby breaking my nose and cheek bone by punching me repeatedly in the face and head, everyone was screaming and by the grace of god my neighbour heard those screams through the deep stone walls of our lovely seaside cottage.
Before I knew it I was in an ambulance covered in blood, with a police woman who cradled me as she wiped her own tears away as well as mine.
The next day I received a call letting me know he’d been bailed and it was then that I asked for contact with a refuge.
By the end of the day my local friend had helped me rehome our much loved pets, I’d frantically packed the photos I’d had left, a few clothes and some toys and we settled into a cab that was the same model as my dads car and driven by a big burley man who looked just like him, we were taken miles away to our new home.
The refuge paid the fare and they ushered me in gently to an old Manor House in the country surrounded by trees. Here was the surreal truth of escaping violence. The fear took a little longer to subside and in ways I’m still working through it years on.
I’d expected shared living but we were directed to Flat 1 within the building. We had a kitchen with an oven, fridge freezer & essentials, the bathroom was equipped with toiletries and our bedroom had a cot (which I didn’t use) a single bed and 2 sets of bunk beds.
The wardrobes I filled in the coming weeks once I’d gotten the kids into a local village school and had taken a voluntary job in the donation stores of the refuge sorting through the generosity of strangers.
As I passed the open flats and rooms of the other women there I felt disheartened. I heard a lot of swearing at their kids and some of their areas were messy and dirty. I acquired some curtains for myself and some drawing pins, made some tiebacks and re-arranged my lounge furniture.
I positioned all my framed photos and dressed my coffee table with candles and spiritual books found in the local charity shop and made us a home.
I carried a whole shop each week on the pushchair and with the help of my eldest, all the way back from Tesco and we dined on family meals together around a table that I’d asked for. And though desperately sad inside about many things we made the most of it.
I gave free healing sessions to a couple of the women each week and I began to reclaim myself bit by bit by helping others and listening to their stories, some being shockingly and upsettingly worse than mine.
The worst part for me was seeing how damaged some women were. I found many (not all) to be abusive towards their own children, children who were dirty and displaying behaviour that I found upsetting. I met a woman who’d had her arm amputated due to the nature of violence she’d endured. She hated her son for looking like her perpetrator.
There was also suspicious health visitors and social workers who naturally put you in the same bracket until I proved otherwise and that hurt me.
Sometimes I’d find my washing had been dried and folded and left outside my door when I couldn’t leave the kids to get my laundry finished. Sometimes my favourite staff member would sit outside with me and talk about the universe as we looked up at the stars. She told me my aura was changing the place, that she’d be sad to see me go but knew it’d not be long before my life was filled with joy. All the staff loved my flat and new ones were completely shocked by how well kept and pretty it was.
6 months later I could fully stand in my own power again and we went home to the old cottage by the sea. During that time my ex had been in prison for what he’d done and my door mat was piled with letters from him.
Not long after, I was returning on a dark evening from the shops, our house was set in a dark creepy courtyard, reached by 13 steps down and he’d hidden in the doorway. He dragged me inside but by now we had a dog who although not a protective breed, jumped up and sunk his teeth into his leg dragging him off of me. Somehow I managed to find a surprising strength and shut him out, I frantically fought to lock the door and called the police.
Although he was recalled to prison for breaching conditions I endured many months of stalking and harassment when released. I had weird creepy gifts left at the door and I needed to call the police on several occasions as I feared for our safety.
The last straw came when I woke up to him standing over me in the middle of the night, he had beaten my dog and he smashed up my bedroom as I fought to get out.
He raped me and left.
A policeman literally took off his uniform belt and secured my back door with it. I was humbled by that and grateful.
Alarms were fitted on my Windows and doors and a panic button connected to the police was rigged up next to my bed.
I don’t think I slept completely in that house again. An ongoing order is in place to protect me and my children. For life.
Now years later I am married to a man who loves me. We have children together and he’s an amazing father figure to all the kids.
He supports my spiritual work and does anything to make my life easier. He asked me if I’d like to name our son after my dad, which we did and we’ve supported each other through life’s ups and downs.
If I could give one piece of advice to young women, to mature women, to any woman …it would be to end any relationship that envokes fear or emotional pain and end it now. To honour your sensitivity and your life. To bless yourself and your children with a life of safety.
I almost died many times at the hands of man who projected his own pain onto me and my family.
It started with a raised voice in my face during arguments and escalated into more damage than I can tell.
“You are worth so much more than fear
You are worth love and it will come
And I, am worth more too.
Don’t watch your joy ebb away but cling to it fiercely and sacredly.
Love is never violent. Love is a beautiful exchange of compassion”
To read more about Zoes new life, read her birth story “The Spiritual, Unassisted Freebirth Of Honor Hope Kimpton” HERE.
If you have been affected by domestic or sexual violence there are many organisations that can help. Womens Aid, New Pathways (a sexual assault referral centre in South Wales), The National Domestic Violence Helpline, Safer Wales (for all genders), Refuge and more.
Domestic violence can affect everyone, men and women and seeking help is not shameful, it is brave, staying is not weakness, it is a symptom of the abuse you are suffering.
If you feel it would help to be put in contact with someone who has been in this situation please let me know and I can put you in touch with someone.
My love and light goes out to all living in an abusive relationship and those who have got out, escaped and are surviving or thriving.
Samantha Gadsden walks with women on their life’s journeys. She is an experienced Doula, based close to Cardiff in South Wales, mother to 4 children and wife to Eddie, more information can be found on her facebook page, Samantha Gadsden Doula and her website, Caerphilly Doula.
If you are interested in writing a guest blog or sharing a life or birth story please feel free to contact her HERE.
“Your Journey, Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth“