As I sit here, trying to figure out how to squeeze 10 years into a short story, I’m stuck. Where do you start? I think I’ll start in the middle, because that's where I feel I am right now.
Who am I? I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I am a bodybuilder, a competitor, a lover of great food and delicious wine, I love to read, shoot guns, and watch my eldest son squeal with joy playing in the ocean and watch my youngest figure out that the things at the bottom of his arms are hands and he can tell them what to do! I am so many things. But strong. I think strong would be the number one adjective people who know me would use to describe me.
Since you have a sneak peek of who I am. Now the hard part, how did I become her?
I would say my story starts about 10 years ago. When I was 22 I met the father of my eldest son. He lived in California where I met him visiting a great friend. After months of phone calls, and a few visits I ended up moving to California to be with him. Moving wasn't too scary, as my family moved a lot when I was growing up (from Toronto, Ontario, to Vancouver, WA and about 12 stops in between). When I was 24 I got pregnant with my first child. I won’t go into too much detail, but I almost died after having my son. I woke up the day after having him and I had hemorrhaged and lost ¾ of my blood. After a week in the hospital and 2 blood transfusions I was allowed to go home with orders of bed rest. The doctors had no idea what happened. I had many complications afterwards and took months to heal. But, I powered through it, I had a baby to care for.
At the time, I was a Store Manager for a retail company making decent money. But, my partner was in and out of jobs and was not secure. We needed a plan. So after almost 2 years of harassment I convinced him to go back to school. But we couldn’t do it in California, I couldn't afford the bills on just my salary living there. So, when the baby was 11 months old we moved back to Vancouver, WA. We stayed with my parents until I found a job and we got our own place. And that, is where things started going downhill. His father passed away shortly after us moving out on our own which threw him for a loop. He had always drank, but I never really noticed it being bad. But after his father's passing he drank all day, everyday. He would put wine in a coffee cup on his way to school. He was becoming meaner, and more controlling, depressed, and had a bipolar attitude (he was diagnosed with alcoholism, depression and bipolar later on). By now I was working 50+ hour weeks, doing all the cooking, cleaning and shopping, and taking care of my son the second I got home and on my days off, even though his dad had school only 20 hours a week.
When I was 27 my sister convinced me to go to the gym. She got me a 3 month pass, and I purchased a small personal training package. My trainer wasn't supposed to work that day, and he wasn't supposed to take new clients. But he was working, and we clicked. Through months of hard work Joshua and I transformed my body, which started with my mind. Every bonus and every cent I could hide from my ex went towards my training. It was mine. My time to focus on me. Training started to build my confidence. My ex had spent our whole relationship slowly tearing me down to the point that I didn't know who I was anymore or what I was worth. Training and my therapy sessions with Joshua twice a week slowly allowed me to start finding myself. The last 6 months or so of our relationship was the worst. He got extremely violent, breaking things, throwing everything from coffee cups to a computer chair at me, waking me in the middle of the night screaming that I was cheating, tracking the mileage on my car to ensure I didn't go anywhere extra. I even agreed to move back to California with him, hoping it would make things better. What was the killer though? What finally pushed me to leave the father of my child and a man who promised me the world and told me no one else would ever love me? My son.
My sister sat me down one night and told me that my son had changed. My parents got him every Saturday for over a year, but all of a sudden he was acting depressed, moping around, and screamed when he had to go home. He was displaying signs, at not yet 3 that he was scared of his father. What was happening when I was at work?? So, I decided I would leave. About 1 month later I got home from a late shift around 11:30. I sat him down and told him I wanted to spend the weekend at my parents and clear my thoughts. He got angry, picked me up and threw me across the room into the wall. And that was it. I took my engagement ring off, told him to never touch me again and I left. 2 days later he decided to fake a suicide and he slit his wrist and covered all of my belongings with blood, my entire apartment, all except the baby's room. How did I know it was faked? Other than the dramatic side of it? When my mom went to scrounge up whatever she could find, not only was his whole wardrobe (in the same room as mine) untouched, some was neatly folded in my closet with the doors shut. I never entered the house when I got the call. I never spoke to him and only saw him 3 times in court. It took him 5 months to ask to see his son, it lasted 45 minutes and that was the last time, almost 4 years ago.
So, after police reports, court hearings, restraining orders, getting out of the $3500 bill for cleaning the apartment, I was single, living with my parents… but still training.
In May 2012, I got the opportunity to move to British Columbia for work. What a great opportunity! I moved with my son in August to start our new adventure. With fitness slowly becoming my biggest passion, I ended up leaving the company I moved for and started working at a gym. Within 2 weeks they hired a new trainer. When I met him he just stared at me. Then he saw me lifting and just stared at me. Then he saw me with my son and just stared at me. When he finally talked to me on our 3rd or 4th day it was along the lines of: "Hi. You lift, and have tattoos, and your a boss, and your son is half black. Will you marry me?" Haha!! Really kid? At the time I was 29 and he was 18. This was practically illegal!
After weeks and weeks of hanging out with me at work, and working 7 days so he could see me, and hanging out with my son in daycare it happened. "Mommy? Can daddy come to the park with us today?" He had gotten to my son and who says "no" to a cute little face asking a very innocent question? Well. We went to the beach that day, and I was done. No one could deny his amazing looks, and award winning physique. He made me laugh and feel something I had never felt before. By Christmas we were engaged. My friends and family loved him and I had never been this happy in my entire life. Talk of babies, the wedding and our future was exciting. He even convinced me to quit my job for the summer to be with my son because I was always working and had missed so much of his life. It was amazing!
By the end of the summer it all changed. He had begun hanging around the wrong people at the gym. People offering too much money for "easy work". On a trip to Portland for my best friends wedding on 8/14/14 everything changed. He went home to BC for the week and I stayed at my parents. We fought all week, over things that made no sense... I had just bought my wedding dress, what was happening?? I also discovered I was pregnant the same week. But when I got home it was not the joyous occasion that we had talked about. I returned home to his belongings gone, long blonde hairs all over my apartment and an eviction notice. When I went to tell his best friend and his wife, they had news for me too. He had been seeing another girl from the gym for weeks.
He had lie after lie, and story after story to justify everything I had found out. Finally after getting enough proof from a few different people he admitted that he had been seeing her, but swore it was over and he wanted to work on us. He wanted to marry me. He wanted the future we planned. He was going to stay with a friend and figure some things out and we would move back in together in 2-3 months. I was ok with this, better to give space now than have him resent me later. He was having my son for sleep overs etc. One day I picked up my son and he told me that he had stayed at one of his father's friends house last night. I said "who?" and he goes, "You know mommy, her, the one with the blonde hair". Yup, he had not only lied about ending it, he had been staying there with my son! He was into dealing drugs and weapons, and working for horrible people. He had put my son's life in danger, lied to me, verbally abused me and was now denying the baby was his. I spent all 3 weeks of September in a ball on my living room floor. My best friends would bring me food and stay until I ate it, they would check in a few times a day, I spent hours messaging my girlfriends and just crying. The kind of crying that hurts and stops you from breathing. I had never experienced this before, I was empty. He was my one, I was done. I had been through so much and I was finally getting the life I had always dreamed of. And then it was gone. In a chaotic tornado of lies and deceit, it was gone. And I had nothing. Just me and my son and a growing belly.
So. I found a job, a 3 bedroom apartment, a new gym, a clothing sponsorship, and a goal of competing in my first bodybuilding competition just 6 months after my son was due. I had done it, I was tired, and I was miserable, but I had pulled it all together. I even made it through not 1 but 2 car crashes, one at 5 months pregnant and the other, a head on collision at that, at 8 months pregnant. I award my walking away almost injury free from that one 100% to my health and training throughout my pregnancy.
My communication with my ex was strictly electronic, and It was brutal. He would lash out and say the most hurtful things. Eventually I would just block every number he would use. I agreed to meet him once, in January. We went for coffee, I didn't even recognize him, he looked awful. His new lifestyle was very apparent. After 30 minutes of more lies I walked out. We didn’t speak or text again until the week before I gave birth. He convinced me that he would be good, and respectful and he really needed to see me. So, I let him come to my house. When he walked in it was him… it was not the horrible person I met in January... maybe not 100%, but close. He asked me for a hug, which threw me for a loop, I was mentally prepared for a fight. So, we hugged. And I broke. 9 months of being alone, and suffering, and trying to get over the man I loved while carrying his baby, all the mean things he had said, all the horrible things he had done. It all came out. I cried for at least 10 minutes. He just held me and kept saying "I’m sorry". I asked him what changed, why he was there. He said he had gotten out. He had to pay his boss over $10,000 and they beat him so badly he was hospitalized... but he got out. He was spending time with his family, looking for a proper job and wanted to be a part of his son's life. That's where our journey together started again.
When I went into labor he was the first person I messaged, then my parents, then his mom. I went to his parents to wait out the labor pains and he would meet me there and my parents would come up from Washington. We laid there, me in pain, him making me laugh and rubbing my back. At one point I looked up at this kid, 20, staring at me, and I asked "how are you?" He laughed and said "you're having a baby and your asking how I am??" I said "yes, how are you?" His response: "I’m in shock." and that was it... it was real. He hadn’t been there. He hadn't seen the belly grow, hadn’t been to a doctor's appointment, never saw an ultrasound, never heard the heartbeat. He missed all of it, all the things that help you prepare for this little life. But now it was here, well, almost. After about 3 hours my parents had arrived and I had decided I wanted drugs. So, we packed up. My ex and his parents would go in 1 car, me, my parents and their dog in moms van. As we were leaving and I was standing in their kitchen breathing through a contraction and his mom looks at me and says, "Ok, no dramatic births here. No bleeding, no car babies, just calm normal birth, got it?" We all got a giggle, but knowing the history of my first son, it was a very true statement. Please, no dramatics. Well… the baby had other plans. Within a minute of being in the car my contractions went from manageable and “I want drugs” to screaming in the back seat of a van and coming every 90 seconds, then 60 seconds and within about 10 minutes I was screaming at my mom that the baby was coming! So, she unbuckled, hopped over the front seat, tore my clothes off and within about 4 minutes and about 3 pushes she was holding her new grandson. We were 17 minutes away from the hospital when Keeghan Jakob Van entered into the world in a moving vehicle, after ignoring the one request his grandmother had made… he's going to be an interesting one!
I am 11 weeks out from my competition I have been training for since last summer, I am in the best shape I have ever been in. I used this competition as my light at the end of the tunnel, my reward, it was the rock my ex should have been. When I had a bad day, or I was tired, or craving horrible foods, or mad because all I wanted was to drink my sorrows away, or had an interaction with my ex that set me off, I had the gym. I had dumbbells, a squat rack, an iPod, and I had a vision of me holding a baby in one arm and a trophy in the other. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, and I wanted to prove to him that I didn’t need him to help get me there.
So whats next? I am on maternity leave for a year (gotta love Canada!) and I will get my personal training certificate. At this point, I can't fathom going back to a job I don’t care about, doing something everyday that doesn't enhance my life or anyone else's. I want to show others what fitness can do for you. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and of course, physically. Fitness is what gave me the confidence to get away from an abusive relationship, it was my guiding light during my pregnancy, and it is my therapy, my release, my passion.
My training partner and I have a few other dreams we are working on, but those are for later. For now, I have a trophy to earn….
We want to share more with you! Click below.
Sending love, luck & calm vibes.