Wednesday, August 8, 2012

32. The End is Only the Beginning

BD had accused me of anything he could think of in his certification to the court. We both had to write up letters summarizing our cases and his was complete fiction.

He was asking for sole custody of our son, saying that my parenting would be “detrimental” to our child. I was furious. It was a feeling I still wish I could have felt about a year and a half earlier.
I think back on some of those events and it is all too surreal, like it was somebody else going through all that. I can’t even imagine it being me. How could it have been me? People who know me insist I wasn’t myself at the time.

“It was like you were somebody else,” a friend told me. That sentiment was echoed by others.
Sometimes it makes me angry. There were so many times when I should have left. Times from the very beginning. It was small stuff at first. My car keys, the food ... it makes me wanna scream at myself thinking about that stuff. I relive scenarios in my mind with renewed strength and they play out differently in my imagination, usually culminating with me telling BD to kiss my ass as I head for the door, never to return.

I have learned an eternity of lessons in a fairly short amount of time and I continue to be taught by adversity.

I have so many regrets ...

Not actually pressing charges when that troop of cops was called to my doorstep;glossing over BD’s bad points with the psychologist, fearful of sounding like a scorned woman; hiding the truth about my stifling relationship from the people who cared about me; betraying a friend -- two of them; putting the worth of a relationship before my own ... so much.

Our trial was scheduled for a Monday and Tuesday. If it went over, we’d have to continue that next month. We each had a witness list and a gallery of supporters.

In addition to character witnesses and family to testify to my latter complaints, I had Shay and Mike, my sister and her fiancĂ© who’d seen my bloody nose months before. BD knew they were on my list to testify. Our attorneys had to submit witness lists weeks before. But I do believe their actually showing up that day was the turning point for BD. For all his refuting my claims about his violent temper, sitting mild mannered in a suit and tie, I had two people who could testify first hand to his out of control anger spells. I know he didn't want the fam around for that testimony.
But I didn’t want to go forward with a grueling trial any more than he did. I just wanted permission to move back home with my son.

In the end, he gave me that. The irony here is thick, though I missed it at the time. The doctor’s report that he’d shamelessly gloated about for weeks didn’t even matter. We sat, our lawyers separating us, at the long table designated for the plaintiff and defendant, poised and seemingly ready to war. We stood and were sworn in, and technically, the trial had begun, when his lawyer interrupted and said we might be able to settle this whole thing if he could have a word with my attorney.

BD and I were also then directed into a mediation room with our respective representatives where we sat for about three hours mapping out a calendar for the next three years of our lives, finally agreeing on how we would share our son across state lines. This is something he’d sworn he would never allow to happen. It’s the reason we’d been in court for almost a year. He’d rejected five of my parenting plans at previous mediation sessions and two in court, never once attempting to amend or work from them, as they each allowed for my relocation. This is what had been our stalemate this entire time. And yet, on the day our trial was set to begin, the judge didn’t grant me permission to move. BD did.

We agreed that BD would get the summers with the baby as well as the month of November or December, depending upon the year, in addition to at least one month at a time during other parts of the year. An extremely generous arrangement, plus liberal visitation.

His concession was bittersweet. I went for it though, because while I did not fear the judge would give my child over to his father, she did not have to allow me to leave. At the end of the three years BD and I mapped out, when our son reaches school age, we will inevitably be back in court to rearrange the parenting plan around his schooling. That will no doubt be a battle in itself. But one thing at a time.

In the meantime, BD does his best to harass me. I swear, it never stops. LOL. But I’m so over the sinking feeling I used to get in my stomach when I’d hear his ringer across the room. He’s kicking himself about the parenting plan and everyday tries to trump up some charge to get us back into court. First it was, I never let him speak to his son. Bullshyt. I call him everyday on his planning period at 11:45 so they can chat and again at 7:30 p.m. before bedtime so he can say goodnight. When I advised BD that I’d been recording all these phone calls (another lesson I’ve learned) he quickly changed his strategy. Now he’s working on my lack of cooperation when he wants to come and visit. Also untrue, but we’ll see. Really though, the biggest hurdle is over. I’ve moved legally and I can’t be made to move back.

I sent a Christmas greeting to Serita last year, but other than that, I haven’t made contact. Perhaps it’s hard for me to accept her forgiveness so easily because I know I wouldn’t be nearly as understanding in her position. Maybe I’m still forgiving myself. 

Haven’t spoken with Digital in quite some time, either. He used to text me occasionally and ask how I was doing. It’s been months though. I hear the wedding was fabulous. Perhaps I’ll send a card.


31. 360 Degrees; Who Says You Can't Go Home Again?

In the midst of waiting on our court date, agonizing over the psychologist's report, and still having to deal with BD's antics -- He'd began following me every week when we exchanged our baby at the train station, trailing me to my car or my train depending upon how I was traveling that day. It didn't stop until I involved a police officer and produced our court order. The cop threatened to haul him in for domestic violence. Yes, domestic violence as he was intimidating me and disobeying the court order by sticking around past our exchange. BD said he wanted to make sure his son was "safe." He just wanted to see who I was riding with, if I was riding with anybody. -- It seems I'd come full circle.

Everything I’d wanted to get away from, I was now scratching and clawing to get back to. The normalcy and small town life I’d found boring to tears, I now wept for. My family, my support system, my little church ... I wanted it all back. I’d wanted to strike out alone, to do my own thing, only I’d ended up doing some horrible things, and only worsening the problem in my futile attempt to correct them. And now, here I was, wanting to go home again. More than that, though, I wanted to go back. Rewind time.

The money that had been spent in 10 months of fighting with BD was taking a toll on not just me, but my whole family. I'd taken a lean out on the home my father left me free and clear when he passed a few years earlier, I'd spent $11,000 in rent, countless more thousands in living expenses and utilities and transportation, plane tickets for my mother and my sister every time we were in and out of court, and the money I was throwing at my lawyer just never stopped. Every time we had a fight, the Suit got paid.

BD would want the baby on one of my days to do whatever he wanted to do. I'd say ok, but have him back at such and such time. He'd say no, I'll have him back at this time. I'd say, no, you need to have him back in time for me to do whatever. He really was not used to me standing up for myself and was having a real hard time hearing this new word, "no." A simple argument like this would inevitably result in a call to one or both of our lawyers, which would lead to our two lawyers' legal aids having a conversation, making a decision, (which if it was my time BD was asking for would be my decision) drafting a mailed letter to each of us, memorializing that decision, and issuing a $40 charge for said letter. The nickel and diming over our bullshyt added up quickly and before the end, I'd reached nearly $40k. I imagine BD was also out something close to that.

I was pondering giving in.

Under any other circumstances, Serita would have been right there with me. She's the one I would talk to at a time like this. Of our small circle, she's the grounded friend who gives sage advice. The one who'll pray with you, rather than suggesting you go whoop somebody's ass to solve the problem. (I do have friends who would do the latter). But I'd ruined that. I hadn't even worked up the nerve to speak to the girl since Digital broke the news of my relationship with, and pregnancy by BD, himself. She'd tried to make contact with me since then and I'd dodged each of her phone calls. I really had nothing to say, outside of, I'm sorry. No explanation would be suitable, even if there were one. I'd ruined our relationship forever, singly and really for no good reason at all. Aside from my beautiful baby boy, look at what I had gotten.

Still, I couldn't rightfully pray for a miracle with a dirty conscience. My desperation gave me gaul. I called her. As the phone rang, I quickly decided what I'd say and how I'd say it. It wasn't exactly on the fly, I'd had the words in my mind for forever now.


"Serita," I said evenly. I wanted to apologize right off. I had to get it out.

Serita is not the type to yell and scream, she's non confrontational, like me. I knew she wouldn't beat up on me or call me names. When someone is in the wrong though and willingly comes to take their licks, refusing to scold them, at least a little, actually makes it harder.
She sounded happy to hear from me.

"Melyssa! Oh my gosh, how long has it been? How have you been? The baby's beautiful," she began. "Congratulations."

This really threw me off.

"You've seen the baby?" I asked, confused.

"Yeah. BD sent me a pic on my phone from the hospital when he was born. He sent Digital one, too."

"You've gotta be kidding me," I said. Didn't mean to say that out loud.

"No, it's okay. He was just excited. He looks like both of you. So what's motherhood like?"

Her voice was light, her words comforting, but I was dumbfounded and I began to stammer.

"I just wanted you to know, well, for whatever it's worth at this point ... I know it's been too long ..."

"Mel, it's not even like that," she broke in. "Honestly, I was surprised when I heard it. Digital called me and I was in my classroom and he was like, 'Are you sitting down?' You know he's so dramatic. But really, BD and I hadn't been together for a while and he does not belong to me. Both of you are free to be with whoever you choose."

But I really wanted to apologize.

"I'm so sorry, Serita. I'm sorry for betraying your trust. You were a really good friend to me and you've never done anything to deserve what I did to you. I never should have been with BD --"

"Mel, please. Really. It's okay. It's old news. And you didn't betray me. I don't have any claims to that man."

As far as I was concerned she had. And as long as I felt like what I did was a betrayal, and I'd still done it, then it was.

"No, it doesn't matter if you feel like you have claims to him ..." I tried over and over to apologize and she wouldn't accept it.

"I just want you guys to be happy," she said. "You both deserve that."

Wow. She didn't know anything. Is this why she was so forgiving? Because she thought at least we'd gone on and made something real of it when she wasn't gonna marry him anyway? I quickly brought her up to speed.

"We're not together," I began. "It didn't really work out. You know how BD is."

"Um, yeah," she laughed. We laughed.

I told her about everything. I just spilled it. I told her how he'd fooled the doctor. I told her how beaten I felt. I don't think I stopped talking for 45 minutes.

"Melyssa you are so much stronger than this. You're the one who gave me nerve," she reminded me."

We took a few walks down memory lane. It was nice, for a moment.

"You can do this," she told me. And she meant it.

"I wish you would have called me earlier," she said. "It's so good to hear from you."

"I've been a coward," I confided.

"Well, you don't need to be. You can call. We can still be friends, Mel." She really said that.

But I knew it was a lie. Maybe we could still talk on occasion. Maybe we'd hang when we saw each other at homecoming and chat for a few minutes. But it was over. It would never be the same. Serita would have trusted me with anything, and I her. Regardless as to what she said, that was no more.


30. Psyching out the Psych

My first visit with the psychologist was horrible.

Her office was fairly friendly and unintimidating. There was a bookshelf of toys and puzzles for children right next to the large, comfortable sofa I sat on. She was seated across from me in a recliner, shoes off, feet up and note pad in hand, with reading glasses on her nose. I relaxed a bit. Her Birkenstocks lie abandoned on the floor. She wore capris and wild, red curly hair. She looked to be about the age of 60 and she struck me as a bit of a hippy. Not at all what I'd expected. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad. I'd arrived an entire hour early for the visit and used the time going over my notes in the car. Perhaps I'd over analyzed, becasue it seemed that from the very introduction, the tears began to fall.

And I sobbed. Uncontrollably, I mean. I boo hoo'd like a baby.

She actually asked me at one point, "Are you always this tearful when you talk about this situation?"

I hesitated to answer the question. I wanted to answer it honestly and the truth was, I kept from talking about the situation because it did reduce me to an emotional mess.

"At work, with friends and family ... when you discuss it does it always make you cry like this?" She pressed.

I tried to gather myself. I took a deep breath .. and another, and began.

"It's the uncertainty of it all," I tried to explain. "Apart from having my son, this is the most important thing I will ever do because it will deeply affect the way I'm able to raise my son. I know what's best for him. And I know what he needs. I'm just scared to death that you may not agree with me."

Why did I say that? Her pen scrawled furiously and her glasses slid to the tip of her nose. She glanced up at me over the edge of the lenses and looked down to write some more. She let me leave early that day.

What I'd read said to answer questions factually and succinctly. I had been all too emotional.

The subsequent visits though, each at an hour and a half, I thought went a little better than the last. I certainly never cried like I had that first time again.

I was well composed, well dressed, I gushed over my baby like a mom in love, and I spoke briefly but well of his father like a perfectly level headed woman who is completely over a romantic relationship that simply didn't work.

I had been warned not to allege anything I couldn't prove. I didn't. I answered her questions. I never denied BD’s love for our son, I merely asserted that I was the better parent for him. (This would later incense BD, but wasn't he implying the same thing? That he was the better parent by challenging custody in the first place? I thought that's what this was about).

And the day that I was to take the baby in with me went exceptionally well. He walked a little for the doctor, stumbling around her office. I'd already told her we were working on taking steps. We played with his ring stacker, and I called out the colors to him in Spanish as he placed each ring on the pole, and we read his favorite book. He loved it. The doctor sat back, watching, minimally interfering and mostly observing. Certainly she was able to see what a great mom I was.

BD and I had been alternating visits, though. She'd see me once, then she'd see him, then she'd see me. I'm sure he was ever impressive. He'd certainly convinced her of a few things.
During one visit, she asked me about our parental differences. There are so many. BD and I really have little in common. I listed the biggies for her though:

"Religion, eating habits, our lifestyles really are quite different," I tried to explain.

"Well, I think he's pretty much over the whole eating thing. He understands you're a meat eater and he's not and when the child is with you he'll eat as you do and when the child is with him, he'll eat as he does."

Is she seriously explaining BD's philosophy on food to me? My smile remains plastered on my face but I am in a state of disbelief. First of all, because it is clear that she actually believes that anything with BD could possibly be that simple.

(Ie, I JUST, no lie, JUST got an angry email a week ago -- this is a week ago, in real time as in March of 2008 -- about feeding our child chicken nuggets from McDonalds. Mind you, he's going on two and the only reason I even shared this trip to McDonalds with his dad is because I'd taken him to Playland, snapped some pics, he had a fantastic time and I was trying to tell BD I'd be mailing the pictures off. This man about had a heart attack. The very next day, I get an email with links to informational sources on why McDonalds is so bad for kids -- though I cook every single day and I do not feed our child fast food as a rule -- along with his natural doctor's phone number who will be expecting my call should I have questions. NOTHING is simple with BD. But how dyou tell somebody how very controlling and obsessive a person is without sounding a little off, yourself? Granted, some of the stories I have to tell about BD are a bit far fetched and unbelievable, but true all the same).

I didn't even know how to respond to that. So I continued with my list.

"Medical treatment is also a big concern," I said. "BD is against Western medicine and I think treatment should it be necessary, is important."

"Has the child been vaccinated?" She asked, peering up at me over her glasses.

Now, I'm nervous. How could I not see this coming.

"Yes, I had him vaccinated with his first round when we were home for that month."

"Does the father know?"

"No, I haven't told him."

"You haven't told him you had the child vaccinated?" She asked surprised but almost upset as well. "What if he went and got the child vaccinated without your knowledge? Now the child has received a double dosage of vaccines, then what?"

Excellent point. But it was not going to happen in a million years.

"BD would never ever get our child vaccinated or stand by while I did. He is absolutely against injections of any kind unless it's to draw blood or administer fluids," I said.

I tried to explain to her that he'd been vaccinated as a child and had a terrible reaction and so his parents had not vaccinated their five children who came after him. They do not believe in vaccinations. He'd given me books, lectured me endlessly, pulled up websites about the dangers of vaccines ... He did not want it done and would not allow it.

And I was scared, quite frankly. Though much too prideful to admit it. I mean, after the baby had received the shots, what could BD really do? Be mad? So what. But still, I was scared to tell him.

The psychologist was unmoved. Her face had contorted into something of a frown as her pen moved like lightning. I did not know it then, but this would be damning to her opinion of me.
We'd have to wait two gruelling weeks before the psychologist's final report would be drafted and sent to our respective attorneys' offices. I just hoped for the best.

I do believe that when God works a miracle, he closes 9 out of 10 doors first, so that when that 10th door opens, the odds have already been so dim that you can't thank anyone else for what you've received but a higher power.

I'd depended so heavily upon this doctor's report, it took over my thoughts in the day and my dreams at night. I'd read several other published and mock reports. Who knew that this isn't the way that my prayer would be answered. I went over the verbiage in my mind, inserting mine and BD's names imagining what she might think of us both.

When the 20-page report finally came down and my lawyer called me in to go over it with him, it was clear, the psychologist hadn't thought much of me.

"She didn't like you at all," My lawyer blurted out.

He was not a man to mince words. I was going over my copy line by line as he sat at his desk flipping through his, pointing out the highlights.

"You really pissed her off with the whole vaccinations," He said. "She thought you were arrogant 
and you think you're the child's only parent ..." he went on and on.

My God, some of the stuff she'd said about me was right in line with BD's character. I was in f*cking bazzaro world. This was crazy.

And the kicker:

"BD feels that Ms. Ganache wants to alienate him from his child and strip him of his fatherly rights in raising that child. His fears are not altogther unfounded. She makes major decisions unilaterally as in her vaccinating the child against his wishes and not sharing it with him. BD did not learn of his child's vaccination until this doctor made him aware of it during a session and he was quite upset. She has also taken the child to the doctor on at least two occasions and received prescription medication for the child without making BD aware of this."

That's a graf from the report VERBATIM. She'd misunderstood everything. And what does she mean I unilaterally made the decision to vaccinate our child? He had unilaterally made the decision not to vaccinate our child. So one of us was gonna have our way, right? Why would it not have been a problem if our child remained unvaccinated? Am I having an out-of-body experience right now?

And didn't she understand that the reason I had to sneak to the doctor with my baby is because after begging BD for weeks, he refused to allow him to go? He did not want our child medicated at all. He would not allow it. It wasn't that I didn't want to tell him, I couldn't tell him. We were still under the same roof at the time. She hadn't believed anything I'd said.

The doctor went on to suggest first, as my motion with the court had been for permission to relocate, that I not be allowed to leave the state of New Jersey; And second, that the custody of our child be shared 50/50 between the two of us on a two-day, three-day schedule. Madness. Who does that?

This was her suggestion to the court.

And it was only the beginning of the type-written misconstrued information and some, down right lies, that would pass the judge's desk.

I was about to be accused of everything, lesbianism, alcohol abuse, negligence, irresponsibility and general character flaws ...

BD had a taste for blood.

Originally posted on March 27, 2008 

29. Studying First Impressions, Analyzing Second Thoughts

I spent the next 30 days between the library and that friendly lawyer's office back home. I read everything I could get my hands on about preparing for a custody trial and successfully getting through a psych evaluation. We'd both been ordered to visit a court appointed psychologist who, after several one-on-one visits with both of us and one visit with each of us along with the child, would enter a written report detailing her findings and recommendations to the court. It's not the only thing the judge would rely on in making her decision, but she would depend on the psych's words heavily.

I was not at all confident.

"The man is a sociopath, she's trained to see right through people like him, don't worry about it," my supporters said.

But I hadn't seen right through him.

"She knows the signs, she knows what to look for. Once she meets him, this whole thing will be over in a couple of weeks. I knew there was something off about him the first time I met him," the peanut gallery rallied behind me.

Yeah, but I didn't. As I said, he's pretty convincing. I couldn't depend on the psychologist properly gauging his character. I needed to work on my own presentation.

I pored over clinical questionnaires, books as thick as my forearm outlining what to do, what to say, how to do it, how to say it. Be friendly, not too friendly, smile, not too much ... instructions like that were for mothers and fathers. But these books devoted entire chapters to the desired appearance of a mother who wants her children back.

Everything I’d read suggested demure dress, short nails (one book actually said "you can't bake cookies with long nails and you need to look like you've been baking cookies." This was NOT a circa 1950 book, by the way), no bright colors, no heels (no heels?) Yes, this was in bold print ... basically, I needed to look like a schoolmarm and act the part as well. Don’t bad mouth the other parent, answer questions as succinctly as possible, don't elaborate or offer unnecessary information unless asked, be honest, speak about the other parent's good points, don't sound like a bitter, scorned woman, demonstrate that you are able to separate the other parent's performance as a partner from his performance as a father ...

There was sooo much. I went shopping (in the women's department :)) and came out with bags like I was replacing my entire wardrobe. Knee length skirts, waist cut pants (not the kind that hug and scoop your rear, which is all they sell nowadays) button down blouses in larger sizes, not the stretchy, accentuating kind (equally hard to find), flat shoes and absolutely no cleavage of any kind, which is a bit of a feat for me. I've been blessed. :) It's also hot outside at this time, so finding clothes that adequately cover isn't even seasonal right now.

Meanwhile, after returning to New Jersey, we'd been staying in a hotel for a week while looking for an apartment everyday on the internet and up and down the streets checking out for-rent signs. Not in the same city or even the same county as with BD, though. I'd put about 45 minutes between us.

But during this time we were also sharing our son equally, as we would until a final court decision was made. We'd meet at Burger King or some other public place to make the exchange. That's when he began acting strange. After the telephone threats and the angry intimidating long stares, now, all of a sudden, BD was nice. Sweet, even. To the point that it made me uncomfortable. Once he handed me the baby and as I took him in my arms, he leaned in next to me, smiled and snapped a pic of the three of us with his digital camera. A family picture? Another time he brought flowers and kissed me on the forehead. Gross, at this point.

He even suggested that we go to church together. Church? Together? I don't think I covered this, but BD was sooo anti anything Christian. He dumped out a little bottle of holy oil for the baby that an elder at my church back home had blessed for him. Not once but twice, he threw away the baby's first book, this cute little black and white "Jesus Loves Me" baby book that I'd bought.

I quickly learned not to get drawn into theological debates with him when he called me a "handkerchief-wearing negro" for believing the "white man's lies" and "worshiping the white man's God." He told me he never wanted his child to step foot in a church.

The day before my scheduled C-Section, (yes, while the child was still in my belly) he had a fit when I peeked my head into the back room where he was playing Madden and announced I'd be back in a couple of hours, I was going to church. His need for control was obsessive.

I could not believe he was actually changing. Not really. BD wasn't the type to have second thoughts. He was always right the first time. Maybe this was one last ditch effort before the final psych eval and our trial date to gauge how hard I was really willing to go. (He had no idea). Perhaps he was as nervous about the impending psych eval as I was.

I got into "costume" and went over my "lines," rehearsing from those clinical questionnaires and the notebook of notes I'd taken, with my family. (This happened to be going on during the summer, my mother's a teacher and my sister was a student at the time, so they were both able to stay with me a while).

But when the day of my first appointment with the woman who held the fate of myself and my child in the power of her pen finally came, I could not have been less prepared.

Originally posted on March 26, 2008 

28. Round One: And the Winner Is ...

... Not me. At least it didn't feel like that, the day I was forced to hand my baby over to BD and leave the courthouse without him.

You really shouldn't talk about matters like this in the sense of winners and losers, but it was hard not to feel that way. From the moment we walked in, the building was filled with opponents and challengers. Prosecutorial attorneys, defense lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants, all supposedly working together in the best interest of whatever poor, unfortunate child was caught in the middle of a pair of parents' mess.

I came in with my family, my mother, my aunt, my uncle, my two sisters, strolling my baby in his carriage. Their support had been like steel. Even so, the grey walls with their peeling paint, and the dim hallogen lighting of the patterned some-on, some-busted bulbs scattered across the ceiling cast an ominous light. When we got to our floor, there were hard, wooden benches lined up like church pews, one in front of the other leading up to just feet away from the double door entrance to the family court court room. It was a full house and every bit as disheartening and dramatic as a made-for-TV special. Anxious mothers, saddened or angry fathers, screaming babies ... faces of dismay. I sat and added mine to the collage and waited nervously for our names to be called.

The lawyer I'd contracted just a couple of days before, when we got into town, joined us. I said a silent prayer for my freedom, my baby's well-being, and a speedy and favorable resolution. (People are in and out of family court for years). I also added a few words for the competence of the suit sitting next to me. I'd let my fingers do the walking (found him in the Yellow Pages).
The wait seemed to draw out for hours before, "BD v Ganache," a clerk stuck her head out the court room doors, file in hand, calling our names. It was time.

My family, then BD and his clan, quickly filled out the small room, the Ganache's on one side and his people on the other. So this was it. We were really here. BD and I took our seats at a long table in front of the gallery, directly before the judge, with our respective representitives separating us. We couldn't even see each other. I preferred it this way.

Before we began though, the judge asked everyone except the two litigants and our lawyers to leave the room. I don't know why. They did, and now it was just us.

She asked me the expected questions. "Why did you leave? Why didn't you ask the court for assistance? Why do you think you and your child will be better off in another state?"

I briefly and tearfully brought her up to speed on our relationship. I told her about the time our baby was sick, full of mucous and laboring to breathe. How I'd slept, back against the wall, propped up on pillows holding him, because sitting upright made it easier for him to breathe. How he'd choked on his milk because he couldn't breath through his nose and suckle with is mouth at the same time. I'd begged BD repeatedly for us to take the child to the doctor. BD's something of an herbalist. His mother did a stint at medical school and she's something of an herbalist as well. They do not believe in modern medicine. They also do not believe in surgery, they think cutting is barbaric. They also do not believe in vaccinations. Anyway, I told her how I took a half day from work, picked the baby up form daycare, took him to the doctor and paid out of pocket for the visit and the medicine, so BD wouldn't receive record form the insurance company and go into a rage. He was diagnosed with a lower respiratory infection, by the way. I left work every day for a week on my lunch hour and walked the six or eight blocks from my job to the nursery to administer the medication to the baby, myself. This is just one example of the extent of BD's control, and also the extent to which I was willing to go to make sure my baby was safe. My finally leaving was an extension of that spirit. I really had to go.

The judge listened patiently and quietly before directing her attention to BD. His recounting was every bit as tearful and sincere sounding. He just wanted to be in his son's life, he said.
The letter of the law is clear, so the preliminary ruling was swift. Our child is a New Jersey native and therefore the move must be uncontested by the other parent or approved by the court in order to be lawful. BD's Spring Break happened to have just begun, (remember, he’s a teacher) so the judge ordered that I give the baby to his father for the remainder of his break. Upon the close of his vacation, BD was to fly the baby to me in my home state where I would be given 30 days to get my affairs in order and secure an apartment in New Jersey. If at the end of 30 days I had still not relocated back to NJ, I would still have to return the child to his father. Once I got back, we'd either have to go to court again to come up with a parenting plan or ink an agreement ourselves.

It just so happened that I'd taken the baby to the doctor a few days before in my hometown because he'd been pulling at his ears and not sleeping well. I wanted to make sure his ears wouldn't hurt too terribly on the flight. (I've flown with a cold before and it's murder). He was diagnosed with a minor ear infection and given an antibiotic. Outside the courtroom as we were saying our goodbyes and I was handing my child over to his father, I tried to explain the dosage to him.

"Here," I said holding out the ziploc baggie of ice with the medicine bottle inside. "You have to keep it refrigerated and he needs a dropper full twice a day. There's only about four days left, I think --"

"Give it to my mother," he said, refusing to make eye contact with me or accept the medication. He was gloating. I gave it to her and got no better response. I was convinced my child would not be finishing his round of antibiotics. There was nothing I could do about it. His family laughed and chattered and celebrated outside the court room. I tried my best to smile, I acknowledged everyone with a head nod and left as quickly as I could.

My lawyer encouraged me.

"This was to be expected," he said. "He hasn't seen the child in almost two weeks and he's off of work. It was really perfect timing for him. It doesn't say anything about the final outcome of the case. Hang in there kiddo," and he was off.

So there it was. I was ordered to move back to the state until the matter of custody was resolved. I have relatives who have fought over custody for 10 years and spent a hundred thousand dollars, easy, on custody resolution. I wasn't sure if I could do this.

I went back to the hotel dragging a folded stroller and collapsed inside my room. I cried, ached took some sleeping pills and tried to melt into the hard mattress.

Originally posted on March 25, 2008 

27. You Got Served ... with a Court Order

The drive home was long, the car was packed down and cramped and I could hardly move my arms, pinned against the window in the back seat next to the baby in his car seat. But he slept peacefully and obliviously.

What I wouldn’t give for innocence like that. To just lie back in my seat, knowing nothing of the turmoil surrounding me, trusting that it would be taken care of and I would be unconditionally loved and blameless. A million miles from reality. I was in for the fight of my life and there would be no tag team. You know how in tag-team wrestling, how the guy can tap his partner and then the other dude comes in the ring and fights for him, before switching off again? The battle I was in for would have no such reprieve. (I am not a fan, by the way. My grandmother used to sit in front of the TV with a beer watching wrestling for hours). 

BD’s first call didn’t come through until early that evening. As he’d taken to checking with the daycare each morning to confirm that I’d dropped off the baby, this morning I actually had. I’d left our son at daycare long enough to load the car up and give BD a chance to make sure he was there before picking him back up again and heading out.

His greatest fear hadn’t been realized until about 4 p.m. when my phone rang.
I seriously considered not picking up at all. But I had to answer the phone. Though he may want to involve the police and he’d certainly seek the court’s assistance, what was most important was the way in which I would handle myself from here on out. I’d already left the state without permission, the least I could do was own up to that and let my child’s father know his son hadn’t, God forbid, been hit by a car or something.

Sidebar: I think my continued communication with BD, while leaving and after I’d gotten home, is what kept the judge from throwing the book at me, by the way. It illustrated my intent, which was not to hurt the child’s father, but to seek a better existence for myself and my son. Now whether she’d agree that I, across the country, was the one to give our son a better life was another story).

“Where are you with my son?” He asked in a panic.

“I went back home,” I said in my best impersonation of a calm woman. “I told you I was moving, and I have.”

I did tell him I was moving. He’d asked me one day while we were living apart. I’d sidestepped the question before finally saying yes, I did want to go back home, I just did not know when. 

Actually, at that time, I did know when. This would also later come up in court.

My lawyer would also later tell me it’s too bad I confirmed that I had actually “moved” on the phone that day. Otherwise it could have easily been a vacation or a trip to visit family, a misunderstanding to help me escape catching a charge. (Of course this would also mean I’d have to return at the close of that vacay). Thank God I didn’t need that defense though, because after my clear admission, I certainly had none.

“You can’t do that!” BD screamed into the phone. “I knew it! I knew you took him!”

“I’m sorry, BD. I had to. I couldn’t stay there with you.” Still calm.

“With me!? You told me to leave and I left! I did everything you asked me to do!”

Yeah, he'd left for an apartment 20 feet away.

“Do you have my mother’s address?” I asked? “That’s where we’ll be. It’s 65 Shore Drive, and the zip code, is --“

“I know where your mother lives,” he interjected. “I can’t get out there.”

I hadn’t been inviting him.

“I just want you to know where our son is. And I don’t want to take him out of your life, I just can’t continue to live there anymore.”

“You don’t want to take him out of my life? Whadyou think stealing him and running 13 hours away is? This is kidnapping!” He yelled as if receiving a revelation. “I’ll have you arrested.”

The threat didn’t rattle me nearly as badly as it had the last time. The friendly lawyer that gave me the free advice already told me that it was very unlikely that cops from my state would come to the door and take my child from me on papers from out-of-state authorities, or that they’d act on family court matters from across state lines.

BD hung up on me, I assumed to call the police.

About an hour later though, I was getting more calls. Not from BD but from the same area code. I didn’t pick up. There was no sense in us arguing about it. I was gone and I wasn’t turning around. He would do in rebuttal, whatever he was gonna do.

Later that night I checked my messages and had two from a Judge Lauren Hope.
“Hi, this message is for Melyssa Ganache. Ms. Ganache this is Judge Hope, I’m calling you from my chambers because there’s a Mr. BD here who is filing a complaint against you for kidnapping. He says you have left the state with the child you two share. Please give me a call back so I can speak with you about this matter. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll be forced to accept his application for a hearing.”

It was too late to return the phone call.

Three days later the summons arrived at my mother’s front door. I ripped the envelope open anxiously. I’d been expecting this. I was being ordered to appear at an emergent hearing. It stated that the matter was urgent and “detrimental harm” could be caused to the child if custody was not “immediately remanded to the father.”

The court date was only a week out. It didn’t even make sense to finish unpacking.

Originally posted on March 24, 2008 

26. Plan B: Running

My mom and my aunt flew out a few days later to help me get my business in order and prepare me to leave. My uncle was supposed to have come, but couldn’t at the last minute. There are people in much worse situations than mine who don’t have people in their lives who are willing to drop everything for them, take a few days off of work and come out of pocket because a loved one needs something. I was thankful for having that kind of support, and I was finally ready to make use of it.

They’d both been vehement about my staying home the first time, trying their hardest to convince me. For all the people who have since told me you can’t talk reason with an unreasonable person, my mother was the first. 

Still, as they split up and spread out, taking down the apartment competently and categorically, there were no “I told you sos.” (A lot of times, people will continue banging there head, for fear that someone whose seemingly silly and uninformed advice turned out to be wise, might say, “I told you so.”)

I continued to take the baby to daycare when my family was here so BD wouldn’t become suspicious. He’d made a habit of calling everyday about an hour after I dropped him off, to make sure the baby was indeed there.

This day was no different. I wasn’t working in the office today, I had to do an interview in Brooklyn and I planned to come back in the late afternoon to write up the story. It ended up being an all-day thing.

BD never called my job. He’d only been there twice to pick up a pair of keys or something when he’d locked himself out, so I wasn’t worried about him finding out about my last day at work.
Murphy’s law.

I called the office to check in and let them know things were taking longer than I’d expected. These Hip-Hop dudes were never on time.

“Oh, Hey, Mel, your boyfriend just called here,” the receptionist said.

My boyfriend. I hadn’t been real clear with my employer about my situation and hadn’t told my coworkers anything at all. He never called my job.

“Uh, what did he want?”

“I dunno, I told him I’d leave a message on your desk, but I didn’t know if you’d be back for it since today’s your last day,” she said.

Well, I hadn’t instructed her not to. I didn’t want my departure to be shrouded in such mystery and shame. “Shhh, don’t tell anyone I’m leaving.” Messy and personal. Certainly not professional. That’s how I felt, anyway. So much I woulda done differently ...

“You said I wasn’t comin back?”

“Well, I said you might not be because you went on location and it’s getting late. And I know you won’t be back tomorrow.”


“Should I not have said anything?” She asked.

“No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“Don’t worry about it, Mel,” my mom attempted to calm me later. “So he knows you’re leaving. Okay. But he doesn’t know I’m here, he doesn’t know your Aunt Velma’s here, he doesn’t know when you’re leaving or how. He probably assumes you’re flying again like last time and that you bought a ticket already.”

That’s exactly what he thinks.

“I bet he expects you to leave tomorrow,” she went on.

He did.

“Then we’ll just wait until Monday.”

BD had picked the baby up from daycare that evening. He did that sometimes. Sometimes he’d call beforehand and let me know he wanted him that night; sometimes he’d txt me after and inform me that he’d picked the baby up; sometimes he wouldn’t say anything and I’d go to the daycare center after work to discover that BD had taken him an hour before. He hated to have to ask my permission for anything.

Tonight was typical. He’d picked him up and not said a word. So frustrating.

I called him around 8 p.m.

“Hey, when are you bringing the baby back?” I asked. “It’s getting kinda late and I want to put him to bed.”

“I think I’ll keep him tonight.”

Wow. I tried to sound casual and unmoved.

“Oh, okay. Well, just bring him back in the morning then. No problem,” I said.

“Actually, I wanted to go to the museum with him tomorrow afternoon.”

Now, he’s testing me. He’s fishing around for a time. I’m not stressing about tonight, so it’s not tonight, and I didn’t make a big deal about the next day either, so maybe it's not tomorrow.

“Okay,” I said. “That’ll be fun. He’s gonna wanna touch everything. Take lots of pictures,” I said, trying to end the conversation.

“Wait, are you gonna be with us when he has his pediatric appointment on Thursday?”

Am I going to be with them? Have I ever missed a doctor appointment? He doesn’t even have a car, I’m the one who takes the baby for his wellness visits.

“Have I ever missed a doctor appointment, BD?” Not really an answer. “Okay you guys have big fun, gnight --”

“Wait, is your magazine job gonna let you off to take him to the doctor?”

My "magazine" job? Who says that? Your "teaching" job? It’s clear to me now that he’s recording the conversation. I guess, to try and prove later that I had been untruthful with him about taking our son out of the state. It wouldn’t be necessary. It would be quite obvious actually and something I’d admit to. But the realization made me nervous anyway.

“I gotta go BD. Talk tyou later.” I hung up.

Monday morning, I took the baby to daycare as I always did, and rushed back home to load up the car. BD had already boarded the bus for work by this time, but I called the school a half hour later just to make sure. Perfect.

Our clothes had all been boxed and shipped home, UPS. The big stuff, like the sofa and my bed, the dresser and the book shelves, were put in storage and everything else had to fit in the Camry. Two hours later, my mom, my aunt and I, went by the daycare center. They waited in the car as I made a little small talk with one of the care providers and signed my son out. I hadn’t said a word about my plans. I’d have to call them later and apologize and pay the two-week penalty for lack of notice. I couldn’t risk letting them know earlier.

I strapped the baby into his seat in the back, slid in next to him and we were off. We were really going home this time. Really.

The day and a half leading up to my final departure had been wrenching. My stomach was in knots, I had not slept, and though I’d decided what I must do -- leave -- I wasn’t at peace about facing the fall out that would inevitably ensue. There would definitely be a battle. I had no idea how it would end, or how long it would take, or even exactly what constituted “kidnapping” in the legal sense. I just knew I was kicking it off.

In New Jersey, relocating with your kid out of state without the other parent’s or the court’s permission, fits the definition, by the way.

Originally posted on March 21, 2008

Confessions of a Single Mom

This is a story of betrayal and redemption, of good sex and bad choices, and the realization that no matter what it might look like right now, life really does go on. It was originally published as Confessions of a Single Mom on the now defunct It will be republished here, in its entirety. Enjoy!

-- Melyssa Ganache