Updated: Jul 29, 2020
In this blog, I'm going to share my experiences with racism, gaslighting, housing issues and suicidal thoughts that I faced just before plus immediately after giving birth to my first child. I have added contact details to connections who can help you to overcome these issues at the bottom of this page.
When me and my then boyfriend, Brad, returned home from the hospital with our baby we experienced many emotional difficulties. And by home I mean a bedroom in Brad’s parent’s house, a room for the three of us which we shared with Brad's older brother. It was originally his room which he let us borrow, but that meant that his wardrobe was still in it as it did not fit in the only other available room in that house which only had enough space for a single bed and a small set of drawers. At the same time, this room had a cot for Scott, a double bed for me and Brad to share as well as a set of four drawers which we shared between the three of us to place all of our clothes in.
Brad absolutely refused to live with my parents, despite there being a lot more space for us and no need to pay rent either, as there were 'rules and regulations' against drinking alcohol in their house and he wanted to carry on drinking as many beers as he wanted indoors. This consisted of at least 3 beers every single evening, despite not providing anything for his newborn son. But, because I wanted to please and stay together with him, due to fearing single parenthood, I agreed to move into his parent's instead and accepted his behaviour.
We had given up our one bedroom apartment in London which we rented on our own prior to giving birth to baby Scott. This was because our families made us feel that we needed a bigger space and as if we wouldn’t be able to afford our own place once the baby arrived. Due to the fact that he was a mechanic apprentice and I, a student on a loan. As a result, we wouldn't be able to afford any unpredictable costs that may come with raising a baby. The overall point of doing so was to save up money for a handful of months to then buy our own property as opposed to renting one, since our expenses would be cheaper that way and we would have more security.
Brad's mother previously extended another offer, when I was 7 months pregnant, which was to live in his grandmother's two bedroom house. She said that they were going to convert it into two separate apartments due to the grandmother's recent hip operation which caused her to struggle walking up the stairs. Therefore, the offer was that we could live upstairs and simply pay the bills. This would have helped us save up the amount of money that we needed to buy our own property within a handful of months and helped her as well.
However, upon accepting this offer and moving into her house they changed their minds and did not convert the house. I also discovered that it was illegal for us to live there as they refused to declare us as tenants. This was due to the fact that it was a government financially funded house and by declaring us as such, her financial benefits would be affected negatively. Further issues which also caused me to desperately seek an alternative living arrangement included her smoking inside of the house while I was present and I was not allowed to install a WiFi signal which I needed to complete my university's homework.
'Do you know what's making things go wrong with the NHS? Immigrants.' Brad's grandmother remarked during a conversation that we were having about her appointment for her hip.
'Really? How? I'm Swiss- French and don't feel like I'm a problem at all for the NHS.' I responded, taken aback by her comment. Her facial expression showed that she was stunned at my revelation of being an immigrant in England. I saw that same expression with Brad's mother when I explained that I was born in Switzerland plus lived in Holland and Brazil before coming to England when I was 11 years old. His mum replied to me by saying 'I never thought Brad would end up with an immigrant, not that it is a problem of course'.
'Don't tell me that you're African. That's fucking disgusting!' Brad's brother once shouted at me while drunk, after I proudly expressed that I had North African roots too. Seeing how visibly upset I became, Brad defended me. His brother then apologised for his outburst and racist remarks, seemingly honestly regretting what he had said to me. It bothered me that I was living with and now part of a family who had such negative views on immigrants and different ethnic backgrounds to them.
'I mean not all immigrants. Just the ones that go into an appointment with a big family group and because of that always run over their time slots. It slows everything down! I'm only allowed one in there with me, if that! Why should they be allowed six or whatever?' His grandmother questioned. I acknowledged her point of view, but was saddened that she believed in this misconception and placed every immigrant in the same box. Feeling tired and not knowing how to educate someone about the emotional damages that such a statement could cause to another, I simply replied that I understood her perspective and made an excuse to go to my room. I regret not being honest.
'Where is the milk?' She questioned me on a separate occasion, a few days later.
'I threw it away, it was three days over the expiry date and had a strange smell to it. That's why I was leaving, to go get another one...' I replied as she cut me off before I could ask if she wanted me to buy anything else.
'I had some of it this morning and it was fine! How would you feel if I threw away all of your fruits because I thought that they were rotten? Milk lasts for several days after the expiry date. I prepared my tea and have no milk!' She shouted at me. I was baffled and shocked at her enraged tone, especially because I had bought that milk in the first place. It was a green lid milk which only I drank anyway because she claimed to only drink the red lid ones. We had even joked about not falling out over milk one day since we drank different types!
Despite me buying and bringing back another one less than 10 minutes later, she kept a strange grudge against me which made the atmosphere tense for a few days that followed. She wouldn't greet me when I walked into the house and kept a stone like face instead while staring at her TV, clearly ignoring me which wasn't the case before this incident. That week, Brad's mum revealed to us while we were visiting her for a usual catch up that his grandmother was 'very angry' at me for using her house's address to register my vote. This had put her financial benefits which she currently receives from the government in jeopardy as she did not declare us as tenants who were living there.
'You lied to me?' I exclaimed questionably at Brad.
'I had a feeling that if I told you the truth then you wouldn't have wanted to move into my Nan's.' Brad replied, stuttering as if feeling guilty for being caught lying to me again.
'Obviously, this is illegal! We can get fined, put in prison and I can even get deported! There is too much at stake! Why didn't you just declare us?' I cried out.
'She wouldn't be entitled to financial help while you live there and would have lost it all.' His mother explained.
'We'll pay her what they do. I prefer doing that than live there illegally.' I proposed.
'No, because when you do decide to move out then the application process to get her finances back would be too complicated. It's too much hassle for us to go through. She won't declare you and I wouldn't make her.' His mum pointed out. I became so angered that I cursed at them uncontrollably while leaving and making my way to a place located in Walthamstow called 'Cedar Wood House' which provides housing services. There you can speak to a housing adviser who will help you with resolving issues relating to that. I honestly explained my situation to the social worker and we discussed my options.
I wasn't eligible to apply for a council funded apartment and was advised against living in a hostel due to some awful stories about the poor living conditions in them that we would likely experience. The only other 'quick fix' option that I had at the time was accepting to live at Brad's parents' three bedroom house instead of his grandmother's. As I previously mentioned, this was because Brad did not want to live with either of my parents and I was afraid of becoming a single parent. So, that's what we did and moved into there within the next couple of days. But, living as a small family with another family that consisted of three adults (his mother, father and older brother) proved to be difficult. It was overcrowded. As well as lacking privacy, his family problems became our problems too and ours theirs. It was inevitable as we all lived together, causing a lot of tension.
Additionally, due to the fact that the house wasn’t mine, any of my wishes for changes to occur in relation to negative behaviours that were happening were ignored. Some of these being the abusive use of alcohol and cocaine in the house by some members that lived there, particularly Brad and his brother, plus their acquaintances that visited. Also, the constant and random mid-week night parties which his brother hosted for strangers that he would meet at the local pubs caused me and our then newborn baby, Scott, to feel stressed. Our baby woke up crying several times because of the loud noises and music which also meant that I would get little to no rest during those evenings. His brother also often drunkenly barged into the room to get something of his. One time, during one of these events, he swung the door open which hit the cot as Scott was sleeping in it to wake up Brad and ask him to provide the guests with 'laughing gas'.
'Get out of here you drug addicted selfish prick, I had enough of you!' I raged at him.
'My son is my priority, his comfort comes first. He was here first. If you don't like it here then leave.' His mother stated in his defence.
'How can you accept drugs being taken in your house and these parties with strangers while your newborn grandson is living here and asleep? It's dangerous and ridiculous!' I questioned in disbelief. She would deny that the parties ever occurred, stating that I was confused, imagining things and there were no drugs being taken in that house plus even insisted that what Brad's brother had asked for was a 'cigarette lighter and not laughing gas'. His father, who was also an alcoholic, would simply nod with her in agreement. Not understanding it, I was dumbfounded by their behaviour. A few years later, I found out through a psychiatrist that this type of attitude is called gaslighting. It made me feel so frustrated and lonely at that time. I was sober, present and discussed these things with Brad who did not defend me or protect his son like I expected him to because he had promised me while being on his knees that he would stand by us through anything.
I felt that if I wanted to continue living there, then I had to simply accept their choices and not say anything about or against it. Living in his parent’s house made me lose my sense of having authority over my own life plus how I wanted to live it with my son and his father. With this and being crammed in a little room as well as with little money, we began arguing and cracks in the relationship began showing. Brad refused to budget and to tell me what his entire paychecks were being spent on. So, I was the one figuring out ways of providing all of the necessities for our son and paying for his child care while I carried on with my studies. On top of this, he then changed his mind about wanting to buy a house together, preferring to continue living at his parents' house. He also began to distance himself from me, arriving 'home' almost every night drunk and re-eyed beyond 9 pm. This put a huge strain on our connection.
'Your life is trash! You're still living at your boyfriend's parents' house. You only had a child to trap Brad into staying in a relationship with you. You're embarrassing with no ambition! You will end up a prostitute living on benefits with 10 kids...' My mum would call me once in a while to shout these things at me. It often happened when Brad was by my side, so he encouraged me to simply hang up on her.
'Don't listen to her. She's just taking her anger out on you because her marriage is going downhill. Don't reply and aggravate the situation.' Brad said while trying to comfort me. But, the strains on all of my relationships with the people that I loved began to take a toll on me. My mum, younger brother and step-dad moved to a city called Southend-on-sea when their marriage collapsed. This put a larger physical distance between us and led to a further emotional one.
Plus, my female friends felt uncomfortable with visiting me at Brad's parent's house as they also felt like all of our private conversations were being heard and they resented his family's behaviour as much as I did and some lived far as well. Brad stated that my male friends were not allowed in that house. Preferring that I also stayed indoors with Scott while he was so young after my university classes, Brad would call me on video to make sure that I did so. And, as I found it difficult to be around his family, especially by myself since he often came 'home' late, I ended up isolating myself with Scott in that room we shared.
This made me feel so alone, disappointed and stuck that I contemplated suicide again to try to escape these feelings. But, then I wondered what kind of life Scott would have and about his safety if I died. Would he grow up healthy and experience all of the beauties plus blessings, such as travelling the globe, that I did while growing up? I really doubted it. It was at this point that I had enough of feeling the negative things that I did. I wanted to provide a better life for the both of us. I felt that the starting point would be to move out of that house. What I asked myself next was 'to where and how'. I still did not know, so I prayed for an answer and begun to reflect by myself. The following day, my mum invited Scott and I to have lunch with her at a restaurant that was local to us which I reluctantly accepted.
'So, what are your plans?' She quizzed. Biting my bottom lip, I looked away as I teared up and shrugged my shoulders.
'I don't know. It's horrible there, I hate all of them. I need to get out. What can I do?' I asked her and explained everything that was happening in that house. She was shocked to say the least and worried about my health. I lost around 5kg in weight from a lack of good nutrition, my hair had visibly thinned and further to the dark circles under my eyes, I looked unhealthily pale. So, despite being separated my parents shared the ownership of a two bedroom apartment, which she offered me to move into, in Southend-on-sea while they each lived elsewhere locally to it.
'It's my only source of income for now, so you would have to pay rent.' She proposed. We worked out a reasonable price that I could afford and then I accepted her offer. That evening, I told Brad about this and offered him to move in there with us, stating that if he refused it was fine but that I would still go with Scott either way. He was stunned but accepted and joined us. We moved out two days later, leaving his family shocked.
His mum had taunted me a couple of days before this one by stating that I 'wouldn't be able to move out of there any time soon since I needed at least £2000 to do so on top of a rental deposit and a steady income' which she had simply wrongly assumed anyway that I did not have or at least could not achieve without evidence. Further to this, she stated that I should get used to their way of living as it was normal for British men to drink so much alcohol, that I should also appreciate living there rent free and without having to worry about ironing my own clothes (she didn't allow me to do this as it disrupted her system). But, none of that was worth my freedom or mine and my child's well being. I was determined to live an overall better life than what I was.
'Here we will split our efforts and finances in half like we had originally planned and you promised me.' I declared. At first, Brad struggled with adapting to this change and meeting this standard. He refused to pay his half of the overall expenses despite having enough money to do so and to help domestically with things such as cooking or cleaning. Since he was still working at the same place, he would also arrive home even later than usual as we now lived further away. Taking so much from me without giving anything physically or emotionally back to neither Scott or I, led us to breaking off our relationship and him moving back into his mother's house.
Two weeks later, Brad apologised for his irrational behaviour and asked to live with me and Scott again. He expressed that he spent that time reflecting, understanding his mistakes and felt like he was ready to step up to the plate. I forgave him and accepted him back. It was a positive change as mine and Brad's relationship improved drastically which was sustained for a period of time. Brad also found and landed a new job which was local, with a higher position and salary!
In following blogs, I will explain how I increased my finances by obtaining jobs and students loans that are available to parents. Plus, I will describe further housing issues that I faced and how I overcame them. In addition, I'm going to discuss my experiences with subjects such as 'break-ups', 'dating' and 'single parenting' while giving advice on how to cope with those as I tell you how I did it.
Here are some important contact details within the United Kingdom that could help you cope with and overcome issues that are similar to the ones that I described in this blog:
Cedar Wood House - Phone: +44 20 8496 4197 - https://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/service-categories/housing
Housing for Women - Phone: +44 20 8317 8273 - https://hfw.org.uk/contact-us/
ManKind Initiative - Phone: 01823 334244 - https://www.mankind.org.uk/help-for-victims/emergency-housing/
Shelter - Phone: 0808 800 4444 - https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/homelessness/rules/emergency_housing_if_you_are_homeless
Emergency Council Housing - https://www.gov.uk/homelessness-help-from-council
National Health Service - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/
Samaritans - Phone: 116 123 - https://www.samaritans.org/
Mind - Phone: 0300 123 3393 - https://www.mind.org.uk/
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) - Phone: 0800 58 58 58 - https://www.thecalmzone.net/
The Mix - Phone: 0808 808 4994 - https://www.themix.org.uk/
The Monitoring Group - Phone: 0800 374 618 - http://www.tmg-uk.org/fighting-racism-and-hate-crime-247/
Runaway Helpline - Phone: 116 000 -https://www.runawayhelpline.org.uk/advice/racism-and-discrimination/
The Red Card - Phone: 0191 257 8519 - https://www.theredcard.org/contact
IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER CALL 999
If you know any more numbers within the United Kingdom or around the world, then please feel free to post it in the comments below. It could help to save a life.
Have you ever lived with your partner's parents or other relatives?
If yes, how did you find the experience? Comment your answer below. I would love to read your stories!