Heartbreak

My Doomed Marriage Started In A Walmart

Photo: Courtesy of the Author
Photo owned by Author. Picture of Author and her BFF. Photo taken in an LDS church on her wedding day.

It was the second time I found myself in a Walmart bathroom staring at a positive pregnancy test.

And for the second time, my best friend was there for it, too. Two twenty-somethings staring at the illuminated double pink lines that revealed themselves immediately as the urine soaked up the stick. Even if she were tired of my nonsense, she didn’t say anything.

That moment — holding the prophetic wand — was the beginning of me and my husband. And he wasn’t even there.

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Six years after viewing my first test with a scene almost identical to this one, I, again, felt exactly as I did the time before — I did not want this. Not the baby, specifically. But the situation.

A positive pregnancy test isn’t just a representation of growing life, it’s everything surrounding that life. And not just that life, but your life.

I had other plans for my life, which is why just a couple of months prior to that Walmart event, I filed to officially end my first marriage.

I wanted a family, and I knew I didn’t want to create that family with him — the man I’d vowed to love forever four years earlier. He was good and decent and would be an amazing father — but not to my children.

My first husband and I met when I was seventeen. He lived in another state, but his family was close so he would visit our small town often to see his cousin. The cousin who wouldn’t date me publicly, but would sneak out to have sex with me. I didn’t have the desired lineage in this small community.

I wasn’t the girl these boys would hold hands with in public. But they were comfortable telling me what they wanted to do with my body.

They’d take pictures of my butt that I’d see hanging in their lockers as I passed by in the hall. I’d laugh it off and act flattered because to do otherwise was just being "mean". I’d allow them to use my body because I wanted any part of acceptance. This self-abuse led to my first Walmart bathroom pregnancy test.

Getting birth control seemed an impossible task in my hometown with a population that peaked at 900. The closest Planned Parenthood was over three hours away.

Technically condoms were available, but this town was 99% Mormon where even the adults don’t buy them, so purchasing this prophylactic sheath from the local drug store — the only place to buy them within a 100-mile radius — would not go unnoticed. The entire town would’ve been informed before the bells stopped jingling on the glass store door you exited.

So, the boy and I slept together and then hoped it would all work out as it did for all our other friends.

It turned out as only it could — I was a temptress that made the boy impregnate her. I was hated. Ostracized. Alone.

When I walked across the graduation stage, I wore an Honor Roll sash and a loud, invisible scarlet letter.

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He escaped on a Mormon mission and prayed to Jesus that he'd be forgiven. I remained trapped while grieving my abandoned college years and the loss of a child I didn’t want.

I needed to get out and there was one person who didn’t care that I was toxic: The boy’s cousin. He was nice. He was handsome. And he wanted me.

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After I finished up the business of growing, birthing and giving my baby up for adoption, I went to him.

He was my new start in a city full of people who didn’t know me or what I’d done and didn’t care about my family background.

I could forget the Walmart where all my dreams dissolved. I didn’t have to drive by the hospital where I left with empty arms. I didn’t have to face the judgment of the golden, trumpeting Angel atop the temple where I’d washed away the sins of others while I continued to collect my own.

I felt hollow and naked, so I filled my emptiness with marriage at age 19, and dressed my body in a religion that never fit me.

This religion was like the outfit you bought because it looked great in the dressing room with the slimming mirror under the perfect lighting after a three-day fast.

But after a few meals and an Oreo binge, it’s too tight in the hips and the top accentuates your armpit fat. So you try accessorizing it with a bold necklace or throw on a cardigan to hide the most unflattering part.

But the longer it hangs in your closet all it offers is shame and guilt.

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I tried for four-and-a-half years to fit into my Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints dress.

I zhuzh it up by wearing the sacred garments, taking the temple vows, and making a promise to my first husband in the most sacred place, the Salt Lake City temple. I committed to him for All Time and Eternity. But, even with all those accessories, I could not make myself presentable in the ill-fitting Mormon ensemble.

Giving away my faith also meant giving away my husband. He adored me. And I really did love him. In so many ways, he saved me. But eventually, I outgrew the dress and could no longer ignore the splits at the seams.

The reality was, that what he needed to fulfill his life would be the things that would destroy him. So, I left because I loved him too much to ask him to be someone he was not.

The way I left him — the marriage, the religion — was the opposite of Marie Kondo-ing.

I did not embrace it, remember the good feelings it had once given me and then thank it as I gently placed it in the donate pile.

No. It was abrupt, lacking any reflection or gratitude.

Because when you’re staring at two pink lines in a Walmart bathroom, there’s no time for gradually letting go.

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The author has been a military spouse for over 20 years. She is sharing her story of becoming an active-duty Marine Corps wife, fully embracing the military lifestyle, and now her journey of unbecoming everything she’s been for the past two decades.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.