Content Warning: This story deals with domestic violence.

This story is part of our End of the Childbearing Years series, exploring the experiences, decisions, and feelings of Mormon women around this pivotal transition. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.

By Shoshanna

Some decisions your body makes for you.

The first time I saw my future ex-husband, my body knew. He had strong, smooth hands and a Texas swagger. Yes please, my body said. He was funny. He kept me safe. My heart agreed with my body pretty quickly.

The rest of me should have known better, though. The first time I said I love you, it was to end a fight. I meant it, but I also meant, “You’re scary when you’re angry.” I also meant, desperately, “Please love me too.” I should have known, but sometimes your body makes decisions for you. Kissing him calmed my nerves and his. It was less frightening than fighting.

A couple of years into our marriage, we still had no children. At first this was our choice, but soon it wasn’t. We toured various specialists in an effort to “fix” me. Meanwhile, rage became my second husband. One night, he tore his shirt off, buttons popping everywhere. He spat at me and stormed out of our apartment into the night. Thank goodness, I thought—and hated myself for it. But he came back, like always. We had sex, and I suppose it was consensual. I said yes, and I meant it, but I also meant, “Please don’t hurt me.” I also meant, “Please don’t leave me.” I sorrowed every month that passed without pregnancy, but the quietest, truest part of me was relieved.

More years passed, and still no children. The string of pearls adorning my ovaries became one more failure for my then-husband to use against me—unemployable, stupid, fat, and couldn’t even make a baby. The threat of divorce was his favorite weapon. He made it sound like a punishment, as if I weren’t already living something worse. Even as I learned to hate myself, a part of me was so relieved for my future, non-existent children. They’d be spared his anger and my worthlessness.

One night, I stayed up praying, unable to sleep. I asked God for any one of three things to make my existence bearable: my husband’s heart, a miracle child, or death. God said no.

My then-husband returned home shortly after this revelation. He left angry and returned home unchanged. He threatened to divorce me. The words popped out of my mouth before I could stop them. Sometimes your body just knows. “Fine,” I said. “I’ll contact a lawyer in the morning.”

We filed the paperwork. I jettisoned as much of that life as I could. A friend commented on how lucky I was. She herself was mired in constant custody negotiations. We had no children, so my ex had no further claim on my life. In essence, I was free. I thought about that string of pearls and wondered.

When the divorce became final, I laughed. My finally-ex-husband was in tears, appalled. I hung up and hugged my sister, still laughing. Sometimes your body just makes decisions for you.