No room in the inn
As my mum wouldn’t let me stay with her in our family home, I stayed with a good friend for a week. During that time I went to Lambeth Council to apply for housing. I couldn’t stay on with my friend for an extended period, and the Council hadn’t responded to me so I had no choice but to go to my mum (a 5 bed house in Barnet). When I arrived, she initially didn’t want to let me in. She eventually and reluctantly did so when it was clear I wasn’t moving from her front door. Even then there was no softening of her stance, I wasn’t allowed to sleep on the bed. I slept on the hardwood floor, with my 9 month old daughter on my chest. My dad was still in the US and was in a coma. When he came to see me in the US he was already ill, but had made the trip intent on seeing me and making amends. I later found out that he had given my sister about £3,000 for me to use to rent a bedsit and get settled. My sister pocketed it all.
At the Council I was told they could house me, but couldn’t house my daughter as she wasn’t British. So I used up pretty much the rest of the money I had to fast track her application and got her a British passport. The proviso for housing us was I had to provide evidence (by way of a letter) to show that my mum was kicking me out of her house because she had to sell it. My mum refused to give me a letter, so I had to make one up myself. Based on advice I received from the Celestial Church of Christ, I prayed vigorously for 3 days for release for my daughter and I to go on and live our lives without this drama from my family. A week later with the letter I had written, the Council came through and gave me keys to a flat in Shepherds Bush. This was despite what seemed to be active steps by my mum and siblings to put stumbling blocks in my way. Unfortunately, my dad did not recover from his illness and died about a few months later. I never got the chance to thank him properly for his efforts in the latter stages.
Back in the courts
In my new bedsit, I tried to put the pieces back together and focus on being a good mother to my daughter. Several months passed, and I was able to get a job teaching culinary arts. My daughter was going to a good nursery, we were getting back on our feet. I don’t know if it was jealousy or bitterness, my mum and siblings contacted X, and told him to come and get his daughter. With their support (they paid for his ticket to come to the UK), he came to fight it out in court against me. I was accused of abducting my daughter. X didn’t pay a dime for his representation in court. It cost almost £50,000, and that was all paid for by the British government (UK taxpayers money). The ruling went against me. It was deemed intolerable for my daughter not to return to the US (her place of habitual residence) for custody to be decided, so she had to return to the US. The painful thing was that if the case had been 2 weeks later, she would have been in the UK for a year, thus making the UK her place of habitual residence, and she wouldn’t have had to return to the US.
With help from friends and the church, I was able to raise funds to return to the US to fight for custody in the US courts. To cut a long story short, the agreement between the UK and the US that provided for my daughter not to be separated from her primary caregiver, was ripped in front of me. The courts ruled in X’s favour, and my daughter at the age of 2½ was taken from me in court and given to her dad. I’ll never forget her tears, nor mine. The initial ruling was all in favour of X, with me paying child support to him. So I had to fight to be given visitation rights.
By God’s grace I was granted this, and shortly thereafter was given visitation rights. This allows for my daughter to spend holidays with me. I also have equal and direct access to information related to her wellbeing – hospital, school records etc. I have since been to visit her a few times, and for the past couple of years, she has spent summer vacations with me in the UK. In 2014 I had a son, and she has since met and adores her little brother.
My baby girl and me
My relationship with my daughter is as good as it can be given the circumstances. She’s 8 years old now, and we talk all the time, and the times when we meet up each year are very precious to us both. Unfortunately she has had to grow up fully aware of the tense situation between her father and myself, and has learnt to be guarded. For example she knows she is not able to talk freely with her dad or her stepmum about me as that is met with a negative response and/or stories about me. As a result of this she has had to grow up and mature quicker than others her age. Through all this she is a grounded, happy and beautiful child. God I remain ever grateful.
There are many I have learnt, and continue to learn through my experiences. Following are a few:
- If somebody shows you who they are, believe them. Actions reveal who a person really is, and within each person is a core blueprint that is fixed and can’t really be changed. Observe carefully and don’t miss or excuse the signs.
- Never put yourself at anyone’s mercy. No man (person) is a deity. God will send you destiny helpers, but they are not your savior. It’s easy when you’re going through challenges and you’re shown some kindness or positivity to then lean on or come to rely on that person. They then become more to you than they should be. Women need to be careful of this particularly with relationships of the opposite sex. Always measure that person by God’s standards, never putting them above God in your life. Beware of “knights in shining armour” especially when you’re going through challenging times. There’s tendency to operate in an unstable state of mind.
- As hard as it may seem, do your best not to be overcome by fear. Because of fear, I didn’t return to the UK whilst I was still pregnant. If I had I believe everything would have fallen into place eventually. I could have saved myself from becoming a punching bag, or the problem of being declared an abductor of my child, the stress and trauma of all the court cases, and not having full access to her today.
- Prayer without faith is simply ritualistic. To believe in oneself without compromising one’s self worth is truly belief in God.
- You’ve got to be a whole person, mind, spirit and soul to form a proper and healthy merger with another secure and whole person.
- Taking ownership of your decisions, actions and accepting consequences thereof, is the raw material and purest state in which we need to be in, for the Most High to work through you.
- No matter the situation, the decision to change your life around is totally in your hands. Choose life, choose to press on and move forward. Heaven will always send the help. You’ve got to do the work.
- Women must always recognize their power, in our vulnerability, our wisdom and our intuition. Sometimes we second guess ourselves in trying to match what society or we ourselves think we should be or present, instead of following that gut instinct and intuition that God has given us.
- No body has got you but YOU. Providence will sit back and allow trials and struggle chip away at our crudeness so we can come out on top, more powerful and able to inspire others.
Everything happens for a reason, but the cost in my case has been very expensive physically, financially and emotionally. It’s not by force to learn lessons the hardest way possible, and I wouldn’t prescribe what I have gone through even to my worst enemy.
I have told my story to help and inspire others. I am not perfect, and I have had to go through a lot of counselling to get to where I am emotionally today. To be able to talk about my daughter, X, my family or my situation without bursting into tears everytime has taken a lot of prayers, God’s healing and years. I am proud to be an overcomer. I realise and acknowledge that not everyone who has gone through domestic violence has come out the other side alive. It has taken years, but I have forgiven X for my sake, and for my daughter’s. I am grateful to God for seeing me through, and for everyone He sent and continues to send my way to help me along the way.
Thank you for reading my very long account, and I hope it blesses, motivates and inspires you in some way. I am working on a book, and planning more speaking engagements to tell my story and help inspire others. So watch this space.
If Zeenab’s story resonated with you in anyway, please acknowledge by liking, commenting or sharing this post with others. Thank you.
If you have been through a similar or challenging situation and need some counselling, or at least are interested in learning more, check out sites like BetterHelp or Counselling Directory. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
If you are also considering a career in Counselling and are based in the US, you can click the link Counselling Degrees Online or Psychology Degrees, for more information and guides that could help you get started.