Against the Grain, Part 1

As a child I was shy and introverted, often having trouble making friends. My parents were French Canadian immigrants and my siblings and I grew up bilingual. School was not a pleasant experience for me, though learning came easy to me. Quiet and socially awkward, I was often picked on, teased, bullied and even ostracized. Over time this negatively affected my self-esteem and self-worth.

As a teenager I became the classic rebellious spirit and give my parents a multitude of gray hairs! Though my grades were good in high school, my attendance was not. In fact, if it wasn't for my recruiter coming to the attendance review board, I’m not sure I would have received my diploma that year.

You heard that right, I said recruiter. Though 80% of my Essex High cohorts were off to Ivy Leagues and Private colleges, I was planning to embark on a vastly different path, for September 17th, 1995, I would begin Marine Corps boot Camp in Parris Island, South Carolina.

On my graduation day, mid-December, as I was being eaten alive by sand fleas, all I could feel on that parade deck in my dress Alphas was pride. And my parents, well they were in a combined state of shock, awe, pride and love, all wrapped into one. My father would later tell me that my boot camp graduation day was one of the proudest moments of his life. My mother, joked with me that she didn't think I would make it through the arduous 13 week training period, to which I said, “Gee thanks for the vote of confidence mom.” And she added, “Well Nancy, you don’t even like to get your fingers dirty!” and we all had a good laugh, after all, she was right.

I was assigned the MOS, or military occupational specialty of “Motor Vehicle Operator”, or Motor T for short. My first unit in the fleet was in Okinawa, Japan. I was assigned to the 9th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Hansen. It became rapidly obvious that I was the only female Marine in this platoon. Though many had been assigned this platoon, one by one they had been removed from the motor pool “floor” is it’s called, and placed in administrative roles in various places within the battalion.
I was determined to stay in the motor pool, and told my squad leader that I went to school to drive trucks, and that is what I was going to do. And so I did. By the time my year was up I had logged over 6000 safe driving miles, and on the wrong side of the road at that!

My next duty station was in sunny California, at Camp Pendleton. It was there that I met and eloped with my first husband. The relationship quickly turned toxic and within six months escalated to being violent as well. Nine months into the marriage, Thanksgiving night in fact, we had an altercation. I didn’t fight back. The next day I went to the Naval hospital on base. My story wasn’t making sense to the nurse. Finally I broke down and cried, and told her what had happened.

My superiors did not feel it was safe for me to return home, so I stayed on base with friends for a few days. When I was finally allowed to return home, it was to an empty apartment. I contacted base legal and began the paper work to file for divorce. Two weeks later my unit was put on standby to deploy to the Persian Gulf. As a Corporal, and the ranking enlisted female in my unit, it was my task to take the other girls down to the clinic to get our overseas screening. Part of this screening involved vaccines, the Anthrax vaccine was one of them. Female Marines, however, could not get the Anthrax vaccine until after first having a pregnancy test.

This is how I learned I was pregnant with my first daughter. In one moment, in that moment, every liberal notion and inkling I’d ever had died and evaporated and I instantly became pro-life. I was going to have this baby.

For some odd reason, this news lead me to believe that I should try to make the marriage work one last time for the sake of the child. He eventually came back when I was around 8 months pregnant. He was more evil and abusive than before. Every day I lived in fear, walking on eggshells around him, sneaking off to write in my journal his torrent of the day.

It wouldn't be until a week after our daughter’s first birthday that I would finally summon the courage to leave him, and in that time my self-esteem became non-existent, as my tolerance level for the type of behavior I would endure rose exponentially. One day a friends asked me, “Why do you still stay?” and my reply still haunts me to this day, “Because I can still stand it” I said…

At this point I was into my second semester as a full time business student at UVM and working two part time jobs. I had to put my little baby in daycare and it broke my heart, but every day at lunch time I would ride the campus bus to the commuter parking lot, drive my car to the back corner of the lot facing the trees, and pump milk for my little baby. I did this every day until she was one year old.

Going through the divorce was very difficult, thankfully, the relief from abuse order was approved and stayed in place for a year. The next two and a half to three years I was a single mom, full time student, and part time worker. It’s all kind of blur looking back now. I also attempted to have a social life. I attended local MOPS meetings, (Mothers of Preschoolers), and started going back to church. I also, on occasion, would go downtown with friends, while my parents watched my daughter.

It was on one such occasion that I would meet my current husband, Bob. My first words to him were, “I’m a Christian and I’m a single mom.” I thought for sure that would send him running! Well, obviously it didn't because here we are! Within five months we would be engaged, and another 5 months we were married. A month after the wedding I became pregnant with my second daughter. We would go on to have two more daughters for a total of four girls, including my first born.

The question we heard more than any other, was you guessed it, “So are you going to try for a boy?” It got old. We loved our girls and felt happy. Then one day a positive pregnancy test though our world upside down. We had an ultrasound or two, and at the second one what we saw brought tears of joy to our eyes, the baby was perfect! He was healthy, his measurements were spot on, oh and he was a he! We were going to have a little baby boy after all! 


3 Responses


June 29, 2014

Thank you for sharing your story! I’m always amazed (being a private introvert myself who believes in the deep importance of community but has trouble acting on that belief) when people decide to share themselves so personally. We need this kind of love and honesty :) Lord bless you and your company.

Nancy Sunderland
Nancy Sunderland

May 12, 2014

Nikki, thank you so much for your support!


May 11, 2014

I have really enjoyed reading about you and your life, how your baby wearing came to be etc. :) I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your baby boy. I have so enjoyed getting to know you here! Thank you for sharing your story.

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