Had I not gathered the strength and courage to walk away, my parents would have buried me and my son could now have been an orphan.

We met 10 years ago and were high school sweethearts. Life was great. He treated me like a princess and it felt like a perfect fairy tale. Things only changed in our second year of dating: he began to abuse me emotionally, he would swear at me and cheat on me and I thought everything would be okay if I just loved him – I truly believed he would change.

Things got worse and I would find used condoms at his place and I remember when I confronted him he became so angry and start beating me up. Even though I was the one being abused, I had to apologise.

The abuse got worse – he would say mean things to me and tell me that if I didn’t want him cheating on me, then I should just leave but, I couldn’t because I loved him and wanted things to work.

A few months later I discovered I was pregnant, I told him about the pregnancy and to my surprise he was excited, over the moon even. I saw the love he still had for me – something I hadn’t seen in a while, but that didn’t last long.

We were back to square one, he continued to cheat on me, we were arguing. Next thing I was on the floor being beaten even though I was pregnant. Needless to say I lost my baby because of the trauma – he killed my baby.

I packed my bags and went home following this and I sent a message telling him that it’s over and he said “Okay”.

Not once did he say “I’m sorry”.

Life was difficult because I still loved him. A week later he sent a message which said, “Baby, I miss you so much and I can’t live without you. I will change and love you and only you.”

My heart melted as he knew which buttons to press. I forgave him.

The next moment we were picking up the pieces – life seemed good and he was getting there. Months went by and I became pregnant again. We did the test together, things were good between us. My belly was growing and we shared every moment of it.

But things changed when I was six months pregnant.

The emotional abuse and cheating started again, to the point he would allow his girlfriends to swear at me over the phone. He began to abuse me physically to the point that my blood pressure became a serious health risk. I was all swollen up because of all the stress and he didn’t care.

I had had two miscarriages already because of his abuse and during that pregnancy I almost lost a third.

After the abuse, I needed to have an emergency C-section. When I arrived at the hospital I remember the doctor saying both my child and I could lose our lives if they didn’t deliver him prematurely. I gave birth to my son that day and he was so tiny yet so full of life.

Following this, my boyfriend was extremely supportive for the first two months, but after that he got a new girlfriend and whenever I needed supplies for the baby he would tell me he would buy them when and if he felt like it and I would hear the new girlfriend laughing in the background.

My heart broke because I wasn’t working and I couldn’t ask my parents for help but thankfully my sister saw that I was struggling and asked if she could support my baby and I.

When my baby was three months old I got back together with his father because I didn’t want my child to grow up without a dad. I realised I didn’t love him anymore but I had to sacrifice.

Before long he began abusing me again – in front of my child. He would apologise and beg for forgiveness because he wanted us to be a family. I decided to go back to my old job in order to be able to support myself and my baby.

I stayed in this loveless relationship 'til my son was three years old. The breaking point came when I was lying in bed with our child and he received a call from one of his girlfriends. They were talking as if I wasn’t there and he told her he loved her. I lost it.

I got up from the bed and slapped him – to which he responded by hitting me until I couldn’t see in one eye and was unconscious. When I came to, I ran to the neighbour’s with my son and asked for money to go to the police station. They said they couldn’t arrest him but said they could help me get a restraining order against him. They then escorted me back to the house to fetch my things.

My son is now 6 years old now and to this day his father’s family hate me for leaving him even though they witnessed the abuse he put me through.

My son wants nothing to do with that man and he always says, “Mummy, I don’t want to go and see daddy because he is going to hit you. I don’t love him mummy.”

I knew, finally, that it was an unhealthy and dangerous environment for my son. I survived because he broke my bones but not my strength. Even on days when I had a lot of anxiety and felt weak, the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me. He was a weak a man who needed to crush a woman in order to feel powerful, but instead he moulded a strong woman. I finally see that.

This story was submitted to DRUM by Portia and was edited minimally. If you want to tell your story email Mystory@drum.co.za.