It was kind of an out-of-body experience. Very surreal. We went to the courthouse for our hearing with all of our paperwork. Waited for the family court to open at 9am. Bickered a little bit about who knows what. Tyler made some comment about the next poor sucker who has to deal with me and I told him that maybe we just shouldn't talk if he was going to insist on making this worse than it had to be. Not a fantastic start to the day... but then, what exactly would constitute a fantastic start to the day you get divorced?
Anyway. We talked to a family relations officer for about 45 minutes, and she got all of our paperwork in order. Changed a couple of things in our parenting plan, most notably changing joint physical custody to primary physical custody for me, and increasing my child support a little bit. I forget what else we talked about. I couldn't really focus. I was mostly sitting there staring at this woman thinking that she must have the worst job in the whole entire world, and that's saying something coming from a dentist, don't you think?
Then we went before the judge. We stood together in front of a table and they swore us in. The thought passed through my mind that we were standing together in a room with wood-paneled walls in front of a man with a beard just like on our wedding day, and I desperately tried to squash it. The judge asked me a lot of questions, because I was the plaintiff. He went through our agreement with us and asked us if we agreed to everything and if we understood.
He asked me to raise my right hand and swear that I believed that our agreement was in the best interest of my child. I flinched. I could feel the tears coming up behind my eyes but I swallowed hard and did what he said. I spread my hands on the table in front of me and stared at them while he asked the same of Tyler.
He asked me if I wanted my birth name back, and I said yes.
Then he restated the terms of our agreement, said "I find this marriage dissolved on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown" and wished us luck.
That was it. We left the courtroom. Waiting for the elevator, Tyler said "Well that wasn't as painful as I thought it would be." I didn't answer or look at him. I started crying in an elevator for the second time since this whole thing went down and then we were standing outside. I said, "I'm so sorry for everything." He said he was too. Then we left. And that was it.
I couldn't shake this feeling, the entire time, that although the people we dealt with at the courthouse were very nice, they were looking at us and thinking that we were so young, and that we had a child. And judging us. Really, I'm to the point where I don't much care who judges me for getting divorced anymore, but it's the implication that I'm doing wrong by my child that bothers me. I mean, I'll be the first to tell you that I don't know the right way to raise a child. I don't. But I do know a couple of wrong ways. And staying with a man I don't love and can't get along with, out of some misguided sense of duty... that's a wrong way. And I can't do it. I won't.
I was in a weird place for the rest of the day. I couldn't figure out how to feel. I thought I'd be thrilled and relieved... I definitely wasn't that. I think it will take awhile to sink in. And it was all so official and cold and legal and draining that I just felt sort of numb. I texted my friends to tell them that it was final. (One of them sent me an email not more than five minutes later asking for my shoe size because I'm a bridesmaid in her wedding... really? Can we not hold off on the wedding-talk until I've been divorced for longer than 45 minutes? I told her "Whatever size is appropriate for the bridesmaid who gets the drunkest and bangs the hottest groomsman.")
At the end of the day, I got home from clinic and there was a letter for me from the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (how very official of them) informing me that I had passed my national boards.
And then I felt better. I have a job, I have the qualifications to start said job, I'm good at what I do, I can support my child. I have great friends. Caroline is awesome and hilarious and she's going to grow up in a peaceful and happy home. Just because today was painful doesn't mean I did the wrong thing. It just means that I didn't take any of these decisions lightly.
I've got my eye on the prize, and the prize is... happiness. For all three of us. Together, apart, or somewhere in between.