It was a beautiful Memorial Day Weekend a few years ago. I had gone with a good friend to the Indianapolis 500. I was very recently divorced and my son, age 8, was with his dad at an amusement park fairly close to our house. I had just returned to the area when my ex-husband called with a pretty horrifying story. His normally tough-as-nails mother had called him, hysterical, saying something about a pool, but he couldn’t make out anything else she was saying. He was on his way back to town, but in the meantime asked me to look for his mom.
So, I did. I think I knew all along what I would find. I knew my brother and sister-in-law were having a pool installed for my niece and nephew, ages 5 and 8. I stopped at a couple of places where I knew they hung out with no luck, so I headed for the hospital.
I went to the ER desk and told them who I was looking for. Just the last name, mind you. Immediately, the front desk person said I could come in the back. I didn’t know that meant really bad news. I said, “No, I can wait out here, no problem,” but she insisted. Into the back I went, and immediately I was confused. There was my mother-in-law, surprisingly calm, or so it seemed. I went to her, and she said it was my niece, it had been the pool where the football cookout had been held, my niece had been missed but there were too many toys in the pool to see her at the bottom.
A lot of the aftermath is a blur now. I went to my brother and sister-in-law, who were holding my niece’s body. She looked perfect and beautiful, but blue. I remember my sister-in-law looking at her almost reverently. I remember sitting on the curb outside the ER, waiting for my ex-husband to get there so I could tell him. I remember my son’s horrified face as he saw her as it sunk in that he would never argue with her again over who got the middle part of the back seat. And I remember the feeling of absolute hopelessness that I couldn’t protect him from that, or from the other ugly things in life.
That night, something broke inside me. I went to bed that night knowing things would not be better in the morning. My sister-in-law’s wails echoing in my ears.
It’s been years now. My sister and brother-in-law are doing as well as I think anyone could and I was diagnosed with PTSD. I thought I had a good handle on it, but I got a comment from someone that brought it all back. This person told me she hoped someone in my family, like my child, got sick so I could understand why she missed a ton of work.
For the last five years, I’ve been lying to everyone; my parents, my children, social services, but most of all, myself.
My “courtship” with my husband lasted just three months before we became engaged. A year and a month after we met, I married him. I blindly ignored the warnings from my parents, my loved ones, and my own eyes. I thought I could change him. He would be better after the wedding, when all the stress was gone.
How wrong was I?
Within months of our marriage, what I saw scared me, but I decided to stay, thinking, “I can still change him. I can make him better!” I was so arrogant!
We had just conceived our first child when he sprained my arm. I told myself that it was an accident and justified it to everyone else.
His sister assaulted me when I was pregnant. He put me down in front of his parents. His mother assaulted me many times. They told me it was my fault. It was all my fault. Everything was always my fault.
What’s worse is that I genuinely believed them!
They threatened to take my baby away from me if I left. I was so scared of them, I stayed.
Now that WAS my fault! I should have left, but I didn’t!
He raped me the first time when our daughter was just five days old. I can still remember the searing agony that tore through my whole body as he did it! The tears and cuts burning with fire, my screams mingling with those of our daughter who was in the same room as us! That was my fault too apparently. After that, I had to have treatment for an erosion in the womb. That was also entirely my fault.
He was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Now he had something else to justify his treatment of me. He “needed” round the clock care, an excuse to stop me from working.
He moved me away from my parents to an isolated town and wouldn’t let me visit them. My parents still blame me for that, as if I had a choice!
After our second child was born, the abuse got worse and worse. I confided in my midwife about him raping me when our daughter was five days old. She and all the other midwives we saw made a point of reminding him that sex wasn’t allowed before my six week check. Normally a woman is signed off by the midwife within days of giving birth. They visited me for over a month to protect me. As soon as my six week check was over, the rape began again. This time almost every night and sometimes while I was asleep.
I haven’t slept for almost two years! I began to crave the oblivion of deep sleep, but I couldn’t because of the fear of what he would do to me while I slept. Twice he raped me anally because I had a period. If he wasn’t doing that, he would say things like, “I was hoping to have sex with you, but I can’t because you’re bleeding,” as if it were somehow my fault for being a woman.
That wasn’t the end of the emotional abuse. There was always shouting and yelling. The police were called. Social services were called twice. He isolated me more and more from our friends and would only let me go out with one of the children at a time.
He’d lock me in the house and “forget” to leave my key behind. Sometimes, he would move my keys, and when I wasn’t looking, would put them somewhere I’d already looked. I thought I was going mad!
When our son was five months old, we went on holiday with his family. While we were there, he dragged me out of the room by my legs in front of our daughter and threw me out into the rain with no shoes and no coat. When he finally let me in half an hour later, I had to sit in my wet clothes feeding our son, while his mother lectured me on how the whole thing was my fault.
A week later, I was rushed into hospital with chest pains. Everyone noticed the bruises and three people made separate calls to social services on my behalf. They sent two police officers out that night to check on the children and me. It was so humiliating! He would never let me speak to men because as far as he was concerned, I was cheating on him with every single man I spoke to.
While I was visiting my parents, he kissed another woman. I wish I’d left him then! But I listened to his sob story about how he was really going to change this time! He did change …for the worse.
In November 2012, his brother assaulted me. I had to go to hospital and was on crutches for six weeks because my sciatic nerve had gone into spasm. I lied in the hospital and said that I’d fallen in the kitchen. I was so scared that my children would be taken from me this time.Do you know how much sex hurts when you have sciatica? Especially when it’s rape.
In May 2013, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The doctor believes there is a link between Fibromyalgia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That was another excuse to isolate me further from everyone. I wasn’t allowed to do housework because I was “too ill.” I’d given up fighting him. I was so far into my shell, I couldn’t even care for our children.
He slowly crushed me to the point that I didn’t know any different.
We had a visit from our new health visitor. He told her that he was afraid of bathing our daughter because he was afraid of having sexual feelings for her. I was shocked and scared, but I didn’t know what to do! I should have left him there and then, but I couldn’t! I was paralyzed by five years of emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. He’d groomed me for this very eventuality so that I wouldn’t leave him!
The next day a social worker turned up with two police officers who seized all of our computer equipment. They told me that I needed to get the children out of the house. I replied that if they were going, I would be going too. They agreed.
My children have been protected by social services for three months now. I’ve ended the relationship and am seeking help for the abuse. Social services are being as helpful as they can be, but the health visitor thinks I should have left and should not have my children back. She thinks I’m a failure as a mother.
Maybe I am. I should have left. I should have sought help sooner. I have to live with that for the rest of my life. I obviously don’t deserve my children. Obviously love isn’t enough!
Four years. Four years later. And still I struggle. Not every day. But enough.
The reminders that won’t let me forget.
Seeing my daughter doing the things my son should have been doing four years ago. Climbing, running, not needing to hold the walls to walk down the hallway as he did at the end.
The surgical scar on the back of my son’s neck echoed in the scar on my soul.
The checkups, though now yearly, renew my fears… what if…
When does this end? When do I get closure?
When it’s been five years since the tumor was successfully removed? When my son gets to go to prom like the diagnosing neurologist essentially promised us? Or goes to college? Gets his first job? Gets married? Has kids of his own?
Do I get closure? Or is closure bullshit?
Yes, it does get easier. Yes, I’ve gone on with my life. But some days (most days?) I’m not convinced it’ll ever really be over, that the door on this chapter of my life will ever really close. Rather I feel that this chapter is just beginning and it’s a long one.
I try to console myself, thinking it’s okay to feel this way, that it never ends. I can be okay with that. Right?
And yet… And so… this is where I am left… my son is alive and well. Why can’t I let go of the past?
I’ve been suffering, silently, for going on eight months…I guess. And, I’ve needed and wanted to write about it. But, I’ve been afraid. Mostly, I’ve been afraid of the emotions that come flooding back to me when I think, talk, or picture the experiences that led up to this day.
Actually, I don’t know when it started. But, I finally said something last week to Mr. B and my Momma.
This suffering stems from an accident, on July 19, that involved my 7-year-old son.
Bubs was in a golf cart accident with his grandfather. The 800-pound cart, fell on a 45-pound baby and drug him on concrete for quite a distance. Bubs was air-cared to the local Children’s Hospital. And I, well I was 39 weeks pregnant. And, I fell when I saw him. Literally.
I fell because my son, my first born, and my best friend was trapped. Under a machine. He was covered in blood from “road rash” and he was broken. everywhere. He suffered with a dislocated hip, broken femur, butterfly fractured femur, crush-fracture of his foot, dislocated toes, puncture wounds and road rash all over his body and a removed quadriceps muscle. When I stood from falling, there he was, screaming for help and frantically searching for his mommy. And my heart couldn’t take it. It was broken.
In that instant, I was changed. Forever. I can’t forget the pain of driving to the scene. The soul crushing fear that flooded through my body the way I imagine Hurricane Katrina taking over New Orleans – engulfing your body with no hope or relief in sight. The fear and pain took me to a place that had not existed prior to this accident. And now I can’t seem to find my way out of it.
I still remember the scene like it was a dream. There were people rushing all around me, ambulances screaming to the scene, a helicopter circling overhead, paramedics asking questions…about him…and about me, paramedics taking blood pressure, police officers begging me to go to the hospital. I was swarmed but still felt invisible. All I wanted to do was go back in time. Just 20 minutes earlier. To make this moment disappear. All I could think about was this “never happening” and how it “couldn’t be happening” to us.
I am ashamed to admit…but, I didn’t care about the baby inside of me in that moment. Because the boy who had my heart first was seriously hurt. More serious than I even knew or wanted to know in that moment. More serious than anyone was willing to “tell the pregnant mom.” It was hard for me to consider the unborn child. I “knew” right where she was and I “knew” she was okay. All I knew was I heard words like “internal bleeding”, “head trauma,” “internal damage” and “spinal cord injuries” being thrown around…regarding my baby. MY baby. It was as if I was having an out-of-body experience.
I still remember the paramedic who took me to the hospital. His attempts at consoling me, while my son flew overhead, were heroic. He was kind and gentle and was a true professional. There are no words that can describe these moments. No words created by man that can put your thoughts and fears on paper to describe the instant you think you may lose your child. It’s a pain like I’ve never known. A pain that was sharp and reckless and it had no concern for me or the perfect family I had built.
And now, it has been replaced with fear.
As I sat in the hospital waiting room, waiting for his six hour surgery to be complete, and cried. I cried for my unborn baby, who would be born into a world interrupted. I cried for me. Because I was afraid and exhausted and broken-hearted. But mostly, I cried for my baby boy. Because I didn’t know what the future held anymore. 10 hours prior, I knew. And now my world was crashing in around me. I couldn’t breath.
See, Bubs and I started on this journey alone. Mr. B was our answered prayer that came four years later. For four years it was just us…and nothing will ever match those four years for our small family. Nothing will ever match the bond we built. He is my best friend. My confidant. My companion.
I am suffering silently with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am struggling every.single.day with constant fear and irrational thoughts. I become overwhelmed with illusions, memories and possibilities…which all hold me back from living. These fears consume everything I do. Everything I let my family do. And, they consume every thought I have. I catch myself living in a world of “what-ifs” rather than just living and loving life. (Loving the life that God so graciously spared last summer.)
And, even with Bubs upstairs sleeping in his bed. Even if we made it through 12 weeks in a wheel chair and two weeks in a walker and one week of God-fearin’, earth rattling pain and torture…I still can’t shake the memory.
I still live in fear of losing someone. And not just Bubs now… Mr. B, Bubette, my mom, dad, step-dad, cousins, aunts…it is growing. And, for that reason, I have decided to talk to someone who knows more about this than I do. A professional….which makes me feel like a nut job.
Because prior to July 19, I lived in a beautiful world where horrible things happen “to other people.” and now…well, I can’t help but think that those horrible things “could happen to me.”
Last year, Stand Up to Cancer asked me if i remembered what i was doing on september 11th, 2001. I did. I still do. This is what i wrote:
su2c asked on twitter if we remembered what we were doing eight years ago on September 11th, 2001. we were living in manhattan. i was on my way to work. the streets were filled with frantic police officers. it was horribly loud, as manhattan so reliably is, but you could feel an eerie silence beginning to settle over the city.
there was a mass exodus on foot. people fled the city via every bridge possible. the subways and trains weren’t in service. grand central was locked down because of the bomb threat. our building was locked down, too. a cell phone signal near impossible to come by.
nuggetdaddy was working in new jersey then and i was finally able to get a hold of him. we decided i would take the first train out of the city and he would pick me up wherever we could both get to. i made it on the first train out of grand central. it was sweltering. the train filled with an acrid stench. most passengers were covered in a heavy white dust; most in more than their fair share of blood.
it didn’t matter where the train was going, people just got on in hopes of making it out of the city. the train stopped at every single station en route. it took forever.
nuggetdaddy picked me up at the fleetwood stop and we decided to try to drive back into the city. we had pets and friends to check on. family and friends desperate to hear our voices. we were finally able to make it back in over some tiny bridge in the bronx.
by now the city was silent. there were no planes in the air, no people on the streets. when we woke up the next morning the wind had changed direction. the stench was unbearable. we stayed in the apartment all weekend, happy to be alive and at home with the pets and dr. roommate.
so, stand up to cancer, there’s your answer.
and speaking of stand up to cancer, did you watch the telecast last night? did you donate? did you help find a cure? did you save lives? did you stand up to cancer?
July 19, 2009 will always be an important date in our families personal history book. To most this day passes without a second glance, but to us, today will always be the day God saved our son.
The emotional roller coaster of this day has not even come full-circle, the accident happened at 7PM. And yet, before 9AM I have felt joy, peace, fear, sadness, anxiety, hope, reassurance and love.
And, I’ve told Satan to go to Hell.
Because today, friends, is about celebrating life & all that it has to offer.
The fear and anxiety that Satan is calling me to feel will not overpower the joy and celebration of this day. There are many forts to build and pools to swim, trees to climb, and playgrounds to discover. We do not have time to waste on worry.
There is too much life to be lived.
Last night, as Bubs slept, I crept into his room and I knelt down beside his bed. There, I gently stroked his chest and legs & I prayed and cried and thanked the Lord.
I thanked Him for:
his strong frame that held the heavy weight of that 800 pound golf cart
his wherewithal to hold that beautiful head up as the cart drug him along the concrete earth
his tiny bones that may have bent and broke but held it all together, somehow
for the neighbors who rushed to help my family in those moments before the paramedics arrived
for the paramedics who worked swiftly and kindly with my little fragile son
for the pilot that drove the helicopter carefully and without haste
the doctor’s that worked through the night to repair his tattered, broken body
for the nurses that healed my family as much as they healed Bubs during his time in Children’s Hospital
for the gift of medicine, that allowed our sleepless son to rest, and be relieved of pain, long enough to heal his bones and build up his energy to fight again the next day.
And then I thanked him for our gift of friendship. My, how we’ve been blessed. The old saying is true, you really don’t know who your friends are, until you need them. And Lord, when we needed friends, you showed us in overwhelming numbers. You gave us an emergency room full of love and prayer. You filled the waiting room for countless hours while we waited for the doctors to tell us the surgery was complete. You sent visitors and toys and prayers and hugs.
You sent tiny angels Lord, and we have seen Your face.
I will never forget the faces as I entered that emergency room. Their concern and worry wrinkled over their knitted brows. Most of them looked like they had been praying for hours, deep in communication with their Lord. Some of their eyes fell as they saw me wheeled through the room – they didn’t want me to see them crying. They are a force to be reckoned with – those prayer warriors.
I will never forget looking around as they rushed me back to my son. I have relived those moments 365 times since then… The faces of friends who came from far and away – I saw you all. The faces of people who love my little family & the little boy behind the wounds.
I am forever indebted to them.
And I am fine with that.
In my hour of need, Lord, you gave me friendship. I am honored to say that I learned to give from the best. I am honored to call them friends.
There were times when my heavy heart and tired pregnant body didn’t think it had any more fight in it – and in those times I remember the people I love carrying me. I remember friends calling and emailing & praying. I remember physically feeling those prayers working.
I have seen the face of God.
I call them friends.
And, I believe in prayer. And, I am blessed because of it.
Today, I will celebrate. I will go to a pizzeria and order a movie. I will buy “grey ice cream” (Oreo) and I will top it with chocolate sauce. I will watch him blow out candles and I will play with his hair until he falls asleep.