…I awoke with fear. I am afraid of tomorrow. I know what will happen because of what always happens. And as much as I say so often that I am in a different place, I am once again in a different place. I’m drowning right now and unable to speak it.
PTSD is no joke. One recent event sparked memories I didn’t know I was holding in there, and now so much is coming back to me. In flashes. I am reliving and reliving and when it happens I can’t make it unreal. I can’t wake up from reality.
Every year I tell this story hundreds of times. I distance myself from telling it to people aside from right now. This night. Tomorrow. Whenever I “normally” write this. Right now I’m in it. I am so deep in it. All year I can go on feeling stable and then I wake up and I have to be the voice for the Heidi who never asks for help. The trouble is that I never know exactly how this is going to go, despite knowing what always happens. It’s how I respond to it any particular year that has no pattern.
The loneliest day.
Madeline was born early by six weeks. She was a little 4 pound nugget of a baby. Tiny blonde curls. Bluuue eyes. When she was born, I was married to an abuser. He didn’t show this side quite as much early on, but after our son died things went so far out of the realm of “healthy”. I was so sick leading up to her birth.
One night when Maddie was 9 months old, she was going to stay with my mom and step dad. At the last minute, my husband came home and told me that we didn’t need to do that anymore, and that we could just drop her off in the morning with my mom if he still felt like it. It made no sense. But, he was controlling like that. I told him he didn’t have to go and I could just take her and we could have a little time with my mom. He didn’t like that.
I told him I wanted to call her to let her know. I feel like I did get to make that phone call, but so much of it is blurry. I remember snippets from this night.
I tried to make another call to my dad. I may or may not have made that call. I say it this way because he definitely ended up at my apartment.
But I also remember that I went toward the phone on the wall and it being ripped out and he broke that little clear plastic thing that connected it to the wall. Both ends of the cord. As though it mattered.
At one point he went out to my car and then came back in and said it would be ok for me to leave then. I actually tried and my car wouldn’t start.
At one point I went toward the other phone and he broke that cord, too.
I may have been threatened with his gun before. I don’t honestly remember. He definitely took that gun out and it was definitely pointed in our direction. Our. Me. And my 9 month old baby girl.
I felt all I could do was to convince him I was calm and staying. By then, he had somehow come across another phone cord and (maybe while dismantling my car) called 911. He told them I was mentally unstable.
They sent an ambulance. The paramedics came into my apartment and he laughed and tried to convince them of my insanity. I looked at them and told them I just wanted to get us to safety. I just wanted to leave.
My dad was there, but I feel like it was after the paramedics left. Maybe my mom showed up. Madeline ended up with her and John, and I went with my dad.
Neither of us died that night.
And I swear to God I would not have left had it not been for my baby girl and his reaction that night.
He cornered me back at my apartment one time after that night. I can’t even write it without feeling foolish…so I won’t. But we both left that night.
Alive, again. Another night.
He took Madeline from me. He physically took her and ran and I didn’t see her for a month. There may have even been longer stretches of time when I didn’t see her. But it was when he took her that I filed for divorce. He wouldn’t settle custody, and in our state, you cannot divorce until custody is settled.
Nearly two years later, the court ordered me to take the MMPI. You can look it up but it’s a personality test and what it tells the psychiatrist who gave it to me is what might be going on with me that would cause me to do things that my husband claimed I had done. The test was supposed to take four hours. It didn’t take me that long, but I had to come back for results and a session with the doctor. He sat me down and he asked me, “Why are you here?” I told him my husband made accusations against me and I just wanted my baby safe, but before I could finish my thought, he interrupted me to tell me nothing showed up of concern on my test and he didn’t understand why it had been ordered.
How do you explain crazy?
He tried every angle. The last time we sat down for court, a mediator came in. My attorney. His second attorney (the first one had quit). Guardian Ad Litem. Us. The Guardian Ad Litem came to a realization that day. I saw it cross her face, and she gave me a glance. I was an open book. Still.
Such a very long process.
Shortly after that, he was with his girlfriend and they had picked up Madeline. A car t-boned them on Madeline’s side. Her car seat was mangled. They absolutely do not come shaped that way and seeing it in a tangled mess brought me to my knees. His girlfriend was killed. He was injured. Madeline had a few stitches and a broken leg.
She was two years and 7 months old. She had a baby half sister named Isabella who was six months old at the time.
He went to his parents house for about a month. I took Madeline with me. I told him I wasn’t going to have it any other way. She needed as much normalcy as possible. He agreed. For the first time in a long time, we agreed.
He wanted to see her for the weekend, so I was fine dropping her off at his parents house where he was and where the baby was. I called to say goodnight to her, but when his mom answered, she told me they had gone home. She told me some of the “college girls” were staying there to help. Whatever that meant.
It was a Friday when I dropped her off. She got out of the car, excited to see her Grandma. She hobbled off, one leg still casted. On a mission, that girl. I called after her to tell her I loved her. She said, “I yuv you too, Mommy!”
Over the weekend, I wasn’t feeling great, and I was sleeping on and off on Monday. I woke up and sat outside around noon. I noticed there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. The air felt crisp. I remember closing my eyes and breathing it all in. I napped again later on and when I awoke, the phone was ringing.
My sister had seen something on the 6:00 news and wanted me to check it out. I said I was sure it was nothing because no one had called me, no one was at my door. No one. My dad had come home from work, but nothing out of the ordinary.
I called my husband’s house. The line was busy. So, I called his mom’s house. I left a message there. Then I called her cell phone. I asked her, “What’s going on?” She said she was at the coroners office.
And my heart died.
And the world ended.
I don’t remember if I said anything else before I hung up the phone. I was calling my sister back as I was racing down the hallway.
“He killed her! He killed her!” My sister in my ear and my dad standing in front of me with his mouth open. Both trying not to die themselves.
This is the moment. This is the moment that grief consumes you and makes you feel so lonely that you don’t care what happens next. I feel it in this very moment and I will feel it in tomorrow’s moments and Saturday I will get relief.
I don’t want this to be my story because it’s too much. But I so badly don’t want it to be your story that I will carry it all. But please don’t make me do it alone.
Today I was talking to some students and it was near the end of the day and I just needed something to put in them in that moment because there wasn’t a whole lot they wanted to hear. But I needed them to realize that moments are hard for each of us, and we all have a story. I have never seen a group of young men snap to attention when asked to straighten up their classroom quite like they did. They were taking care of me. Tonight, my son was talking to me and I finally told him I felt all chaotic and like I wasn’t doing a good job of taking care of my family tonight because I couldn’t focus or find direction at all. He looked at me, and heard me start to cry (I try so hard to not let that be what they see, lest it be all they remember when I’m gone). He said, “No. No. You know what?” He approached me and just hugged me and then began to list all of the things I was going to do next. Go to bed. Sit on the bed. Relax. Watch TV. Draw. Eat candy. He brought me a bag of candy and a box of crackers and the remote for my TV and a pen. Just in case. It lasted about as long as those students who helped me earlier, but by God, he was taking care of his mama.
I am so thankful for all of these babies that come into my life. No matter how bad they think they are, I know how precious they are.
I think I just realized I’m trying to save all the Madelines. Whoa.
I’m so sorry I didn’t save my Madeline or my Jeremiah from death. Jeremiah’s death wasn’t my fault (though my husband at the time often told people it was). He caught a virus and it ran its course. Madeline wasn’t killed at me. She was killed because he needed to have control.
Oh, I guess I didn’t finish.
What happened? He took a pillow and covered his 7 month old’s face and shot her, and took the same pillow and covered my daughter’s face and shot her, too. And then exploded his head all over the wall.
Why this day? Isabella’s grandparents wanted to see her and were awarded a few hours per week during which they could see their granddaughter just a few hours prior.
On this night I don’t know how to say it any differently.
The next morning, I awoke with four people in my bed. I’m pretty sure they held me all night long.
I am so loved. And I appreciate it so much.
But right now I want to go crawl in a hole.
I miss my baby.
It’s hard to not be the strong one. I feel like I should apologize for it, but I know that’s not logical.
Love until later,