Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
Going home with a second child was pretty surreal. As much as I couldn’t wait for Brian to arrive, I was scared to death now that he was here. How was I supposed to take care of two children all by myself? I felt so alone, so incapable of being the mom I was supposed to be. All I could think of was every wrong decision I made that led me to this moment, being all alone with two little people depending on me for everything.
We all slept each night on a foldout couch Mom found for me at a garage sale. Scott snuggled beside me, and Brian slept on my chest. I didn’t sleep much, but it made me feel better to have them right there with me.
Six weeks after Brian was born, we were all in a terrible car accident. We were lucky to walk away with only minor injuries, but my car was totaled, and so once again, I was even more dependent than before.
I had yet to completely heal from giving birth to Brian, and then my body went through even more trauma with the accident, so it was no surprise when winter came, I couldn’t seem to stay well. That made taking care of my babies even harder.
Nate was finally extradited back to Florida from Georgia, and waited in the county jail for release. I talked with his public defender often, as well as the district attorney, always trying to convince them of how much I needed Nate to come home once and for all. The DA assured me right before court that he would not stand in the way of Nate coming home, but when our time came to face the judge, he did just that.
“Your Honor, I see him as a flight risk and I would advise against releasing him just yet,” he said.
I stood at the front of the courtroom beside Nate, shocked. Not because Nate wasn’t a flight risk, because that was true, but because the DA lied to me. I couldn’t believe he told me to my face he wouldn’t stop Nate from getting out, and there he was doing it.
“That’s not what you told me!” I blurted, trying not to cry. I was tired and weak, completely over the whole thing. I just needed Nate to come home. I needed him to be a daddy and a husband again. I needed some rest.
“That’s enough,” the judge said to me. “I agree with the flight risk issue and I’m going to agree that he is not ready to go home yet.”
With that, they led Nate away, still handcuffed, wearing bright orange again. I backed away slowly and then ran from the courtroom. This wasn’t happening! They weren’t even punishing Nate, they were punishing me! He was taken care of in jail. I wasn’t.
Mom sat out in the waiting area, caring for Scott and Brian, and called to me as I ran past. I just kept going, all the way to her car. I pulled the door open and threw myself across the front seat. This wasn’t fair. None of this was fair. Nate had already missed so much, and now here he was, so close to coming home and that jerk stood in the way! Logic reminded me this was Nate’s fault, but right now I just needed to be angry at someone else. I was tired of being mad at Nate.
I cried all the way home as Scott asked me over and over, “What’s wrong, Mommy? Is Daddy coming home yet?” His tiny little voice, so full of concern, only made me cry harder and harder. He didn’t deserve this, to see me like this, to miss his daddy so much. I didn’t deserve this either.
When we got home, I went to change out of my court clothes and noticed a rash on my right hip. Odd, since it wasn’t hot. The bumps weren’t raised, either. In fact, it looked more like measles, if I were to guess what measles looked like. But I thought nothing more of it and went on with the rest of my day, in a teary-eyed daze.
I felt like giving up. I wanted so much for my boys, yet here we were, stuffed into a tiny two-bedroom house, spiders everywhere no matter how many times I tried to kill them off, and no husband or father. I didn’t even have the energy to play with Scott these days. I just wanted to sleep. If I could sleep and then wake up to find it had all been a bad dream, I’d have been so happy.
Instead of waking to find life had just been a bad dream, I woke that night to find it had only gotten worse. My mouth was full of blood, and blood was dried all over my face. It looked as if someone had punched me in the face and I had slept right through it.
I rinsed out my mouth and scrubbed my face, but my gums kept bleeding. I swished with mouthwash, but no matter what I did, it only seemed to get worse. It was the middle of the night. Without my own car or a phone, I just had to deal with it.
Crawling back into bed beside baby Brian, I swallowed the blood that kept pouring from my gums and gagged on the coppery taste. I spent the rest of the night dozing, waking briefly to rinse my mouth again and again, and then trying once more to pretend nothing was wrong with me, this was all normal.
By morning, there were blood spots in my eyes and bruises began showing all over my body. My breathing was shallow, my heart thudded in my chest, and I started bleeding as if I were menstruating. As I grew weaker and weaker, I sent Scott to the neighbor’s house to call my mom. I needed to get to the hospital and soon.
Mom rushed over with my little brother and left him in charge of my boys. I didn’t like leaving Brian most of all, since he was still so small, but I had little choice. In fact, I didn’t have the energy to put up much of a fight about anything, and when we got to the emergency room and was told to have a seat, I went obediently while Mom argued with them.
When it was finally my turn, the ER doctor became frantic. He ordered a whole battery of tests, everything from HIV to leukemia. I was embarrassed by the HIV test, though it also scared me. Nate had been unfaithful and he’d been to prison. What if he passed something on to me? As each test came back negative, the bleeding remained a mystery. I was slowly bleeding to death.
The ER doctor finally decided to send for a blood specialist. That new doctor came in, took one look at me, and said, “Ah, a vampire. Don’t see many of you around here.” I decided I liked him right away.
He knew immediately what was wrong. It was called ITP, short for Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, and it would be several days before I could even come close to pronouncing it or understanding it. For now, all I needed to know was that he knew what it was and how to cure it.
“I’ll get you out of here in two, maybe three days. Back home to your babies, ok?”
I smiled through bloody lips, afraid to open my mouth but ready to believe anything. Right now, the last thing I needed was to die. My boys needed me. Who would they be left with if I bled to death? A dad who couldn’t get out of jail? A grandmother whose house wasn’t fit for humans? I needed to live, and I needed this doctor to make everything better.
Two or three days quickly turned into five, six, seven… None of the medications worked, and still, I bled, I bruised, and I cried myself to sleep. I prayed not to die, not to be taken from my boys. I needed one more chance to do right, to be a better mom, a better wife. I needed more time to help Nate become the man I knew he could be, the father I knew he wanted to be.
By day nine, my doctor came to me with one final idea.
“This is a new drug. It’s thick and will be hard to get through the IV and into your system. But if this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to operate and hope.”
Surgery was risky because I could bleed to death even faster. I put on a brave face to take in this bit of news, and then I prayed some more. I was too young to die. Nineteen with two kids. I had hardly lived my life. I wasn’t ready to go. I wanted to fight.
My prayers were answered when the medicine did its job. By the eleventh day, I was sent home to be with my boys again, with strict orders to take it easy and to avoid stress. Easy for the doctor to say because there was no way I could take it easy, no way not to stress out. But since the cause of my illness was unknown and could only be attributed to all the stress on my mind and body (the difficult birth and delivery, followed by the car accident), I had to do my best.
Two days after going home, Nate had another court date, and though I shouldn’t have gone, I needed the judge to see how much I needed Nate home with me.
I stood at the front of the courtroom again, trembling, still bruised, merely skin and bones. I pleaded with the judge, told him how I just got out of the hospital, how we had two boys who needed both parents, and how I was already hardly able to care for them. I feared this admission might bring social services to my door, but I needed Nate.
Stars started creeping into my head then, and I recognized the darkness for what it was: I was passing out.
In the blurry black, I felt myself led to a chair, and I overheard the district attorney saying, “She’s faking it, Your Honor.” It was silent then as I succumbed to the full darkness for a few moments, but as I came to, someone was whispering in my ear.
“He’s coming home, honey.”
The judge said, “But make no mistake. I’m releasing you because I feel sorry for your wife and children, not because I think you will stay out. Prove me wrong.”
I didn’t have the energy to look up and thank the judge, or even to smile, but finally, finally Nate was coming home and everything was going to be ok. This time would be different. It had to be.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!