I’m not sure how I managed to block this memory but once someone directly asked me if I had ever attempted suicide it all came flooding back.
The tears as I swallowed each one.
The shame I felt when I admitted what I had done to my stepdad.
The disappointment in his face.
The thickness of the charcoal I drank.
The sharpness of the catheter.
But most of all, the sadness.
The overwhelming loneliness I felt, as a child.
They always cornered me in the stairway- called me “mosquito bites” for my underdeveloped breasts, wrote LD (for learning disabled) on my shoes, and taunted me with the word “virgin” when I had no clue what it meant.
When you are in a class with a total of 14 children, nine of which are boys, there are few places to hide.
I was easy prey.
Knowing what I know now, as a mother and a teacher, I no longer feel shame for that little girl.
I feel so sorry for her.
I wish someone had helped her before she felt like dying was better than living.
And if by sharing my story, I prompt anyone reading to look someone in the eye and ask, “Are you ok?”, then the courage to put this into words was worth it, after all.
Do you remember when you tasted something for the first time?
The equal mixture of excitement and apprehension?
That’s how I am feeling these days.
Just when I thought things with our youngest couldn’t get any harder, they hit (what I hope is) rock bottom back in December 2020. My husband and I were surviving on fumes- every night wondering if we should take our daughter to the hospital to find some magical cure for her nightmare flaring skin. I was in the bathtub with her nightly at 2 am to help calm the itch and waking up at 7 a.m. to homeschool her three big sisters, thanks to the pandemic. We knew we could not survive much longer.
So we prayed. We asked everyone we knew to pray and add her to their prayer list and we searched. I spent hours and days and weeks and months researching and meeting with specialists of every kind from Virginia to Pennsylvania to Michigan and California to find any possible relief as we all, particularly she, continued to endure a living hell.
We changed her diet, we had her relentlessly tested for multiple issues and within the last month, she has improved.
But what happens after?
What happens once you emerge from trauma?
I’ve been waking up with Elizabeth every night for three years and even my pregnancy with her was ridden with weekly appointments due to concerns with her growth.
How do I adapt to “normal”?
I’ve been changing diapers for over 9 years nonstop and now she is potty training.
As a writer I realize this sounds unbelievable, but I always dreaded the day my child would ask me to make up a story on-the-spot. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I never thought myself capable.
I’m not sure I ever allowed myself to explore my imagination to those depths. I’ve always envied those storytellers who were able to, so seemingly effortlessly.
But my child was working through some hard feelings and I desperately wanted to pull through for her, so I leapt.
The first character that came to mind was an old beat-up truck named “Tooter”. I knew that name would make her laugh, and it did.
Next, had to be a yellow convertible, Tooter’s wife Tulip. Harper loves yellow and I could just see her wavy blonde hair blowing in the wind.
And finally, Cooper (and later, his little sister Pinky), their son.
Over the past year, we’ve woven an entire collection of Tooter stories together, taking turns filling in the blanks, covering every major moment of Harper’s life, particularly what is relative to that day: jealousy, joy, loss, fear, surprise, excitement, perseverance, truthfulness, goodness and more.
“Mommy, tell me a Tooter story.” She pleads.
Seconds after I’ve spent an hour lying on the floor of her youngest sister’s bedroom, in the final minutes of the day. The moment I am more spent than any other in the last 24 hours and yet, I dig, scraping the depths of my reserves to pull through for this little girl, looking to me for answers and peace of mind before bedtime.
Tooter’s family has become our medium of communication on topics that are too sensitive to discuss directly.
Little Lizzie had 10 vials of blood taken last week. She’s still severely allergic to dairy, egg and peanut and FPIES (Food Protein Induced Entercolitis Syndrome) to rice, sweet potato, avocado, quinoa and beef.
We have avoided soy, corn and wheat out of utmost caution for her severe eczema.
When she tried a skittle (corn syrup).
I’ve had four children.
Eating a skittle has never been a bigger deal.
She called her big sister, Harper, specifically, in to witness the event.
And she still wouldn’t chew- only lick.
This month Elizabeth turns three and our journey continues- likely with a lot of food therapy in our future.
Acceptance of new tastes and textures- trusting the foods she has always avoided.