I want to tell you my life story in hopes of encouraging you to not give up when you go through trials. I have been through several in my 24 years of life. From losing my dad at a young age to going through mental and physical abuse and becoming a special needs single mom, I know what heartbreak and pure exhaustion feel like. I know there will be at least one part of my story that you will relate to, and I pray that my story will inspire you to rise up from the ashes, and live a life of joy and abundance no matter your circumstances.
I began going through trials at a young age. I can remember the first time I experienced a broken heart. I was in the second grade when my grandfather passed away. Then in 2007, I experienced what felt like my world coming to an end. [The year] 2007 was the year that my dad was in an ATV accident that took his life. I remember the night it happened. I was putting posters up on my wall as a preteen girl, when I heard banging on our front door. It was someone who came to tell us my dad had been in an accident. I will never forget standing outside of my house and watching the helicopter fly over which was carrying my dad. We rushed to the hospital and the doctor allowed us to tell my dad we loved him, although he was unconscious. He had internal damage. I remember the room they took me and my mom to, asking us if we wanted them to donate his organs. He was in a coma for a week and passed away due to a stroke. I remember my mom walking my sister and [me] into that ICU room, holding us and telling us that our daddy was gone. I was a 13-year-old girl who at the time didn’t understand what was really happening to me. I cried many tears, but for a while, I stayed in denial. I remember getting excited about something that happened at school and thinking “I’m going to tell dad about this when I get home”. It took a very long time for me to come to terms with him really being gone forever. Tears fill my eyes as I write this because this is not something I replay in my mind often. This occurred such a long time ago, but my heart still aches. I miss my dad, and sometimes I feel guilty that I can hardly remember what his voice sounded like or what his hugs felt like. Moving forward after a loved one passes away is torture. However, it does get easier. I still have moments when I think to myself “I wish my dad was here to see this”, but I have faith that I will see him again someday.
Not long after my dad passed away, I began dating. I do believe that was a coping mechanism for me. Unfortunately, that led me into some very toxic relationships and taking part in premarital sex. Writing about that may be too much information for some people, and if so I will say, don’t read any further, but I know that someone out there needs to read this. I filled the void of not having a father by getting into long-term toxic relationships. I was in three serious relationships throughout my teenage years. Not one of those were healthy relationships. Please take my advice when I say, having premarital sex does not fix anything. It actually only makes that hole in your heart even bigger. In the moment, I was tricked into thinking it was okay, and there was no harm in it, after all, it took my mind off of how much my heart was hurting. If only I could go back in time and tell myself how much God loved me and could lift the weight I was carrying from my shoulders. I never realized that those mistakes would follow me into my future. My faith was very weak throughout those years. Now that my faith is strong, I know right from wrong, but I am still tempted to feel ashamed and disgusted with myself for making those mistakes. However, God has washed away all my sins and has taken away my guilt and shame from my past, so I don’t have to carry it into my future.
In 2013, I got into my third and so far last long-term relationship. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of three years after finding out he had addiction issues, when I met the man I eventually married. Again, the hole in my heart was never healed, so I was trying to satisfy my heart by getting into another relationship. I knew right away the person had issues, but all I cared about was the attention he was giving me. At age 19, I was longing to find somewhere that I belonged. I believed that settling down and starting a family of my own would satisfy how I felt, and it may have if I had been in a stable and loving relationship. After knowing my boyfriend at the time for around seven months, we moved into an apartment together. I ignored so many sirens going off in my head that told me to get out of that relationship. A few months after moving in together, I found out I was pregnant. Throughout my pregnancy, I would move out of the apartment after an argument and then move back in after he would apologize and ask me to go back. I am not writing this to talk badly about my now ex-husband, I write this in hopes of saving someone else who may be in the situation I was once in. I am going to go into details about some things that happened while I was pregnant. The person I was dating was an addict, abusing drugs and alcohol. I was in such denial I had no idea until he confessed it to me later on. Being in a relationship with an addict causes a ton of arguments and stress. We would argue, he would eventually calm down and apologize, and I would do whatever it took to keep the peace so I could just be “happy”. Throughout that time, I suffered a lot of mental and sometimes physical abuse. Arguments would turn into him unleashing his wrath upon me. I am not trying to put the blame entirely on him, I am just trying to paint a picture of how toxic and wrong that relationship was. The unleashing of his wrath would include him screaming at me, stomping his feet and jumping up and down, pushing me down, leaving for hours and coming back even more high or drunk, cussing at me and degrading me, writing mean things about me on the walls, trashing the house, leaving and taking my keys and phone so I couldn’t leave or call for help, taking a baseball bat and smashing my computer, smashing several of my cell phones, waking me up in the middle of the night blaming me for searching guys on Facebook, threatening to not give me any money to pay bills with unless I did what he wanted me to do, smacking me in the face so hard that it knocked me across the room, coming into our bedroom in the middle of the night throwing the blanket off of me accusing me of doing stuff under the blanket, punching holes in the walls, accusing me of watching pornography, accusing me of cheating on him, accusing me of not going where I said I was going to go, towering over me yelling and spitting as I sat in the corner in the fetal position afraid of what may have happened next, chasing me down in his vehicle, showing up at my relative’s home banging on the door and getting himself arrested, I would find notes he had written to himself from himself saying things like “stop doing this, you love your family, I can’t it’s too hard to stop”, he would call himself Cletus and say it was a demon, threatening to leave me and take my kid from me, and so much more. Was I completely innocent during all of this? No, I wasn’t. I argued back, I cussed and called him names, I accepted his apologies. I stuck around when I could’ve just walked away and left the relationship.
Instead of leaving, I was so brainwashed into thinking he loved me and wanted to work things out, that I married him not long after I found out I was pregnant. Now hear me out, it’s not like every single day and moment was bad, which is why I held on to the hope that he would change and that he would one day truly love and care for me. He was a good guy deep down, but most days his addiction took over and made him into a very scary and unpleasant person. Our daughter was born in November of 2014. I can remember on the day that was supposed to be a day full of love, I was filled with bitterness towards my husband because of his actions that day. I had a difficult time healing after giving birth, and I thank the Lord my mother was available to help me with my newborn baby. I moved back in with my mother and remember thinking to myself “this can not be my life, this is not how it’s supposed to be”. Marriage and having a baby is supposed to be a sacred bond between the husband and wife, and I felt the opposite. I felt so alone those nights I would stay up taking care of our newborn by myself. I felt like a single mother even though I was married.
I remember feeling like all of my hopes and dreams for my life had died. I was 20 years old, pretty much raising a baby all on my own, living in a small room with my mom and, at the time, step dad’s house. I eventually got a job as a caregiver even though it hurt my heart to have to leave my baby. My husband and I finally moved back in together after she was several months old, and the arguing continued. I felt like I was stuck, and that I loved my husband and couldn’t handle life as a single mom. I was living in denial. One day I came across an idea for myself to be able to make more money. I went to school to become a licensed massage therapist. I was working a 40-hour per week job and going to school full-time Monday through Friday. I worked 16-hour shifts on the weekend and one eight hour shift during the week. I was exhausted but determined to better my life. My friends knew something was going on in my life outside of school, but I was so ashamed that I kept most of it a secret. I didn’t even tell my mom most of the things that happened between my husband and I because I knew she would beg me to leave him, and I wasn’t ready to. I didn’t feel strong enough.
Time went on and I began working as a licensed massage therapist. My husband had been acting his worst at that time. Deep down I knew he was using drugs, but my heart didn’t want to admit it. I longed for things to work out between us, and for us to be a happy family. I would forgive so quickly and move on ignoring how badly my heart was aching. I was out of touch with reality because I refused to believe that he didn’t love me as much as I loved him. I finally came to a point where I said “enough is enough” and I left. I moved into my grandmother’s home. I told my husband that if he didn’t go to rehab, I would file for divorce. He went to rehab. After he was there for a week or so, I got very sick. I had a gut-wrenching feeling that I didn’t just have a stomach bug. I was right. I found out I was pregnant with our second child. I remember lying in bed crying for hours. I thought to myself “I have to give this baby to someone who can care for him or her. I can not bring this child into this mess I am in, I have to choose adoption.” I was devastated. Time went on and I grew to love her. My husband spent around 90 days in rehab. The entire time I was left with almost no income. I held on to my last ounce of hope. I read so many marriage books and listened to advice on how to handle a situation like mine.
My husband came out of rehab and I believed that he had changed. Maybe he did for a short time, but it didn’t take long for him to relapse. I gave birth to our second child in February 2017. She was a healthy, beautiful baby girl. I went back to work when she was only eight weeks old. My husband began drinking again so I took the kids and moved in with my grandmother telling him I was done.
The night of May 25, 2017, changed my life forever. I had asked my husband to keep our 3-month-old overnight so I could get a full night of sleep. I communicated with him several times that evening asking how she was doing in which he would reply that she was doing okay, never mentioning that anything was wrong. I went to work the next morning and while I was doing a massage, I heard a knock at my door. That had never happened to me so I immediately knew something was wrong. My boss told me to go to the hospital because my baby was there. At first, I didn’t think it was serious, I figured she was just having bad reflux or something similar to that. I realized something was terribly wrong when I called my mom and she was sobbing telling me that my daughter was barely breathing. That drive to the hospital was the longest drive of my life.
I walked into the emergency room at the hospital and I remember being so confused and hearing a horrendous sound coming from a room, and I thought “that sounds like it may be a baby, but there’s no way that’s my daughter”. It was her. I went around the corner and I saw about 10 nurses and doctors running back and forth in and out of her room. They began asking questions I didn’t know the answers to. I walked over to her bedside and looked into her eyes. She was still making a moaning sound but what stood out to me most was her eyes. I had just looked into those eyes the day before and they were full of life. When I looked into them that day, I saw nothing. She had a blank stare as if her soul had left her body and she was just lying there barely hanging on. They took her for a CT scan and came back telling me that she had bleeding on her brain. By that time my mom had arrived to be with me. Our pastor had also arrived and I had a feeling of deja vu. There I was, 10 years after my father had passed away, with my mom and pastor, devastated and begging God to save my loved one’s life. I could not believe I was having to go through something like that again.
My daughter’s medical team got her stable enough to be transferred to a children’s hospital. I felt so relieved. The word stable brought me some comfort. I had such hope that she was going to be okay. We couldn’t ride [in] the ambulance, so my mom and I headed towards the children’s hospital. While driving, I received a phone call. I rarely answered numbers that I didn’t know, but I happened to answer it thinking it was a family member calling to ask what was going on. When I answered, I heard a voice say “this is the nurse and we need you to come back to the hospital.” I was angry thinking I had forgotten to sign a paper or something like that, so I replied “why?!”. The nurse replied, “I can’t tell you that over the phone”. It was then that my heart sank and I caught on to what was happening. I began sobbing screaming that she was dead. Once we arrived at the hospital, we were met by two security guards who escorted us to a small room. That room. That room that I was taken to 10 years before to receive the same news that I received about my dad. The nurse got on her knees in front of me and said “your daughter coded as soon as they got her onto the ambulance. They have been doing CPR on her and she has not had a pulse in  minutes. I wanted you to have a chance to say goodbye to her”. I replied “No! I don’t want to see her like that.” I had a cousin who was my age pass away just a month before while receiving CPR and it was a horrific sight. That was why my immediate reaction was no. Something told me to go see her. Now I realize it was God telling me to go. He respected my wishes of not seeing her like that because all I can remember is seeing white, all except her tiny head which was blue and flopping up and down from compressions. I dropped to my knees and grabbed her hand. I began praying out loud which was something I had never done before that moment. About a minute later, I heard the doctor say he had a pulse. I watched as the color came back to her hand. They once again got her stable enough to be transferred.
Upon arriving at the hospital, her father showed up, and we were taken into another room and questioned by a forensic doctor. We were then able to go back to see my daughter. As I walked in I asked the doctor “what happened to her?” He replied, “shaken baby syndrome” and left the room. I was in complete shock. I was also in denial. I fully believed there was no way anyone could’ve hurt my daughter. I couldn’t fathom the thought of her being shaken. I had been thrown into a world I had no experience in whatsoever. My whole family was interrogated. I would have to leave my daughter, whom doctors said would most likely not live, to be interrogated by investigators. One [question] that I remember clearly was when the investigator said to me “well, we think you did this to your daughter.” I felt like he had just ripped my heart straight out of my chest. I began crying uncontrollably and all I could get out was “no, no, I would never hurt her, no.” He then replied, “I’m sorry I had to do that to you, that is how we would expect you to react, your husband is not reacting that way though, he’s not acting like he should be acting at a time like this”.
I defended him. Once again, when tragedy struck, I clung to a man. I didn’t know how else to cope with the situation I was in. I researched day and night trying to figure out what else could’ve happened to my daughter. I asked so many questions. I was so defensive every time a doctor would tell me she was for sure shaken, there is no other possibility. I would get defensive every time an investigator would tell me that they believed my husband hurt my daughter. Being in denial, I just wanted to wake up from the nightmare I was in, and everything be okay.
My daughter ended up coming off of the ventilator after two weeks. Doctors would tell me devastating news daily about how she would never recover. I remember I would go days without eating because my heart hurt so badly. I would sob, and then feel better having hope that she would be okay, and then begin sobbing again. I felt every emotion possible. I remember sleeping on a chair every night and wondering if we would ever get to leave that hospital because everything was so unknown. Once she began to wake up after being taken off of life support, she began to cry and move her arms and legs a little. That gave me hope, but at the same time, she couldn’t even open her own eyes, she was nothing like she was two weeks prior. Doctors would come in and tell me that she would probably never open her eyes, and if she did, she would be blind because the part of her brain that enables her to see was dead. They would tell me what they believed happened to her. Her doctor told me that her injury was so bad, that it was as if she had fallen from a two-story building. I remember thinking “no, you’re wrong, there is no way.” I could not accept what she was telling because I couldn’t handle the images that would pop into my mind when she’d say stuff that, like my daughter’s head flopping back and forth so hard that it caused her brain to bleed.
Her neurologist viewed a video her father had taken of her that evening. In the video, her eyes were closed, and her arm was stiff, pointing upward, and she was making a noise that was very concerning to him. The video was over five minutes long and her father stated that he thought she was having a nightmare and recorded it because he thought it was funny. Her neurologist and other doctors agreed that she was having seizures in the video and the video was taken after she was injured. They believe that she had laid there all through the night having seizures, and eventually had a stroke. One of her doctors told me that they couldn’t believe that she made it as long as she did after all that she went through.
After three weeks in the hospital, investigators brought a court order that said they fully believe her father injured her and would only be allowed supervised visitation with both children, and no overnight visitation. This conclusion was made after we had both taken polygraph tests and been interrogated several times. After he had taken a polygraph test, he came to me and said “okay I need to tell you what happened. I was bouncing her on my knee and she fell onto the hardwood floor”. I was furious. I felt some relief though, finally getting an answer. I asked her doctor if that could’ve caused her injury and they replied “that may have happened as well, but that alone could not have caused her injury, she suffered a subdural hematoma and it was from being violently shaken”.
After four weeks in the hospital, she was finally discharged. I was terrified. I had to leave that hospital with a child I had no idea how to care for. She was discharged with the diagnosis of global cortical ischemia, severe encephalopathy, subdural hematoma, seizures, bilateral retinal and vitreous hemorrhages, g-tube dependence, and irritability. No one had informed me that my daughter could’ve been approved for private duty nursing care and go home with a nurse’s help. Throughout her hospital stay, I was not treated like a mother who almost lost her child, I was treated as someone who allowed her child to be injured by most people. I had to go home with a child that could not go a few minutes without having reflux and choking. I had to quit my job to stay at my grandmother’s home to care for her. She required around the clock care. I had so many questions. I wondered if her g-tube site could be submerged in water, I wondered if she would aspirate and die in the middle of the night when I fell asleep for a few minutes, I wondered if I was giving all of her medications correctly, I was constantly questioning myself and my ability to care for her.
One week after she was discharged, I took her to her primary care physician begging for some answers. I knew my child could not live her entire life choking over and over. I knew something had to be done, I just didn’t have the medical knowledge to know what. Her doctor sent us to the hospital where they admitted her to watch her. I was feeling even more hopeless being right back where I never wanted to be again, but I also felt comfort because at least I could sleep more than an hour at a time. During that stay, the doctors came to the conclusion that my daughter had Gastroparesis and couldn’t handle anything going into her stomach. One doctor told me she had been suffering that entire week and could’ve easily aspirated. They placed a G/J-tube which bypasses the stomach allowing everything to flow directly into her intestines.
During that time, I had to go to court and testify against my husband. No one was allowed inside the courtroom except for me, him, and the attorneys. My daughter had a state attorney appointed for her. The session lasted for hours. As he was on the stand, he was asked why he didn’t contact me after admitting he knew something was wrong with his daughter, and his reply was “I didn’t want to hear her gripe”. He admitted to being on drugs on and off for the past seven years. He said a lot of things that made me honestly want to smack him then and there. He showed no remorse for what he did, nor would he admit to it. He plead the fifth several times, and his attorney would not allow the polygraph testing to be used to question him, since he had failed it. At the conclusion of the session, the judge said that he saw reason for trial, but we would have to have proof since there was no confession and it was such a broad time frame. [Afterward], my daughter’s caseworker contacted me and informed me of a deal they were going to make with him. She said, “we are going to offer to drop the criminal charges if he will continue supervised visits only”. At first, I was furious. I argued and said, “so he destroys my daughter’s life and mine, and gets to walk away with no punishment?!” Her reply was “unfortunately we see this a lot. Parents who sexually abuse their children can go to therapy and get their children back.” I remember thinking how can I argue with that? At least that didn’t happen to my daughters. I spent so much time trying to figure out how to get him criminally charged. One day I woke up and decided I was done. I decided I couldn’t live that way any longer. I decided to forgive. I made that decision so that I could move on with my life and care for my daughter without the extra weight of holding a grudge. We went to court a second time where he plead guilty to neglect, and signed to continue supervised visits only.
Around that time, I had been exposed to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and how it had helped reverse brain damage in some people. I decided that I absolutely had to take my daughter for the treatments. Fundraising was done because insurance does not approve the treatments. I remember how stressful it was making so many phone calls during that time. I had to be in contact with insurance constantly. There we were, me hardly knowing how to care for her, heading down to New Orleans, Louisiana to receive treatments every day for almost two months. The Lord blessed us by providing us with a place to stay with an amazing family. My daughter began having what I thought was blood coming from her mouth while we were down there. In the middle of the night, I had to take her to an emergency room by myself. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone. Doctors came to the conclusion that it was not blood, and that it was from her G/J-tube site. I took her to a GI doctor shortly [afterward], who informed me that I could vent her g-tube, letting all of the gases out of her belly. It had been three months since her injury and I never knew to do that. She had suffered from so much gas pain during that time, and there was such an easy fix that I was never told. It hurt my heart knowing she had been suffering. It made all the difference and was a tremendous help.
During those two months, my other daughter who was around three at the time, had to stay at home with my family. I had to choose to miss out on two months of her life, to get my baby treatments. She changed during those two months and learned so much. As a special needs sister, she coped with the changes pretty well. My family was able to take her to visit me once while we were there, which I appreciated very much. It was a bittersweet feeling once we were able to go back home. I was excited to go home, but at the same time was sad to leave the new family we grew close to during our stay. I was also concerned about how I was going to take care of both of my children at the same time, because up until that point, I didn’t have to often.
Once we arrived home, I was finally informed that my daughter was eligible for private duty nursing care. The entire time I had been thinking that I would never be able to work or leave my house again without her. My world changed once the nursing care was approved. It didn’t happen without a fight though. I remember feeling like things would never work out for us. Making several phone calls and filing appeals until the hours were finally approved. Having nursing care allowed me to go back to work. Between her many doctors and therapy appointments, going to work, and raising a toddler, I was often tempted to feel overwhelmed. I cried so many tears. I felt like such a failure and I felt as if things would never get better. We were still living out of a tiny room and I wanted so desperately to find a place of my own so that we could have some sense of normalcy.
Months went by and I was finally able to get my own apartment. It was a scary feeling, knowing I was the only provider for our family. I also felt empowered. I was being independent and didn’t have to rely on anyone anymore. A year before, I was feeling stuck with my husband forever because I believed I was too weak and could never make it on my own. I was making it on my own though. All the fear he had drilled into my head of how I’d be nothing without him, vanished. I could make it on my own and I was. At the time I was still in the middle of a dragged out divorce. It was costing me every penny I had to my name. I was living paycheck to paycheck and sometimes asking for money just to make it to the next payday. I stayed in constant prayer. I trusted God’s plan for me and knew he would provide for our needs. However, I was beginning to grow weary, and began to complain about my situation. What happened a week after I began complaining taught me a valuable lesson.