Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why?



Detective Banks leaned forward to switch on the recording device and then sat back in his chair. Ainslee watched him, her hands gripped three facial tissues like a lifeline. She swiped at another tear and tried to calm the trembling of her body.

            “I just want you to take us through the events of this morning,” Banks said. He used a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off his bald head. Ainslee wondered why the little room didn’t better air conditioning, but then chided herself for thinking of something so trivial at a time like this.
           
            She hunched forward, closer to the microphone. “Mom had just left to take Ashlyn to soccer. It’s just at the park up the street from our house, so they walked.” Her throat caught on a sob and she swallowed before continuing. “I was supposed to go with them but I’d been up all night studying for my geometry final and Mom let me sleep in.”
           
            Banks nodded like he was encouraging her. “And then what did you do?”
           
            Ainslee looked down at the partially shredded tissues in her hands. She’d been tearing at them ever since they sat down. “I got in the shower. I always hook up my iPod to the waterproof speakers and I guess I had my music on pretty loud.”
           
            He moved as though to put a hand on her arm but reconsidered and leaned back. “What happened next?”
           
            You already know, she wanted to scream. Why are you making me tell you?

            “I heard a couple of bangs and a thud,” she said. “I figured Dad and Jayce were roughhousing. They always get a little wild so Mom doesn’t let them do it when she’s home.” She thought of her little brother, how he had taken the last bowl of her favorite cereal this morning and how she’d yelled at him for it.

            She wished she could take everything back.

            “What next?”

            Ainslee took a deep breath to keep the tears in check, but there was no way to keep her voice from wavering. “I felt something shake the walls. I thought maybe it was an earthquake, so I turned down the music and listened. Maybe my dad would call me to get into a doorway or something. But I couldn’t hear over the water so I turned that off too.”

            “Did you hear anything?”

            She shook her head, but then realized the microphone couldn’t pick that up. “No. It was so quiet. I got out and put on my robe and called for my dad. He . . . he didn’t answer. I yelled for him again, even though I could tell there wasn’t an earthquake.”

            Banks nodded again. “And then what?”

            “I heard footsteps,” she said, her voice hoarse. She didn’t bother to wipe the tears streaming down her cheeks. “Then the bathroom doorknob rattled. I thought that was weird since Dad would have said something so I thought it was Jayce being a dork—“

            “Do you always lock your door when you shower?”

            Ainslee shot him a look. With a prankster brother and his perv friends what do you think? “Yes.”

            “Did the person say anything?”

            “No.” Ainslee choked back a sob. “I thought it was Jayce, so I yelled at him to leave me alone. Then the rattling stopped.”

            “Did you exit the bathroom at that time?”

            “No,” she said. “First I put on my moisturizer and then got dressed. See, I thought everything was normal.”

            “When did you discover the bodies?”

            The question sent a shiver right through her soul. Ainslee’s tears poured down her face. “I went to the living room to watch TV,” she sputtered between sobs. “And there they were. Jayce was behind the couch but Dad was right in the middle of the floor!”

            “We have the recording of your 9-1-1 call, so I won’t need you to repeat that,” Banks told her. “Do you remember anything? Did you see anything? Hear anything?”

            “I only heard screaming,” she whispered. It had been her screaming and she knew it, but couldn’t remember opening her mouth. “I just don’t understand. Who would do this? Why?”

            “We don’t have any answers yet, but I promise you we will.”

            Then the question spilled out. “Why didn’t he kill me? He knew I was there. Why didn’t he kill me too?”

            Detective Banks reached over and shut off the recorder. “Miss Dawson, I just don’t know.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reactive



This is a response to the dad who wrote that he and his wife were angry that they are expecting twins. You can read his ARTICLE and then come back if you want. No big.

I don’t know you. And I imagine right now you’re questioning whether writing the article was the best idea, even though you elected to remain anonymous. But, like it or not, writing that article and publishing it gave me and everyone else who wrote it a glimpse into your life. I liken this glimpse to peeking in your living room window on a random evening—it doesn’t give a full picture of who and what you are. I’m sure you and your wife are lovely people who are, right now, struggling with something huge. I respect you greatly for having the courage to say something “out loud” that is essentially unpopular. That’s never easy, and I appreciate your struggle.

And, fair’s fair, so I’m going to give you a look into my living room window at a certain point in time. It’s Christmas 1998 and my husband and I just found out that we were expecting not one, but TWO sons. Our oldest boy would be three months shy of his 2nd birthday when the blessed moment would occur. We were in the process of adjusting my husband’s visitation and support for his daughter (the process began sometime that fall and ended in March 1999, just so you know) to better enable us to accommodate our growing family. Incidentally, my stepdaughter was present at our “discovery” ultrasound and went home and cried that she would not be getting a baby sister after all. What’s more opposite than a baby sister than two baby brothers? I can tell you that she felt pretty dang screwed by the whole system at that point.

No, we never struggled with fertility. The twins happened naturally.

About 30 weeks into my pregnancy, my body decided that it really wanted to be done and started practicing pre-term labor processes. I was closely monitored, including several weekly 30-mile-both-way hospital visits for non-stress tests. My bed rest was increased to 50%. By 32 weeks’ gestation I was at a full 100% bed rest, had been given steroid shots to increase fetal lung development, and was popping pills to prevent me from going into labor. At this same time my husband’s court date, which had been postponed by his ex’s lawyer a month, loomed on our calendar. Though he’d already purchased the plane fare to AZ and back and taken the time off work, my husband didn’t feel he could leave my side and so trusted his lawyer to handle things for him. I’d already been in the hospital twice that week (I was admitted both Mon and Tues and he was to fly out Wed kind of deal) but I still wanted him to go. I felt it was imperative that he be present at the hearing, and apparently the judge felt the same. Though my husband participated via phone, it was only to hear the judge call him all sorts of worthless names and barely let his lawyer say a word. Nothing was decided in our favor and we ended up probably in worse shape legally and financially than we would have been had we never filed. To demonstrate this, when our twins were born the court ordered child support decreased by $20/month. His overtime, though never steady and not reliable, was considered regular income and we were left paying more than we could reasonably afford. But once bitten, we never refilled with the AZ courts to adjust or change anything after that.

Meanwhile I spent my days on a mattress on my living room floor. Friends took my firstborn for a few hours every morning until his nap time and my sister in law moved into our garage apartment so she could be there if I needed help in the afternoons and evenings.

My twins were born at 36 ½ weeks, April 21, 1999. It was a Wednesday, and I went home Sunday. For their privacy, I’ll simply call them J and D. I elected to breast feed my sons since that had gone so well with my first child, but J would projectile vomit green sludge in the middle of every other feeding. D was gassy and had a hard time. The medical professionals in our service all said it was because they were preemies and that most digestive issues sort themselves out. Still, we had J back to the ER with his pea soup colored vomit within a day of being home. During those first weeks doctors told me many things. I was even told to stop breast feeding because that was the problem.

I never went back to that doctor.

D had some issues with colic and gas and spitting up. J never seemed to complain much but then he would projectile vomit several times a day. Knowing his stomach was empty I would wait for it to settle and then feed him again. I was literally nursing a baby every hour on the hour. It got wearing, I’ll admit, and by their six week check up I had to admit defeat and switched them to formula. In some ways that was easier because anyone could feed them—my sister in law, myself, my husband when he was home. But I still struggled with J’s vomiting. Soon, though, I detected a pattern with his vomit and it got to the point where I could schedule doctor visits and grocery shopping without worrying that he would throw up in the car or in public. Because he was still growing and “thriving” and only a little smaller than his brother, his doctor seemed to think whatever he was experiencing would pass as he got older.

When the twins were about 3 months old my husband took a job with the Special Services section of the company he worked for. This meant he would be away (for us it was Wyoming) from home for 3 weeks of every month, and home for 6 days including travel time. So he wasn’t really home for 6 days. It was more like 5. Even with my network of support and help, I was really the primary person responsible for all 3 boys 24/7. I can’t give you a whole lot of details about that time because it’s really a blur for me. I was in survival mode, eeking by day to day without thought or plan of tomorrow or even the next week. I was doing the best I could, dealing with vomiting, waking at night, teething, and a toddler all on my own.

Finally, when the twins were at their 9 month check up I got the doctor to admit that J should not be vomiting like he did. And finally he was beginning to lose ground on their stupid age/height chart so he couldn’t be considered “thriving” anymore. She scheduled an Upper GI where they have him drink a barium solution and then track that solution through his body via a type of X-ray technology.

The barium was the only thing he never threw up. I have no idea why.

The procedure revealed a blockage in J’s duodenal area, just beyond his stomach. Because it couldn’t give us any specifics, we were referred up to the OKC Children’s Hospital for further testing. Their department couldn’t get us in for 4 weeks.

The Monday before J’s appointment in OKC, he and D woke up with the stomach flu. By 6pm that evening J’s diaper was still dry—he hadn’t wet a diaper in almost 24 hours. I took him to the hospital for dehydration for the second time in his life (he was ten and a half months old) and had them look over D too, since he was fevered and fussy. They confirmed the stomach flu diagnosis and released D, but wanted to get J on an IV and rehydrate him.

Except they couldn’t. He was so tiny and his little veins so dehydrated that they finally had to go into the marrow of his shinbone to get fluid into him. My poor baby screamed for almost an hour while they used him as a pincushion trying to hydrate him.

At first, they didn’t know if they would admit him to the hospital or just treat him as an ER patient and release him. Then they wanted to admit him but weren’t sure if they should do it there or just transfer him up to the Children’s Hospital. I lobbied for the Children’s Hospital. His doctor did the same. And with friends watching my other two boys, J and I rode on stretcher in the back of an ambulance the hour and a half up to the Children’s Hospital in OKC sometime around midnight.

We spent ten of the longest days of my life in that hospital. My husband had to be called back from Wyoming and met us up there. That week was supposed to be my big vacation away from the kids week so he’d planned to have the week of but not quite that soon. Meanwhile, D was still very sick at home and had to be treated and helped by friends because I couldn’t be in two places at once. I still haven’t mastered that.

At the hospital they ran more tests on J and then scheduled an exploratory surgery to go in and see what was wrong and (hopefully, if they could) fix it. The morning before his surgery he pulled out his IV. We were at a children’s hospital, mind you. Their patients are all little and all sick in some way. No one could get an IV in my child. They even asked the nurse who puts IV’s in kids while in a helicopter in mid-air and she couldn’t even do it in a hospital bed inside the building.

If you ever want to know fear, then I dare you to hand your child over to the doctor at the doors of the operating room. I didn’t know if they could fix him. I didn’t know if he’d survive. But I did know that if we did nothing he would definitely die. He was dying already, starving to death no matter how many times I fed him. There was no other option.

His procedure lasted forever. Really it didn’t, but it felt like forever. When the surgeon finally came out to tell us he was in recovery I felt like I couldn’t even stand up. Basically, when my two little boys were tiny little embryos some of the cells that were supposed to go to another part of J’s development ended up in his intestine causing the walls at that part to be much thicker than any other part, and much thicker than they should be. The surgeon was amazed he’d lived that long without being diagnosed and fixed. His food was trying to slide through an opening the size of a pinhole. When it backed up, he’d vomit. They bypassed the damaged section so food would process normally.

They also took out J’s appendix. Because of the location of the blockage they had to cut at the tethers holding down his appendix, which left if “free floating.” The surgeon didn’t want to risk J having appendicitis at any point in his life but the pain being nowhere near where his appendix should be and thus being misdiagnosed.

We remained in the hospital another several days. His feeding tube down his throat rubbed at the end causing blood to come up. He did vomit once after his surgery. But they did finally let us take him home.

About a month after his surgery, I was feeding J some applesauce and he threw up. I panicked. After everything we’d gone through I was afraid it hadn’t fixed the problem and we still might lose him. It turned out to be an isolated incident. At his post-op check up the surgeon told me he should grow up to live a whole and normal life.

I’m sure about now you’re asking yourself why I would share my horror story. How is this supposed to make you feel better about what you’re facing?

I’m glad you asked. Life’s hard, and sometimes we all get thrown curve balls (or even get beaned in the head by a fastball) when we least expect it. And it’s hard. And it can really, really stink. I can’t tell you how many times I cleaned up sick green vomit. I can’t tell you how many nights I didn’t sleep. I can’t even tell you how many diapers I changed.

But I can tell you this: if you expect it to be a living hell it will be. If you expect to be burdened and miserable by your twins then you will be. You can’t expect them to come and somehow magically bring about a change in your heart. And I can promise you that children know when someone doesn’t want or love them as much as they should. They sense it. And there’s nothing more horrible than a child growing up feeling unloved or unwanted.

But what about you? What about your plans, your wants, your dreams? This is going to screw it all up. If you let it, sure. But if you make your boys part of your new dreams, your new plans, then your life will be fuller than you can even imagine.

My twins are 14 now. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I don’t regret one second. My experiences made me who I am, and I kind of like me. My boys know their worth. They know they are loved. They don’t even have to question it. They are amazing and I wouldn’t trade them for a rewrite of my life on any terms.

Now I wish to plead with you. If you and your wife truly don’t feel you can give your children the love and nurturing that ALL children need then don’t short change them. Give them to someone who will. I’d happily take them. Or, as an alternative, I have some friends who have struggled with infertility who would love to bring them into their home.

But, really, for your sake, I hope you choose to keep them. I also hope for your sake that you choose to want them. Because they can be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you.
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