17

Seventeen.

Seventeen years ago today, I gave birth to an 8lb. 15oz baby girl. She would be my last baby to carry due to health complications, and although I anticipated her birth and had two other children at home, I was still riddled with anxiety about having a new baby, making sure she was okay, and having a heart big enough to love her as I did my other two. I think all mothers always question that moment right before the new baby comes, it’s a little silly but it’s true. After all, we had survived September 11th, Emma and I. I will never forget watching the horrors unfold on television wondering whether or not I would ever hold my sweet baby in my arms. The next day, I was placed on bedrest at a routine appointment, and we remained there until December 12th.

From the moment I held her, I felt nothing but pure, unconditional love. 

Arriving as baby number 3 to a two-year-old sister, and four-year-old brother, Emma had big shoes to fill. From the moment we brought her home, she was the calm to the storm and remained that way until her teenage years. She was spunky, full of personality, and had the biggest smile always. You would often see her in knee-high converse (yes, I said knee-high)  and suspenders in middle school, and she did not ever have a lack of friends. 

In 2014, we underwent change. Change is a very scary word and one I am unsure that I ever taught my kids. We moved to a new area from our home in Nashville, Tennessee. Emma was most resistant to the move because of all of her friends, but at the same time living where we vacationed was also appealing. Once settled, she made friends easily and all went well.

In 2015, her Father left, and that is when shit hit the fan.

At first, the change wasn’t noticeable, but then what really was? None of us had seen this coming, so all five of us were trying to deal with all of the different emotions that come with divorce. Emma pulled closer to her friends and I was so thankful she had them because there were times, I am just gonna be honest, that I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. For the first year, I am sad to admit that I chased after him. I chased after him because I was the product of divorce and screw my feelings, I NEVER WANTED THAT FOR MY CHILDREN.

2016 was filled with their dad coming in and out, and mothers who are going through anything like that right now, PLEASE STOP. Please stop in your tracks, stand your ground, and do not let it go on for even one more second. This is one of the major things I have apologized to my children for because all that did was continue to build up false hope and essentially put up walls, walls that are near impossible to break down.

In 2017, Emma began to get sick near the end of July. At first, she was diagnosed with a stomach bug, but then the vomiting continued to the point of hospitalization. Over the next 8 months, we were in and out of doctors, specialists, undergoing tests, and hospitals before finally receiving a diagnosis of gastroparesis. 

February of 2018 was the last time I saw my sweet girl. 

No, she didn’t go missing, No she didn’t run away. She changed and the light that burned so bright inside of her began to grow dim. As a mother, this is a scary time for you. I blamed myself for being too caught up in my own life to realize what was going on in hers. With sickness comes some regression, so it was as if she didn’t want me out of her sight. I ended up taking FMLA from work to care for her, and I felt like we were closer than ever, but also when you only have your mom because you are sick, your friends move on and forget about you. The gastroparesis was so bad that she carried a pink hospital bath bucket everywhere that I fondly nicknamed “Bucky” because we just couldn’t get her well. 

I have to pause here and give a shout out to my friends. The term “it takes a village” rings true here. I was a single mother working two jobs to try to get back on my feet. Single moms out there, never underestimate the power of these friendships. I also have to give a shout out to my work family, who took care of us when we first had to start over. I don’t know what I would have done without all of these precious souls that were there for me when my 20-year marriage came to an end, nor what I would do without them now, the ones who have stuck with me throughout this time. ‘

In February of 2018,  not only did we get a diagnosis, but that was the first time that my daughter made a bad decision. As it all unfolded, I blamed the “friends” that she had chosen and the company she was surrounding herself with. After all, I had spent the last 8 months with her, felt closer than ever, could trust her to do the right thing always. 

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I grounded her for 3 months with no phone. I rented a pregnancy vest with another mom friend to try and make her understand that these bad decisions could carry lifelong consequences.  I could have sworn that she got it. In April, she got ungrounded and everything was going well, or so I believed. We moved into a new house, and here’s that scary C word again. I truly thought she had learned until I drove into the driveway one day and found her screen in my yard. 

Then came the lies. 

Frustrated, stressed out, and ready to give up on this entire parenting adventure together, I honestly was at a loss for what to do. This time I tried to involve her dad. That just ended being used against me later in court, as our relationship was still so tumultuous that it was an all-day war to ask him for anything. I finally ran across an all-girls school nearby and thought that would be my answer. I told her she needed to get a different job and straighten up or she was going to the all girls school. She did everything I asked. Again, I thought she had straightened up and we were working on rebuilding trust. 

Wrong again.

I bragged to my girlfriends that she was doing so great at her new job. She truly did get her work ethic from me, that I know is true. She has always been a hard worker, and good at whatever she did and was making good grades. Soon after she began working, my life changed again. She came home one day and told me she met a boy. A boy who she said was 17.

Seventeen.

Today, I started my morning celebrating my daughters birthday with a court hearing for the restraining order I filed against that boy. When I should have been celebrating my daughter and spending the day with her, I spent it in court trying to protect her from the man I found in her closet. 

K