Soft baby sounds came from the room next door. I crawled, on my hands and knees, down the hall and into the room, then pressed up against the rails of the crib. Unable to lift anything, I rolled my tiny baby up the railings and over the top, into my arms. Back down the hall I went, the baby cradled in one arm against my chest. The crawling was now on three limbs instead of four. I placed him on my bed and painfully struggled to get back into bed myself.
My illness began about a month prior, when the baby was only a few weeks old. The pain in my gut had increased until I could no longer function. Soon all I could do was to lie in bed, changing diapers and breastfeeding the infant by my side. I was no longer able to crawl, so my husband placed our baby beside me when he left for work, and put him back into the crib when he returned. It had been routine for a few of my husband’s co-worker friends to come by for dinner—at 11 p.m. since they worked swing shift—but they no longer came. I heard them tell him they could not bear to listen to me moaning in the other room.
Why didn’t I go to a doctor? In my family growing up we rarely went to a doctor. We were expected to just power through whatever was wrong. You got sick, and eventually you got well. As a young couple with no money to pay medical bills, I didn’t understand I could be helped without being able to pay. My husband never suggested a trip to a doctor, nor seemed alarmed at how ill I was. Without sympathy he marched through his daily routine.
My husband had made it very clear that he really wanted a baby, but no longer wanted a wife. In the future he would try to kill me twice, so in retrospect I believe he was waiting for me to die of “natural causes.” Eventually I was dehydrated, lost 30 pounds in one month, and was running a high temperature. I was unaware of my surroundings. I drifted.
The banging on the front door startled me. I began to swim out of unconsciousness. Instead of stopping, the banging became louder. Apparently there was someone at the door. I kept my eyes closed and hoped they would go away. Someone was tapping on the bedroom window and calling my name. I struggled to get to the door 20 feet away and when I opened it I saw three women on the porch, Rhonda, Debi and Trish, wives of my husband’s friends. They had come for me. They dressed me and the baby, half-carried me to their car, and whisked us away to one of their houses. I barely remember it, but do know I could only see blackness. My temperature was over 104 degrees.
Rhonda’s husband came home and there was a fight. I heard glass break. The male voice shouted: “How could you do this? Do you know what her husband will do when he finds out?” And then the blackness overtook me again. Eventually my husband arrived, probably called and warned of where I was. More yelling. Then into the car and a trip to the doctor’s office. A hospital stay. No more breastfeeding: the baby had probably been starving by now with no food or water from me. I was sick on and off that summer, but got on with life . . . the precious gift those ladies gave me.
Occasionally I remember this time from so many years ago. I got out alive. After two years I filed for divorce and went into hiding. Things are much better for me now. The baby is grown and is a loving father. When I think of those three women and the risks they took to kidnap me and get me to a safe place, I realize they saved my life. I would love to thank them for their care. If They Only Knew . . . they saved my life.