Everything happened so fast. That morning I was strangled to near unconsciousness by my abusive husband because I wouldn’t get an abortion, and that night I’m in the emergency room at Fort Bragg being admitted in pre-term labor. The doctors tried to stop the labor, but it was all in vain – the medication wasn’t working. One labor pain came, then the second pain came and I was being rushed into the delivery room, begging and screaming at the doctor not to take my twins. It was too early! Nurses were scrambling to find a vein, medical instruments were clanging, the doctor was screaming at everyone and one nurse beating the hell out of my arm trying to find a vein. “I’ve got it!” yelled the nurse at my arm. “Get it!” the other nurse yelled. The doctor is yelling at me, telling me not to push. I wasn’t. God only knows I knew it was too early for my twins to be born. With my legs up in the stirrups, I could see the doctor take his position at the end of the table. He bent down to examine me and he turned his head to the side to say something to someone. “Oh Shit!” he yelled, and then I saw him quickly bend down as if he was picking something off the floor. He came up holding one of my babies by its feet upside down, my blood splattered all over his doctor’s coat. I didn’t even hear her cry. Then my baby was gone from the delivery room. Right at that moment, I felt more pain and was extremely dizzy. The source of the pain was the nurse gripping my other twin, who was trying to be born back first. I was semi-conscious by then, and I’m fighting the nurse with my last bit of strength pushing her away from my stomach. She was holding my belly to keep other twin from moving any further so the doctor could call the anesthesiologist and perform an emergency cesarean section to save the other twin. The nurses woke me up after the surgery, and it was over, or so I thought. I gave birth to two girls and they were born at 2.5 pounds each at 26 weeks. They had been taken by separate ambulances to another hospital. Fort Bragg hospital did not have the facilities to take care of them. That was all I knew. I didn’t know if they survived or not. That was March 3,1988.

I woke up the next morning in extreme pain from having staples in me as a result of the cesarean section, and lightheaded from the large amount of blood I lost. The last person I wanted to see was my husband, and he comes into my room pretending to be the concerned father and husband, acting as if no one knew what he did to me the previous day. He didn’t know that I told the doctors what he did to me because I had the strangulation marks around my neck to prove it. My husband looked like he had something to tell me. And then he just came out and said it. “One of them died this morning.” He said. I started to cry. My oldest twin, Samantha Michelle, was gone. I wanted to scream. I grabbed my daughter with one arm and a pillow with the other and put it over my stomach to take away the pressure of me crying. Then he asked me not to press charges on him because it wouldn’t bring her back. I said nothing more to him. I cried the rest of the day while nurses and doctors stopped by my room to give me their condolences. That was March 4, 1988.

I didn’t get chance to hold her and let her know that mommy was there for her and she would be all right. She was so tiny, with her and her twin sister being born at 2.5 pounds each. All I saw of my daughter while she was alive was her being held upside down by her feet by the doctor. I didn’t even see her face. As I’m being pushed into the funeral home by my parents, all I could focus on was the small white satin covered object at the front of the room that held my daughter’s tiny body. My flesh, my blood. It was no wider than a computer monitor. As my parents pushed me closer, I finally saw her face for the first time. As my father helped me out of the wheelchair and my parents escorted me towards my daughter’s casket, I just stood there staring at her. She was absolutely beautiful, with a head full of dark hair, dressed in a white gown and bonnet that was clearly too big for her. I reached out and stroked her tiny hands, her delicate skin severely bruised from the trauma of birth; from the trauma of the doctors trying to save her. She was ice cold. My first inclination was to pick her up and cradle her in my arms and tell her how much I loved her, but my parents sensed what I was about to do and slowly pulled me back away from her casket. The pain was unbearable. My mother cried. My father cried. Even my 8 month old daughter started crying. I didn’t want to leave my sweet baby, but I only had an hour to look and touch her before her casket was sealed forever. I wanted her to be buried with something that belonged to me, her mother. As I leaned over to kiss her forehead, tears streamed down my face and dropped on her face and dress. I barely paid attention to what the officer was saying, still drugged from the painkillers, in shock from losing my child. I sat in the front row and just stared at my daughter’s closed casket. It was cold and raining, and I thought to myself that was God shedding tears for my little Samantha. I didn’t want my baby to be put in the cold ground, but I had no choice. I had to leave my beautiful little girl. A piece of my heart, my flesh and my soul was about to be buried in Fort Bragg. That was March 5, 1988.
Months later, I took my oldest daughter and surviving twin and went back to New York. For years, I’ve battled with depression from the abuse, guilt from not leaving my husband sooner, guilt for not being there for my daughter when she drew her last breath. Guilt, for not being able to protect her. All I have of her existence are a few pictures, her birth and death certificate. The pain has lessened over the years, but nothing can completely take away the pain of losing a child. I took my daughters on a road trip to Fort Bragg to visit Samantha’s grave when they were toddlers. In April of 2009, I made the 8 hour drive to Fort Bragg with my now grown daughters, ages 20 and 21 and teenage son age 14 to visit her grave again. I talked to my daughters about the trip to see how they felt about it. My oldest daughter still takes her death hard, and explained to them that they never had the chance to grieve as adults. I told them how much I loved them, and I did everything I could to protect them from their abusive father. My oldest said something that I will never forget – “Mommy it wasn’t your fault.” That meant everything to me. We left hours later to take the eight-hour drive from New York to Fort Bragg. When we arrived at the grave, my oldest daughter broke down and cried. My surviving twin sat in front of her sister’s grave and started crying. My son also had tears in his eyes. Then we all laid quietly on top of Samantha’s grave in the warm sun and looking at the blue sky. Although my daughter’s death has haunted me for 21 plus years, that day I made the choice to forgive myself. I have turned my daughter’s death into something positive by using my experience to educate others about the effects of domestic violence. The drive back to New York was a quiet and solemn time for all of us. My daughters had a chance to grieve as adults and my son got to know about his sister. Soon after I realized that my son and daughters were finally asleep, I found it hard to keep my eyes focused on the road because they were filled with tears. Tears of joy, that I had finally found a way to not only begin healing from losing Samantha, but to make honoring her memory part of my healing journey.

Author's Bio: 

Ivette Attaud is a social entrepreneur, former Fort Bragg Army wife, a 20+ year survivor of an abusive relationship and Founder of My Life My Soul, The Unspoken Journey of Life After Domestic Abuse. Ivette uses her experience as a teaching tool to help others understand that you can have a happy and fulfilling life after an abusive relationship and has given a voice to thousands of silent survivors across the country through My Life My Soul Talk Radio, a community awareness project designed to engage, motivate and inspire others to share their experience and raise awareness about domestic violence and abuse.
She is the author of My Life My Soul, Surviving, Healing And Thriving After An Abusive Relationship (April 2011). Ivette is also a motivational speaker and creator of the empowering webinar series, You Are The Architect Of . . . You – Building The Life You Want One Brick At A Time, beginning Wednesday, January 5, 2011. Visit www.mylifemysoul.com for more resources and helpful articles, and join in the fight against domestic violence and abuse!