Coming of Age Drama Sad

Caution: horrific details of a birth that goes wrong.

Katy heard a bone-chilling scream followed by wails. Her twelve-year-old daughter Suzie ran inside.

"It's OK, Mum. We were playing a game on the trampoline, that's all."

"Eddie has hurt himself?"

"Yes, as usual. He'll be alright."

Katy ran out to check on her son in the backyard. Ten-year-old Eddie wept, cradling one arm as he sat in the middle of the trampoline.

“Suzie did it,” he blubbered.

"I'm sure it was an accident."

His bottom lip curled down, and he shook his head. Tears trickled like water from a leaky faucet. He struggled over to her, keeping his right arm immobile against his body.

Their large rectangular trampoline had no safety nets, but the rules were to not run on it and stick to the middle. The children had rarely had accidents. The worst accident had been when another child wouldn't stop running back and forth, tripped, and gashed their chin open on the metal surround. Katy had yelled out, "Stop running!" to no avail. 

The mother had become hysterical, but the father had shaken his head and sighed. He whispered something about his daughter bringing it on herself. They still felt awful.

By the time Katy led her son inside, she had concluded that his arm could be broken. Suzie looked morose.

"Can you tell me how this happened, please, Suzie?"

Katy led Eddie to the sofa and went to get a freezer pack. The arm sported bruises already.

"We were playing a game. He did it to me first," said Suzie, sulking.

"Despite who started it, I think he's broken his arm."

"Oh, rubbish. He's a drama llama. Great performance, Eddie."

"So, what game did you play?"

"We played a cool game where one of us sat on the side of the trampoline and surprised the jumper by whacking their legs out from under them unless they jumped quickly."

 "What makes this game so 'cool'?"

"It's the surprise. It's great fun. When it was Eddie's turn to jump, he collapsed in a heap the first time. So useless."

"As I said, I think he's broken his arm." This time, Katy glowered into her daughter's eyes. "What are you going to say?"

"What am I supposed to say?"

"The usual thing to say is 'Sorry,' Even if you Believe the Accident Could Have Been Avoided.".

"Oh, it could have been avoided." Suzie looked at her mother's frown and the shake of her head. "Of course, I'm sorry . . . not much fun to play with someone hurt." She grumbled as she tore up the stairs. 

Eddie sat crying. Katy sighed and gave him the ice pack wrapped in a tea towel to hold against the painful limb. "This is what we are going to do, Eddie. Today is Sunday, and if I take you all the way to A and E now, we will be waiting for hours and hours while they deal with all the accidents and sports injuries. The weekend is a hopeless time for A and E. I'll give you some Paracetamol syrup for the pain, and first thing tomorrow, we'll take you in. I believe it's broken from the way you're holding it. If it's broken, you'll get an X-ray and a cast. The good news is that it won't be as hard for you as when you broke your ankle that time."

"But Mum, it's so sore. I want it to be better now. It wasn't my fault.

"I know it isn't, son, but if we go today, they won't want me giving you painkillers, and you'll be in pain waiting for hours. We may not even get dinner. Tomorrow morning, first thing, it'll be so much quicker. . . Did you know that I used to have accidents, too? I've broken my wrist and my ankle. When I broke my ankle, I didn't want it to be broken, and I hobbled on it for a whole day. As I didn't have a car, I got my flat mate to drop me at A and E the next morning and afterward used crutches to go to my friend's house. She lived not too far from there. Someone else dropped me at my flat. No wheelchair for me."

"I had lots of fun in my wheelchair, didn't I, Mum?"

"You sure did. The kids at school played races with you and wheeled you around."

"I let them take turns. I had lots of friends when I had a wheelchair."

Katy felt a pang in her heart. Her innocent little boy had found it challenging at school and was teased mercilessly. He hardly noticed the way the other kids viewed him. His cheerful smile and kind nature had made him appear stupid. Suzie hurt more. She felt compelled to be his minder at school. The teachers and teacher aides coped with him during school hours. Still, during the breaks and before and after school, she had been tormented by other children for being his sister. Without oil-covered duck feathers, this sensitive little girl became bedraggled. She had toughened up to survive. Now, it seemed her empathy had gone as well.

The older Suzie became, the less tolerance she had for being in a family with a handicapped child. Still, Suzie knew that Eddie had slow reactions and that their game had set him up to fail and fall. He never fell in a coordinated way. As a toddler, he had careened into walls because he neither stopped nor turned in time to avoid them. He regularly face-planted because he didn't put his hands out to save himself when he fell. Katy realized that Suzie needed to be listened to but also have her negative thinking, readjusted.

Eddie needed help eating and toileting, and Katy had cleaned his teeth. That evening, she settled him in bed, gave him more painkilling medication, reassuring him that skipping a shower for one night would be OK and more manageable with his arm, and propped him with pillows. 

Now, it's time for Suzie. Carefully, she knocked on her daughter's door and went in. Suzie had her light on and sat in bed reading.

"Thank you so much for cleaning up the kitchen and getting yourself ready for bed," Katy said, sitting on the side of the bed. "We'll take Eddie to A and E tomorrow."

"Mum, I didn't really mean for him to hurt himself. I wish we could play like normal kids."

"I wish you could as well, dear. But that game really is dangerous."

"Mum, why couldn't he have been a normal brother?" Suzie's eyes filled with tears.

"I do have an idea how it happened. It was his birth. When he was tiny, he cried so much and was such an angry baby. You may not remember, but when Dad went out with the older children in the evenings sometimes, I'd stay at home with him and you. You only wanted me when you were little, and when I got you ready for bed, I had to put Eddie down. You used to remind me he was crying and told me to pick him up. I told you that he had to learn patience because you also needed me. I've always tried to be fair to you."

"But it hasn't been fair. Crystal does everything for me. I love her, but she's my sister. You have to help Eddie so much. He has all sorts of appointments, and you have lots of meetings about him. Because of him, you made me leave my friends and go to another school."

Katy opened her mouth. "Honey, it wasn't like that. We were concerned about you. We didn't want you having the worry of Eddie at school, or being teased because of him. We sent you to a better school with more opportunities even though it is further away. We did it for you."

Suzie sobbed. 'I hate it. I have no friends."

"Sweetie, we didn't know. You were fine about going to the new school at the start."

"I didn't want to bother you and Dad. You had enough to worry about . . . Having Eddie as a brother sucks!"

"Darling, I know how you feel. You know, when I first brought him home from the Hospital, I wished I hadn't had him. We still need to understand what is wrong with him. It's been hard work, but we must consider the good times. You have had lots of fun with him. You were lovely together when you were both little. You cared for him so much. Remember, he always used to smile and laugh at everything. He hasn't turned out angry, after all."

"But I am. I'm angry that he gets all of the attention."

"We have tried not to do that, but it can't be helped. He needs a lot of care. We couldn’t expect your oldest sister, Amelia, to do everything for him . . . I was a headless chicken trying to cater to everyone in this family."

"And he lost my Barbie dolls under the house, and they were so hard to find, and you had to wash them. I was so mad at him about that."

"Sweetie, my younger sisters wrecked my stuff, too. It happens. It can't be the end of the world. I know it made you very sad."

"It made me angry."

"The trick is understanding why you feel angry and not taking it out on others. About your school. Next year, you will be in high school, and you can meet up with some of your old friends there. Now, get some sleep, darling. We are out of here early tomorrow." Katy kissed her daughter and settled her under the duvet.

Katy went through to the kitchen. Her husband, Tom, had made her a hot chocolate and waited at the table for her.

"It's been one of those days again, dear?"

"I'm worried about Suzie."

Tom shook his head and smiled. "Let me get this right. Eddie has probably broken his arm, and you are worried about Suzie; who did it?"

"Suzie is hurting too, but not because she feels sorry for Eddie." She put her face in her hands and wept.

"There, there. It can't be that bad."

Katy looked up. "It's too much, and it isn't fair. Eddie's birth was a mess. My Specialist went on holiday and said he'd be back in time. I told him he wouldn't be. That stupid Midwife. I never ever wanted to squat during a birth, but I needed to with Eddie. I think it helped him turn. That idiot Midwife pushed me back against the head of the bed to 'have a look.' And then it was too late. Eddie was coming out. And then he got stuck. I remember her saying not to push because his shoulder was stuck and to wait for the next contraction. She wouldn't even help me get comfortable."

"It all happened so fast. The Midwife already said a few hours when she went to ring up for an alternative specialist. She wanted you to get onto all fours, but there was no time. Eddie was in a hurry to be born."

"If I'd known what I found out later, I'd have screamed bloody murder. If you remember, I was screaming murder when I thought Eddie would be born at home."

"You had just enough time to get to the Hospital, it turned out. I thought you had hours like the other times. Just wanted to have a shave."

"Yeh, to look handsome for the nurses! While I was in sooo much pain. Posterior presentation. I had no idea what it was. It was shocking.

Katy sobbed. "And years later to find out what can happen during a shoulder dystocia . . . And when I finally decided to check the birth notes, the Midwife had lied. She knew what was wrong all along and lied. My poor baby had his oxygen supply cut off before he came out. Sure, he finally breathed. He had petechial hemorrhaging of his eyes, bruising around them, and grazed ears. He cried and cried. He cried so much that after exhausting days of him not feeding properly because he couldn't suck and kept popping off my breasts, the nurses used to wheel him into an empty theatre to let me sleep. His screaming kept the other babies awake."

"Going on about it won't help. He's turned out a lovely little chap."

"I think people feel sorry for us. This whole family has suffered because of what happened. And financially. All those specialists, a cranial osteopath, pediatric appointments, and speech therapist we took him to. We are still suffering. And what about his future?"

"You have always told me that because he loves everyone, the world is his tumbling-polish machine."

"It was a euphemism. When I speak hopefully about Eddie because he gets on with everyone, his teacher aides look at me gravely as if they feel sorry for me."

"You have to keep trying. Keep having hope. Don't look back. You can't change what happened."

"The latest is poor Suzie. She isn't happy that we changed her to a different school."

"We know why we did. If you'd left her at the same school, with all the pressure and bullying she received, she wouldn't have thanked us for that either. Damned if you do, and damned if you don't!"

"I guess you are right. We've done our very best."

"You've done better than that. Some other parents wouldn't have done what we have."

"But I feel guilty. There are times when I wish . . . we hadn't had him." Katy sobbed into her hands again.

"Here, have your chocolate before it gets cold. Don't dwell on the past."


At A and E.

The next day, after they had been in the waiting room for about an hour, the doctor finally saw Eddie. He shook his head. "What a break! How did you do this, young man?"

"I fell on the trampoline. My arm is double-jointed, and it snapped when I landed on it."

"Double jointed, you say?"

"Yes, I can bend my elbow both ways."

"It's true," said Katy.

"It will be x-rayed at Orthopedics, at the Hospital, but I'm telling you now, this is a bad break. It's a wonder the bone isn't sticking through the skin. We'll stabilize it, and I advise you to take him in a wheelchair once you arrive, so he doesn't jolt it. Can you do that?"

"We've been careful up until now; I'm sure we'll manage."

On the way to the car, Suzie touched her brother's shoulder. "Sorry for calling you a 'drama llama.'"


They drove home with Eddie in his new plaster cast many hours later.

"Can all my friends write their names on this one, too?" he asked.

"I'll be the first," said Suzie.

"How about playing a nice safe game of cards when we get home?" said Katy.

Suzie grinned. "Yes, Strip Jack Naked, for real."

"No, let's play Cheat," said Eddie, "I'm good at that."

"What about Happy Families, kids?"

Managing a ten-year-old child with an arm in plaster proved easier for Katy than handling the five-year-old Eddie with his leg in plaster. By the time the break healed, Eddie had gradually regained the use of his arm. His only regret was that the arm no longer bent both ways. It had been quite the sickening party trick. Eddie and his antics always astounded them. Always novel. Often, harebrained.

The unfortunate thing about Suzie as a teenager was her lack of tolerance toward her brother. Before this, she had always been a very caring sister. When siblings clash as teenagers, the inherent selfishness of this age group leads to much grief in a family. 

Once the mature, caring young woman emerged from her pupa of teenage angst, Suzie applied herself. After much research, she came up with a diagnosis for her brother. We pursued a formal one: Dyspraxia. Suzie had been right. In addition, Dyslexia had already been diagnosed, which helped him qualify for assistance at school, and his Sensory Disorder had been recognized. 

His decisions led us all down some dark roads at times. He often didn't recognize hazards and wound up in heartrending and life-threatening situations. He's also been in several accidents, once with a leg in plaster again.

His worst accident didn't involve any breaks. He stood up and began to exit a bus. He was the last one in line to leave. The driver didn't check and closed the doors on him. When they played back the recording, it showed that he hesitated moving forward when he heard a noise from the doors. His neck was so severely wrenched, and his body twisted that he needed costly treatment by an Osteopath for a whole year. I pointed out to the bus company that his hesitation meant he wasn't dragged along on the outside of the bus, which probably saved his life. They felt action during that split second could have prevented the accident. Bottom line - the driver didn't look.

Suzie became a Mental Health nurse and has come to terms with her early family life. Eddie manages to hold down a menial part-time job and do volunteer work. He is gifted at listening and getting on with people. The tumbling-polish-machine has produced a gem.

April 18, 2024 12:45

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Graham Kinross
04:08 May 05, 2024

Suzie showed the kind of maturity we would all want in our children but hope they wouldn’t need. Putting the needs of a sibling first when it means less time for you is a great sacrifice.


08:30 May 05, 2024

Thanks for reading, Graham. It doesn't always work with all children. I believe that there has to be an example of good communication between family members for the right attitudes to prevail. And I do believe that if a child is too perfectly accepting of the time taken up over a sibling with issues, this is not healthy either. I believe accepting our feelings, being able to express them, but still behaving in a self-sacrificing manner, according to our age and ability, is the bar to try and reach.


Graham Kinross
11:32 May 05, 2024

I see your point, a child who is too willing to give up something as important as their parent’s attention probably has a life of being used by other people in store for them. There is such a thing as being too nice, too noble.


20:56 May 05, 2024

We can be too nice and too noble, as you say, if we believe ourselves to be nothing. This is bad for us. There are people like this and many kill themselves. As adults, we can overcome our codependency and attitude of inviting being ignored and walked over. It's not set in stone. We can achieve emotional intelligence. But our attitude should still be balanced. Jesus said to 'turn the other cheek.' It didn't mean to stand there and accept all the punches and insults. It meant not to add to them. To allow oneself to be wronged. To feel comfort...


Graham Kinross
22:27 May 05, 2024

It’s never too late.


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Howard Halsall
06:52 Apr 21, 2024

Hey Kaitlyn, This was a well judged and carefully crafted story that avoided any mawkish indulgence by being gritty, candid and heartfelt. Your choice to represent the views of both parents and the two children gave a delicate balance that reflected the misgivings and stoic resilience of the whole family, soldiering on together with their best foot forward. In the end, it’s the best any of us can hope for; a wing and a prayer. Well done HH


11:29 Apr 21, 2024

Thank you, Howard. Very positive reassurance. I wouldn't say I particularly chose to write it. It came to mind, fitted the prompt, and I tried to remember the most important things about what I know about writing and just wrote it in the best, most honest, way to maybe identify with whomever may read it. Everyone will have their ideas to take away, their own things that resonate. We all have to soldier on. Loved the way you put that.


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Jonathan Todd
16:49 Apr 20, 2024

My heart went out to all of them in your story but particularly to Suzie - such a difficult position for a child to be in knowing the sibling's needs but resenting the consequent lack of attention for themselves. Very moving.


20:39 Apr 20, 2024

Thank you, Jonathan, for reading and commenting. Thank you for noticing the difficulties for Suzie. I also wanted to portray a mother, who realized this about Suzie, was unable to do much about it, but she confessed how she felt herself (shouldn't have had him). This showed she allowed her daughter to feel and express herself. Too many parents are shocked about a sibling's negative feelings, and it doesn't help open, honest communication.


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Mary Bendickson
18:13 Apr 18, 2024

This sounds like a true story, Kaitlyn. Every child is a blessing. Eddie helped others build a better understanding.


02:33 Apr 19, 2024

Yes. Once again, a story about something others can identify with. Thanks for reading and commenting. The prompt called for 'dark' but every child is a blessing so had to include a happier ending.


Mary Bendickson
02:54 Apr 19, 2024

Happy it did.


03:07 Apr 19, 2024

I believe children are a combination of genetics, temperament, what happens to them, and environment. For example, Suzie was a clingy child who couldn't cope with teasing at school, so didn't have the ability to cope with the implications created by her brother. At least her family tried not to leave her out. Eddie on the other hand, made it with personality and friendliness alone.


Mary Bendickson
03:09 Apr 19, 2024

You have a special understanding of people.


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