I was like a drunken robot and barely functioning the day I stumbled into the bathroom, turning the lock behind me so my children couldn’t come in. Sobs wracked my body, and I heard a guttural cry like a wild animal come from somewhere deep within me. With the raw sound came freedom from days, months and years of silent anguish, as the bottled-up feelings that had waited for so long to explode flowed freely down my cheeks.

That’s when I knew what I had to do. I was going to take my children, get into my car, and drive over a cliff. I watched it happen. I knew just where to do it. In my mind’s eye, I saw the car speeding up, going faster and faster as it gained momentum, flying down Bird’s Creek Road. But instead of making the deadly curve halfway down the mountain, I took my hands off the steering wheel and we sailed over the edge of the bluff, coming to rest several hundred feet below, in the forested valley that would become our tomb.

Visualizing that scenario helped me to see that my children might not die right away—they might suffer terribly in the process. That was the last thing I wanted, so I planned to attach one end of a rubber hose to the exhaust pipe, and wind the other end through my window, allowing the car to fill with fumes. I knew it would be a peaceful, painless death. I knew I simply couldn’t leave my children behind, for their life would be a continuation of the hell my own had been. At the hands of their father, who knew what would happen to them? That final thought tore through me, and I looked down at my swollen stomach, external evidence of another impending birth. My hands wrapped around my belly, as if instinctively trying to shelter the unborn baby from the part of my brain that was thinking about harming it, and I prayed to God for help.