This column was published in the Tri-Valley Herald in November 2007.
Ten years ago, Elizabeth Martella gave birth to a girl she named Viviana. Like many new mothers, Martella held the baby in her arms for pictures, and made prints on paper from her daughter’s tiny palms and feet.
But the occasion was not happy.
“Having a stillborn baby means dealing with very hard emotions,” said Martella, who lives in Lathrop. “For months my mind raced with questions of guilt and misgivings.”
To cope with the tragedy, she turned to the love of her husband, Jorge, but she also turned to poetry.
“Writing was a way of healing for me,” she said.
In fact, Martella, 35, has tapped into the power of writing poetry to grapple with the many challenges life has thrown her way.
When she was eight, her father left his wife and children for another woman.
“I was devastated,” she said, “and I still have difficulty with this.”
Martella’s mother, who was born in Taiwan and met Martella’s father when he was a Marine overseas, moved her young family from San Francisco to Oakland to live with her sister. “My mom was a strong woman,” Martella said, noting that her mother had to work three jobs—as a waitress, a hotel housekeeper, and a late-night janitor—just to support her family.
As Martella wrestled in her pre-teen years with her father’s absence, she became the victim of sexual abuse by a cousin. This went on for many years until she turned 14, when she stood up to him and said no more.
After high school, Martella took a few classes at Merritt College and started working. “Growing up with barely any food to eat sometimes,” she said, “it was great to be able to make my own money, so I left college and began working full time.”
Martella managed a Chevron service station and one day met a young man whose family had immigrated from Buenos Aires. “I soon discovered that Jorge was my soul mate,” she said.
A kind and caring husband, Jorge understood and loved Martella like no one else ever had. Then, a few years after the loss of their first baby, they were blessed in 2001 with a baby girl they named Izabella.
Though from the outside it appeared life was settling down for the Martellas, an avalanche of unresolved inner conflict led Martella to a nervous breakdown in 2005.
She began to see a therapist, and as she made progress, she leaned heavily on her writing for support.
“The month after I started therapy,” she said, “I started compiling a collection of my poems, which led me to write even more poems.”
Martella poured her tears and sadness into her work, writing about her father, her stillborn baby, the abuse—all of her life’s experiences.
The result is a book of published poems dedicated to readers “from broken homes and dysfunctional families” and those “molested as a child.” Martella states in her dedication, “Know that there is light at the end of that tunnel.”
And part of that light for Martella became the publication of her second work, this time a children’s book. Based on a happy experience with Martella’s 6-year-old daughter, the book is titled “Izabella and her Wardrobe.”
“My daughter was my inspiration,” Martella said. “She is quite the character, especially when it comes to her clothing.”
Martella’s goal is to write a ten-book series on various topics as Izabella grows older.
Both books, available at http://www.lulu.com/, are the expression of a caring woman dedicated to sharing her experiences with others on the path to healing.
As she writes in her book of poems, "Life isn’t always perfect; it’s what you make of it that counts.”
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