Sunday, March 30, 2014

#15 - Spiritual Growth Without Our Baby (through January 13, 2011)

January 9, 2011
I have decided I don't like weekends anymore, at least for now.  Health and Welfare doesn't work on the weekends.  Attorneys don't work on the weekends.  Everything is at a standstill.  Including my baby in the arms of another lady.  I am trying not to get uptight about it.  The good news is I get to just relax with my older kids.  There's no appointments, no court, no phone calls, so many other things that are pulling at me during the rest of the week. 

Last night I had the most wonderful dream.  It started out with me rocking Bryer and then I put her in the front pack to walk around our little town and down to the school to pick up our kids to walk home with them and hear about their day.  I nursed her when we got home and kids did homework and I read to them while I held Bryer on my lap.  It was peaceful just being together as a family having a normal day.  And then I woke up.  My nightmare was my real life.  My heart hurt as soon as I woke up and came to the realization that she's still gone.  I wanted so badly to go back to sleep and get back to that peaceful feeling.   

We went to church with Jason's parents and our kids today.  My emotions were so raw going in.  It was one of those days that I needed church, but I would have rather been invisible.  I didn't want anyone to notice me.  I just wanted to go and feel the peace that I needed to feel and not have everyone else know I was there.  I wanted to separate my body with all the heartache from the rest of my spirit and just have my spirit nourished with the feeling there.  Every song we sang meant so much more to me today.  The last song we sang was I Need Thee Every Hour.

I do need Him every hour.  I need Him for me, for selfish reasons, to comfort me right now while I'm hurting.  I needed Him for Bryer for when I can't be with her.  I needed Him for Jason and my kids, that we can survive this emotional and physical turmoil.  I needed Him for our extended family who is helping us.  I needed Him for the Health and Welfare system - that they will see the mistake they are making.  Not in a 'neener, neener, you made a mistake' kind of way, but just to be humble and give our baby back.  As I sat in that pew as the song finished, so humbled with feelings so raw and eyes full of tears, I said a prayer to myself for Him to fill all those needs.  When I was finished, I felt a strong feeling tell me, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."  It was a feeling so strong and such a drastic difference from the heartache I had been feeling. 

This is the same verse that Jesus says as He is persecuted, hung on the cross to die.  He asks God to forgive those that are killing Him wrongfully.  If He could ask for that as He is about to die, could I possibly do that also?  Could I forgive them right now, in the middle of this trial, for wrongfully accusing me?  Not to wait for it to be over, but to forgive right now.  It is completely true that 'they know not what they do.'  If they could see the whole picture, then they would know that Bryer belongs with us.  That we are a safe home.  They would return her in an instant.  Could God be working through us, even for our case worker?  She has shared that she was once a Christian of our faith.  If I were in her position, I would need compassion and understanding.  I pray daily to be a good example.  But most of the time that's for the easy things that come naturally.  My heart is in a tough spot for her.  She has enforced taking my baby away.  Like a mother bear, I want to go into protection mode.  If nothing else, I will continue to pray for her.  I don't feel angry toward her.  I just feel sad.  Very, very sad.  Ultimately, Health and Welfare is going to do what they are going to do.  But how I react and grow will make the difference for me.  It's a matter of uncontrollable verses controllables.  If I do everything that I can possibly do, then God will make up the rest.  I know He will.  I hope that I can grow through this and not harbor bad feelings, however that can happen. 

At the end of church there were lots of people that hugged Jason and I and told us they were praying for us.  They were sincere and willing to talk and a few even cried with me.  A few asked how Bryer was doing.  It's hard to answer questions about Bryer - mostly because I don't know.  And to say that I don't know, I have to admit to myself again that I'm not the one taking care of her, running her to doctors appointments, doing therapy, and all the things a Mom should be doing.  I was thankful not to be invisible after all and to feel the hugs, the compassion, the heartfelt concern and hear of those praying for us.  My spirit was nourished and the pain from my body was lifted a little as those around us mourned with us.  I guess this is what it feels like to 'bear one another's burdens.' 

Mandy, my friend growing her faith from our hometown, went to church again today for the 3rd Sunday in a row.  She's keeping our pew full while we are gone.  I am so thankful to see blessings along the way as people are touched.  That's a grace from God for us to see.  I don't doubt there will be eternal blessings - things we can see after this life - but I am so thankful to see the lives touched as we go.  It makes the sting not so hurtful and helps me keep a 'big picture' perspective. 

Today after church we worked on a tape recording for Bryer.  Each of the kids took a turn singing and we sang several songs as a family all huddled around the little tape recorder.  After I have covered the sight, smell, and taste senses as best I could for Bryer, this tape fills that 'hearing' piece that was missing for her.  We are not musically inclined at all (except Jason), but Bryer will recognize our off-key voices and love it anyway.  As we were recording, I started to sing You Are My Sunshine, the song I have sung to all my kids before every bedtime and naptime before I lay them down.  I've sung or hummed this song thousands and thousands of times and it never hit me like it did today singing to Bryer on the tape. 

You are my sunshine, My only sunshine,
You make me happy, when skies are grey.
You'll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

I got a little teary at the last line, but I tried to be strong for Bryer and I kept singing into the second verse.

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping,
I dream't I held you in my arms,
When I awaken, I was mistaken,
And I hung my head and cried.

Needless to say, I didn't make it through the 2nd verse and had to rewind and record over it with another song.  I will be looking for a new song for Bryer's bedtime song.  It hurts too bad. 

This evening as it got quiet after kids were in bed I started thinking again.  I thought about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  She let her son hang on the cross, knowing He was there to pay the price for the sins of every person who would ever walk the earth.  She wept at his feet and was so sad.  But she sacrificed her own needs and desires for Him and other's spirituality.  I wonder what insight she had into her son's mission on this earth.  If Bryer's mission is to bring people to Christ, can I have the same attitude as Mary?  I am not comparing myself to Mary in any way, but am learning from her example.  Can I try to see the eternal perspective of things - the spiritual side - when the earthly heartache is so much to bear?  It stinks that we have to endure this trial.  I'm trying hard, hard, hard to see the eternal perspective and see the big picture.  I have no doubt that God loves us and hears our prayers.  He surely will take all this into account when we stand before Him to be judged.  It is just harder in the meantime to raise our kids, especially if we don't have the opportunity to raise them.  I can't imagine how parents feel that have lost kids to a kidnapper.  I feel my heart opening up for so many different kinds of people.  I suppose that's all part of the plan.  I can relate to many more types of people than I ever have before. 

Monday, Jan.10, 2011
We have been allowed to email back and forth with the foster mom.  She let us know that the doctor appointment went well today.  She chose a pediatrician for Bryer that she has used before.  It makes me sick that they won't let me even attend her doctors appointments or have a say in choosing her doctor.  I have to consciously not think about some things or I get too upset.  The foster mom let me know in the email how much she has been eating so that I can keep up with my pumping to match the demand.  She also emailed me a couple pictures of Bryer.  I have really mixed feelings about seeing pictures of her, emailed from another woman caring for her.  I'm so happy to see she's doing ok, but it's so sad to see her in an unfamiliar place.  I want to snuggle her up for the picture or wait for a smile or see her being held by a familiar family member. 

Jason went with our attorney, Scott, to talk to the prosecutor in our hometown.  They tried to get him to officially open a case in that county, that should have been opened before.  They had previously made a verbal agreement to let all 5 of our kids go after they passed a child abuse screening.  Now the prosecutor is unwilling to put it in writing and sign it.  We have asked members of our community to call the prosecutor's office tomorrow and put pressure on him to sign it.  We've had so many people asking how they can help - financially, physically, spiritually.  This is a way and we've called on our community to take a stand for us.  We'll see how it goes... 

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
The calls started as soon as the prosecutor's office opened this morning.  His secretary took message after message after message about our case.  One friend told us that when the secretary answered his call, he hardly got a few words in before she asked if this was about our case and explained she was making a long list of names of people that had called to pass along to the prosecutor.  Not a greeting from the prosecutor's office.  Just straight to the chase.  They were so inundated with calls that they shut the phones off later in the day.  Then the community members started physically walking in to the office to show their support.  Each requested the same thing - that a case be opened in our county, as it should have been already.  Despite all the support for us, the prosecution will not open a case in our county.  This is an elected official, supposed to be the voice of the people.  It's frustrating to say the least. 

While all the support was going on at home, we went to court in the bigger county where the hospital filed papers on Bryer, for our Shelter Care Hearing.  We asked for a continuance, as we hadn't heard yet whether the case would be opened in the other county.  I hope in the long run this was a good choice.  The case worker told the judge she had 2 visits for us to see Bryer scheduled this week - one for tomorrow, and one for Friday.  The judge also instructed that Bryer should be placed with family as soon as possible, but that the specific placement wasn't up to the court. 

My brother-in-law has continued to call about Bryer's placement in their home.  One of the directors of the region said that the Department of Health and Welfare is very 'family first,' but that didn't always trickle down to all the case workers.  She also mentioned that we would have 21 months to get Bryer back or she would be adopted out.  She warned my brother-in-law that it is a scary process and that maybe the case worker knew of someone who wanted to adopt Bryer.  The whole thing is sickening.  Our clock has started and it doesn't seem to matter what we do, we're not getting any closer. 

My mom has also started calling to ask about placing Bryer with her.  She's started the paperwork to become a foster parent and has also called our case worker about having visits with her grandchildren in the near future.  No response to voicemails from our case worker in almost a week from the time she started calling. 

Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
We showed up at the Health and Welfare office for our visit with Bryer, at the exact time the case worker told the judge we were scheduled.  The lady at the front desk said she didn't have any visit scheduled for us.  My heart dropped.  Our case worker 'conveniently' called in sick also.  Ugh!  I'm done.  I'm tired of others lying to us.  I just want my baby back.  I don't want to rely on someone else to schedule visits for me.  I don't want to get my hopes up just to have them crushed.  I don't want to cry anymore.  I just want my baby back and to go back home as a family. 

The office workers were nice enough to call the foster mom and have her wake Bryer up to bring her into the office even though she didn't know we were scheduled.  It took quite a while for her to get there, so I think Bryer is not in the same county they originally told us.  More lies I'm caught in the middle of.  I am grateful the foster mom was willing to make the trip and sacrifice her time. 

They had to find someone to supervise us and we had to meet in a meeting room, not one of the typical visitation rooms like before.  There was an older couch on one end of the room, so that was better than sitting in chairs around a table.  It was just Jason, Bryer, and me in the room with an intern they found to supervise us.  Bryer was crabby since they had to wake her up to come and she had screamed the whole way in the car.  The foster mom made the comment that normally she is so content in the car.  As soon as I picked her up she snuggled right into my chest and calmed down.  Who knew a snuggle could have such a heart wrenching effect on a person?  She nursed, but had a hard time latching on.  It was nice to just sit there with just the 3 of us being supervised instead of the foster mom and extra people.  It was more peaceful and Bryer was content the whole time and ended up going to sleep on me.  Jason asked questions of the intern of why she was majoring in social work and told her a little about our story.  I used to think social work was a good line of work.  Now I have my doubts. 

When we got ready to pack Bryer up to leave, I went to the bathroom to change into a new shirt so the foster mom could take my used shirt with my smell back with her.  I asked her to specifically keep in near her as she was feeding.   

Thursday, January 13, 2011
Jason spent the day talking with legislators and advocates for people being abused by CPS.  The fact that they even have an organization for that amazes me.  The stories have come rolling in from other families that have suffered the Health and Welfare system needlessly.  It's something that's unheard of until something happens to you.  It's been explained to us that if a child is unable to talk and the child is injured, then the parents will always be questioned and possibly to blame.  One scenario was that if a toddler gets into the dishwasher and gets a knife, trips and falls on it, unless you could explain what happened, you are at fault.  I know that child abuse happens.  It makes me sick, but I know that it's out there.  Probably more often than my own na├»ve personality knows.  But every bump and bruise, even a broken bone, is not child abuse!  I am so thankful not to be in a doctor's shoes and have to make that call of what's child abuse and what's not! 

The legislators have all been very supportive.  They happen to be in session right now so they have all gathered from different parts of the state to go over laws and make changes at the capitol building.  I am thankful for my husband who is so outspoken and willing to share our story.  Funny that it was something I used to give him a hard time about and now it's directly blessing our family.  I used to tell him, "The checker at the grocery store does not care what high school you graduated from or where you went to college or who you know that he may know."  He's just that kind of guy. 

This past week I've read through whatever I could find on the internet after the kids go to bed and articles my family has found.  There are lots of things about Bryer that raise questions.  The fracture on her head they showed on scans is nowhere near any of the markings on the outside of her head.  Wouldn't there be some kind of bump or bruise or something if her head hit something hard enough to fracture her skull?  There were no injuries to her spinal cord from what they consider 'whiplash' in SBS cases.  Her retinas showed bleeding, but both retinas were fully in tact, another clue against SBS.  There's also been some discussion about some elevation in specific blood levels, but I don't really understand it all yet.  It makes me sick to research all this medical terminology.  It's more than I want to know.  More than I want to learn.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

#14 - Our First Week Without Our Baby (through Jan. 9, 2011)

January 3, 2011
We met in the lobby near the entrance of the hospital with our attorney - completely at his mercy, hoping for some loophole he knew.  He said there was nothing that could be done.  I had not mentally prepared myself for walking out the front doors of the hospital without our baby in my arms.  Jason went to get the truck while I waited inside with the wagon and bags.  Our attorney explained that we will have to go through the legal action again with a Shelter Care Hearing within three days.  After leaving without our baby and an attorney that said there was nothing that could be done for 3 days, Jason and I decided to find a new attorney. 

It was a bittersweet day.  We were pulled from our baby's side, but got to return home to Jason's parents where our other 4 are staying.  I hadn't seen my other kids in over a week.  I could not hug them tight enough or with enough emotion in my body to show them how much I missed them.  I didn't want to let go out of their hugs.  Like Christmas day, I just wanted to be near them and soak up all their sweetness and let them climb all over me.  My 4 year old wanted me to hold her and pack her around - and as heavy as she is, I was happy to snuggle her as much as possible.  Our 2 older boys were full of stories to tell us about the fun they were having with their cousins, all the while sitting a little closer to me on the couch than normal.  I had to remind them over and over that I could only listen to 1 at a time.  There was nothing on my To Do List that was more important than just being with my kids - completely listening to every word they had to tell me.  Sometimes in everyday life I get busy and expect them to follow me around to talk while I put laundry away or fix dinner. 

Today was not that. 

Today, their little conversations were the very most important thing to 'get done.'  There were no dishes, no laundry, no toys to pick up, that were more important than soaking up time with my kids.   

There are so many blessings with my older kids as I have been away at the hospital with Bryer.  I have not had to think about the daily things of what they would eat, who would wash their clothes, who would buy them groceries, helping them clean up their toys, where they would sleep, if they needed a nap, a diaper change, or hurt their knees.  My in-laws have taken over our family and are such a blessing to us.  Great lengths have been taken to make sure Jason's parents are supported in this adventure they have taken on.  Jason's aunt came from out of town to run the business so Cindy (Jason's Mom) could be with our kids full time.  They all have given up their own plans, their own schedule, their own lives for an undetermined amount of time.  I am amazed.  People from church have brought in meals and treats for the kids.  They have made trips back to our home over an hour away to get the kids' clothes and other necessities.  The church arranged for 2 sets of bunk beds to be set up in a spare bedroom so each of our four had their own bed to sleep in, complete with dressers, sheets, pillows, the whole thing.  This has been an extended outpouring of love and service that I feel so humbled to be on the receiving end of!  These are 4 busy, full-of-energy kids.  TV will only pacify them so long.  They are used to being active and normally encouraged to build, create, explore.  Not the most convenient of visitors for a couple of empty nesters, but they are taking it all in stride with a lot of help from those around them! 

As much as Bryer has benefited from having me near, my heart has ached to take care of my other 4 at the same time.  To know that they are in such good, capable hands is such a blessing.  This whole situation could be such a detriment to them emotionally, yet they are thriving.  The only time I have sensed any sadness is when I would talk to Walker in the evenings from the hospital and he would ask, "When are you coming home Mom?"  It always killed me not to have an answer for him. 

After the kids were in bed, it got later in the evening and I had time to think - the first night I have ever spent without Bryer.  I started to panic that the foster mom wouldn't know my milk was (dairy free) that I had pumped and that she would be fussy if she had dairy or regular formula.  I tried calling the on-call worker at the Health and Welfare office, only to be used in case of emergencies.  I don't like to call people I don't know.  I get anxious just dialing the numbers.  But for the sake of my baby, this was an emergency.  Besides not being with Bryer, I needed to know that my baby was taken care of and had the right food she needed.  After a dropped call and then getting through again to give them the house number to call back at, I apologized for the mix up.  The on-call worker was sharp with me and said, "You're not sorry!  You woke me up twice now and you don't answer your cell phone!"  I was crushed.  I just had my baby taken away.  I didn't want to call, but wanted the information to be passed along.  I didn't know where or who my baby was with.  I gave her the information, got off the phone, and broke down.  And then I prayed and pumped - the only possible thing I could think of to do.  I asked God to watch over my baby while I was away from her. 

The older boys were due to return to school today after the Christmas vacation.  We tossed around the idea of them switching schools since we don't know how long this will last of them having to stay with Jason's parents.  Sawyr (6 years old) is my slow-to-warm-up kid and likes to be prepared in advance for everything.  It would be hard for him to start all over in a new class, so I called to talk to their teachers at home.  They are so supportive of whatever we want to do and are willing to put a package of school activities in the mail just so the boys stay up on things.

During this transition time we realized another major piece in preparing us.  Last year Jason started talking about holding Hunter back a year in school.  Honestly, I thought he was crazy.  He's one of the top readers in his 3rd grade class; he's well adjusted with his friends; he needs challenged as it is.  There were so many reasons why not to hold him back.  As Jason persisted, I decided that I would pray about it - obviously knowing that God would confirm to me that Hunter should stay in his grade and continue on.  As I prayed, the answer I got was that we were supposed to hold him back.  It seemed crazy.  Absurd!  How was I supposed to tell his teacher and principal - "I don't know why, but that's what God wants us to do."  Yes, I'm pretty sure they thought I was crazy.  I even had to sign a letter with the school district stating that I understood this may be a detriment to him by holding him back.    Now here we are, both boys missing school for an undetermined amount of time and they are not missing any major pieces of their learning progression.  A miracle that we listened to and that I was humbled into accepting.  Could God have known and prepared us even a year ago for what was to come?  I am thankful for answered prayers that we chose to obey, as illogical as they seemed at the time. 

January 5, 2011
We have settled on a new attorney and he encouraged us to ask for a continuance (postponement) for our Shelter Care Hearing.  He wants to nail down the prosecutor to the verbal agreement he made that states our kids would be interviewed by child abuse professionals and if everything checks out, then the kids are ours.  Bryer was listed in that original paperwork, which would make this new paperwork invalid.  It hurts to know that a postponement for the hearing means a postponement to get Bryer back, but it may be best in the long run.  I feel like we can trust this attorney with his experience. 

In the meantime, family members are trying their best to find any possible way for Bryer to be placed with them in the foster care system.  The social worker that stopped by the hospital had told Jason days ago that his parents were already licenced, fingerprinted, and ready for Bryer to be placed when she left the hospital.  As of today at our hearing, she told Jason that Bryer would not be placed in any of our family's care.  Crushing, again.  We are doing everything we are supposed to be doing.  We are being supervised with our own kids.  We left our baby without a fight.  We brought more frozen milk, diapers, and clothes to the case worker today at the hearing to pass along to the foster mom.  What else did they want us to do? 

My brother-in-law has continued to stay on top of Bryer's placement, hoping for their home to be an option.  He's made multiple phone calls trying to ask about the process to be a licensed foster care home, fingerprinting, etc.  The case worker has been very gruff with him and said nothing can be done and that he should stop calling; that she would call if she needed their home as an option. 

I have been pumping milk every 3-4 hours around the clock.  It would be much better to wake up to a crying baby ready to eat than an alarm clock, reminding me that my baby is gone and that I need to get up to pump anyway.  That's the only thing I can do for Bryer at this point.  It's a very helpless feeling to not know where she is or who she's with.  These people that have taken her are not making logical decisions, yet they are also the ones that choose who is qualified to care for foster children.  Besides supplying the case worker with milk, clothes, and diapers, I also included a journal for the foster mom to write about Bryer's days.  If I couldn't be the one to hold her and rock her and take care of her every need, then I needed the foster mom to make the best decisions on Bryer's behalf. 

In the letter I told her about our family; Bryer is the youngest of 5 - Hunter (10), Sawyr (6), Piper (4), and Walker (2).  I told her that we are a religious family and attend church every Sunday and read scriptures as a family regularly.  I explained that I felt that although infants may be too young to understand verses of scripture, that Bryer would be able to understand the spirit that came with reading and encouraged her to read to her.  I told her that we would not only be praying for Bryer's safe return to us, but also for her as a foster mom to be able to take care of Bryer the very best she could. 

It was a letter full of tears - to write to another woman who was taking care of my baby.  Completely humble, I prayed for that woman that I did not know who had my baby. 

Jan. 6, 2011
We had our first visit with Bryer today at the Health and Welfare office.  We were allowed 1 hour with Bryer and to meet the foster mom.  I was trying not to pace, waiting to see my baby.  Jason's mom brought our older kids with her.  The whole thing is chaos - that we can't be with our older kids alone, so one of Jason's parents has to drive with us with them or drive them separately wherever we go.  It's a lot of hoops to jump through, but we will do whatever we need to, to get our kids back. 

In the meeting room, there were toys for the kids to play with, 2 black leather couches, and a rocking chair.  There was also a mirror that I suspected was a one-way window for supervision, although the case worker stayed with us in the room the whole time anyway.  She escorted us in first and then we waited for her to return again with the foster mom.  She packed Bryer in her car seat into the meeting room.  She was a chubby, grandma-type with full, cheery cheeks and a big nervous smile.  I tried not to be critical of her.  No matter how happy or loving or knowledgeable she was, she just was not me.  I made a conscience effort not to hold that against her.  No matter how we saw things, she was willing to receive our baby into her home and care for her the best she knew how.  I am grateful for that.  It's just hard to swallow the idea of someone else feeding, bathing, snuggling, and playing with my baby.  I pulled Bryer out of the carseat and held her close to me.  I sat down in the chair with tears in my eyes and rocked her as Jason nuzzled her nose and got her attention.  The kids crowded around to see their baby sister.  Piper had come once to the hospital, but the others hadn't seen her since church on the day she stopped breathing.  Panicked about every little move, we had to tell the kids to stay out of her face and to be gentle with her.  I rocked her when she got fussy and then the foster mom mentioned that she might be hungry.  I tried not to wince at the mention from another woman telling me my own baby was hungry.  I had planned my pumping schedule around our visit so I would be ready to nurse.  I just was nervous about her latching on.  It was hard work to get to that point in the hospital and now we haven't be able to for 3 days.  I prayed she would accept it - and she did!  This in itself is a miracle that she is able to nurse.  Most normal babies that I have heard about have a hard time going back to breast after they've had the flow of a bottle.  It takes more work, more patience, and more energy - and in Bryer's recovery, I hoped that she would remember those skills.  I am so thankful for this answered prayer!

Once Bryer was happily nursing under the blanket, I pulled out my list of questions for the foster mom - Is Bryer going to daycare while you work?  What's your background with foster care?  What's your educational background?  What have you done for work in the past?  How long have you and your husband been married?  Do you have other kids?  Do you go to church?  What are your hobbies? 

I'm sure I sounded more like conducting a job interview, but I needed to know these things.  I wanted to know the details of the lady who was caring for my baby.  We learned that she spent most of her years as a nurse, but wasn't working currently.  They had older kids, but they were all grown and out of the house now.  They seemed to have a strong marriage and enjoyed the infants they had cared for through foster care.  She talked about how good her husband has been at getting up to feed Bryer in the middle of the night and walk with her.  It made me sick to my stomach.  That is not his job.  That is my job.  Again, I had to consciencely remind myself not to be critical. 

During an awkward silence in conversation, the case worker asked if we were planning to have any more kids.  It kind of threw me off.  Isn't that kind of personal?  And really none of her business.  I just shrugged my shoulders and told her we hadn't decided yet.  Honestly speaking, I did want to have more, except the heartache for me right now is just too much to think about doing it all over again.  It was odd timing to ask, so I probably looked odd giving a half-way answer.  Was she reading into it?  Thinking that would prove or disprove my innocence if I answered one way or another?   

I would rather not remember the moments of bundling Bryer up in her car seat to leave us again.  Our visit was like putting a band aid on the situation long enough to form a clot and then ripping the band aid off again to let us bleed again.  It makes my heart desperately hurt. 

January 9, 2011
As hard as it is, to survive this I have to find some good that comes of everyday.  Today it was a nap with Walker.  To snuggle him in all his 2-year-old innocence was just what my heart needed to be comforted.  I could feel a spirit-to-spirit closeness.  As I laid there, I thought about family relationships.  If we can't be together after this life, then what's the point in fighting so hard?  I know that God has meant for families to be together after we die.  I got goosebumps - confirming that everything we were trying to fight for to keep our family together was worth it.
It is worth it. 
Our marriage.  Teaching our kids.  Making choices to put each other first.  Even the heartache we are enduring right now. 
It's worth it! 
And with that thought, I curled up next to my little boy and slept peacefully for the first time in weeks. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

#13 - Journal Entries from December 30, 2010 - January 3, 2011

A Compilation from entries up through January 2, 2010
Bryer decided today - enough is enough.  After a day of taking a bottle, she reached up and ripped out her own feeding tube!  Less than 2 weeks ago we sat across from doctors who told us that she could go home with a feeding tube for 1-2 months.  God's miracles are working through her.  I know that God hears all prayers, but sometimes it's hard to pray with an open heart for His will to be done.  I just wanted so bad that He would answer our prayers in a way that we wanted - for Bryer to improve.  I'm so glad that He has decided that this is His will.  Today the prayers of so many people have been answered in the same way we had hoped.   

More good news - another milestone we were hoping for - she got to nurse today!  Sometimes the scriptures refer to something that is so precious that the words cannot be written.  From my own heart, I cannot relate in words the tender feelings I have had while I hold Bryer and now get to nurse.  That alone is a blessing and is enough to complete me.  It takes more work for Bryer to nurse than to take my milk from a bottle.  A miracle all in itself that she has the strength to do it.  We have to ease her back into it to make sure she's getting enough since what she nurses can't be measured; so we are alternating every other feeding with a bottle of my milk. 

If our day couldn't get any better, Bryer gave me another surprise....  Her first smile in the hospital!  All our other kids have smiled at Jason first as babies, except Bryer.  Jason had joked and said this trip to the hospital would be her 'reset button' for him to get the first smile out of her.  Today she was just waking up in her hospital bed as I stood by her.  I used my best, deep Dad voice and said, "Good Morning Bryer!"  Her eyes jumped and the corners of her little mouth turned up as she focused on my face.  It was enough to melt me and my eyes started watering.  It's a strong contrast of being in a 'vegetative state' of what the doctors predicted as a possibility. 

They have been worried about her weight gain, as she is supposed to gain 1/2 ounce a day and she only gained 3 oz. yesterday.  They want to see a balance between weight gain and fluid retention before they release her from the hospital.  We had our family doctor talk to these hospital doctors to be sure that the reason was legit.  She seems to be progressing quickly now, but the doctors still act strangely cautious.  We just want to make sure they aren't holding her longer than they need to.  I just simply don't trust them after what we've been through. 

She has been alert a lot, focusing on faces, and tracking things with her eyes a little bit.  I'm excited to have her out of the hospital, but a little nervous too about having her home in normal life with 5 kids in such a fragile state.  I did get the okay from the doctors to walk the hall with her, which feels so strangely 'normal.'  It helps pass time, it wears her out, it's fun to have something new to look at and show her, and it just feels wonderful to be out and about with my baby! 

January 3, 2011
I took this picture of Jason this morning before our whole world came crashing down.  He left shortly after and I sat by Bryer's bed sorting through information my family had printed out about alternatives to SBS.  I sorted through Menkes disease, chicken pox on the brain, meningitis, vaccine reactions, vitamin deficiencies, and more.  The more I read, the bigger the lump grew in my throat.  I felt strongly that I should put the papers down, but my curiosity got the best of me.  I had to research to prove myself innocent.  I couldn't just sit around and waste any spare minutes while the doctors put their files together against me. 

At that point, a nurse came into Bryer's room and told me there was someone to see me.  Bryer was sleeping in her bed, so I stepped outside the room to find a woman police officer.  She asked if we could talk in a room down the hall.  I filled the nurses in on Bryer - that she was sleeping and I would be back in a minute.  

I was led back down to the same room where I had sat with the investigator until the week hours of the morning 2 weeks prior.  The same room Jason and I were questioned by the child abuse doctor.  The room did not have a welcoming feel to me right off the bat, despite the cushy chairs and end tables.  The officer sat down across from me and handed me a form.  She said they were declaring Bryer in Eminent Danger.  This is the same kind of form they handed Jason and I just before Christmas with all 5 of our kids' names printed on it.  This time it only had Bryer's name. 

My heart sank.  My mind went blank.  They were taking her away from us!  Last time I had my husband to lean on.  We found strength in the Lord's preparation for us in having our kids at his parents' house.  This time it completely blind-sided me.  They were taking my baby right out from under me.  I sat at her bedside for two weeks and literally nursed her back to health.  They left me unattended with her behind closed doors for hours at a time.  Yet now they chose to declare her in danger of me?!  How is this even legally possible that they can come in a yank a baby away from her mother?  How is it possible that doctors can have so much say over a happy, well-adjusted family?   

I tried to find words.  A question to ask.  Something to say.  Anything.  A person can never be ready to hear that their child is being taken from them.  The only thing that came out was, "Can I go back to tell her good bye?"  I will never forget the officer's reply.  It was like the scene out of a movie when they zoom in on the lips to make a drastic emphasis.  She said, "If you can promise me... that you won't hurt her."  Tears immediately poured from my eyes and I just stared at her and shook my head, unable to get any other words out.  I wanted to tell her, "I didn't hurt her in the first place, I'm not going to hurt her now!"  I am not a yeller.  I am not an arguer.  So what else was I supposed to say in response to that? 

As I walked down the hall back to Bryer's room, sobbing, I asked if I could call Jason.  She said that would be fine, but that they could only wait long enough for me to get my things out of Bryer's room.  He was just pulling into the hospital parking lot when I told him the news, and to hurry. 

They brought me a big red wagon to pack all my things - the kind you see kids riding in at the zoo or the park.  My arms and legs shook as I tried to get around the room to gather my things.  My mind was scattered and I couldn't concentrate.  In between packing things, I would go over and kiss Bryer.  My body was half-way stalling so that Jason would get there in time, and half-way stalling just because it wasn't working right.  The emotional trauma had taken over my mind, my body, my decision-making skills.  I had to stop to blow my nose and wipe my eyes to even see what I was doing.  I tried to decide what was mine and what was Bryer's.  We had been so engaged in each other, even our physical items were hard for me to decide between.   

I heard stories of foster kids being pulled from homes in the middle of the night with only their jammies.  How could that be my baby now, somehow in someone else's care that knew nothing about her?!  I left her 2 extra pairs of clothes, wrapped in her pink and brown blanket, the stuffed animals, and family pictures on her bed.  I wanted whoever had her to know that she was loved very much. 

Jason got there just in time as I was placing the last of my things in the wagon.  He helped me gather it together and talked with the officer briefly.  I kissed Bryer as she slept.  I whispered to her that I loved her and that Heavenly Father loves her and He would watch over her.  Jason walked over to tell her good-bye too.  This was a moment a parent can never be prepared to do. 

We walked by the nurses station, sobbing.  My voice was not working, but I got it across that she likes her white binky better than the green one, but that I couldn't find it.  I also told them about the breast milk in the freezer down the hall.  The nurses also had tears in their eyes as I tried to give them instructions.  Jason and I were escorted down the hall by several police officers to the sleep room where we kept the rest of our things. 

As we tried to quickly pack up our belongings from the last 2 weeks, I found the shirt I had been wearing the day before.  I wrote a note to put with it that explained that it smelled like me and to please keep it with Bryer so she would feel secure.  The pain I felt as I wrote was unbearable.  What else can a mom send with her baby that is being ripped away from her?  I again went through the 5 senses.  Smell - check.  Sight - the family pictures would have to do.  Taste - my milk, check.  Hearing - there was no way and I couldn't think straight.  Touch - I emotionally lost it.  How could I transport touch to my sweet baby girl that needed me so much right now for her recovery?  I sobbed and packed, hoping that I had covered as much as I could. 

Jason and I stepped outside the sleep room with our arms full, and now pulling a wagon.  I gave the officer my shirt with the note.  Again, several officers walked behind us down the hall to escort us to the hospital main doors.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

#12 - Journal Entry From December 29, 2010

It feels so good to slip back into the role I'm used to being.  A Mom.  I snuggled Bryer as she slept today on my chest.  As we rocked in the chair next to her hospital bed, I got a whiff of her sweet baby smell.  Before that moment, I hadn't realized how much I missed her scent.  I had been conscience of keeping my own 'yesterday's-shirt' next to her for my scent, but not the reverse.  A flood of emotion came and I blinked back the tears, worried that if the nurses came in at that moment they would read too much into it and see my tears as sadness, not the gratitude I was filled with to hold my sleeping baby.  I feel like every action or question I ask is being read into or documented, just in case they need to use it against me.  It would be much easier to just let them have a look into my heart and see my every intention.

Now that she's very limited on the amount of monitors she's attached to, I have wanted to know about walking around with her in the hospital unit.  After the feeling of a walk to the x-ray room, I was hooked.  Bryer liked movement and being carried around before she went to the hospital and I can't help but think she would like it now.  Even when babies are in utero, they get used to the movement patterns of their Moms.  The physical therapist has been working with us to provide sensations Bryer would have felt from the womb - pressing on her hands and feet; deep, constant pressure as she's wrapped up in her blanket; they haven't mentioned my heartbeat and voice, but naturally that's sure to be beneficial.  After a little pep talk to myself justifying a walk all in the name of Bryer's development, I got up enough courage to walk out to the nurse's station and ask if I could walk around with her.  Both nurses just stared blankly at me, acting like they were completely caught off guard.  Then they looked at each other, and decided that they needed to talk to the doctors first.  I wanted to crawl in a hole.  I wasn't asking to unhook my baby and take her home.  I was just asking to walk around with her within the pediatrics unit - one hallway that goes in a circle around the nurse's station.  As much as I would have liked to pack up right then, bundle up my baby, and escape with her from all the judgements and accusations and criticizing, it was not the best for Bryer.  I walked back to my room, ready to say a prayer and have another pep talk with myself that I can withstand this. 

None of this makes any sense.  If they think I am a threat, why have they allowed me to sit by her bedside for the last 10 days?  Why do they let me sleep in her room?  Why am I allowed to shut the door and be with her alone, only for a nurse to check on us every 4 hours to take her vitals and weigh her wet diapers?  I'm not complaining, but just frustrated with the double standards.  Emotionally, I will be strong for her, if not for myself.  She's needs a strong momma to stand by her and protect her.  However this is working for me to be with her, it must be with God's help.    

They turned Bryer's feeding tube off this morning (that's the tube in her nose in the top picture).  She took a 2 ounce bottle, which according to the nurses was amazing.  Then she took 3 ounces a few hours later - deemed crazy.  Maybe I'm not fully understanding what a miracle this is that she's bottle feeding, by the reaction from the nurses.  4 ounces was pushing it, but she did it this evening!  Our feeding ritual takes double time for me since I feed her and then after she's asleep, I stay up longer to pump more milk to replenish the stockpile in the freezer.  I have gained a new understanding and appreciation for those moms who have to go back to work, but pump anyway.  And I understand how some moms choose not to and give formula.  I have faith that someday soon she'll have the strength and stamina to nurse and I will appreciate cutting feeding time in half...And I won't have to wear ridiculous plastic gloves to feed my own baby. 

Most days are spent pumping, rocking, feeding, talking to Jason and our kids on the phone, and making myself eat when the hospital staff brings food.  I still don't have an appetite, but I will eat to make milk for Bryer.  My mom brought a cot for me and set it up at the foot of Bryer's bed.  It's better than the chair/bed I was scrunched onto. 

They also put the EEG back on Bryer's little head.  The purplish marks haven't even healed from the last time it was on (you can see them in the first picture), but they needed to monitor any seizure activity, just for 20 minutes.  There were a couple spikes, but nothing to be worried about.  The tech said it looked better than she's ever seen it, but wasn't allowed to report on the results, so she added, "You didn't hear that from me!"  Bryer weighs in at a tiny 11 pounds, 11 ounces as she approaches her 3-month-old mark.

Jason and I have had to take more time out today find another attorney.  We've been through 2, but we have been advised that we need an attorney with a strong background dealing with criminal cases (before it was for family law).  It's all confusing and more time is wasted while I have to leave Bryer to interview attorneys.  My mom and my grandma were here with Bryer today while I had to leave.  The physical therapist came to work with her.  We try to keep a sense of humor, and refer to these appointments as Bryer's personal trainer; her own Gold's Gym; yoga practice.  I don't like being gone and missing these things with her.  I want to soak it all in, to learn and understand what I can do to help her. 

A social worker from Health and Welfare also came by today while I wasn't there.  It makes me sick to my stomach that she was allowed to see my baby without me being there.  This is the exact reason I felt so strongly about having a family member there when I'm not.  I feel violated knowing she has access to Bryer.  This is the same case worker several of my in-laws have been in contact with.  They have been very proactive about making sure legally everything is being taken care of so that Bryer can be released from the hospital into the care of family, if not with Jason and I.  The verbal agreement with the Prosecuting Attorney stands that our kids will be questioned by abuse professionals and if everything checks out, then we can take them all home.  Until then, they will stay with family and be 'supervised' when Jason and I are around.  Bryer was included in that original paperwork when all 5 of them were declared in 'Eminent Danger,' so we just want to make sure we have all bases covered.  Despite my in-laws being proactive, the Health and Welfare workers seem annoyed with them.  My brother-in-law was instructed not to call anymore and that there was nothing he could do to be pre-qualified to have Bryer in their home.  My mom was polite to the worker that came by the hospital today.  The social worker said she was just putting a face with a name and came to see Bryer.  She informed my mom that Health and Welfare are not the evil people everyone thinks they are and they strongly believe in keeping families together.  My mom told her that was comforting to know. 

Things are getting strange, but I can't exactly put my finger on it.  With the case worker coming while I wasn't there, all the attorney shopping, dealing with the nurses and doctors, it's just a lot to take in, especially on top of Bryer's recovery and caring for her.  I find peace at the end of the day when I can talk to my kids on the phone before bed, sit and rock my baby, and escape to my thoughts.  I still feel a sincere, close presence of God here, right in the middle of all this chaos.  In the middle of the day when things are crazy it's harder to feel, but as each day winds down, that feeling is so strong.  So comforting.  So 'hit-the-spot' good that I know He has great confidence in me.  I used to have a sticky note on my bathroom mirror that said, "Be the kind of woman that when you wake up in the morning, Satan says, "Oh crap!  She's awake again!"  At the end of the day, that's the confidence I have surging through my body.  We can do this with His help. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#11 - Journal Entry from December 28, 2010

Today was the day I've been waiting for.  I got to hold my baby girl!  They have moved her out of intensive care and she now has her own room in the regular pediatric unit.  There is a comfy rocking chair next to her hospital bed and one of those uncomfortable chair/beds on the other side.  It's not home, but it's one step closer!  She snuggled in and melted right into my arms like she had never left.  I can't describe the feeling with only a pen and paper.  My heart is full and complete again.  I can't help but think that the scent of my shirt by her for the past week has helped tide her over until she could really feel that close to me.  She feels like a big newborn in my arms, swaddled in blankets.  She still has her feeding tube and a couple monitors just for precautionary reasons, but other than that she is cord-free!  No warmer above her bed.  No breathing tube.  No EEG probes attached to her head.  In fact, they have been replaced by a pink bow, which kind of goes with her painted toe nails hanging out of her blanket with one of the monitors on.  She is a tiny ball of huge miracles!  We taped her picture back up on her new bed.  The one with our themed quote on it... 
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. 
We are spiritual beings having a human experience." 

With this move to the new unit I will be sleeping in the same room as her since she doesn't have her one-on-one nurse anymore.  If we need something one of the nurses from the nurses station outside her door will come in to help.  That's a big shift from having her own nurse right outside her sliding glass door watching her so closely.  It's comforting for me to have more time with Bryer and respond to her as my instincts tell me instead of relying on a nurse or doctor to tell me what she needs.  I've been forced to put my 'mother's intuition' on the back burner for long enough.   

Bryer had her suck and swallow study done today.  I was able to carry her down to where they do the x-ray.  It's the first place I have walked with her in over a week.  It's such a good feeling to just go for a normal little walk.  Who knew that would feel so great?! 

The hospital therapist put Bryer in a chair that held her propped up.  It looked like such an un-natural way for her first bottle feeding, but I understood the purpose.  They had a bottle full of barium so they could watch the liquid moving on the x-ray as she sucked.  My mom and I stood in another room to watch the monitors.  The doctors had told the nurse they didn't think she would pass.  There's a lot to concentrate on with the suck, swallow, and breathing synchronized all at the same time.  They fully expected her to aspirate into her lungs, which could cause issues with breathing or pneumonia later if it is left unchecked.  I was reminded that as we sat around the table of doctors a week ago they said there was a chance she could be in a very compromised state the rest of her life, including the possibly of a feeding tube.  Obviously they don't know what a miracle baby we have because she passed her test wonderfully!  Her mouth did get tired quickly and then she just bit on the nipple, but she kept a good rhythm of suck, swallow, breath.  One more big step for my sweet baby girl!  The occupational therapist came in today and showed me some way to stretch out her mouth so we can slowly begin to feed her with a bottle.  She is still taking my breast milk through her feeding tube so it's taking a lot of my time to pump and then hold her and rock her since it doesn't all happen at the same time.  Someday soon...  Someday soon... 
Here's a side view of her sucking on the barium bottle (the black in the upper left)
Jason and I are still using the sleep room to keep our things and for the occasional night that Jason stays at the hospital.  Now that Bryer is making such great improvements he's able to spend more time with our 4 older kids.  It's such a blessing for his job to be as flexible as it has been.  I don't know how else he could have taken almost a week and a half off work on such short notice.  His business partner has been a great support for our family and has encouraged Jason to just come back as he feels our family is ready.  I am thankful to have a husband that takes care of that side of things while I care for Bryer and her recovery. 

Always in our minds is what happened that Sunday when I found Bryer not breathing.  My time and internet use is limited since Bryer is getting more interactive with us now.  The internet seems to be inundated with articles and reading on false claims of Shaken Baby Syndrome.  Our extended families have started doing research also.  I don't understand it all, but I've started making a list of other possibilities.  It makes me sick to my stomach as I read about all these other sad stories, so I can only handle a little at a time.  I don't even like to say or write the words Shaken Baby Syndrome, so from now on I will just call it SBS.  You'd think that in a hospital full of doctors I could ask questions of what I am finding, but it's scary to me to even talk to them.  I already know what they think.  They are not interested in the truth or helping me find the cause.  They feel they already have, and may fully use it against me.  In our state criminal charges can be filed anytime within 5 years of the alleged crime.  We have also learned that a case with Health and Welfare is completely separate from a criminal case.  They could choose to file criminal charges on me at anytime. 

Today I passed by a TV on my way to the bathroom.  I caught a glimpse of a guy's mug shot with the newscaster reporting on the allegations.  I looked at the guy's picture long enough to see his long oily hair, rough skin, tattooed neck, and a couple facial piercings.  I try to be non-judgmental, but sometimes thoughts come before I realize I'm judging.  For the first time, the thought entered my mind while seeing someone like this on the news, "What if he's not really guilty?"