After our trip to the E.R. to find out nothing was wrong with Bryer, we had a follow up with her pediatrician. It was strange to walk into his office and meet him for the first time and know that Bryer had already been seeing him for nearly a month with the foster mom. It wasn't the best first impression to walk into, feeling like I was already on the defense and having to try to prove him wrong. I was glad to have my mom with me. For moral support, but also as a witness. I worry so much that someone will misinterpret what I say or use my words against me. I have told the doctors everything. I have told them Bryer was fussy that day, that whole weekend. She was not her self. Then they use that against me. Instead of looking into why she may have been fussy, they tell me that I lost my temper with her.
I am normally an open-book kind of person, not worried about what anyone thinks of me - but walking into that doctor's office and knowing what he suspected, I was nervous. Usually I would have my list of questions ready, very confident in my parenting skills. But it's too fresh in my mind the day we sat around the table of doctors and they told me what must have happened that day. That same feeling still comes and I want to walk away from it all... and can't. Not for Bryer.
Today at the doctor's office I was quiet. I was polite and shook his hand to meet him, but was shaking inside to know what he suspected of me. Really, what kind of a person could hurt a baby?! He was a friendly guy - short, kind of nerdy-looking, and very nice. As hard as I tried, my confident-self hid today. It's an awful feeling to be judged. I didn't say much during the appointment. I didn't ask questions. I listened a lot. Answered his questions. I held Bryer as my security blanket, still afraid that on any given day she could be taken away from me again. She checked out okay after that and he sent us on our way. We only talked briefly about Bryer being with my Mom now full time and me being able to attend appointments. It was mentioned that the foster mom brings lots of her foster babies to him. It makes me sick to think Bryer is lumped into that group of 'foster kids' that see a pediatrician because that's who the foster mom has experience with.
I can't say that doctor appointments got much better after that. When we went to see Bryer's neurologist, one of the first questions out of his mouth was always asking about whether charges have been filed or how we're doing with Health and Welfare. No sincere concern first with how Bryer is doing or if she's had any seizures or how she handles her seizure meds. All those important questions came after they knew where I stood with Bryer. So I always took my Mom or Jason with me to appointments. I didn't dare go alone and risk their word against mine in what I said.
We have been so careful not to even send emails or texts about legal things. There are brief updates sent about how Bryer is doing, but we have family members send them - not Jason and I. This way of worrying about what I say is not like me. I am who I am. I have nothing to hide. But I also don't want my words used against me; twisted into something I didn't mean, or taken out of context.
As time went on, I came up with a list of questions to take to the doctors office with me each time we would go - and for each specialist we saw. I asked about Bryer's eyes 'bouncing' when she tried to focus on something, or her looking around something instead of right at it. I asked about her tight muscles or why they relaxed so much while she nursed. I asked about her thumbs. I am intrigued by her thumbs and have done a lot of reading about it. The neurologist said that thumbs that tuck into her fist show brain instability.
I have had deep, in depth prayers making sure I am on the right track. My personal inventory has never been so thorough. Because I need ALL the help God can give me, I have to make sure there is no reason for Him not to bless me. I am reading my scriptures diligently. I am saying my prayers more often. I am going to the temple. I am honest in every single aspect of my life. Now is a time that I don't want his blessings to be restrained from me. I need to feel Him. I need that inspiration and divine intervention and clear answered prayers.
At one appointment, I had a list of alternatives to SBS written up. To be completely honest, I was scared to death to walk into Bryer's pediatrician's office that day. I said a silent prayer in the car before we walked in. Not being one to be confrontational, this was definitely going to take courage for me. I was going to oppose what they thought. I thought, "Whew! What am I doing? This is not like me to walk in and oppose what someone was saying!" It meant I couldn't just calmly agree and go along with everything else they told me. I had to rock the boat a little. I had spent a lot of time reading and researching and going over again and again in my head the things that don't make sense. As nervous as I was, I tried to be calm and I tried not to cry, letting the high emotion take over. He was done looking Bryer over and asking questions about her development, so I told him I had some questions for him. Up until this point, I didn't discuss much with the pediatrician about the day Bryer was admitted. I knew what was in the hospital records. I knew that's what he believed to be true, so I didn't bring it up. I had gotten to know him well enough that I felt I could bring it up without him taking Bryer away, as strange as that sounds - like somehow if I talked about it, it would confirm how he acted with her. It was just always a kind of awkward elephant in the room, and I was ready to approach it. In all honesty, I hoped he could help me find some missing pieces. I didn't know if he would be willing, but I would never know if I didn't ask. When the time was right, I took my list out and unfolded it. I started in and asked him about SIDS. What happens when a baby dies of SIDS? He immediately wrote it off. Didn't talk about it. Didn't ask questions. He said, "THIS is not a SIDS case." He didn't tell me why, and I was afraid to ask, so I didn't. There were more on my list, but I didn't want to read anymore. I had been knocked down right out of the gate on my first question. But I couldn't just stop at one 'no' with my baby on the line. I asked him about Menkes Disease, a copper deficiency, and chicken pox that were confirmed at the hospital. Could she have had chicken pox on the brain like the Center for Disease Control doctor had originally suggested? I asked about the mysterious brain scans that didn't show a fracture at the first hospital, but then showed a fracture at the second hospital. I asked him to help me understand the parts of the blood and why some levels were high, when that clearly didn't point to abusive trauma. His answers were short and chopped my list down. I asked how he would test for these things and his response was, "It is not my medical opinion that this is anything but abusive head trauma." I wanted to cry. So desperate for him to see me. ME! For who I am. I would never hurt a baby! I have spent my entire life in awe at the wonder of human creation. The intricate details of a fetus growing in the womb, the development of an infant into a toddler, the wonder in their eyes at experiencing something for the first time. I wanted to walk out and leave and never come back. It had taken a lot of courage to bring my list, even more to pull it out of my pocket, and even more courage to get shot down one by one without an explanation of any of it from him, other than to say it wasn't his medical opinion. I needed to walk out of that office leaving everything on the table. I couldn't have him doubt me. The last thing I said was,
"I am accountable to a higher power. He knows where I stand on this, but I need you to know that I DID NOT hurt my baby!"
My confidence poured out of my mouth before I even thought about what I was saying. But all of it is true! I AM held accountable to God. And everything - every judging thing - that they are saying is simply not true. God knows that and I know that. And that's where I stand. I can't say it feels good (yet), but with what I told him, I feel good about having my confidence back.
During the time Bryer was staying at my Mom's, we met the Guradian Ad Litem that the court assigned to Bryer. It was this volunteer that would get to know our family and Bryer and then make recommendations to the court in her best interest. I was nervous to meet this person just because of the legalities, but also excited at the opportunity for someone to see us for who we are, to get to know us. The case worker certainly wasn't doing that! She came to my mom's house for our first visit. She was a nice single lady, a little older than me, with pretty red hair and a friendly presence. She asked lots of questions and never seemed to worry about stepping over any 'awkward' lines. It wasn't too long after we met that she asked for just her and I to sit down and visit. She came with a clipboard and lots of questions. I was still nervous about having my words twisted and used against me, but I wasn't afraid of hiding anything or being completely open with her. She asked a lot about my childhood and my relationships with my parents. I told her that my parents divorced when I was in 5th grade. I explained my love of sports and always being involved in something growing up. I felt that side came from my Dad and spending weekends at his softball tournaments when I was little, which later benefited me with a college softball scholarship. I told her about my close relationship with my Mom and how there were never any secrets between us. She asked about my siblings and my relationships with them. I told her how close my sister and I are and that my brother has always been around, but works a lot and has served over seas in the military. She seemed to dig at any possible angle that might turn up some dysfunction or violence or addictions. Other than my parents being separated, there wasn't much else. I was an ornery teenager and often times didn't want to be pulled away from my friends for a weekend at my Dad's, but that was pretty normal of a teenage girl. No drug or alcohol use ever, even as an adult. I think she found that hard to believe. I could tell by her reactions that we weren't her typical family that she 'investigates.' She continued to stop by unexpectedly, follow up on questions she had, and did in-depth research. It helped that she had some medical background herself.
|Bryer's Physical Therapist and Guardian Ad Litem|
Bryer and the Guardian Ad Litem
She had so many people visiting, therapy appointments, a legal team, and people praying for her that we started calling them "Bryer's Fan Club." That seemed more positive than people trying to keep her from us.
Once we got a new case worker, our case turned another corner. In stead of working with the first case worker whose job it was to take kids away, this lady's job was to reunite families if they were willing to take the steps needed. We went through a list of things that would show her Bryer would be safe in our home. She suggested parenting classes. I had taken several and had also taught some. Being CPR certified. I was that too, but Jason agreed to update his certification. Being involved in the community was a big deal to this case worker, so we listed out all the responsibilities Jason and I held in our small town - the library's children's service coordinator, in charge of summer reading, Art Mom, Jason had sat on the Planning and Zoning Committee, we both held leadership positions at church. She couldn't come up with any major classes or commitments we weren't already doing. We settled on making our house safe - a lock on the door where Bryer would sleep; moving her crib to our room, things like that. It's hard to try to prevent something from happening again when we don't know what happened in the first place. I found it ironic that they would suggest things to bring Bryer closer to us - like her bed in our room - if they were suspecting that I hurt her. I continued my research, although I haven't had the courage to bring up options to anyone else since I was shot down by her pediatrician.
Health and Welfare is one thing. Criminal charges are another. So the research I do is not just for my own peace of mind to know what has happened, but also for Health and Welfare. Hopefully not for criminal charges, but that's always an option.