During the time Bryer was in custody, she spent about 3 weeks with my Mom and then the case worker allowed us to take Bryer with us as long as my Mom or Jason's parents were 'supervising' us. That included having them drive us places or coming along with us in our car. I felt like such an inconvenience to our parents - that I couldn't be alone in a house with my own baby. They never made me feel bad about it and were great about jumping through the hoops right along with us, as frustrating as it was and an inconvenience to their own lives. Here's one example from my journal:
Today I was at Gary and Cindy's with the kids. Gary was 'supervising' us - sounds silly, doesn't it? My father-in-law babysitting a grown woman and her children? He wanted to run to the store to get a pop, just a few minutes away. I realized that I would be by myself with the 3 kids for the first time in over 2 months and I started to worry. What if the case worker or guardian ad litem decides to stop by while he is gone? What happens if he gets in a car wreck and is gone much longer than a few minutes? What happens if one of the kids gets hurt and I'm the only one here to attest to what happened? There is such an un-needed fear here that wasn't here before. I wasn't taking any chances and decided that if he was going to the store, then I would load all the kids up and we'd all go to the store. He decided his pop wasn't that important. I breathed some relief, but knew that eventually I would be by myself with my kids again - something that I never thought twice about before and came very naturally - and now I was worried. If they fall and hit their head, will the authorities blame me? If they accidently cut themselves or have to get stitches from a fall off their bike, will I be blamed? I have always believed in natural consequences and not 'padding' the world for my kids. Now I feel like I have to pad them for my own sanity. More and more stories are starting to surface about innocent people being turned in to the authorities - a broken arm at the doctor's office, stitches in the emergency room, normal 'kid stuff' that doctors mistake for abuse. We're hearing about these first hand from people that had never talked about it before, or that are happening now.
During the time that Bryer was with my Mom, they continued to go to church together. The time came eventually that the doctor didn't see an immediate need to be constantly close to doctors and released Bryer to spend a day at home, further away, if my Mom agreed to go along to 'supervise.' This was a huge step in our case (and met with lots of opposition) - for the doctors, the guardian ad litem, and our case worker to all agree to let us spend a single day at home - and the first time in nearly 3 months we had all been together as a family in our own home. We went home to watch Hunter's basketball game and to re-group our laundry, toys, supplies and then head back to Jason's parents' house. It was so good to be back together, but bittersweet in having to leave and be split up all over again.
|Sisters in red to show their school spirit at Hunter's basketball game (There are only a few of Bryer's smiles at this stage that were caught on camera. This was one of them.)|
If that wasn't enough, we have been blessed by a sweet 3rd grade boy in our community. Their family was acquaintances of ours, but they took our trial to heart and now will forever be our friends. This boy is friends with Hunter. I don't know what his mom has told him about our case, but he knows that Bryer has been in the hospital and he wanted to help. Each year he uses his own birthday money to help others. (Really! What kid uses his own birthday money to donate or help someone else? He's gotta be amazing and have outstanding parents!) During the time of a birthday that most kids can't wait to receive a few extra dollars (mine included!), he finds ways to bless the lives of others. In the past he's helped out with everything from kids in the hospital to animals in the shelter. This year he chose our family. He didn't just donate his birthday money straight to us - he motivated others to help too. He started right here in our small elementary school. I love this because it's here and now on his own level with people he mingles with everyday - not being shy or discouraged about how small we are or how little our community has. He wasn't flashy about it or looking for recognition. He put containers in each of the classrooms and offered a challenge to the school for the class that could raise the most money for our family. He used his birthday money for a pizza party as the reward! Really, birthday money from a 3rd grade boy. At that age, birthday money is sacred! I feel so blessed by this young boy's example of selfless service. It's a completely humbling experience to be on the receiving end of these random acts of kindness. On one hand it is so humbling - almost to the point of embarrassing - that so many people have wanted to help. On the other hand, it keeps us going to know there are people behind us. It's not about the money. It's the support we feel to buoy us up and know that the miles between us as we stay with family doesn't change the support we feel.
Of course his example and desire to serve spread. The kids at school, and especially in Hunter and Sawyr's classes, knew that they had missed quite a bit of school and that their baby sister was in the hospital. The kids and teachers brought change and bills and gathered them together in their class containers. They raised over $1000.00 from the inspiration of one boy! I'm so overwhelmed with so many feelings and tried so hard to be a gracious receiver.
When it's so much easier to give, I have to remember that someone is always on the other end of receiving. That just happens to be us right now. I would not want to turn this boy away in wanting to serve, as humbling as it is. I love the feeling of making someone's day or going above and beyond. It's much easier to be on the giving end. I wish that I could erase it all and go back to teaching as an Art Mom or giving books away to Head Start families. It's so hard to accept service. If someone wasn't on that receiving end, I wouldn't get that fulfillment. Today, I feel blessed to learn the act of receiving.
|Coming to bring his fundraising efforts to Bryer|
We had several court hearings during the time Bryer was in custody. One of the main purposes was to check up with our case plan - to see the progress we were making in checking things off our list. Our new case worker always had positive things to say about us. The guardian ad litem was a little more reserved in her words, but felt we were 'moving along,' as was she in doing her own medical research. At one of these hearings, they gave the ok for me to stay at my Mom's during all daytime hours. I was not to spend nights there though, so I would take Piper and Walker with me and stay at my Dad's a couple miles from my Mom. Then in the morning we'd wake up early and head back over for the day with Bryer. Jason stayed at home with Hunter and Sawyr so they could go to school. All the shuffling of kids and their stuff and pumping milk was exhausting.
Jason and I were advised at the beginning to hire separate attorneys. We hoped that the judge would release Bryer to Jason, if not to me. That was never the case. In fact, the judge pointed out that Jason was, by definition, considered a neglectful father because (#1) he couldn't tell the court what happened with Bryer that day, and (#2) he was willing to stand by me to support me. Here's part of my journal entry after one of those days at court:
I have learned that the world will tell us how to live, who to love, what to stand for. For this court, it would 'work out' better if Jason and I were on different sides - if he opposed me. They would easily release Bryer to his care. I am not interested in listening to the world. Having standards to live by are often not the easy way out. Jason and I are both dedicated to our marriage and our family. That comes first. I have believed long enough that if we are doing what God wants us to be doing, then He will find a way for things to work out. His ways are always better than the world's ways. None of this makes sense if you look at it from an earthly view - the here and now - but if I take into account the big picture of things - my priorities - our priorities as husband and wife and as a family - it becomes so clear. There are a million reasons the world would have us be apart. But the most important reasons are to stay together and keep fighting for our family. We have to stick together. There's just no other way. We are better and stronger together than we are apart.
During this time, Bryer also transitioned from receiving therapy through the hospital to the therapists chosen by Health and Welfare through the Infant/Toddler Program. Jason and I said we would just go along with the program until Health and Welfare was out of the picture. They said it 'looked bad on us' if we didn't use their services for Bryer. Here's part of my journal from the day we met Bryer's Occupational Therapist for the first time:
My Mom has had to go back to work, but Health and Welfare isn't ready for us to go home, so we're staying with Jason's parents now and can have Bryer with us full time. It is so relieving to wake up in the middle of the night to a crying baby ready to nurse than an alarm clock to tell me it's time to pump. I'm thankful for the extra help while we transition to having Bryer back with us. She cries a lot as her poor little brain is recovering. The only way to get her to stop is to nurse. Her crying hits at the most random times for the most random reasons. It could be that Walker runs through the room and makes a loud noise that startles her or Piper kisses her one too many times. Or she's too hot or too cold. Simple things will send her into a crying fit that she can't stop unless I nurse to calm her back down. It could be the chaos of having cousins over or even just sitting around the table trying to eat all together.
Her Occupational Therapist (OT) visited today for the first time. She makes home visits and tries to see babies in their own home environment. She is a thin lady who wore cute clothes and her haircut complimented her face. I don't know what I was expecting from Health and Welfare. In the most non-judgmental kind of way, maybe I was expecting someone like our first case worker with tattoos and piercings? This lady was very nice and easy to talk to. I was nursing when she walked in (the new story of my life), so I couldn't get up to introduce myself. We talked a little bit and she was able to meet Bryer. At one point in the visit, she wanted to see what Bryer could do. I laid her down on a blanket on the floor and let her see how her body felt. Bryer's muscles feel kind of tight, and when she gets mad, she arches her back and her head off to the right side. She didn't want to be on the floor and with all the noise from people coming and going through the room was too much, so she started into one of her crying fits. I scooped her up and sat back on the couch to nurse again to calm her down. I showed her OT how much her arms relax while she's nursing and asked what therapy I should be doing while we were in that position so often during the day. She suggested a few things, along with offering opportunities to be on the floor on both her back and her tummy. After a while of sitting and nursing and visiting, I had to use the bathroom so I had Jason's Mom hold Bryer while I got up. Cindy later told me that the OT seemed impressed with me and while I was gone, asked, "Is she a die hard or what?!" She was referring to my dedication to nursing maybe? At first thought, I didn't know what she expected. Then I was reminded of what she probably thought. She's probably seen the hospital notes, the history on Bryer, all the background. She was expecting a child abuser. For whatever reason, I was really hoping this one would be different. I'm so tired of feeling like I'm on the defense. I'm not out to be prideful or 'prove' people wrong. I'm just not that kind of person. They will get to know me and see me for who I am. I will be who I am through and through. An open book. The child-development-major I was in college and they will see. I don't really have to do anything else than be myself.
Even though it's one step closer, it's so hard to be here at Jason's parents and know that life is going on without me at home. Jason is working full time and helping with homework and making dinners and the laundry and everything else I should be doing. I just want to be together. All 7 of us. Under 1 roof to say prayers together at night and hear about how my boys' day at school went and help them with their school projects. I should be the one sweeping up and making breakfast. I'm trying hard not to fight in my head about what things should be like. It helps if I count my blessings of where I'm at now instead of hoping for where I should be. Be positive. Be thankful. Show gratitude. So....
I am thankful to have Bryer with me now 24/7.
I am thankful to have the support of Jason's family to let us stay here.
I am thankful to have Piper and Walker with me, even if Hunter and Sawyr are away with Jason.
I am thankful for a supportive husband who is such a spiritual rock to our family.
I am thankful to have a new case worker.
I am thankful for a sincere occupational therapist.
I am thankful for my in-laws that cook and clean up while I feel so unhelpful nursing on the couch.
I am thankful for cousins for my kids to play with.
I am thankful for my parents who come take Piper and Walker to the park or out to lunch to get them out of the house.
I am thankful to God for answered prayers and to protect our family while we are separated.
I am thankful for the standards I live that will hopefully make it easy for people to see the kind of person I am.