Sunday, May 06, 2007

purple dragons

Around the time D was preparing to leave us, we moved another family in who was about to give birth. They'd been living in the mountains camping for the past year with their two year old daughter. They were worn and weathered and from a clinical perspective, a bit nuts.

The mom was pure granola. The dad didn't say much of anything, head facing the floor. Their daughter was incredibly beautiful. When we asked about the baby, the previous prenatal care (of which there had been none) and the birth plan, she told us I don't need no one but Jesus to have this baby. Jesus will deliver my baby just fine. And respectfully I replied That may be true, but Jesus isn't delivering a baby in my house, friend. Jesus needs to deliver that baby at the hospital. (note: I am fine with home births, of course. But not in a situation like this. I think Jesus would push for a midwife too. I'm just saying).

And then she pulled off her knit cap and Cheetos cascaded to the floor. Her hair was full of them, some fell out of her hat and others were still resting in her hair. She reached up and grabbed one and popped it in her mouth and handed another to her child. And I could tell in that instant we were in for trouble.

I need to make sure we are clear. A home birth is not an option if you want to stay here.
Ok, she said. Right.

This family was trouble from the beginning. Things disappeared around the facility, she got into arguments with other residents. She continued to near her due date, still refused to see a doctor. We tried to get social services involved, but the county wouldn't come out based on the lack of prenatal care. The legality of abortion means a longer rope for pregnant moms. Even women using drugs during pregnancy could get away with it as long as the child isn't born with it in their system. So we tried, but again, we were on our own with this. We all were holding our breath.

I came to work one morning to find five or six police cars on site. One of them said they were searching for the husband, he was last seen running naked down the middle of the street. They said they had a warrant out for his arrest. They didn't know where the mom or daughter was and they wanted into the apartment. They had their guns in their hands. Cops don't tell you everything so the guns told me enough.

I opened up the door and saw that the apartment was trashed. There was a decent amount of blood on the floor and when the cops saw that they pushed me aside and searched the unit only to find it empty. The cops then told me I needed to talk to the fire chief, they were here last night and he could tell us what happened.

I called the fire chief and he said we've seen a lot of shit, young lady, not the least of which comes out of your place, but last night took the cake. What the hell is going on over there? We got a series of 911 calls from that unit, but when we'd call back no one would answer. We knocked and knocked for almost half an hour until finally the door opened up. We were this close to breaking it down.

But then we saw the little girl. That little girl answered the door in a barney costume. Why the hell was she wearing a barney costume at 3am? We yelled inside the unit for her parents, and her mom came to the door, naked and covered in blood, a newborn baby in one hand and the placenta still inside her, umbilical cord still attached. She had that damn baby in the bathtub. We delivered the placenta right there on the floor. And seriously, what the hell was the little girl doing in a barney costume in the middle of the night?

There is a bit of unspoken camaraderie when we all deal with something so off kilter, so he didn't expect me to have an answer as much as needing to get it off his chest. Obviously the costume was the least of it, but what it represented was the worst. But at least part of the mystery was solved. Mom and daughter and baby were at the hospital.

The cops came back and wanted back inside the apartment. They'd apprehended the father at a park down the street and he was sitting in the back of their car. He was being arrested and they wanted to take some things for evidence. We only learned later what he was charged with, and I am deliberately not repeating it here because it is too disgusting to recount.

Mom lost custody of both kids in the hospital. The baby was going to be ok. We refused to take the mom back, she'd already caused so many problems in the short while she was here. We extend ourselves a lot, too much, for many. This time we drew the line.

But I'd be lying if I said the little girl didn't haunt me. I wonder what sort of madness she's witnessed and how she came to find a small measure of protection in an old barney costume.

34 comments:

Susanne said...

You're really thinking about mental illness and children a lot lately, aren't you?

It must be hard when you set out to help to finally have to say "no" so often.

That story will stay with me for a while.

metro mama said...

Wow, Jen. I'm speechless again.

slouching mom said...

That is awful, Jen.

I'm glad you can tell these stories. Maybe it dulls the pain a little to share them with us.

I hope so.

Kyla said...

Oh Jen. The places you've been. I can't imagine holding all of these memories and feelings inside. You do something great, Jen. Something many people couldn't handle. You amaze me again and again.

Deezee said...

I'm amazed how you contain so much optimism after swimming in so much pain. I'd go nuts in at most a day.

Your gift of storytelling is remarkable. I will never look at a Barney costume in quite the same way.

Lil said...

Jen, I am sobbing after reading this post. I don't care about the mom and dad...the children and how they live is why I am crying. I can't imagine my little girl in those circumstances...so lost...at two.

Jen, I can't keep reading these stories, they are too...how is your heart not already split in too many places to repair after witnessing this same thing over and over again? Is this part of your pain...

I want to run from your blog Jen...I'm sorry to be so blunt, it's just that this inhumane horror is so....gawd, I can't even come up with the right words...

I won't run though...I'll just sit here and cry with you and the rest of your friedns...maybe we can help salve one another...

Lil

mamatulip said...

This post will stay with me. So many of yours do.

KC said...

It's not fair, really, these early experiences of children. So much of neuronal connections happen during these early critical years...the template for future social interactions is made.

It's just not fair.

thailandchani said...

I can put the pieces together and come up with what possibly occurred there and, yes, it's disgusting.

There should be a solution.. and there isn't. That's what's so hard about it.


Peace,

~Chani

QT said...

The sad part is that for all your stories, Jen, there are so many other people in your profession with equally heartbreaking stories. There is no end. This is what would become too much for me at the end of the day.

Mad Hatter said...

This post speaks to a truth that you don't often broach, Jen. It is very rare that you stray into the territory of the irredeemable soul.

On a different note, could you clarify the following statement for me: "The legality of abortion means a longer rope for pregnant moms. Even women using drugs during pregnancy could get away with it as long as the child isn't born with it in their system."

I guess I'm asking b/c there's usually strict gestational limits on abortion (at least there is in Canada) so I don't understand how a woman as far along in her pregnency as you describe would have a longer rope with respect to behaviour that is detrimental to the fetus. I'm only asking b/c I'm curious not confrontational. I know this is a hot button issues for a lot of folks, though, so you can email me rather than answering in the comments.

Tabba said...

That Barney costume.....an image that seems bigger than life. A dinosaur.
Who would want to mess with a dinosaur? That little girl tried her best - her thinking is amazing. Too bad she had probably seen much too much.

You know we're here.

Aliki2006 said...

God, what a haunting image--the Barney costume and those poor kids--so many helpless kids.

jen said...

Mad, Susanne, you are right.

and Mad, i'll email you and share what the person told me when we called.

flutter said...

The more you recount these stories, the more I want to start the place we were talking about, for kids that find themselves in situations like these.

mcewen said...

Always helps to be reminded of just how lucky I really am.
Best wishes

Sandra said...

The things you've seen and lived, Jen. Through your words, this little girl and what she's seen will haunt me too. My heart aches.

Lawyer Mama said...

Your stories about the children. Oh, they haunt me. I can't imagine how they must haunt you.

Beck said...

I read this and then had to very deliberately walk away from the computer until I felt sturdy enough to come back and comment. I can't imagine coming back to this as your reality day after day, if just reading the words makes me feel broken.

Laurie said...

I don't know how you do it, Jen. I can't even imagine what kind of inner strength you must possess to be able to handle this year after year.

crazymumma said...

Oh I hope that little child found a safe place and was ok coming out of the Barney costume in her head. Purple dragons can be mighty strong protectors.

Poor little thing. You just gotta wonder why huh. it's one thing when its adults, but the little ones. shit. Gonna go kiss my sweets goodnight. again.

kristen said...

i don't even know how to comment. i think that barney costume would haunt me too. that poor little girl - i'm always amazed at what children can survive.

kim said...

It's the children who haunt me as well. And I know some about haunted children.

Hel said...

Jen, you take my breath away.

The more I read your stories the more I believe you should write a book. If you could make such a huge difference to the way everyone who visits this site thinks imagine the difference you could make with a best seller.

Her Bad Mother said...

Those kind of memories are hard to live with, hard to hold in the heart. Hard to share, too, in their way. Hard to live through, hard to make into memories.

You're amazing.

Mrs. Chicky said...

The thought of a young girl awake at 3am, probably having watched her mother give birth, with a deranged man for a father will stay with me for a long time after reading this. You've got to wonder how much a child can see in just a couple of years and still turn out okay.

Karen Forest said...

Heart wrenching....

I do not know how you do it, especially with children of your own.

I know when you are witness to such heartbreak surrounding children it changes you....

there have been a few times when we have had to bury children.....and it physically hurts me. I can't image the pain.

Binky said...

The camaraderie of dealing with something so off kilter, as you put it, is really interesting to me. It's the idea of the extreme always making an impression (a "Heathers" quote, but pretty damn universal if you ask me), and how that's what it takes to force people from different angles to confront one fucked up plane of reality.

Anjali said...

Oh, that is just too sad. Thinking of kids in desperate situations just haunts me.

In the Trenches of Mommyhood said...

Wow. Just wow. I can't imagine how you do what you do.

urban-urchin said...

That poor little girl and her sibling. That's incredibly sad.

Penny. said...

Dear God.

Dear God, you know what I mean, sincerely, Penny.

Dear Jen.

carrie said...

I don't even know what to say.

Thank you for opening my eyes continually, with each piece of heartache that you share. The world will never be the same again for me and I have your words to thank for that. And even though it is so hard to hear these things, it is better than living life with one's head in the sand. What good would that do?

I don't understand how the world can be so beautiful and horrible all at once. The lump in my throat will be there for a while.

Carrie

ewe are here said...

wow. just wow.

And the barney costume made me think of the movie Hope Floats (corny, I know), where the child who'd been abandoned by his mom constantly donned different costumes in which to hide. Very sad. I hope a good, caring home was found.