As my son’s 1st birthday quickly approaches, I find myself reminiscing quite a bit on the last year, my first as a mom. As cliché as it sounds, I never realized how much I could love another human until my son was placed in my arms. From that moment on, I knew my life was forever changed. All of a sudden, there was this life that depended on me 100%.
While the last year has been one of the most rewarding of my life, there was a dark cloud that hung over our family for part of it. There was a good 3 months that my husband and I lived in constant fear that our son was going to be taken from our home. These few months were the worst of my life.
As a new mom, I worried about EVERYTHING and leaned heavily on my pediatrician’s office, calling them frequently to ease my mind. This also resulted in many last minute appointments to be told everything is fine. This whole “motherhood” deal was new to me, I felt like I was doing the best thing for my son by consulting in experts, as I had no idea if the amount of spit up was cause for concern or if what I was seeing during diaper changes was normal.
So one day when I noticed a bruise on his bottom that I had no explanation for nor did my husband, I became Dr. Google and found some terrifying reasons as to why he could be bruising. As a concerned parent I called my pediatrician’s office like I had all the other times before and was given an appointment later that day. An hour or so later, the nurse called me back and explained she had spoken with the doctor and he suggested heading to our local emergency room so they could run some tests. I gladly obliged, there is nothing I wouldn’t do to make sure my son was OK, and that is where it all started.
For the next 4-5 hours I answered question after question, offered up past doctor visits and concerns I had had. I gave the doctors everything I had, to give them the complete picture of his health history; I wanted to make sure we had the best chance of figuring out what was going on. After all the questioning, a doctor came in and explained that all my son’s medical tests had come back clean and they could not find anything medically wrong with him to explain the bruise. I felt relieved that my son was given a clean bill of health, that was until she went on to explain she had also called the local police department and child protective services to investigate further since nothing medical came up during his tests. I was instantly in tears.
How could anyone think that I or my husband could EVER do anything to hurt this precious child?
The rest of the day is a terrible blur of being questioned and accused of doing harm to our son. That evening both my husband and I had to separately speak with detectives and explain our relationship, our family, our household, anything and everything. A social worker from CPS came and put a safety plan in place requiring that both my husband and I have 24/7 supervision when caring for our son. Thankfully my mom was able to drop everything and move into our home to provide this supervision so our son wouldn’t be removed. This meant she needed to wake up all throughout the night with me when I nursed our son, changed his diaper, played with him, basically had ANY interaction with him whatsoever.
We lived in constant fear after that. Fear that CPS or the police would show up and take our son away. Fear that we would be criminally charged with abuse and neglect.
With the help of our family, my husband and I hired separate attorneys to represent us. For the next month, we complied with everything required of us as they conducted their investigation. This included surprise visits, interviews, and additional doctor visits and testing to be done for our son. We did it all. There was too much at risk, there was no way we were going to take any shortcuts and risk losing our son. When the month finally came to an end, we were feeling pretty good about everything. The social worker showed up to discuss their findings. She explained that after the 30 day investigation they could not offer any explanation into what happened or who caused the bruising. We thought this was good news. That was until she served us with court summons and explained that she was placing our son into foster care because they felt he was still at risk because they couldn’t identify who caused the bruise. We were devastated. Up until this point, we had been given every indication that this would be over after the investigation concluded. Thankfully, my family was able to set up and be the “foster parents” for our son. We were allowed to stay with him, as I was exclusively breast feeding, but could no longer stay at our home; we needed to be at my parent’s house.
We finally caught a break.
Two days later, we appeared before a judge who, after reviewing all the material submitted by the state and CPS, found no reason our son required removal from our home. We were allowed to take him back to our house but agreed to continue the 24/7 supervision until our next court appearance.
Following further court dates, thousands of dollars in attorney fees, and countless sacrifices made by our families, we did get our happy ending and our family remained intact. While this all went on we kept very quiet about what was going on. I can’t speak for my husband, but I felt ashamed and humiliated.
I was in disbelief that something like this could happen to us. I was afraid to call the doctor and ask any more questions. I was afraid that from now on, anytime we saw a doctor they would look in our son’s medical history and see “suspected child abuse/neglect” in the file and we wouldn’t be taken seriously. I was worried that he wouldn’t get the best care possible because the first thing anyone would look for would be abuse. I was angry for all those months we lived on eggshells and how it interrupted our lives. I was angry that even after a positive outcome we couldn’t go back and get any of that time as a family back.
It’s been about 6 months since this whole nightmare ended and I do breathe a little easier. I still find myself worrying about being able to explain any and all bruises our son has and am hesitant to call the doctor. I no longer look forward to his routine checkups or any interaction we have with his doctors.