One of the recurring flashbacks/nightmares I have about the DCFS investigation involves me sitting in the little windowless room in the hospital with the police detective, frantically trying to figure out how I could convince him that neither I nor JP hurt Landon. How do you convince someone that you love your child and despite his crying, his reflux, his colic, you still couldn't imagine actually harming him? How can you make a total stranger understand how completely insane this is, how loving we are, how well we know each other? After a few seconds of just sitting in silence, panicking that my silence was somehow an admission of guilt, I looked him directly in the eyes and said in a steady voice, "I know, with absolute certainty, that there is no way my husband or I hurt Landon. How can I convince you of that?" That's when he suggested the polygraph test, which we took the next day and of course passed (not that it wasn't a terrifying experience anyway). JP passed it so conclusively that the detective administering his told him as soon as he was done that he had nothing to worry about. It was a nice gesture in a time when people weren't making many of those in our direction.
Today, more than three weeks after the deadline, we finally heard back from the administrative law judge who heard our appeal in May. JP's indication for child neglect has been overturned and his record has been expunged. She found no credible evidence pointing to him as the perpetrator and recommended DCFS reverse the finding; that opinion was sent to the Springfield office for their review, and they agreed to expunge his record. Nine months and four days after that horrible trip to the doctor, the nightmare is over - or at least the administrative evidence of it.
When I called my mom to tell her the news she started crying, she was so happy and relieved for us. I had almost no emotional reaction. Neither did JP. Maybe it's because we're so removed from it now, maybe it's because we'd already let ourselves believe we'd get good news, or maybe it's because we have no emotions left to give- I'm not sure. I think for me the lack of relief is due to the fact that I now know the permanent effects of our experience and this finding, well deserved and just as it might be, doesn't remove those scars. The fact that it happened at all remains, the shelter's presence in my memory remains - will always remain, the nightmares remain. I was thinking the other day that the thing I resent most about the whole experience is that it's a part of me now and though it will fade, it will never be erased.
I'm happy, of course. I don't want to take away from the good news- that JP's record is clear, that we finally won something with that God forsaken agency- it means a lot. I hope that just as it took a while for the negative aftershocks to reveal themselves, it will take a while for this good news to sink in too. I think that in another year it's going to matter an awful lot that we appealed and we won.
This should be the end of the "The Nightmare" label. I still think about it more than I wish, but less than I feared. I remain overwhelmingly thankful for the love and help we received from our family and friends, both in real life and virtual. I am grateful that if anything our marriage is stronger from the experience. I thank God that Landon remembers nothing. I wonder if and when we'll tell him the story. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for following along and lending your support, prayers, and outrage. I'm glad we can finally say "The End."