Friday, October 3, 2008

October 4th

Tomorrow is an anniversary of sorts. It's not one I ever wanted, or ever dreamed I would have in my memory bank of important dates, and it's certainly not one I will ever celebrate. But "October 4th" will forever give me pause because this began on that Thursday one year ago. The date has loomed in the back of my mind for a while and I've wondered if I would write about it and what I would say. I thought about it off and on tonight as I chased Landon around a neighborhood park, as we laughed so hard during his bath that he nearly fell under the water, and as I rocked him before bed. Normally I read as he crawls around me too busy to be restrained, but tonight, for the first time in months, he snuggled up on my lap in the rocking chair while I read "Goodnight Moon." And then I read it four more times, holding my toddler who tonight seemed more like a newborn. The words of the book flowed from my mouth without thought, so my mind was free to roam elsewhere. I thought back to that first night in the hospital and how shocked and indignant we were- falling asleep with the absolute certainty that it would all be over soon. I remembered the way people talked to us the next day, like we were guilty and evil and lying, and how we started to get really scared. I remember existing outside of myself- thinking methodically, crying rarely, eating when forced- with every part of me was focused on doing anything and everything possible to get him home. I remember all the people who reached out to us- family, friends, strangers. I remember the people who pulled back. I remember, verbatim, the first blog post I read that said something negative about me- how absolutely stunned I was that someone could doubt me, how naive that now seems, and how much everything I couldn't stop reading still hurts. I remember Landon and how he charmed the nurses and smiled at clocks, and I thank God he never knew the drama surrounding him. I remember it almost as though it happened to someone else.

I just realized I switched to the present tense somewhere in that paragraph. I suppose that's appropriate, it is a lingering part of my present- something about that nightmare pops into my head at least once a day. Usually briefly and sometimes only tangentially, but those memories are always there, just waiting to be recalled by some innocent reminder. The good news is the images are no longer paralyzing. I refuse to dwell on them or get caught back up in the horror, which is why I don't think I'll ever go back and read my archives from that time. Our lives are full and happy- I was thinking today as I got off the plane that this may be the fullest and happiest I have ever been. I love my job, my house, my dogs, my friends, my family, my husband, my adorable, perfect, personality-filled son - I'm blessed beyond what I ever imagined. And I can say that even as a small part of my brain is replaying the scene in the hospital lobby when I handed over my baby to a stranger who was taking him to a shelter.

Sometimes I will let myself wonder why it happened, a futile and anger-inducing exercise. After all, it didn't make me stronger. I was already strong and those months remain the only time in my life I've felt truly weak. It didn't make my marriage stronger, it was already solid. I already knew that I loved my son, that my family loved me, that my friends were not fair-weather. It didn't changed my parenting, at least not for the better. Whenever he trips or falls JP and I check for bruises and reassure each other that anyone would believe the (true) story of how they got there. We both held our breath during his 12-month check-up, secretly afraid the doctor would uncover some injury we couldn't explain. I don't laugh at CPS or child abuse jokes, and I'm uncomfortably aware of how often people make them.

But I think those are the only lingering effects. What a good friend told me several months ago remains true, "You now know (what you knew before) you have friends you can count on, family who will do anything for you, a husband with endless patience and strength, and formidable resources within yourself." I also know that agencies wield a frightening amount of power, that people can be cruel, that people can be wonderful, and that I will never look at an accused the same way again. I've gotten so used to the fact that it happened that every now and then it will hit me just how insane it was- that we were accused of repeatedly and purposefully hurting our son. We truly lived a parent's nightmare, but luckily, it was one from which we were able to wake up and free ourselves. Almost completely.


  1. It is amazing to me that it's only been a year!

    It feels like I've been following your blog for so much longer, and although what you went through was hard, there is a silver lining is that your optimism, drive, humour, and great writing abilities have come to a wider audience (including me :-) )

    You have been so strong and accomplished so much in the past year!

    It is also lovely to have a little bit of Landon lighting up my life (via pictures) every few days.

  2. (((((LL))))

  3. I don't know if I've ever commented here before, maybe I have. I've been reading your blog for a few months now, and I can't remember how I found it but it linked to a post in the middle of your nightmare. Over the span of a few days I read every post about that time. I just felt sick for you. I couldn't believe all that you went through. I imagined myself in that same place and it just made me cry for you. When my youngest daughter was 6 months old we had a doctor accuse us of starving her and said that if she didn't gain a whole pound in one week they would, "throw her in the hospital and stick a tube down her throat whether we wanted them to or not!" I remember being terrified just over that. Turns out she had a blockage in her intestine that was preventing her from getting nutrition... once they fixed it she was fine. GRRR Anyway, I'm glad this nightmare is a year behind you. I pray that as the years go by time will dim the pain even more... You are great parents and I love reading your blog. Keep on keeping on!

  4. I woke up this morning thinking about your Nightmare, and I didn't even realize that it was exactly one year ago. Maybe some part of me knew it subconsciously. Then I got up and gave my little baby a big giant hug.

    I am so glad that your blog, like your life, is now filled with joyous things. You had an unimaginably difficult first year with your baby, but it looks like the second year is making up for everything.

  5. I started reading during The Nightmare and was horrified at the injustice done to you guys. But like you said, for me, it has faded into the background and now I love reading about your happy times in Austin. It is unthinkable that anyone could ever accuse you two of mistreating Landon.

  6. I started reading your blog during the nightmare and always admired your strength and honesty.

    What a horrible thing to experience and I can't express how happy I am that it turned out okay.

    Your story has stuck with me and I've thought about your and your family often. And always prayed that I would never have to face the same trial as you did.
    A long story made short:
    A week ago I had to take my 2 month old son to the ER as he wasn't shaking a cold and had spiked a fever. He had a UTI and they also xrayed his chest and found a minor lung infection. But my stomach dropped when the doctor said the xray had also found a spot that was either an artifact from machine error or a callous from trauma. I instantly thought of you and horrible fear crept over my entire body.
    The doctor started asking questions indirectly and got evasive. I knew what she was trying not to say(accuse) and I started holding my child very very tightly.
    She said they needed to run another xray to get clarification. For the next hour I kept thinking how this could happen to us. We are good people and good parents. We LOVE our children and how could we be accused.
    I kept waiting for them to take him away from me.

    They never did run another xray and when I asked why not, the doc was evasive and mentioned that the attending and resident had fought about it and decided not to. That there was nothing else to suggest the mark on xray was something to pursue. She was distinctly colder towards me though and I did not feel reassured. Her attending came in and explained better and reassured me that it was okay. That even the xray technician didn't think it was anything too concerning.

    I talked to my pediatrician a few days ago and she reassured me that it wasn't something she thought worth pursuing and to erase it from my head.

    So easy to say. I feel so so incredibly lucky but still so scared that it will haunt us in the future. I'm already reminding my husband to be careful and I am handling our son with kid gloves fearful something will happen and our children will be whisked away.

    My story is nothing compared to yours but I have a taste of the Fear you must feel. I feel like a coin had been flipped and we just managed to get the winning side.

    Thanks for sharing your story and your strength.

  7. You are an amazing mother and I am so proud to know you! I can't wait for the boys to get to meet- your stories of Landon remind me of my JP- they are such "boys"! I'm glad ya'll are settled in Texas and I'm horribly jealous because like YOUR JP, I refer to Texas as the "holy land" and question why I ever left! Eat some yummy Chuy's for me (did your mom tell you they are building one in Humble?!?!) and kiss that baby boy!

  8. This isn't really a positive for you to take from that whole nightmare, but you did bring awareness to all of us reading your blog that this crazy, fucked up stuff can happen to really good, smart and loving people.

    Like someone else said, I don't remember that "the nightmare" happened to you when I'm reading your posts these days ... I'm so glad that you have such a full and amazing life today!

  9. I started reading and have been following along since The Nightmare (some how I was linked to it), and just wanted to say that you are truly an inspiration. The previous posters pretty much summed up my thoughts on the situation, I really can't think of anything else to mention except thanks for writing and keep loving Landon, he is precious.

  10. You are amazingly strong, and I am so glad this is behind you -- at least the experience, even though the memory is still fresh and painful.

  11. You should also know that by telling your story, you've affected the way all of us see the system as well. Maybe that can give the horrible things that happened to you some sort of purpose in retrospect.

    For me, it's really the shock that all of that could happen to two people who are white, upper-middle class, well-educated, and have the resources to defend themselves, and still end up in the middle of a shit storm they can't control... well, what about the classes of people who are so often discriminated against by these agencies, minorities, the working class, as well as people who don't have the knowledge or the resources to fight for themselves? If the system can railroad people in the best of situations, what does it say for those in less favorable ones? It's appalling to think what would have happened if you weren't so intelligent and resourceful, or if you didn't have the support of family and friends.

    The system needs to change. It's supposed to advocate for children, not destroy families. That's sadly the moral of this story.

  12. I can't imagine having to watch your baby being taken to a shelter. I cried when tha dr took jacob away for his circumcision. I bawled watching a news story last night of a mom leaving her baby on a church door step in the cold.

    I bet you are so much stronger for all you went through. Thank goodness the horror is over and you can dwell on the happiness that fills your life today!

  13. A good thing that came out of it is ... you got to meet some awesome bloggers and became part of this amazing community. I'm sure that doesn't take away the horror that was this time last year, but perhaps you can find some solace in that thought.

  14. i'm sorry i've been so absent in the comments lately. now that i'm back at work, i have more time for blogs :)

    i had to keep myself from crying as your recounted the terror moment of having to hand landon over to a stranger. i've always felt horrible for you, but now that i have jude...oh my god. i can't even imagine the nightmare.

    and then i look at you now, and your thriving, healthy family, and i am so proud of you. the fact that you have recovered so much, so quickly is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

    when landon is a grown man, he will be able to tell his own kids just how strong his parents were, that they fought for the truth and won.


  15. I started reading right around Nightmare time, too. What an awful time.

    I don't really think that everything happens for a reason. I think that sometimes things happen because the world we live in is a broken, screwed-up place that is not the place God made or intended it to be, and it's filled with broken, screwed-up people (some more than others). I don't know why he allows the brokenness to persist, but brokenness is chaos that exists outside of reason and logic and I don't think there's always a Greater Good that comes out of it.

    I found two things within myself from interacting with your experience, one good, one bad. The bad: About two weeks ago, my toddler daughter burnt her belly on her dad's motorcycle. A few days later, she stuck her thumb into a pile of rice that was way hotter than I knew and burnt that, too. Then a few days ago she fell into a display rack at Old Navy and gave herself a nice shiner. Yesterday she fell off the couch and landed on her arm funny, and my first thought was, "Oh, no! What if she's reallly hurt?? I can't take her to the ER with all these injuries!" Thankfully, she was fine, but your experience has placed a fear in my heart that this really can happen to anyone.

    The good, though: Your experience has made me realize that it really can happen to anyone. I think - no, I KNOW - if someone had told me they had their kids taken away before I heard your story, I would immediately have assumed that they were guilty and really, really bad people. Your experience has placed some needed doubt on the system in my mind that I think - hope - has made me more compassionate and less judgmental.