Sunday, September 4, 2011

Adventures in Sitting: The Strength of the Strongest Bond

"S, we need you pull you out of your current assignment to sit in urgent care." I gave the nurse a strange look. People that require sitting- alcohol abuse/substance abuse/psychiatric problems- aren't supposed to go there.  "I know," she said, "it's a special situation. They'll explain when you get there."

It was a beautiful late summer day and the afternoon sun was still dappling through the trees that were rustling gently in the sweet breeze.  I reluctantly entered the glass doors of the clinic to see that in room one was a woman, feeding a baby, speaking tensely with our manager.  The manager pulled me aside and explained: Mr. and Mrs. Feckless came today because he needed stitches removed from his hand.  They came to urgent care but it became glaringly obvious that both of them had had alcohol, both breathalyzing above .300.  DCF was called and we are waiting for them to arrive- Mrs. Feckless knows this.  "Where is Mr. Feckless?" I asked. "In the drunk tank," the manager said, "just stay in the room with her to watch her with the baby."

I entered the room and introduced myself.  Mrs. Feckless saw me and said, "I don't need to be babysat with. This is my baby, I would never hurt her." I diverted the conversational path by simply asking, "so how old is she?" She scanned my face and decided there was no intention of harm. With the indulgence of a proud mother, she smiled and said "7 weeks tomorrow." I admired the little one, who could not? The minute fingers, perfectly arranged little eyebrow hairs and eyelashes, a bow around her head, little stubby legs, the fresh smell of new life.  She is going to be such an exotic beauty, with olive skin and dark blue eyes.  This skein of conversation let Mama Bear put her guard down, and she told me about caring for Baby Feckless, bathing her, feeding her, rocking her to sleep.  Meanwhile, the baby was cradled in her arms and didn't make a peep, her gentle eyes at peace with her surroundings.

She was so gentle with the baby, knowing exactly what to do with every hiccup, burp, squeak, or kick of a little leg.  They knew each other better than anyone else.  The baby rested comfortably in complete trust, nestled on the mother's chest; it was the epitome of Madonna and Child, transcending time, space, culture and it was beautiful to see.  They gazed at each other with an unspeakable bond that was almost visible, shimmering in the air.

Mrs. Feckless looked younger than she was, but the lines on her face told me she didn't have the easiest life.
"She is the best thing I have. The only thing I have," Mrs. Feckless sighed, "I used to live in a half-way house. Then I met my husband. Everything changed. Everything bad that happens to me happens because of him!"
I paused, "... is he good to you?"
"Oh, he's the best. He's my best friend and we understand each other. We love each other so much.  It's just that he can be so stupid sometimes. Never shuts his mouth and now look, DCF is coming again."
"Again? You mean this isn't the first time?" I was incredulous.
"No, hah, it's ridiculous. The day she was born, I was alone. He was drinking and being an ******* on the streets. Then he realized he was gonna be a father and started calling my cellphone nonstop, screaming at me and the nurse telling me to hold it while he comes in the room. I mean how can you hold it? I was having a baby! The nurse told him never to call again and not to come in, but he burst in and caused a scene cause he was drunk, you know.  They called DCF that day.  But he's good to me, he really is."
On the day the baby was born. Unbelievable.

She was comfortable with me and made easy conversation, cradling the baby close.  The baby had dozed off and slept comfortably, positioned next to her mother's neck.  Maybe she never had anyone to talk about this with or maybe I was just a receptive listener, but she relished in the details of describing exactly how the baby would smile only at her, and how to decipher the squeaks that the baby used to communicate with her, and how gentle, quiet, perfect this baby was compared to her now teenage son, who was a nightmare baby.

"You don't have any children, do you?"
"Oh, no," I laughed, "that's... far in the future."
"It's a good thing. I was your age when I had my first. I was barely a baby myself and I had to grow up real fast.  If I had any advice for you, since you're nice and sweet, it would be this: travel, go to school, have fun, and never settle."
"Oh, I'll never settle, don't worry about that one."
She smiled at me and DCF walked in.

"Can you step out?" asked the severe woman wearing severe high heels.
"Of course," I said, feeling a chill and they shut the door behind me.
The tech that brought DCF over pulled me aside. "When those drunk fools came stumbling in, you know what he said to me? He looked me in the eye and said *****, get these ******* sutures out of my hand now. And I was like uh, hold on, sir. I told them he was drunk and was like you need to call DCF. You know what, they deserve this for being idiots. That baby is not safe with them."
I listened in silence. Maybe... but could anyone else take better care of someone else' baby when the mother is already attentive? Mrs. Reckless didn't seem very drunk at all- in fact, I would consider her to be more competent than many mothers with very young children I've seen in the ER so far.

The door cracked open and I heard, "I need to call my supervisor, so just hold on."
"Please don't take my baby from me, please, I'd die without her, please."
"I said I would call my supervisor. Please wait a minute."  The she-wolf in heels nodded at me and I went inside.

"I told him not to drink, but then he got ME drunk, and I never drink. You can ask any of them and now look!" Mrs. Feckless started crying and I got her a box of tissues, "He ***** up so many times. I do it once and now I'm being punished for it. It's not fair! I've done everything I was supposed to do- I sat here quietly, I waited, I didn't make a scene... but I'm still being punished."
She cradled the sleeping baby in her arms and kissed her several times. "Never, never... They're all liars. I don't believe a word they say.  She wants to put my baby with a foster family and says I'll get her back, but I don't trust her. I don't trust none of them. I just want to go home with my baby!"

I heard the clinic door open and watched 3 county officers walk in.  DCF came back in and I exited the room and grilled the officers.  Mr. Feckless had been arrested and Mrs. Feckless was papered. She may well be arrested as well. That would get her fired from her hard-won job at a supply depot.  I couldn't help but feel a cold horror, like I was taking part in something terrible and wrong, like a hapless grad student working in the monkey room under Harry Harlow.

DCF came out once more and asked another tech to go inside and "distract her" with the paperwork. Mrs. Feckless was helpless and laughed bitterly, "I know what you're doing. You're taking my baby away."
"No, we're just making sure she's healthy," DCF said as she slowly wheeled the stroller out of the room.
"But what about all her clothes and things?"
"Well, do you have a bassinet at home? If you give us your keys, we'll take what she needs for her stay."
"But how am I going to get in and out of my house?" Mrs. Feckless looked so worn.
"We'll figure that out."
"Where is my husband? Did he get arrested? I'm have to leave him... this is too much, I can't take this. I'm losing my baby..."
"You won't lose her forever if you go to the session tomorrow as it says on this paper, since it is your first offense. If you do everything like we say, you'll get her back soon." The DCF woman said.
"How soon? Tomorrow after the class?"
"It depends."
It was too cruel.

Quickly, matter-of-factly, efficiently, it was all done and she was asked to leave.  I gave her a hug and told her to take care as she was escorted out, silent and broken, by the officers into the gorgeous afternoon. I watched her look longingly as they walked right past the van where DCF was tying in the still-sleeping baby.


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