I shoved my feet against the floorboards as the car sped around the corner and onto Douglas Avenue in Des Moines. “Please God, don’t take my child,” was the silent prayer I repeated in my head over and over again.
Clouds hid the stars, but the pillow and white sheet lying over my lap seemed to glow in the front seat.
The tears clouding my eyes couldn’t diminish my acute vision of the small body on top of the sheet. The beautiful golden curls I brushed earlier in the day now were dark and wet ringlets clinging to my son’s little scalp.
The terror I felt at that moment went far beyond any terror I felt at the hands of my abuser as a child.
Nothing in life prepared me for this moment.
“What have I done that you keep punishing me?” The screaming plea resounding in my brain begged God for answers.
I heard my husband curse as the light ahead turned red. It was two in the morning, and no one was around. He slowed but continued through the stoplight toward the hospital.
How many nights had we done this? Billy’s temp was at 106 degrees when we left the house. His tiny body was blueish purple in the lights coming from the dashboard. I could see every vein in his small arms and legs. His eyes were open, but the pupils were rolled up and nearly invisible behind his eyelid.
I held my hands open a few inches from his chest on both sides of his body in case I needed to catch him if the car veered. I knew from experience that if I touched him, he would scream as if my hands were hot coals.
The Nurses Recognized Us
My husband held the heavy doors open as I rushed into the emergency room with Billy lying limply in my arms.
“Follow me!” One of the nurses yelled.
I felt only a tiny bit of remorse for the others waiting their turn as I hurried down the hallway behind her.
“It’s horrible this time!” I sobbed as I gently lowered him to the examination table.
“When did it begin?”
Her words sounded like a condemnation.
“I awoke to his scream twenty minutes ago. We threw on some clothes and got in the car immediately.”
She looked up. “His brother?”
“A neighbor came over to stay with him until we get home.”
She nodded as she took Billy’s temperature. “It’s 107 degrees.”
“It was 106 when we left home.”
The doctor came in. His jaw set as he examined the little boy back again in his ER. “He has fluid behind both eardrums.”
He was so matter-of-fact, and I wanted to scream at him that I was a good mother. I needed him to understand that when I put my child down to sleep, he was perfectly healthy.
“I took him in to see the doctor this morning to follow up on the previous ear infection, and he said both ears were clear.”
Don’t take my baby!
“I have to bring the temp down now! Nurse!” He nodded at my tiny son.
The nurse hurried over and picked him up.
“Don’t take my baby!” I whimpered as they hurried out of the room.
The nurse glanced back. “We have to get him in an ice bath. Go to the waiting room, and I’ll come and get you when we have him stabilized.”
I could barely lift my feet to walk back to the waiting room. I was emaciated, and the doctors diagnosed me with ‘complete physical exhaustion’ only six months earlier. I’d been forced to quit my job.
Anyone who has had a preemie understands what it’s like to have to feed the baby every two hours because they are so weak they fall asleep while nursing. That still didn’t cover all the hours we spent in the ER or nursing his unknown illness at home.
During those few moments when he was sleeping, I’d throw the garage sale sign out on the front lawn and open the garage. It was the only thing I could think to do to raise a few dollars for groceries.
There are no words to describe the heart-stopping terror I felt sitting in the waiting room. How many nights had I given up any hope of sleep as I fought to protect this little boy? How could I ever get over the shame I felt for my older boy…the one who no longer had the pleasure of his mommy’s company whenever he felt scared or lonely?
The minutes somehow turn into hours as your eyes follow the newcomers to the ER, without really seeing them.
It’s impossible to prevent the tears or stop the trembling of your hands.
The imagination is the worst part. You picture your baby dying without you. You wonder if those who took him away will do everything in their power to protect him.
How will he react if he wakes up in ice water?
Will I be able to hear him if he wakes up and screams because he doesn’t know where he is or where his mom is?
What am I doing wrong?
Why is this happening every single week and sometimes twice in the same week?
How many years will it take to pay all the medical bills?
Will we lose the house?
I want my baby back!
Please God, watch over him and save him. He’s an innocent who has done nothing wrong!
Why Am I Sharing This Memory? – Please don’t take my baby away!
For the first time in my lifetime, this country is taking children away from their parents at the border. Many of these parents have arrived seeking asylum legally at our borders, telling stories of abuses we can’t begin to imagine to themselves and their children.
Children as young as 18 months are being ripped from the arms of their mothers and put into foster care situations; sometimes nearly two thousand miles from their mothers.
Even more horrifying is the fact that our government has lost track of the whereabouts of many of these children. One White House official stated they did it as a deterrent to illegal aliens entering this country. How can we stand by and allow this to happen in this country? It reminds me of what happened to the Jewish families in Germany.
“The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.” John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, NPR Interview May 11.
Federal Agencies Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Migrant Children Placed with Sponsors – NYTimes
Please, Don’t Take My Child
The Office of Refugee Resettlement has the responsibility of housing unaccompanied juveniles who cross the border alone. Today, the government is taking children away from their parents and placing them under the care of this agency. Separating families is unprecedented for the United States. Yes, we took care of kids who arrived without parents, but to my knowledge, we’ve never before separated children from their parents.
Taking a child from their mother without a compelling reason is hideous. I can feel the terror of the mothers and their children to my very core. I’ve lived in those moments of not knowing if I’d ever see my son alive again.
It’s not enough to blame the people responsible for this atrocity. We each need to contact the people who represent us in government and demand this practice end immediately. There is no hope in a nation that would separate a child from its mother who asks nothing more than protection from the atrocities of the country they’re fleeing.
Update on Billy
It would be another six months of trips to the ER before we discovered what was wrong with our little boy.
We’d moved to Minnesota and contacted a young doctor who started a practice in Apple Valley, MN. Peter C. Frederixon was the doctor who finally made a diagnosis. Although a bone marrow test showed that our baby could make antibodies, it wasn’t working.
Effectively, Billy was what we call a ‘Bubble Baby.’
He had one of his attacks within hours of Dr. Frederixon seeing him for a recheck on an ear infection. When I took him in for the appointment, he was perfectly healthy, and both ears were clear.
As the doctor explained, Billy picked up a germ in the waiting room, and within two hours it had multiplied in his body to the point his fever was at 105 degrees, and he had fluid behind both eardrums. They would begin to give him injections of live bacteria to trigger his immune system. By the time he was five-years-old, his immune system had developed enough to take him out of the house without the risk of another attack.