"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn

"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn
it's a jungle out there

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Be Bwave Fursday or Be Bwave Fwyday


There's a new thing at work. It's called the drowning turkey stance. It's my own creation. I take this stance when something occurs which is so astounding that all I can do is stop in my tracks with my head tilted back and my mouth slack and open. Just like a turkey in the rain. It's when I'm so dumbfounded by what's occurring around me that I'm paralyzed and allowing myself to drown.


This is what birthed the drowning turkey stance:

...cocaine positive baby born to G10P9 polysubstance abusing mom who has never had custody of her kids and won NY state lottery, receiving 1000$/mo to fund her drug habit...

This baby was in our newborn nursery. As his 9 siblings had been before him. This 10th baby was born with cocaine in his urine, as were several of his siblings. Which means mom used within 72hrs of delivery. All the siblings are in foster homes. And yes, mom is addicted to or abusing more than just cocaine, which she buys with money won through lotto.

Dumbfounded.

I was struck dumb.

Which was unusual for me, as I always have something to say at work. Sometimes I'm funny, sometimes I'm crass, sometimes I'm understanding. But on this particular day for some particular reason I was...

Dumbfounded.

And I stood in the middle of the nurses station, paralyzed, with my head tipped back and my mouth hanging open, staring at the ceiling.

One of the nurses looked at me Michelle, are you OK?
I feel like a turkey caught in the rain...

So conversation ensued. I work with a lot of single moms. Some are R.N.s, some are med techs, some are M.D.s. They pretty much all had the same response.

The state should take the money away.
Someone should report it to Lotto.
What about mandatory sterilization? Or mandatory long term birth control?
Like an IUD or something?

But, alas, we live in a pretty liberal state. Which I love.

But 10 drug exposed babies? All in foster care? And she gets a lot of free money with which she presumably buys drugs?

Seems as though (and this is hearsay ie: a friend of a friend/I know someone who...) if you win the lotto, and you are on any kind of public assistance, you first have to pay back the state. But this lady is NOT on public assistance. Why?

Because all her kids are in foster care and even though the state is paying for it it doesn't count cause she's not directly getting any benefits.

hmmm....

Dumbfounded.

One of the things I love about my job is I get to work with a population that I otherwise there but for the grace of god go i would have no contact. Urban, rough, struggling families. Families from all over the planet. Bangladesh, Vietnam, Jordan, Ghana, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Nepal. The problem with my job is, after 12 years, some days I've lost all my liberal socialist bleeding heart tendencies. And I love that I have those tendencies. But if I'm crabby or tired or stressed, I find myself thinking and feeling some very uncharitable thoughts and feelings.

And I don't want to be judgemental.
I want to maintain my compassion.

But come on!

I had to think myself out of this one, cause I could feel my brain morphing into Glenn Limbaugh or Rush Beck or...

Ms. Moon
the antithesis
of right winged conservative compassionlessness

I remembered her post about a red headed baby.


So I tried to think about this extraordinarily fecund polysubstance abusing lotto winning mother.

How does she feel? Is she tormented? Is she in unbelievable psychic and emotional pain? Was she brutally sexually abused as a child? Has she considered suicide? Does she not care at all? Does she not love her babies? Does she hate them? Does she want them back? Does she worry that they will spend their childhoods in foster care? cause there's not a chance in hell they'll get adopted Or is she thankful that they're in foster care?
Can she care?

So, by channelling Ms. Moon, and forcing my thought process in a specific direction, I was able to cultivate a modicum of compassion for the drug addicted lotto winning mother of 10.

Which is what I wanted to do. I did not want to feel like a Beck Limbaugh groupie.


I remembered a long time ago, before I had kids of my own. I was working in a residential facility for HIV infected foster kids. This place was in Washington Heights, which at the time had the highest crime rate in all of NYC.

Best job of my life. Seriously.

So with HIV infected kids, come their HIV infected mothers. And most of the infected moms were drug addicts. And some worked really hard to get it together, and others... not so much.

There were two sisters. One was 2 and the baby was 10 weeks old. And the baby was running a fever. As was our protocol, the baby was on isolation until we could determine the cause of the fever. Which meant that when mom showed up for her weekly visit, she was unaware that her baby was sick, and the visit couldn't happen. At the time, mom didn't really have an address and only doctors and movie stars had cell phones. Mom did have drugs, though, cause when she arrived she looked a little strung out.

Being the nurse on duty, and the person in charge, I had to explain to this mom that the visit couldn't happen.

I have to say, that I felt just a smidge of superiority. Just a smidge of I'm better than you. Just a smidge of well you get what you deserve and you don't deserve this visit cause it's all your fault anyway.

Yes. I felt that way. Just a smidge.

Well, mom was not happy with this at all. Things escalated pretty quickly. I thought shit she's gonna hit me. The security guard harumph some guard thought shit michelle's gonna get hit.

Why?

She probably saw my smugness. She probably was sick of people judging her and looking down at her and saying you can't and we're taking away your babies on top of it.

And then it hit me a thought not a fist She's their mom. They're her babies. I'd seen her cuddle and croon and smile into her daughters' eyes. I'd seen the pain in her eyes when her visits were over. I'd seen that. Even though those girls were drug exposed and HIV infected I saw that their mom loved them. And her newborn was sick, and there was nothing she could do.

I said the magic words I know your scared.

Her fists unclenched, her shoulders relaxed. The fight left her eyes and was replaced by heartbreaking sadness.

I didn't get hit.

So when I think about this cocaine baby born in our neck of the woods, with 9 siblings, all in foster care, I wonder...

What's that mom thinking?



26 comments:

  1. I have so many varied responses to this post that I can't even begin to write them. I just can't. But I commend you for being, yes, brave enough to write this out; I admire that about you.

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  2. I firmly believe that once you've proven that you're an unfit mother (drug addicted newborns, all previous kids in foster care, continues with drugs, etc) manditory steralization should be enacted.

    And as for her winning the lottery, that's just wrong and it makes me want to stand out in the pouring, freezing cold rain, make a fist and shout out at the sky "WHY GOD WHY?!"

    Because there are a million others who could use that money in a more positive way.

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  3. I'm pretty sure the NY state lotto people don't get to be the morality police, so that money isn't going to stop, no matter how tragic the situation is.

    Why do you say the kids won't be adopted? I don't mean to be naive. I assume you mean that drug addicted kids don't usually get adopted.

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  4. God. I'm with Kori- there are so many ways to look at this situation and in a way, the point for compassion is beside the point because at THIS point, the woman is hurting other human beings and ruining human lives and no matter what caused her to be this callous, this disregarding of her own children, she is in a position of doing real harm.
    I had a friend whose husband mistreated her cruelly and when I talked to her about it, she rationalized his behavior with all the horrible things that had happened to him. Finally, I told her- "I don't give a shit about all of that. He's hurting YOU!"
    And I think that's how I feel in this situation.
    And yes, thank-you for writing about this. Thank-you for sharing your heart and your struggles and your life.

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  5. Okay. Having thought about this for a few more minutes, I have to add- I don't think the mother of these children is necessarily an evil person. Something horrible did indeed happen in her life to make her this way, whether abuse or poverty (before she won the lottery, of course) or both or whatever. BUT, that does not take away from the fact that somehow she should be prevented from harming her children. This is just too much. And I don't know how that would happen. I have no answers.

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  6. Sometimes when I get caught up in drug & alcohol drama I get frustrated at people's weakness. If *I* can drink without being addicted, if *I* can say no to the crack pipe - then why can't you?

    Well, the thing is - it is a disease, and I have to remind myself. That's like saying, "But *I* don't have cancer so why do you?"

    But.

    I'm with you on the stance for sure. Sad and frustrated and bewildered.

    And I think of one of my very favorite 8th graders of all times - the girl had suffered horrific abuse and she wasn't quite right as a result. She was a pathological liar and made some really bad decisions in life. God I loved that girl and she loved me, and I wonder how different her life would be without what she'd gone through. And despite her great heart, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that she had children too young to be ready and allowed the cycle to continue (I haven't been able to find her despite looking the past couple years). I hope that she broke out of it, but it's such a heavier burden than anything I've ever even imagined carrying. In her I see both the innocent child born and the mother coming strung out to give birth.

    All that said, I much prefer you being a Mary Moon groupie to a Rush Limbaugh groupie ANY DAY!! :)

    Oh - and I ask the question too - why won't they be adopted?

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  7. OK ladies. I'll say it. No one wants to adopt black kids. Period. There are thousands out there. And drug exposed black kids? Forget about it.

    Why do you think all those folks with $$$ go to China?

    There. I said it.

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  8. oh boy does my stomach hurt.

    i have no idea what the going rate is for cocaine, but my guess is it takes a whole lot more than $1000 a month to support the kind of Addiction that would have someone ingesting cocaine within 72 hours of giving birth.

    i imagine part of the way she supports that sort of Addiction is by having sex with random men.

    i would think that someone who is that far gone has little, if any, regard for herself and in turn, none for the children she brings into the world.

    what is she thinking? my guess is her thoughts oscillate between 'i'll straighten up tomorrow', 'i won't get pregnant again', and 'where the hell am i going to get more _____ (fill in the blank)'.

    although it is a horrible shame, a terrible tragedy, that children are born into this sort of circumstance, i wouldn't dream of suggesting forced sterilization.

    first of all, where would the line be drawn? really?

    often i feel that my children have no chance at a good life. i have thought they would be better off if i just disappeared.

    i also have felt judged, and have been judged; i know there are people who believe me to be an unfit mother.

    should i be sterilized? should my kids be taken away? who would make that decision? where would the line be drawn?

    it's a slippery, dangerous slope.

    i have heard it said and i firmly believe that in order for there to be compassion, it must be universal.

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  9. Thanks for saying it Michelle. I forget that people think like that and I have to be reminded.

    I mean, I get the worries of adopting kids born drug-addicted if there are serious residual effects, as shallow as that makes me sound. My 5-year plan includes having foster kids but as a single person, the kinds of behavioral and health issues I can handle are limited because I can't be out of work much to therapists, doctors, etc. I've seen the full-time job that fostering well can be.

    But not wanting to adopt somebody because of race? That's as stupid as not wanting to love or marry somebody because of race. A family is a family. Though I do know that many places where agencies don't want to place fosters/adopt across race, and won't place any kids with willing gay families.

    As I type this, one of my former students who was in the foster system just texted me, and all my feelings of frustration about his experiences come flooding back to me.

    OK, 3-year plan, foster kids.

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  10. Ladies-
    As I was loading the dishwasher and wiping the counters and setting coffee for tomorrow, I realized something.

    I didn't mention the substance abusing lotto winning mother of 10 babies in foster care is... black.

    Does that make a difference?

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  11. And Age-
    Your absolutely right. About everything. And I agree with you 99%. I don't agree with the part about you being an unfit mother. And your babies do have a good life.
    I puffy heart you

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  12. Of course it DOES make a difference that she's black- she gives birth to black children which are not as adoptable as white kids. You said the truth, Michelle. It shouldn't be true, but it is.
    Here's the thing- the mother needs help. She does need compassion and she does need help. Because any mother who would just have babies and then leave them to foster care is far, far gone into addiction.
    Adrienne- Who in the world would think you're an unfit mother? Your children have as much of a chance or more of one, than any other child in the world. I know your heart and it is big enough to give your children exactly what they need. Plus, you give them magic with your art and you give them the knowledge and example that magic can be made.

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  13. That post walloped me. In a good way. I think. I know I'm always saying this, but - thank you.

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  14. Wow.....I think when people are on drugs they dont think rationally - they just think a bout the drugs- it Consumes them- they arent thinking about all the harm they are doing or the people they are hurting. Its so sad. My estanged brother has a life long problem with heroine. When it affects the children and babies I find it so hard not to judge- I mean, you want to hit them over the head and say "wake up stupid look at what youre doing! Your ruining your kids future before they even begin!" But they dont hear you - they only think about the next hit, pill or whatever. Im glad theres compassionate people like you to help the kids.

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  15. I wanted to discuss and talk...but I was just too sad. I didn't want kids before, and now I'm amazingly blessed with four of them. I can't imagine abusing or neglecting them. I can't imagine not caring for them or about them. This all blows my mind.


    I'll have to think about it and then forget to come back here and talk further about it later.
    :)

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  16. Okay. Adrienne-I don't know you, but damn it, you can't make those kinds of blanket statements about this mother; you cannot, should not, ASSUME that you know she is sleeping with men and randomly getting knocked up at every turn. Maybe she is-but damn it, you stop for a minute and think about what you just said. Really.

    I was going to NOT go here. I really was. I was for once in my life going to keep my mouth shut. But damn it to hell, this woman is ILL. She personifies, most likely from day fucking one, a society and a support system that has failed her from the very beginning. Sure, she is responsible for the choices she has made to use; however, addiction is a fucking disease, a body and mind and soul killing disease. I can guarantee that she didn't aspire to be a drug addict who would use cocaine while she was pregnant when she was a little girl. I bet she was a beautiful little thing with all of the hopes and dreams of a good life, a beautiful life, as the rest of us were. She was probably not given the opportunities that so many of us have been given, and time and time again has found that the life of an addict gives her what society hasn't. As twisted as it is, as sick as it is, she probably feels like she is loved and worth something every time she uses.

    And it fucking sucks how we tiptoe around this issue; the babies are black, they are born drug addicted and therefore have problems from birth on, and many, many of those problems won't go away. Why are people so surprised that they can't be adopted? And where the hell is our human compassion that says these little babies-every single last one of them-are valuable in their own right, and deserve love and compassion and, yet, care and nurturing? Are we all so goddamned callous that we can honestly say, even here in this little pod of people, that these babies and millions of others should be punished because their mom is a drug addict? Fuck that. Just-fuck that.

    We have no rights-none-as a people or a society-to make judgement calls. Has anyone stopped to consider that this mom would LIKE to not have babies? Has anyone stopped to question whether or not she has access to birth control or (in for a penny, in for a pound, right?) to an abortion? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we aren't talking about a person who has access to education and resources that even the worst off of the rest of us have; we are talking about someone who has been forgotten by the whole rest of the world until she shows up at the hospital tp have another baby that nobody wants. And any one of us can sit here in our warm houses and lord our superiority over her, and say what we think she needs to do or what our government needs to do or whatever it is, and next week or next month or a year from now, she is going to die on the streets and nobody is even going to know or, frankly, care. No great loss, right?

    Sheesh. See? I am going to slink away now, sorry.......

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  17. Okay, I lied, I am not done. Here is part of the other side of it for me. What about criminal charges against this mother? Because at the very least, this is child endangerment or gross negligence, and why should she be allowed to continue to escape the consequences? Why not, as soon as she is released from the hospital, arrest her and throw her ass in jail? Why not make her have to pay child support on each of these ten kids using the $$ from the lottery while she is sitting in prison?

    Like I said, this post just brings up SO many different thoughts and feelings, all of them warring against each other in my feeble little mind, that I can't really write them all out without totally taking over your blog.

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  18. Michelle,
    You are a sweetheart. Admittedly, I don't think I'd find myself feeling very compassionate.

    Love,

    SB

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  19. Kori- If she won the lottery- she has money to buy condoms. Or to get her tubes tied if she doesn't want babies which obviously, she does not. I, too, do not understand why she hasn't been put into treatment or jail.

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  20. What about mandatory sterilization?

    the whole story as awful. painful and shocking...and mandatory sterilization should be a subject in our society...actually not only in this case...its horrible..you need a passport for a dog..a license to drive a car..u need a f* paper for a whole lot unimportant stuff..but every , excuse me, dumb person is allowe dto have babies...i think that in general their should be a law that you have to make a test if you are able to grow a child into a healthy, funktional and happy person...i know that sound awful but thats just what i think..i m sorry if i hurt anyones feeling by expressing my thoughts and my point of view...

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  21. Wow. I think that mom has baggage and twisted logic a normal person can't fathom. Maybe substance abusers live in avoidance and denial, because dealing with reality and truth is more than they can handle. But wtf, buy some birth control or condoms with the lotto $ at the least!

    My cousin Sue is a nurse in Maryland. For her rotation on "routine birth", ie, vaginal, not surgical, her first case involved caring for a preemie born to a crackhead who was pacing the kitchen when the baby fell out, so it was brain damaged, malnourished and addicted. This is the routine shit, she said - great, I can't wait for the next rotation. Another case involved a 15 year old, a premature birth and a cadre of crazy white trash inlaws, fighting in the waiting room - the baby was airlifted to Baltimore, but died in flight. One of the "grandmothers" approached Sue in the nursing station to inquire about having the baby stuffed, because they wanted to keep it. Again, wtf, what is wrong with people - you can't make this shit up.
    My point being, there is no end to the fucked up shit that happens in this country, and no matter how hard you try to see, hear or speak no evil, it's still out there, and what can you do?
    I asked Sue how she coped, and she said she laughs when she can and tries no to cry, and does her best to stay away from the families, focusing on the patient, always the patient. Narrow the focus and keep your sanity.

    I have a respect for nurses and health care workers that is endless. I could not do it.
    Sorry for the tangent, but I found your post taking me back to these conversations with my family, because we don't understand and can't process the inability or sheer neglect of a human mother to love and protect her child. What will become of these children? A person can go crazy wondering about that question.

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  22. Wow, just took a minute to read all the comments, and digesting the post was heady enough. Race, class, addiction, fate - all factor in, and I don't have any answers, and wish it weren't true that black babies are harder to adopt than white ones. But. Messed up families come in all colors. The crack head mom I mentioned above - black. The we want to stuff the dead baby clan - white. But I know as many white people as black who's lives have been ruined by meth or crack addiction, so it's harder for me to draw color lines. It's sad, but for many women, sex is the price they pay for the drugs, and the babies are just collateral damage.

    What I want to know is who gets that lucky with the lotto??? And why aren't they outlawed anyway, since they're funded by those least able to spare a dollar in the first place.

    ugh. Sorry I got started. I'll shut up now.
    But thanks for the thought-inspiring post and keep up the good fight, even if it turns you into a turkey somedays :)

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  23. i'm well aware that i'm considered a "lurker" because i read but rarely participate - truth be told, i've tried a few times and lost the text before it posted and quickly gave up. my relatively new mommy brain can only handle so much. this puts me over the edge.

    anyway, ONLY because you asked, Michelle - and because i FINALLY posted successfully elsewhere for the first time - here's my $.02.

    there is no longer forced sterilization in this country - i remember two cases - one was a challenge to forced sterilization of people deemed "mentally retarded", and another, actually voluntary, of inmates who were sex offenders, who volunteered in exchange for a lighter sentence. other more recent law school grads around here may be inclined to chime in, but that's what my tired new mommy brain can recall at this moment. or i could be way off base - as i haven't done my research to answer your query. but this is just a conversation, right? we're just talking, RIGHT??

    yes - criminal charges are possible. the DA has to care enough to prosecute. maybe they don't. it may be "easier" and more routine to remove a child to foster care. the family must be known to the system (after all, it's known to you), and they may exert less energy to be there waiting for the next one to be born and put the baby into FC than to actually deal with the mother that is suffering.

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  24. Oh boy, this post really got to me.

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  25. Okay, I don't have time to read all of the comments, but why are we assuming she was black? I was picturing her as white, for the record. Anyway, she's just not thinking at all, really, which is why someone should be stepping in. Poor kids...

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so... wadaya think?

Your fairy is called Columbine Icedancer
She is a bone chilling bringer of justice for the vulnerable.
She lives in mushroom fields and quiet meadows.
She is only seen when the bees swarm and the crickets chirrup.
She wears lilac and purple like columbine flowers. She has icy blue butterfly wings.