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.
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...
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.
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...
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.
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?