Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Perspectives on Parenting

Sometimes it's hard to know how I much I'm responding to something as a [typical] parent and how much I'm responding to something as the parent of a baby who died.  I heard two stories on the radio earlier this week that caused two very different emotional reactions.

The first was about a woman who walked in the room as her fourteen-month-old son jumping on the bed.  He tripped on a pillow and bounced OUTSIDE a half-opened second-story window.

What did the mom do?

She launched herself through the window, shattering the glass, and managed to grab the baby by his ankle, saving him from tumbling off the porch roof.

Grandma was outside having a smoke (who says cigarettes don't save lives?) and was able to catch the baby safely as the mom fell into the bushes below.

Mom was treated for scrapes and bruises, baby was checked out at the hospital and is doing just fine.  Grandma is probably glad that no one can nag her about quitting smoking now.

There is something about having a baby that makes you feel like you could have the kind of superhuman powers that require you to fling your body through pane glass in order to prevent your child from being injured.  It's crazy how all those brain chemicals work, and how much we are programmed to willingly sacrifice just about anything in order to protect a baby.

I don't think this is precisely ONLY a parenting thing either; it just seems to be a natural human impulse.  Baby in danger?  Save the baby!  People in this world are good!  We love babies!  Parents will do whatever it takes to save their babies!

Of course, then there is the other story.

A woman who was HIV positive delivered a baby after having zero prenatal care.  Other than being exposed to HIV, the baby was healthy.  Doctors began the antiviral drugs very early, treating the baby in order to hopefully keep it from getting HIV.

But then the mom quit bringing the baby (toddler by this point) to doctor appointments.  She also quit giving the baby any drugs/medicine to treat/prevent HIV.  The baby had no treatment of any kind for several months.

Which is why it's so amazing that when the doctor was able to locate the child months later, testing revealed no presence of HIV in the baby's blood.  The doctor assumed it was a laboratory error, and had everything re-tested.  Nope.  Baby is HIV-free, even though the mom discontinued treatment.  The HIV research community is totally abuzz because it suggests new progress in finding not just a treatment, but a cure for HIV.

And that's what the news story was about--the potentially amazing news that there could be a true cure for HIV.  Which IS great news, obviously.

But all I could think about is why this neglectful mother got to keep her baby when so many moms didn't.

I know there is probably much more to the story, and I know there are undoubtedly socioeconomic and educational issues at work her that cannot point to the mother as the sole villain at work in neglecting her child to the point of possibly allowing the baby to die from a potentially preventable (curable?) disease.  But it made me FURIOUS.

I can think of all the women I've come into contact with who would have literally thrown themselves from second story windows (or higher!) to save the babies taken from them, and I am so angry at the lack of justice in this world.

If anything, hearing these stories one after another made me think about how many wonderful people who would be wonderful parents are denied the opportunity to raise a child, and how many people who have no business procreating are popping out kids left and right.  After we lost Eliza, David actually struggled with this issue more than I did.  He saw kids at his school who were neglected or abused, while people like us who tried so hard to create a good home for our baby were left empty-handed and broken-hearted.

Fortune plays favorites without rhyme or reason, and we're left to make meaning from whatever cards we're dealt.  (To mix metaphors, which I would tell my students not to do, unless they're doing so deliberately and purposefully, which I really wasn't.  But you get the idea.)  Good people will grieve their infertility.  Bad people will have children accidentally or on purpose with relatively little effort.  AND the opposite is also true.

So I guess I'll focus on the fact that some of us in this world are the sort of people who would fling themselves out a window in order to save a baby.  Because that is pretty awesome.  And you know I'd totally do it for Zuzu.  But maybe I'll just double check that windows are shut when she's jumping on the bed.  That would still make me a good mom, right?


  1. I struggled with this a lot after Sam died. Just after Sam died, locally, there was a very horrific case of a toddler who suffered long-term abuse at the hands of her mother and boyfriend and was sadly murdered (her body was discovered at the dump). The story of that girl still breaks my heart but at the time, all I could wonder was "why does she get to keep her babies and I don't?".

    And thanks for sharing the story about the woman who jumped out of the window - those stories always make be so emotional. I still remember the woman who LIFTED A CAR off her son. What we wouldn't do, right?

    It's a sad and beautiful world.

  2. I'm pretty sure you don't have a second story, so I think you are good there. :)

    I don't know how I went to work at the alternative school- in a pretty rough unaccredited district that has 'Gardens' in the name...a few months after we lost Olivia, with a pregnant teacher due around my due date who whined constantly and a good 75% of our students already parents-and not always good parents, and in some cases not to just 1 baby. Ugh. It really really isn't fair.

  3. I heard about that HIV breakthough, which is so wonderful for that little babe, but I didn't know the story behind it. Now I'm just annoyed - MORE annoyed, at the injustice in the world.

  4. The unfairness of it all is what just sucks my soul dry, ya know? Like the math not adding up, I still can't figure out the logic behind wanting a baby so badly and taking every precaution to ensure baby would be healthy, comfortable, spoiled and loved and then whammo- no baby. Whereas no prenatal care + HIV + lapse in parental responsibility to provide postnatal care = living baby? What?

    Ugh, makes me sick.

    I totally didn't know the other half of the HIV story either. And I hadn't heard about the woman jumping out the window, but absolutely it wouldn't even be a question.

    This is totally random, but you know that P.Diddy song from last year which rapped, "you would'a taken the bullet if you saw it?" I completely feel like that. Take me down, but not my baby.


  5. This very post is just another example of exactly why I love you.

    Intelligent, current event updates that connect to who we are as parents to rainbows and grieving families to our firstborns.

    So much fabulous in here that I can't even articulate.

    What I will say is that I had a friend over today (whose son is special needs & was in school at the time) and she just burst into tears and asked why God won't heal her son. Why this had to happen to him.

    Without going too much into detail and my religious beliefs on miracles, I stood frustrated with her about the fact that a well-meaning, loving family has a son who struggles while others (like HIV mom) go out of their way to avoid a possible CURE for their kid?

    This is where my copy of A Framework For Understanding Poverty cannot reconcile my broken heart. I don't want the explanation that they didn't know or weren't raised in a supportive home or WHATEVER. I want people who are genuinely good people to have babies that are healthy and crappy people of this world to be sterile.

    It's such so bloody unfair.

    I don't often know which side of me is responding either-- the mother of a living child, or a mother of a dead one. I'd argue that somewhere in between, these parents morphed, because in a heartbeat, I'd jump through that window. But of course, I'd assure it was closed also.

  6. My friend's cousin has 2 daughters 10 months apart both born with zero prenatal care and with meth in their system at birth. She has custody of neither of them, actually my friend does. When they found out about the 2nd girl, who will be 1 about 2 weeks before my Little M should have been I really really struggled with it. They so far, who knows what will happen in the future, seem to have no physical or developmentall issues despite no medical care and continuous drug and alcohol exposure the entire time they gestated. She also has 2 older daughters she is not allowed contact with.
    And I have lost 4 babies I wanted so much.
    It's all too much sometimes.

    1. Please don't think I begrudge their healthiness, they are beautiful girls who deserve only wonderful things in life.
      I just feel like my babies deserved it too.

  7. K did something very similar to my niece A. Very little prenatal care, and although A doesn't have HIV or anything, she only took her to the doctor once until I got custody when she was 4. Her lawyer actually argued in court that she was still a good mother. Can you imagine having to get all of the vaccines started in a month at the age of 4 so you can start preschool? It's mind boggling.

    I wasn't shocked by the mother not taking her child to the doctors. It's very common in the poorer communities.

    It broke my heart when the final court hearing judge gave A back to her mother. She will NEVER take care of her like she should, like I would.

    I've only lost one child through an early miscarriage, and it is mind-blowing to me that K can reproduce with no problems while I struggle so hard when I can take care of a child.

    If one of us had to be infertile, why wasn't it her?

    It's like you said a few months ago, being good doesn't mean bad things won't happen to you. I WISH, oh how I wish it did.