Lost babyhood

Your life can change in an instant. Mine did.

I gave birth to my second son via Caesarian section in February 2007. He had been born nearly dead, and spent 3 weeks in the NICU due to an enlarged heart. My husband and I eventually brought him home, and were beginning to adjust when my husband's employer decided to send him out of town for three weeks in April. I was left alone, in a new city, with a preschooler and a newborn and no support system. It was a rough period, with lots of mental and physical exhaustion, but I was able to make it through with the help of phone calls.

Two weeks after my husband returned home, I cracked. Early on a Saturday morning in mid-May, while my husband was at work, our oldest son eluded the child locks and escaped from our apartment. I had been up half the night trying to breastfeed an infant, so I was asleep - until the doorbell rang. The manager and two police officers had brought him back, and after talking to me for a while, recommended that I visit a mental health facility because I was having a panic attack. They declined to file a report, and told me as much.

Hours later, I was still in a panic. I made the fateful decision to visit a local mental health facility for help. While sitting in intake, both my husband and I mentioned how exhausted we were, and I expressed concern that I would have difficulty caring for my children while trying to rest. The intake worker offered us "respite care" so that we could get some sleep. We agreed, believing that it would be a temporary situation.

Little did we know that this offer of help turned out to be anything but. Instead of helping us, the social worker called CPS, who then took us to court and alleged neglect. After eight long months of court hearings, psychological evaluations, supervised visitation, and foster care, the boys were finally returned to us after CPS could find no proof of neglect.

All this because I am a disabled veteran with bipolar disorder. I made the mistake of telling this to the mental health facility, because I honestly believed they would help me. Now I advise my friends to seek other options when they need help, and to rely on friends and family instead.

We lost more than money that year. We missed out on our son's babyhood, a period that can never be replaced. Don't make the same mistake.