Sunday, December 28, 2008

Losing My Baby Forever

There’s a sad irony involved in my losing Ezra
That I haven’t written about yet
In part because my thinking on it hasn’t shifted much
From hours after Ezra’s death, until now.

The irony is what I do for a living
Which is provide legal representation to parents, mostly moms,
Who are accused of abusing or neglecting their children.
Moms who are at risk of losing their babies…


Sometime after I had been induced, but before I gave birth
A crazed thought flashed through my head:

How will I ever do my work again?

Many of my clients defy all odds that they will have healthy babies.
They get pregnant by accident,
Delay getting prenatal care,
Abuse their bodies with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods.
They are physically abused by lovers or family or friends
And yet…
And yet they have healthy babies.
And even if their babies are sick, they aren’t dead.
Despite the odds, their babies don’t die.

But my baby died.

When children & youth services (cys) comes for those babies,
I fight like hell to make sure those babies can stay with their mommies.
Because a baby needs her mommy,
No matter what her mommy’s faults,
More than anything else in the world.

Representing parents involved with child welfare is the only law I’ve ever practiced.
I’ve been doing it for years,
And had no plans of changing what I do.
At least not now.
Now was about maternity leave and poopy diapers and playtime
About long walks with a stroller and nursing.
Now was to be the first time in my adult life,
That career didn’t matter.
Being a mommy is the most important thing.

People have said, “oh of course you can’t do your work anymore,
You work with those moms who don’t love their babies,
who intentionally hurt their babies.
And you love Ezra so much, you would never hurt Ezra.”

And that so misses the point.

Because most of the mommies I work with DO love their babies.
They love them to pieces.
And they would never intentionally hurt them,
Even if they did hurt them.

And yet…
These mommies are extremely poor
They have limited opportunities and resources
And are often left to make choices between bad option A and bad option B
So no matter what, it will seem like they have bad judgment.
They don’t use drugs because they love the crack more than their baby
But because their lives have been so hard, so traumatic,
that they just can’t handle the pain any longer.
They have disabilities, illnesses, addictions, life circumstances,
Which get in the way
Of being the best mommies.

And so they are taken to court
And threatened with losing their babies forever
If they don’t clean up their act.
They are given a year or so to fix problems that took a lifetime to create.
And some of them just can’t do it.
And their rights as parents are terminated

I don’t hate my clients now that I lost Ezra.
But there’s a new emotion there which scares me a little.

I’m jealous.

I’m jealous that their babies are alive.
That even if their babies are temporarily out of their care,
That it is in their power to get them back.
If they just meet a series of goals,
A judge will give them back their baby.

How I wish someone would give me a bunch of goals,
And Ezra would be back in my arms!

The rational me knows how absurd this new jealousy is.
How can I be jealous of women whose lives are so miserable?
And the lawyer me knows how nearly impossible it is to get your baby back,
Even when you work hard on your goals.
That temporary placement in foster care, can often be a one way ticket,
To losing your baby

Yet if losing Ezra has taught me anything,
It’s to listen to my own emotions.
So the emotional me is jealous.
And the jealousy is real.

So where does this leave me?
I’d like to think that I could return to this work on my own terms,
In a more meaningful way.
Certainly I understand firsthand how much there is to be lost.
Perhaps it could even make me a better lawyer?

I have watched babies be wrenched from their mother’s arms in a courtroom.
Listened as a judge has ordered that mothers never see their children again.
But I’ve dealt with this emotional trauma by rationalizing
That sometimes I’m just meant to lose
Some children need to be in foster care
And some mommies shouldn’t have their babies.

But how can I rationalize now?

Because I’m a mommy that doesn’t have her baby,
And I can’t accept that that’s the way it is supposed to be.
Because a baby needs his mommy,
No matter what his mommy’s faults,
More than anything else in the world.

So much about surviving this journey,
Has been about pointing myself in the right direction,
And hoping the emotions will follow.
About setting the intention of where I’d like to be,
And praying the healing will ensue.
And remembering that the process is not linear
So that one day’s gratitude may be the next day’s grief.

But here I just feel stuck.
How can I integrate losing Ezra and all that it encompasses
Into my professional life?
I don’t want a new job, a different focus
All I want is to be a mommy.
Being a mommy is the most important thing.

So where does this leave me?

Has anyone else had trouble integrating your loss into one particular part of your life? How have you handled it?


Anonymous said...

This is so thoughtful and shows what a caring woman you are; I know you are the best at what you do. Jealousy for me is a tough emotion to contend with too, not one I was used to and am not comfortable with at all. Thinking of you and sending you love.

Dani819 said...

I know this feeling all too well. I am a psychologist working at a city hospital that serves the undocumented, the uninsured, the disenfranchised. This is what I always thought I was meant to do professionally. That is, until the day we lost our baby. And now I hate it. Hate it. Hate having to be a constant steady presence for people who need hope when hope seems so far away from me. Hate having to fight every day against a rising tide of pain and misery, when I no longer go to work with optimism and the belief that things can get better if you just keep moving and keep trying. And most of all, hate the fact that these folks get to go home to their babies. You said it, all right- it's jealously, pure and simple. And it makes me think about my work and my patients in ways that are completely alien to me, and that make me like myself a little less. And I don't want a different career either- I want a baby.

Wish I had some wisdom to share about how I've integrated all this. I'm still struggling with it myself. But the best I can offer is this- perhaps in the end, all that I've lost will help me be more present and more loving to people who desperately need to be accompanied through losses of their own. Maybe someday, knowing what I value and what's essential- friends, family, love, connection, breathing through the pain- will help me ease someone else's journey. And maybe in the end it'll help me take better care of myself as I try to help people take better care of themselves. Oh, and I will say this- although I wake up every day dreading going in to work, almost every day there is at least one moment with one patient that makes me glad that I was there for that person on that day, because I know I made something a little better. And that lifts me out of the pain for a minute.

If you do choose to go back, your clients will know that you get it- that you understand how badly they want their children and how afraid they are to lose them. And that will mean the world to them because I believe that walking beside someone on their most difficult journeys is a true gift. But do take care of yourself in the process so you have something left for you.

Sorry for the long posting- your post just struck a very deep chord. Wishing you peace and clarity.

Barbara said...

I'm still hiding out mostly at home or with family so I have yet to face the big wide world without my trusty sidekick to buffer me, but jealousy, horrible but hell yes! Coping? I'm not exactly sure how to do that yet.

I think Danielle said it all. It makes you more connected to these people who need your help, and that can only bring good.


Hope's Mama said...

The jealousy is real and unavoidable I think. I have it and I can't shake it either.
I have not even been able to go back to work. And I don't know what to do now. I'll have to post about my work situation, but it was the only negative thing I had to face in my pregnancy.
This was a really thought-provoking post Sarah.

ezra'smommy said...

Danielle, It sounds like it might help to chat more. If you are up to it, please send me an email, I don't know how to reach you. skatzesq at gmail dot com

CLC said...

I don't have any real advice, as I haven't had to deal with this in my career. But I can tell you that the jealousy is a normal part of grieving from what I can tell. I don't think I have encountered any babylost mamas that haven't felt it at one time or another. I will say that it was much more intense for me in the first months of my grieving than it is now. It has certainly died down as time has gone on, although some of it still lingers. Even now that I am pregnant again, I still feel it to a degree. Although now I think it is more about wishing I could be carefree and joyful again like mothers who haven't experienced loss, then the actual baby part.

I think Danielle had a good point. In time, this experience may help you and how you relate with your clients in the future. But I really think time is the only thing that will help you, as cliche as that sounds.

Lani said...

hi sarah-
i teach yoga to kids so when i went back after my "maternity leave." i was nervous and wondered if i could do this job that bring so much peace and joy to children and to myself when i had pretty much nothing left to give at that point.

its been a blessing and a curse. i spend time in preschools full of babies, toddlers, kids of all ages. its torture. but i am teaching yoga and the kids i teach are beautiful and fantastic and make me so happy. i love what i do, i know its an important job (like yours) that hopefully will make this world a better and more peaceful place (and maybe make your job easier somehow?)

anyway, i went back pretty quickly because i thought it would be good for me, i only took off 2 months after silas died.

i think now we have to incorporate this new norm that chris just posted about into our everyday. i used to teach kids who you fight for years ago in coney island. i saw the results of awful parenting but its all what you said, these parents are stuck in a life they did not choose. i don't know. i'm babbling. i guess this struck a nerve with me too.