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Two summers ago, when my daughter was only three months old, I made a mistake that ended with my daughter hospitalized and my husband and I suspected of child abuse.
I read the story last week, 'Toddler taken by CPS over $5.00 sandwiches' and it all came flooding back. Like that couple, our ordeal started innocently enough.
We were visiting the Michigan Renaissance Festival. On our return to our car, we said goodbye to my sister and her family. But, I didn't buckle May back into her stroller. We were only a few feet from the car. It is that rationalization that haunted me in the days to follow.
My daughter was born brain-damaged. I didn't think she would fall out because she can not roll or sit even now, at two-years old. But, as we walked, she slipped forward without us seeing. A woman shouted out to me, and I only had time to see her dangling legs and then watch, helpless, as she fell, fall face forward on to the ground.
Immediately, I scooped her up in my arms. One of her cheekbones was slightly swollen and she had a scratch across her nose. She was screaming, which I knew was a good thing. That meant she wasn't unconscious. But, I was concerned enough to rush her over to the paramedics monitoring the festival. They suggested we take her to the hospital, to be safe, because she was a baby.
At the hospital, the doctor who examined her insisted on a CT scan of her brain. While we waited for that, he asked us two questions: the first, about her vaccination scab - in Britain one of the vaccinations blisters the skin into a perfect replica of a cigarette burn; the second, about how it was possible she fell out when the stroller's leg bar would have stopped her.
A leg bar? I'd never heard of one. We used a Maclaren Techno. It doesn't have a leg restraint of any kind, other than the aforementioned straps. He looked at me with exasperation and total disbelief.
And, that was when he said he was involving Child Protective Services.
My husband and I were in shock as we walked May upstairs for her CT scan. "Should we leave?" I asked him. "What if they take her away from us?" Besides my own despair at the thought, I was terrified at the thought of handing her over to someone who knew nothing about her seizure medications or the specifics of her disabilities.
Once downstairs, CPS had already arrived. She began questioning us, a matter of formality that led into a week of interviews, including spot checks and interviews with not just us, but my immediate family as well.
That was nothing though - nothing, compared to the next moment, when the doctor interrupted our discussion with CPS to tell us that our daughter had bleeds on both sides of her brain. I don't know how to explain how devastating that was. Both my husband and I immediately thought she would die.
"Are you sure," I begged the doctor, "that the bleeds are not from the previous injury to her brain?"
"Yes," he said frankly. Then, completely ignoring our sobbing, he continued, "She'll need to be admitted to a children's hospital. We are sending the ambulance for you now."
What I remember most from that moment, was not how I felt. It was what I saw. Across the room, I watched my husband completely break down.
Perhaps my mistake was worthy of this kind of punishment, but it would be a sinister person who would wish it upon us. All the more so since, after we arrived at Detroit Children's Hospital, within moments of checking her scan, the neurologist declared that the damage to her brain was, in fact, the previous birth trauma and not from the fall at all.
She left the hospital the following day, after a night of observation, with only a tiny scratch across her nose. But, I may be scarred for life.
You can read more from Stacie at Mama Lewis and the Amazing Adventures of the Half-Brained Baby.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.