BEING A MOM IS SPECIAL
By Molly Saunders, Frederick, MD
My daughter Elizabeth was born on July 20th, 2004 at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Frederick, MD. I stayed in the hospital for three days to recover from a caesarean birth, while Elizabeth who weighed 5 lbs 8-1/2 ounces had to stay in the hospital for an additional five days. She was in an incubator and needed to be watched closely due to a medical condition related to my use of prescribed medications during my pregnancy. I was very concerned about her health and it was hard to go home without her.
When I took Elizabeth home, I felt excited and prepared. I had family support and the nurses in the hospital had shown me how to hold her properly, wrap her comfortably in her blanket, and feed and bathe her. We had all of the things that she would need and homecoming was such a joyous day. Elizabeth would remain on medication for another 10-days until her symptoms/condition completely subsided.
Once home, due to my Cerebral Palsy, a condition I’ve had since birth, Child Protective Services (CPS) assigned a case worker to see how I was taking care of Elizabeth. I was not allowed to be alone with Elizabeth. So, when her father was not home, someone had to be in the house. During these times, I felt nervous as though the CPS worker was judging me, causing me to be fearful that I’d do something wrong or make a mistake. She would watch me as I fed, bathed, changed, dressed, or rocked Elizabeth to sleep. All of these experiences were being scrutinized and as a new mother this was difficult and I longed for some privacy.
Once Elizabeth was about two months old, I continued to have plenty of assistance and help with her care from our families and some folks from my church. The Arc of Frederick County helped me identify folks for my support team; they were also available as a much needed “listening ear’. Eventually, CPS reduced the frequency of their visits and would come out to see how we were doing approximately once per week.
At 2-1/2, Elizabeth went to live with her paternal grandmother, as her father and I no longer lived together. He was granted physical custody by a judge. CPS now visited both parents at their homes on a weekly basis to see how things were going. I had weekly visits with Elizabeth; however, I was still required to have another adult present. Things have continued under these circumstances and Elizabeth is now 8 years old and going into the fourth grade. I am working hard to be the best parent that I can and I’ve recently begun to save money so that I can take my daughter on vacation. Like any parent, I want to see her laugh, play, and have fun. I want for us to make special memories that will last a lifetime. It is also essential to me to that we spend lots of time together and that my daughter sees that I am doing my best and that she is the most important person in the world to me.
In thinking about the impact of CPS during those early years, I would like to share some of my thoughts
- I wish the CPS worker would have sat down to observe us so that it might have felt a little more relaxed. She even watched me closely as I put my daughter to sleep. I longed for some privacy so that we could enjoy some personal and special bonding time for mother and daughter alone.
- I also wish I had been more open, but I was afraid to discuss with the CPS worker what she was looking for as she watched me care for Elizabeth.
- The CPS worker needed to realize that my family had given up our right to privacy. This lack of privacy was very hard on me and Elizabeth’s father.
- I wish CPS had listened and followed-up better to concerns about Elizabeth’s care from her father – I was not listened to.
- Don’t assume that someone with a disability can’t parent.
Of course, there were good times as well and I appreciate that CPS was there to try to help. On one occasion she/CPS took Elizabeth and I to the mall and we had Elizabeth’s photo taken with Santa. I still treasure that special memory and photo. CPS also provided us a sturdier and stronger stroller to push Elizabeth in, which was a wonderful surprise.
At the end of the day, I am grateful for all of the assistance I’ve had and I understand that we all try to do the best we can and there is so much more to learn.