This is the moment I got my son back…3 years ago. The first thing he wanted to do was take a selfie with me. After a month of being in a hospital where I had to drive 2 hours to sometimes see him for a mere 5 minutes, I couldn’t wait to hug him. Those days were filled with pain and suffering for me. I couldn’t escape it. Neither could he. Last night, it all came flooding back.
As Teek, C-man and I walked into the familiar ER to get them looked at last night, my mind was on their symptoms. Teek was complaining of chest pain. His lungs hurt and he was afraid he had pneumonia again. C-man sounded awful and had been coughing like crazy. His voice was going and he just sounded, sick.
It was past bedtime and Teek had come downstairs crying saying “I think we’d better go to the hospital Mom”. I knew that meant we needed to get looked at… they HATE going to the doctor. We’d just been treated for strep. We’d spent the day at the waterpark. It couldn’t be too bad, right? I keep thinking it must just be remnants of a cold or something, but I wanted to honor their feelings.
We walked down the hall, following the nurse as she took us to our room, and my heart sank. I knew this room. I knew the Finding Nemo decals on the walls. I knew the layout of the bed and cabinets. I knew the way the glass door folded and the curtains covered for privacy. I knew and so did C-man. He made a comment. He began to pace and pick up instruments and get really close to the nurse.
DOES A PLACE HOLD A MEMORY…OR IS IT MY MEMORY THAT HOLDS ON?
This was the room we’d gone to with the police 3 years ago. This was the room, where we were disconnected from each other. Where I fought to control my out of control 7 year old. This was the room where 4 adults couldn’t contain his rage. Where restraint was used. Where my little kiddo punched and swore and pulled my hair out. Where I felt so helpless to help him. To understand. To be understood. This was the room.
The night before he’d had another meltdown. This was normal for him. For our life. We’d existed in a state of panic. Fear. Unsafety. It was not a life. He was raging and melting down and I was doing all I could do to keep everyone safe. All I’d been taught to do. Minimize the risk. Contain the danger. Control the child. Call for help.
When he would meltdown, I was not strong enough to hold him. I did not have training like they give in schools on restraint. He would punch me. Pee on me. Bite me. Punch himself. Attack his brothers, the dogs. Bang every part on himself on our giant mirrored closet. Choke himself. His eyes would roll back in his head. He would scream. It was as if he was possessed or wasn’t in control of his body. This would last about 45 minutes most times.
The only way I had figured out to minimize risk to everyone was to sit on his pelvis with my weight off him. Holding his arms loosely, with my weight on my knees. So he was unable to move, but I was not crushing him. It was exhausting for both of us. He would be on his back under me screaming that I was choking him and I would be above him crying, trembling, waiting for it to stop. For my calm and cuddly son to return.
I FELT SO ALONE. I FELT LIKE A BAD MOM. I FELT LIKE I HAD NO CHOICE.
I sat atop him that night on my phone, calling everyone, anyone. Begging for help. For an answer. For knowledge. How could I help my son? How could we stop existing in this life? How could we have a life…actually live? I was told hospitalization. Again. It hadn’t worked before but this was the only answer. I was to see how he was tomorrow and if he became aggressive again, call the authorities to have him hospitalized. I couldn’t help but feel like I was setting up my son AND protecting the rest of us. It was an awful place to be.
His meltdown ceased, we talked and repaired as per usual, and then I tucked him in bed. Hoping someone would have a different idea. That tomorrow would be different. That life would change. It didn’t.
The next morning he started raging again and by the afternoon he’d thrown our coffee table at me. I’d tried calling our supports to see if there was a “better” hospitalization. Placement. Anything that wouldn’t be desperate or violent. I was full of fear and it all felt out of control. I just kept being told to call the police and take him to the emergency room. So I did.
By the time the officer came, he was calmed enough that he voluntarily rode in the ambulance. I felt awful going. I just didn’t know what else to do and knew something had to change. When we got to the hospital and went in the nemo room, he began to escalate again. My heart broke. More officers, more doctors. Blood tests and meds, it’s a blur.
I tried to see it as a positive. I tried to talk myself into it being the best thing. I even talked my family into it. Because there were no alternatives and I’d tried everything else, and it’s what I was being told had to happen. But in my deepest parts of my soul, it felt so wrong. This was my baby.
Then after all the fighting, they took control. They did a Chapter 51 and it was out of my hands. There is relief in that and a whole lot of guilt. Two elderly gentlemen came and took C-man to a van and drove him away. Off to the hospital he went. For a month.
A month of hearings and being in shackles in a court room. At 7 years old. Like he was a criminal. A month of being judged by doctors and questioned on my parenting skills. A month of doctors denying his diagnoses and getting calls last minute about things that had happened while he was there that I couldn’t soothe him one bit about. A month of barely connecting with my drugged out son who couldn’t care less to see me when I was there.
MY HEART BROKE FOR EVERY CHILD AND EVEN MORE FOR MY OWN.
Then it was over. And he wanted Olive Garden. And hugs. And I wanted so many snuggles and another chance to do it better. To find a different way. To understand him. To help him understand himself. And we became a team. We haven’t stopped since. He hasn’t gone back since.
I sat in that room last night and it sure got me for a minute. It took me back to that night 3 years ago when so much felt lost to me. When my son was taken away. But then I stopped and took a breath and looked around me again. I was sitting there with Teek and C-man now. I had them with me. It’s been a year since we’ve had any meltdowns. It’s been 3 since he’s been hospitalized. Progress. Grateful.
I WAS BRINGING THE MEMORY TO THE PLACE.
So I found the tv remote, hugged my babies and sniffed their sweet smelling hair, and sat with them in that Nemo room…C-man asking each nurse and doctor which fish was their favorite. I was present. In the moment. And because of that I was able to see how far we have come. How amazing C-man is doing and just how much I’ve learned as a Mom.
That experience taught me a lot. It was painful. It nearly broke me. But it helped me to see things that needed to change. From that experience I advocated for an MRI and C-man’s brain damage was finally diagnosed after wondering for 7 years! What a gift. From that experience I gained perspective and drive, determination and compassion. I learned that I wanted control back in my life. Voice and choice. So I fought for that every day.
I am so glad we got that room last night. Sometimes being able to go back and gain perspective on an experience so you can be thankful for what it has taught you…really is a magnificent thing.
Now…I’m off to care for two sick kiddos, cause we did end up with an ear infection for C and strep again for Teek. More snuggles for me.
Lots of love,
C-man and the Mumma