Monday, August 17, 2009


That is what I always said happened when my first daughter was born
I knew what to do
it was instinctual
I knew how to hold her
burp her
swaddle her
soothe her
rock her
clean her
I was born to be a mother
it just came so naturally
And it kept happening
I kept having babies and it kept being instinctual
I thought I knew just what to do

I was not the type of mother to run to the doctor when they sniffled or coughed
In fact
I think I only went when I already knew what was wrong-
Ear infections
to confirm what I already knew
my 8 week old, a high grade fever
required a spinal tap even though I knew she was fine
Chicken pox
although I had already diagnosed it at home

“I am not a nurse, although I play one at camp” is my line,.
I actually went to school to become a Certified Nursing Assistnat
so I could spend more with my kids at camp
working in the infirmary
where I could watch over them when they were away from home
Being a certified teacher of k-8
I taught preschool when they were younger
so I could watch them at their school
see them from afar
without them always knowing I was watching
It was not like I wanted to be away from them
I have always hated when the beginning of school starts
I always wish summer wouldn't end, I want to spend time with my kids
Being a mother was my job
I have been blessed and lucky enough to be home with them
And I thought I was pretty good at it
Because I had instinct

But, now I am not so sure
I don’t know if I did the right thing

It has been 2 weeks since the police took my oldest daughter away in handcuffs
She has been struggling with depression and anxiety for over 5 years now
Social therapists
more psychiatrists
communication therapist
another psychiatrist
a day program at the children’s hospital,
outpatient therapy
what have we not tried?

I thought I had knew what to do with her
I thought I could understand her
Some days,
after hours of discussion
I would think
that THIS is it
this time we got through to her
she understands the problems
the issues she needs to work on
Then we would wake up the next day
but, nothing would change

Her sisters have been supportive
even if they have their moments
They trust her even when she doesn’t realize it
My husband protects her because he can’t stand to see her upset
although sometimes we both coddle her
I am the strict one
the one who keeps to the rules given
because instinctually I keep thinking something will work

But no
2 weeks ago we had to call 911
All I said to her was “Karen, you need to pull your bra strap up”
well, actually that was the first sentence,
when she just shrugged her shoulder
I said “Honey, you need to reach into your shirt and pull it up”
that was it
I did not hit her
I did not yell at her
I didn’t even touch her
She went ballistic in a parking lot
We had to get in the car to come home
all at me and my husband
When we got home
she hit her sister
She just would not calm down
We threatened to call the police
she said they were worthless
she said they couldn’t do anything
I wanted to call,
but my husband kept thinking she would calm down
when she continued screaming at us
being physically and verbally abusive
at last,
he called
Since it was the 4th time to call the authorities
4 police cars showed
the other sister was on the roof to get away from Karen
she was so scared
then they approached the door
next we had 8 police officers in my house talking to her
I heard her crying
but I was too angry to care
I was shocked at myself
I am instinctually a parent and I had to call the police on my own child
What kind of mother am I anyway?

One police officer came in to talk tous
He said he was not sure
they might have to take her to a mental hospital
She had a short
less than 24 hour stay
over 6 months prior to this
she hated it
She thought she didn’t belong there.
I had felt so guilty
that they had to take her that time
I cried uncontrollably and just could not stop.

But, not this time
I was too angry
Over her actions
Over what had happened to our family
Over what she did to me and my husband
Over the fact that I never really feel like she tries to change
use her coping skills or cares about how we feel
I was just frustrated and angry

They did take her away
in handcuffs,
she didn’t even cry.
My husband and I had to watch them walk away to put her in the car.
They drove her to the mental health facility
the one where the doctors try to stabilize the patient

My anger was instinctual
I was again acting from my gut
I was overwhelmed with madness about what happened to all of us

The next day my husband and I met with the case manager
she had spoken to the doctor
because of the history they were recommending a Residential Treatment center.

A what?
A different type of mental health facility
Someplace where our daughter should live to try out new medications and new behavior methods
Someplace where someone else takes care of her

But, what about me?
I gave birth to her
I raised her
I taught her to sit in a chair
eat her food
and sleep in her own bed

What did I do wrong?

My husband and I spent the whole weekend researching
So many places were out of state
with 9 month treatment plans
but we didn't want her gone that long
We wanted her home
but we knew we had to do something
our family was falling apart around us.
Instinct again
I knew we had to do something and get her help

She was happy in this place
the short term one
She made "friends"
she felt accepted
she was not angry or sad
she was comfortable
my instinct felt
that this did not seem like a good sign
instinct told me

last week
I did the unthinkable
I registered my daughter at a mental health facility’s residential treatment center.
I admitted failure.
I said to everyone who knows me and doesn’t know me
that I can’t raise my own daughter.
I tried, but I failed
My instincts failed

My husband and I left
hardly talking
both crying.
We were either on the phone with one of our parents
one of our daughters
or one of our friends
Helping each other relay the story of leaving our own child in the care of doctors
nurses and therapists
whose names we did not all know

We tried to think of our other daughters
We tried to talk about the future
But we could only reminisce about the past
About our baby girl with the curly hair and green eyes
Our first born
The one who made us a family
What happened to my instinct?