According to my attending's admit note he is the result of pregnancy number eight, baby number six. Previous deliveries were all preterm and less than 30 weeks. His mother is in her early twenties and reportedly is illiterate. She and the baby's father came from another state, apparently to fulfill prejudices about that state, but can't remember the town they were living in. They reportedly went to Michigan to take care of the mother's ailing father - and at admission, told our NICU attending that the other children were staying with "Grandpa". In actuality, they had nowhere to live and were camped out in our Ronald McDonald House or our NI parent rooms. I can't decide what to think about them - clearly, this is a woman who is lacking some of life's advantages, someone whose social situation is so far removed from my own as to be almost incomprehensible to me...but I was feeling much more sympathetic before she called the NICU and threatened to kill the nurses for complying with the court-ordered "no parental visitation" document.
And I won't lie, O Best Beloved: it's hard to feel empathy for this woman. After having a chat with one of my single moms just today in the clinic about CPS and their roles, I am reminded that it is not an easy thing to have a child removed from a home - and there are statutes to clearly define when parental rights should be terminated. (look up your state here) The overriding principle in Child Protective cases is to act in the best interests of the child. There's no information on the chart about what happened to the previous five kids - but in the court hearing it was determined that removing P from his parents was in his best interests, and that worries me. What's going to happen to baby number seven, in the inevitable next chapter to this saga?
Do I think this woman cares about this child? Yes. She visited, she fed the baby the tiny amounts he'll take, she brought pictures - until the order came through, I knew what every single one of his siblings looked like, as well as his parents, though I'd never met them. But, O Best Beloved - and this is the opinion that's going to get me in trouble - loving your child is not enough. You have to also provide for his needs. It's cold here in northern Indiana, and even colder in Michigan. You can't live in the Ronald McDonald House forever - there has to be a place for him to go home to. You have to be ready, willing, and able to handle the kind of care he's requiring - and you have to be able to understand the difference between eating well and not eating well. You have to have both emotional and material resources to provide for a baby, and I'm not talking about expensive baby gear. So we're waiting for him to be placed where someone's equipped to take care of him - eventually, possibly, with his siblings - and we're waiting for him to heal.
But I come into the NICU every morning and I listen to the machinery-murmur of a wide-open PDA, and look at the plexiglass no longer decorated with pictures, and I can't help but wonder where - and who - the system failed.