Carolina on my Mind and the Birth of a New Generation
The birth of my Grand-daughter and a new chapter of love, loss, grief and let’s not forget; politics.
|Lanah – April 21, 2012 – 7lbs 3oz 19in
I’d been considering relocating for a long time. Maine, and the memories involved left little to be desired. I had wanted to travel for as long as I could remember and thought purchasing a motorhome and cruising around the USA visiting auction houses, buying and selling was the way to go. I had been doing this locally since leaving the Screen Printing business in 2010.
But, my daughter (Shey, who is special needs, upon turning 18 in March of 2011) was making the possibility of travelling seem impossible. So I started focusing on just relocating to one place; warmer and still on the Eastern Coastline. The Carolina’s seemed perfect. The Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area was receiving high reviews for over a year for newcomers wanting a fresh start.
I mentioned this to Shey numerous times and she would hem and haw about whether or not she wanted to go. Well, all that came to an abrupt stop when I found out she was pregnant (Via Facebook) in August of 2011.
While I was surprised to be finding out the way I did, I couldn’t say I was shocked. The next several months were chaotic. My daughter was hospitalized a few times trying desperately to find a balance between medications she needed for her own mental health and the well-being of the baby.
Shey went back and forth about wanting to go and I just forged ahead. I thought relocating would be wonderful for both of us and the opportunities were endless there. Also knowing her mental health and that of her baby’s would be cared for in a way I could never have hoped possible 13 years ago felt reassuring.
I saved and sold things and decided when my income tax return came in I would pack whatever I could in my Jeep and drive down. Shey decided at the 11th hour to go, so I gave or threw away just about everything I owned and on March 15th at 7pm the two of us and my cat Sterling started driving to North Carolina. I drove the entire night stopping once for 2 hours to sleep in a parking lot and just kept telling myself there was an air conditioned room with a queen size bed and a pool/hot tub waiting for me. We arrived at the Millennium Hotel in Durham at 1pm March 16th.
What a long next couple of months. I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to leave my daughter for more than a couple hours at a time. She thought she was in labor every day and was always asking me if her water broke. My hopes of finding a job within a few weeks weren’t looking good. We explored the area some and I made a lot of calls to the Women’s Clinic at UNC
. We finally got in and it was wonderful. Although it was definitely beginning to look like we were not going to be staying and much to my disappointment would be headed back to Maine after my daughter gave birth and we were given the okay for travel.
About a week before my daughter went into labor, we were given a referral to the Ronald McDonald House
in Chapel Hill. Shey was considered a high risk pregnancy and they wanted us close by. April 20th we went for a checkup where she had a complete meltdown in the Dr’s office; took her pants off and sat and cried. She was hot and hated the pants she was wearing because they were too tight. Decided she was in labor right then and wanted to be checked for a second time. So we made our way back into the Dr’s office where I proceeded to give her my billowy, cotton summer dress and she gave me her brown plaid maternity pants and black maternity tank top. Finally she stopped crying and I was happy for that. They prescribed Ambien for sleep and she took one along with a bath that evening before crawling into bed around 11pm. At 1am she woke up telling me she thought her water broke. I of course had heard her say she thought her water broke about 452 times. So I checked the bed and lo and behold, we were in labor. I helped her dress and off to UNC we went.
She opted for an Epidural right away and ten hours later our sweet Lanah was born. Three days later we went back to the Ronald McDonald House
and waited for the okay to drive back to Maine. On May 9th we packed up the Jeep with Lanah and Sterling in the back with room for Shey as well, and headed out.
I remember talking to my daughter repeatedly about how there were a lot of friends and family worried about her ability to care for Lanah and tried to get her to understand she couldn’t be dragging the baby all over the place especially while she was so little. One minute she seemed to understand and was reasonable, the next it was like talking to the wall; a wall that could be quite childish and had limited abilities to focus.
I suspected things were not going to go well once we arrived back in Maine and my daughter had the influence of her friends and her father (who it seemed at times disagreed with me just for the purpose of disagreeing with me). Initially things seemed okay. My daughter was so interested in seeing her friends she spent little time with Lanah and the time she spent with her was very limited. We discussed numerous times how Lanah needed a schedule and couldn’t be out being carted around and staying just where-ever Shey decided to couch surf that week. Somehow that was not registering. After several weeks of jumping from boy to boy and wanting to randomly taking Lanah with her at a moment’s notice, I filed for Guardianship of Lanah in probate court. I already had guardianship of Shey but it didn’t roll over to protect Lanah in any way.
My daughter’s behavior was becoming more erratic and unpredictable. Shey had never spent any time alone with Lanah. I stayed up every night with her. Shey had moved out and into another boy’s apartment a few weeks prior, leaving Lanah with me. Well every time I said no to my daughter about something she would take Lanah. Most of the time myself or someone around us were able to run interference and convince her being mad at me was not a reason to have Lanah with her. I encouraged her to come over and spend time with us but that wasn’t working either.
So on June 7th DHHS was called about some comments my daughter had made in regards to Lanah along with her erratic behavior. The next day when I was talking to a worker I told her about my history from 1999 and was reassured that since I had been the one caring for Lanah since birth and was also the guardian to my daughter; after double checking some facts after the weekend, they would be placing Lanah with me.
Well, on Tuesday afternoon as I tried relentlessly to reach the DHHS caseworker to find out what was happening, they came and took custody of Lanah and placed her in foster care. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I was okay for about 24 hours. After that I began having panic attacks, especially at night when Lanah and I would have our bedtime ritual. The Caseworker told me they had gathered all the information needed in regards to me stating I had regained custody of my daughter back in 2005 and had followed through with every possible treatment the State had ever asked of me. She said her supervisors told her I would have to go to court and have a hearing before I would be able to get Lanah back.
I have been calling every person I know and although they all agree with me, that I am being judged from 1999 and nothing to do with today or even anything remotely recent; I am going to have to battle.
Politics, the inner workings of an agency that is supposed to be looking out for the best interest of a child and helping a family, is looking out for their own interests and not wanting any backlash from public scrutiny.
It’s reminiscent of back in 2005 when DHHS placed Shey with me and someone called the newspapers to tell them. But that’s another blog on another day. I have a meeting with an attorney tomorrow June 25th in Augusta.
Seven years of fighting DHHS the first time, ten years to come out from under the Commissioner and more evaluations than any 12 people I know. You’d think that would lend itself some credibility. What kind of people are we putting in charge of our Mental Health System?
I hope this is my last battle with the State of Maine because I am tired and I would like to walk tall and let someone else carry the big stick for a while.