We’ve started something important. And through it all we’ve met some amazing families who have offered to share their experiences. These experiences are heartbreaking, yet, somehow, together we are finding ways to lift each other back up. We thank each contributor and family for believing that we can make positive changes in the lives of families affected by child abuse.
The Longest Ride
I arrived to pick up my baby girl after work, just like every day. As soon as I walked in, I knew something was wrong. The devil was standing there holding my baby, and crying. I asked, “What’s wrong?” That’s when my baby girl turned and looked at me. I ran to her and grabbed her.
I didn’t know what to do. I ran out of the house. The devil was bawling and yelling at me that she couldn’t watch my baby anymore. But, my baby was quiet. I strapped her into the car seat, tore out of the driveway. I didn’t know what to do. Should I stop at the police station or try to get pulled over? I decided to drive, just trying to get to the hospital.
The ride was the longest ride I have ever had. I was yelling back to her, trying to get her to cry. Silence. Calling my wife. No answer. Over and over again. Nothing. She was in meetings, and didn’t have her phone with her. I squeal into the hospital and run inside carrying my lifeless 14-month-old baby. Crying. All I can say to the receptionist is: “What happened to my baby? Within seconds four or five nurses run out. We are rushed into a room. They are asking me questions. I don’t even hear them. My head was spinning. Police officers are asking me questions. Doctors are asking me questions. “What are these little circles all over her body?” I’m freaking out: My daughter might be dead. Stop talking to me. Help her!
Finally, I get a hold of my wife. She starts to freak out. Thankfully, shortly after my mother-in-law shows up. I needed some support.
There are scans and x-rays. All the while, I am holding my baby, trying to hold it all together. I had to hold her down and twist her in ways for the doctor; it was horrible. Police officers and nurses are asking me all kinds of questions, but I can’t remember anything. My wife arrives from work and the emotions start to take over. I struggle to get the words out to tell her what I think happened.
We are told that they are moving our baby to the PICU at a different hospital. I get dragged out to the hallway to talk to different officers. My wife and baby ride in the ambulance over to a different hospital, and I meet them there.
We arrive and now it’s time to get interrogated by the detectives. I understand why, but I have no idea how my girls are doing. My father-in-law is there to show support and to answer what I just can’t. I can’t think. After about an hour of trying to think, then it happens. They tell me the little circles were made with a lighter. I break down. What? She burned my baby! I had to get out! I just went outside and cried.
I guess I should be glad I was being questioned during this part, because I missed some of the yanking on my daughter by the doctors. I can’t even imagine what my wife went through. I had barely even spoken to her; we were being pulled away from each other by everyone.
Our daughter was unrecognizable when I picked her up from the day care. Her head was covered with burns and swollen beyond recognition. She had been beaten and burned by a monster. What do I say to my beautiful wife, the woman who gave birth to my beautiful baby? We just cried.
Then we find out our baby has two skull fractures on the back of her head, over 200 second and third degree burns, and bruises all over her body. We still had to wait to see if her retinas had detached.
There was a moment that the rage took over. This was when I wondered, why I didn’t harm that woman. What kind of father wouldn’t do that for his baby? I know now, I did the right thing by doing nothing except be there for my baby and my family. Getting our daughter to the hospital was the priority.
After the worst night of my life, and I’m sure my wife’s also, our daughter actually started to cry. We had spent the last 14 months like typical parents dreading her crying, and now it was beautiful. I’ve never been so happy to hear a baby cry. We were not out of the woods by any means, because the next three days in the PICU were dreadful. Test after test. The questions we asked got roundabout answers. No one would tell us anything. The only good news came when a nurse told us our baby was one of the good ones, because she was going to survive.
My wife slept in the bed with our baby every night. I’m sure it was the most uncomfortable sleep ever, but she cuddled that little girl better than anyone could have. I watched them sleep for a while and thought about revenge. I schemed and planned. I am definitely not at peace with what happened, but I am good with my decision not to take any violent action. It definitely would have made the rest of the process much worse, no matter how deserving it was.
Once our baby was awake, the doctors told us they needed to put her under to look at her eyes. We can’t watch her go under again. Thankfully my mother-in-law was there. We had a moment to go to the family room and get something to eat and shower. Breathe.
Back in the PICU room with a baby girl that has been through hell, we sit around waiting for the doctors to come in and let us know how the tests went. We wondered: How much damage had the devil done? Eventually, the doctors they give us the best news we had heard in a long time. Her retinas had not detached. There wasn’t any shaken baby. That was the first time we smiled in three days.
When we were told we would be leaving the hospital, we had no idea what the next few days, let alone the rest of our lives would bring. We began to worry. We were not given much information when we left the hospital. We were told to call victim services. That’s it.
With the investigation, criminal charges and court case in progress, all social media pictures of our beautiful little girl stopped. We could not be proud to the world of our baby, because it may hinder the case against her abuser. Most of our friends don’t really know what happened. We received plenty of support from family and a few friends, but we also lost a lot of friends. Our attention was now all on our baby, and even more concentrated now.
We did talk to some social service people and had our baby enrolled in the Birth to 3 program, which was a small blessing. The services they provided were a big help. Speech therapy was our primary service, and they came over weekly. They truly seemed to care, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them.
One delay after another. We went to probably 30 court appearances. Most turned out to be just another delay. And suddenly, what was supposed to be just another delay, we found out she is entering a no contest plea. Well, now we know she is going to go to jail for at least a little while.
So, then we had to retell our story to the Department of Corrections. Once again, we had to relive it all. They were nice people, but we were not a priority for them. We were just another case number. I’m sure they have a large case load, but we needed to feel like our case was important. That’s when we began work on our victim impact statements. We spoke to the DA. We did everything we thought we needed to do. We missed so many. We found out about so much after it was too late.
Finally, with all of the delays building up, there came the hearing for which we went to court expecting another delay. Everyone at the DA’s office even told us they expected another delay, something about some technicality. But, during the hearing the judge decided that that day will be sentencing day. We were not prepared at all. Luckily, we at least had rough drafts of what we want to say for our victim impact statements. We sat through hours of the attorneys arguing over the Department of Correction’s recommendations. They were minimal and I couldn’t believe it. When I got to address the court, I am kind of a deer in headlights. I remember telling the judge to throw the corrections advice in the garbage. I pretty much fell apart trying to explain the pain this woman caused.
My wonderful wife was stronger and much more controlled. She said what I thought, but was not able to say. She was graceful. She was so strong. We were surprised to hear the judge’s decision. I won’t go into details, but we find out later she was sentenced to a lot more than most abusers.
After 14 months of raising the most wonderful baby we could imagine, and then 14 months of crying and worrying and love… and recovery. And court. We thought this part of our lives was over. Nope: Then came appeal after appeal. We thought our case took a long time. Come to find out it was fast compared to most. I know it was an open and shut case, but I think most child abuse cases are, not all, but most.
Once court was over we hoped our lives would get back to normal. In some ways, it did. In some ways, we stopped thinking about what happened. But, we never forgot (we never forget), we just tried not to think about it.
We found a grassroots group that understood what we went through. They understood the frustrations we had with the system. Now we have a chance to help other families going through their own frustrations with the process. I wish we could end child abuse all together, but I know I can’t, we can’t. So, I choose to help the families affected by it in any way I can. The families that are beginning this terrible journey just need someone who understands what they are going through. Someone who can help guide them through it. A shoulder, a friend, a family. Seeds from Seeds has been that for us. This is a group that really wants to make a difference for families dealing with something no one should.