Be Fruitful Blog

Four and a half years: Family update from Melissa G.

Last year a few of our families shared their stories of child abuse. This year, they have shared updates about how their families continue to cope. We’re in awe of their courage. We thank them for sharing their biggest hearts with each and every family who reaches out to us.


 

It’s been four and a half years… four and a half years since our thoughts and hopes of a normal life were shattered like the glass of a greenhouse. The feelings of safety and comfort now forever gone, and the continuous fears and unknowns of the outside world and what the future holds seeping in and forever altering us like a slow poison.

The seizures have stopped, but for how long? The developmental delays… how far will she progress? She repeats the words, but does she really know what they mean?  Is three just a word in a sequence that comes between two and four, or is it a quantity of chips, toys, etc?
When the glass shattered, how far did the poison go?
She is happy almost all of the time and loves to talk to everybody. Will she ever understand that not everyone in the world outside of our battered greenhouse is kind and nice, and that there is also evil around us?
Will there ever be a time that I don’t have to watch over my shoulder?
The glass was shattered… but what about the person who held the hammer? What of the person that destroyed the safety walls and let these evils and unknowns in, and forever altered the precious growing seedling inside?
Four and a half years… still no justice.
Four and a half years… still so many questions of her future progress.
Four and a half years…. and what happens when I’m gone, who looks out for her then?

The Most Important Job: Family Update from Cory B.

Last year a few of our families shared their stories of child abuse. This year, they have shared updates about how their families continue to cope. We’re in awe of their courage, of their honesty. We thank them for sharing their biggest hearts with each and every family who reaches out to us.


 

A parent’s job is to protect his child. It is the most important job in the world. The one job that I thought I would be great at. I feel like I have failed at that job. I wish I could go back in time. I know there were signs that I missed. Insert cliche.

A parent’s job is to protect his child. I have told myself that for a long time. I have battled that for a long time. I know every parent thinks they could have done more. I’m in that position where I could have. I know I could have.

“Don’t blame yourself, don’t blame your partner. Blame the monster that would hurt an innocent baby.” How could anyone do that to a baby?

I have never hated anyone my whole life… until recently. Everyone hears the horrible stories, and thinks it will happen to someone else. Well we did too.

Our daughter is the strongest, kindest girl I have ever known. She has been through more pain in her four years on earth than most people will endure their entire life. And she is still positive and sweet. It makes it hard for me to have a bad day. When she is being goofy I forget for a little while. When she hugs me I never want to let go. She loves so big.

After what happened to my beautiful little girl we could not feel safe with people watching our baby, only family. When people go through trauma many withdraw from society. We can’t let that happen. Our girl is too strong for us to be weak. When we get sad we can still look at her. Some parents can’t do that.

She is still needing speech therapy, but is as smart as they come. The night terrors have significantly decreased. They are still not completely gone, but very minimal. We now have a new problem. My biggest fear after the incomprehensible terror that she had endured, was that she would remember. She remembers. She is starting to ask questions about the bad person that hurt her head. That’s when we have to fight back the tears. I don’t lie to her. I don’t know what to say. I just try to change the subject.

After what happened I wanted to know if she would remember. It didn’t take long for the answer. I struggle with the idea of her remembering the pain. No parent wants to see their child in pain. I think that seeing your child remember pain that extreme is just as bad.

I am almost 40 years old and the strongest person I have ever known is a 4 year old girl that thinks she is a princess. She is a princess. She can be anything she wants.

She loves her brother so much. They are so happy to be together. He is a great big brother. If he is home, she wants to do whatever he is doing. I know that if I’m not around he will protect her forever. Their bond cannot be broken.

She is starting kindergarten next year. It freaks me out every time I think about that. We almost lost her, and now she is a big kid. She has lots of friends, and knows right from wrong. Independent. Obviously, not totally, but she is a big kid. She is happy, strong, and has the most positive outlook on life.

I have come to realize that bad things can happen to any family. My family is just that strong. My family is. Not me. I’m just lucky. I am not a religious person. I don’t know what I believe. Something saved my daughters life, and at the same time, I’m sure mine. So thank you to whatever power did that. I appreciate that.

She is a survivor. Unfortunately so many innocent children aren’t. She is our survivor. Her name is Annabell. Watch for her to change the world someday. Annabell is going to have a positive effect on a lot of people’s lives. Annabell… Her story will be told well after I’m gone.

It didn’t take me long to come to the realization that our story could have been completely different. Without the support of our friends from Seeds from Seeds we would have to deal with this tragedy feeling alone. I am forever thankful to every person that took one minute out of their life to see if Annabell was ok. I know it is a hard subject to bring up. Thank You.

To my family… thank you. Without you the pain of this would have broke me. You are another reminder of how great people can be. You were there when I couldn’t be. You were there when we didn’t know how to. I’m sorry I was so distant. I love you.

Everything is fine, until it’s not: Family Update from Tara B.

Last year a few of our families shared their stories of child abuse. This year, they have shared updates about how their families continue to cope. We’re in awe of their courage. We thank them for sharing their biggest hearts with each and every family who reaches out to us.


It has been a few years now since our lives were turned upside down. In many ways things have gotten easier, time has passed, outside injuries have healed.

Often it is just those feelings of fear, and guilt hit me in waves.

She was a little over 1 when this happened to her, to us. She shouldn’t remember but I am afraid she might.

Last year I was driving her to her swimming lessons and out of know where she tells me that she remembers a monster hurting her head. She tells me not to worry because she is big now and she would fight the monster away. It’s all I can do to keep driving and assure her. I tell her that she is right she is big and strong now. She doesn’t need to worry about that monster anymore as the police took her far away.

This last week was a tough week. There was lots of crying at a drop off a hat. She was often inconsolable. So now we are tracking it to see if this is “normal” behavior or something that is because of this past trauma which will have us delve back in. Is it time for therapy or not?

It is so hard to not question yourself. I am sure people think, why aren’t you over this yet? But should I really be over this, our daughter was tortured and almost died. Would you get over this? Yes, she is better and you can’t tell she was hurt from the outside. It does not change the horror of the past and I am still unsure of our future. So I continue to not be over this yet and frankly I am not sure I will ever be. Thankfully we are a strong family and I know we can get through anything. We have a great support network of family and friends. Hopefully by sharing our story we can offer some support to others.

Friday Seeds for Thought #1:

Wisconsin’s Crime Victim Compensation Program

Remember that thick stack of pamphlets you received from the District Attorney’s office after your child’s abuser was charged with their crime. First, hold on to all of these pamphlets. They may be lengthy. You may not want to read them right now. But, they can help shed light on things that are about to take place.

Among all those pamphlets, there’s one pamphlet that can potentially bring some relief – and it has nothing to do with court. It’s the Crime Victim Compensation Program (we’ll just call it CVC). Yes, the other pamphlets are very important as well. They inform you and your family of your rights (or, let’s be honest, lack thereof) as a victim of a terrible crime, and they outline court processes and the stages of trial.

But, CVC is all about helping victims retain some stability in their pocketbook. Let’s break it down.

The Breakdown

WHO: The CVC is a program through the Wisconsin Department of Justice and all administration takes place at the State level.

WHAT: In their words, “Victims of violent crime and family or household members of deceased victims may have significant out-of-pocket expenses through no fault of their own. Crime Victim Compensation (CVC) helps pay for unreimbursed eligible expenses that result from the crime.”

WHEN: The key here is swiftness. Just send in the application and get the account started with the DOJ. Medical bills and records can be sent as they come in. “By statute, the crime victim compensation application must be filed with the Department of Justice within 1 year of the date of the crime. However, there are circumstances in which this requirement may be waived. If the application is not filed within 1 year, attach a written statement explaining the reason for the delay. Do not wait until court is over or until medical treatment is completed to send in your application.”

If the expense is covered and compensation approved, you may not receive a check immediately. Keep working with the healthcare providers for payments in the meantime. But, at least you’ll know help is on the way.

WHERE: All correspondence for our compensation took place via phone, email and mail.

WHY: This program is all about helping victims. Unless you plan on receiving another form of compensation for the monetary loss (through a lawsuit, insurance settlement, etc.), victims and their families do not have to pay back for the compensation.

And, I bet hearing that alone is peace of mind.

HOW: Get more info here https://www.doj.state.wi.us/ocvs/compensation/crime-victim-compensation-program-compensation-your-financial-losses

A Mother’s Perspective on Child Abuse: From Amy A.

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.

What happens when you can’t turn the channel?
It’s only been just over a year since our lives have been forever changed. Child abuse is something that happens on the news, not to anyone we know. Not to us. We see it on the news, feel bad, maybe say a quick prayer for that child, and turn the channel.

What happens when you can’t turn the channel?

How did it happen to us? How did it happen to our sweet baby with the big brown eyes and curly hair, who had only been one for two weeks? You would like to think you find only the best people to bring into your children’s lives – the protectors, people who care for your children like they are their own. The reality is, that doesn’t always happen.

While our doctor said that our son would make a complete recovery, I often wonder: will our hearts? My son will never remember his abuse, but I will never forget dashing from work, speeding toward the hospital, knowing my son was in an ambulance, without me.

My son was gray and lifeless. He had had two seizures. He didn’t even recognize me, or my husband. No one was sure what was going on. After further testing they would tell us our son had a fractured skull. He had blood on his brain and it was also pooling behind his eyes. The pressure caused the seizures.

This was scary enough. We didn’t know at first if he would need brain surgery to relieve the pressure. It absolutely broke our hearts when the doctor confirmed that this was not an injury that a one year old could sustain himself. Who would do this to my son? My husband and I were at work, having left our vibrant and healthy baby in an in-home daycare.

Our only concern was our baby. We thought the police could deal with the babysitter. We wanted to know how he would recover. The first night in ICU was hell, watching him vomit, and cry and cry, as he was in pain.

The police and CPS were involved. We would learn that we were under investigation. Our already broken hearts were further obliterated. How could anyone think we could hurt our miracle baby? (I am an older mother, and he was conceived after two miscarriages – a true rainbow baby). How did this happen? The days were blurry. I was so overwhelmed I could only cry and pray.

My one year old was like a newborn again. He could only sleep due to the head injury and seizure medication. He needed a bottle again. He threw up, over and over. He lost weight. If only I could trade places with him and take away all of this pain.

I had remembered seeing an article in the Press Gazette about Seeds from Seeds. It was physically relieving to talk with Sarah, the creator of Seeds from Seeds. To talk to someone who had been through exactly what I was going through. I was in tears from the moment the phone rang. This was the worst event to go through as a parent. My child was in physical pain, I was an emotional wreck, and I felt as if my love for my child was being doubted. Surreal is an understatement.

My son’s seizures stopped. He slowly became more alert and did not sleep as much. He tried eating more solid foods. He relearned to crawl and walk around perimeters. Physically he was getting stronger, but emotionally… we were still broken.

In this time, my husband and I were cleared. This hardly felt like a victory as we only touch our children with love, and our son was still in recovery. We made the decision that my husband would quit working so that our children would never go to daycare again. We still have not been able to trust anyone to care for our children. We don’t get babysitters.

The hardest part is to say it out loud. My son is a victim of child abuse. I feel like I lower my voice, as if I need to protect others – because people don’t know what to say and they can’t turn the channel.

My babysitter was not charged. Our CPS worker told us they went out on a limb for us. There was even a child abuse expert that looked at the medical records and agreed that this happened during the babysitter’s care. The neurologist told us our baby had been shaken repeatedly and slammed down. There was an older brain bleed that the babysitter had “admitted” to. She said our son “bumped his head on the wall”.

We are still devastated about this. How could our child be intentionally hurt and no one was held responsible?

We are so thankful our son will someday make a complete recovery. We know for some families, it doesn’t always end up this way.

In a year, we have learned what is most important to us. Family and friends who have stood by us, who have supported us. But, a social contact was broken. It was hard to send my son to kindergarten this year. I know not everyone is bad, but how do I know I am making the right choice for my kids? I failed my younger son. I made the wrong decision when I sent my children to her house. My instincts were wrong and my child was harmed. There aren’t new people in our life that I will trust with our children. There will not be babysitters. There will not be a day that I wonder, does she think about my child? Does she know what she did? I can only hope and pray that my babysitter never hurts another child. I hope she gets the helps that she needs.

We are survivors. It doesn’t always feel that way. We changed as parents, as a family.

I hope no one ever goes through this pain. Watching my child suffer is far worse than anything I have experienced, either physically or emotionally. I don’t know how I will feel next year, or in ten years, but healing takes time. Healing takes many forms. The best thing I learned from meeting other parents in this situation is that we are not alone. Our children will not be defined by their abusers. Our children are our heroes and they are survivors.

A Mother’s Perspective of Shaken Baby Syndrome: From Melissa G.

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.

Still No Justice
In September, 2013, I was at work when I received the call no parent ever wants to receive: “Something is wrong with Madison. She fell off the bed and we are on our way to the ER right now.” It would be a while before I would be informed that my innocent little five-month-old baby didn’t fall off the bed. I hung up the phone in shock and disbelief, left work without barely saying two words to anyone, and rushed to the hospital.

So many thoughts were rushing through my head. I felt a giant lump in my throat and in the pit of my stomach. When I was brought back to see my little girl, there she was on a giant hospital bed. Her arms were stretched outright and her body continuously convulsing. Her eyes zoning out and wandering around looking at nothing. My domestic partner at the time was sitting in a chair on the outside edge of the room. They took my baby back for imaging and returned saying there was swelling and bleeding in her brain We needed to rush her to Children’s Hospital via flight for life.

As we flew the longest 90 miles of our lives, I never let go of Madison’s limp little hand and asking Why?  The flight crew kept telling me she was doing good, but we needed to get there quickly. Once we landed, they brought us into this giant room full of all different kinds of specialists doing their checks to assess the immediate needs of the situation.

After a while, I was told Madison had a subdural hematoma, they needed to do an emergency craniotomy and remove a section of her skull to relieve the pressure in her brain. I was repeatedly told She might not make it. There I sat in the giant waiting room, no friends, no family, staring at this giant TV screen with my daughter’s patient number and the “In Surgery” display just staring back at me for hours.

Eventually my parents, my domestic partner, and my best friend show up, not that it made me feel any better. Several hours later, I am finally brought back to a private room where the neurosurgeon sat down with me. He told me Madison suffered brain damage over most of the right hemisphere of her brain and partial on the left. He said she was in an induced coma with a section of her skull removed and a tube drain in her head. They still didn’t know if she would make it.

Two detectives from our hometown police department showed up as I was waiting to see my little girl. My domestic partner and I are put in separate rooms and questioned.  Some late hour into the night, we are finally able to see Madison. She was covered in tubes, monitors, a neck brace, swollen eyes, and staples covering what seemed like half of her head. She was motionless other than the machine that was doing the breathing for her. I spent the next few weeks in the NICU with my dad, my step mom, and domestic partner. Several nurses, doctors, neurologists, x-ray technicians, etc., came and went, giving me updates and information I was unable to wrap my head around.

One day, the detectives return to question my domestic partner again. That was the day I found out she had lied about what happened. Once she left to go back home, doctors and the detectives inform me they fear Madison was the victim of shaken baby syndrome.

CPS had been involved since the beginning, due to “standard practices.” And everything started clicking in my head: I’ve been lied to, and Madison has been betrayed by one of the people in this world that were supposed to keep her safe.

My world shatters once more. My family moves Madison and me out of our house and into my mother’s house, while Madison continues to fight for her life. She is in an induced coma for two more weeks. After a total of a month, she was finally stable enough to reattach her skull. She slowly came off of the breathing machine and woke up.

She was not the same baby girl who’s eyes I looked into a month ago. She was not able hold her head up. She had to be taught how to suck on a Nuk and bottle again. She has continuous seizures, medicine withdrawals, and is inconsolable most of the time. They told me she will have difficulty walking and talking, and may need assisted living the rest of her life.

Finally, after five weeks of living at the hospital, we get to go home. It wasn’t the home we used to know, not the life we used to know: A different house, a different baby, and a different mom. This new mom is terrified, sad, mad, confused, and even though she is surrounded by love and support, she feels alone and lost.

There come restraining orders, a separation, battling with CPS, and court hearings all happening as I force a smile on my face and constantly work to teach my daughter to do things that come so naturally for other children. A childhood that was once supposed to be filled with playing, friends, running around, and being carefree has been stripped away. This childhood was replaced with endless years of therapies, doctor’s appointments, EEG’s, another surgery… and after 3 1/2 years, still no justice for Madison.

Melissa&Madison

A Father’s Perspective: From Cory B.

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.

A Mother’s Perspective: From Tara B.

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 Overwhelming Fear
Tara B. – August 27th, 2014 will be burned in our family’s memory forever. It was the day our 14-month-old daughter, Annabell, was significantly injured by our ‘trusted’ in home day care provider. She had been providing day care for us for over a year. She had taken care of another family member’s child in the recent past and we thought we had become friends. We thought our daughter was getting the love and attention she needed. We were so very wrong. Annabell was found by my husband, her father when he arrived to pick her up from the women who was suppose to be providing Day Care. He found her bruised, burned multiple times and swollen almost beyond his recognition. Her father immediately brought her to the ER, still not understanding what had happened to our baby. After multiple tests, x-rays, body and head scans we were sent to a more specialized pediatric hospital. It required 3 days in St. Vincent’s PICU. We could not take her out in public for almost 2 months because of how bad she looked with her swollen head, swollen shut black eyes, bruised and burned head/face, shoulder, arm, and hand.

This is something you see on TV, this happens to other people. We are not the first people to say ‘this does not happen to our family.’ This affected our entire family on every level; it devastated and forever changed us. Our daughter has already faced more physical and mental pain/trauma than most people have after a life time. We had to start working with the Birth to Three program, specifically with speech therapy, as she stopped talking after the trauma and wasn’t regaining it. We worked with them weekly and our family worked on approaches in our home everyday hoping for her words to come back. We spent months struggling to know what she wanted as she could no longer communicate verbally.

This incident has forever changed our lives. At this time we know that she has physically healed and we are thankful that physically there will be no permanent damage. The night terrors were horrific; they started almost immediately after the trauma. For the next few months they occurred almost nightly and often multiple times a night. She would wake up or start screaming while she is still sleeping; sometimes she would even start batting away at her face, kick, hit, scratch, cry and most often they would end in her throwing up. They would last anywhere from 5-20min to well over an hour. There were times over the year and a half when we thought the night terrors were getting better, and then we were proven horribly wrong it was almost like they would come back with a vengeance. Our last night terror was well over a year and a half after the trauma. It broke our hearts over and over again every night.

I don’t know how we lived through this as a family. But, in reality we had no choice, we just had to. Sleepless nights for months on end just leave you feeling numb.

The overwhelming fear she felt of others since this traumatic day was scary. She used to be very outgoing and comfortable with anyone around her in very short time. Even now she refuses to go towards many people. It can take hours for her to warm up to close family members. Annabell has obviously had several doctor appointments since this happened, and for over 2 years she was extremely fearful of them. It was imperative that both of us were at all appointments. One person to try and calm her, clean up her vomit, hold her as the Doctor looks her over and the other person to talk with the doctor.

It is overwhelming me to say this but our daughter almost died from this abuse, my sweet innocent baby girl. The fact that we could not protect her, she was so young and this monster nearly destroyed her. Who knows if she will ever be able to trust again and time will only tell just how deep this affected her. What this woman did to our baby was pure evil. She stole our baby’s innocence, her preciousness and forever devastated and changed us. This terrible abuse not only hurt our daughter, it hurt our son, and it hurt our entire family.

The real question is what future do these children have if no one will stand up and fight for them. Please support the cause, all of our children’s lives depends on it! We want to support families going through similar situations as we know what a struggle this is, no one should have to go through this horror alone.

Life at 8 MPH

Slowing life down when you’re a parent of an AHT victim.

Every parent knows how important it is to get away. But it’s hard to get away.

Getting away seems even more impossible after a child becomes the victim of child abuse. Between keeping track of the investigation, medical bills and follow up appointments, court hearings and the corrections process, most days it is impossible. Not to mention the anxiety of spending time away from a child who has been victimized. All of this happens so quickly and frequently that it’s easy to forget to also take care of our own needs as parents. We need to give our minds a chance to unload, even for twenty minutes.

Child abuse and neglect, in all their forms, have a victimization radius much greater than most people might at first realize. Not to minimize the inexcusable harm done to our children, but these traumatic experiences throw their weight around onto every family member. Sometimes it even seeps out into a greater community of caregivers and friends.

I was a runner before Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) became part of our household’s everyday vocabulary. Nothing too intense, but enough to say I’d train for several mid-distance races a year. I never expected to find running a lifesaver or my way to truly get away. After our son became the victim of AHT, running was one more form of therapy – a kind of dynamic meditation.

At first, it wasn’t the healthiest of practices, as my mind would simply focus on the act of going into the space of the city ahead of me. Just go. It wasn’t exploration or thrill. It was autopilot on an undetermined course. Eventually during a therapy session, I realized that autopilot had intruded upon so many facets of my life including my way to get away, running. On my runs prior to this session, I was always on a path without an outlet. It took several months and a stress fracture in my foot before I found that sweet spot of mindfulness in my running shoes.

For me, running slowed life down to 8 MPH. It was about having this one thing under my control for an hour at a time, and keeping my feet on the ground without feeling like they were about to be swept out from under me. This was my way to get away and come back refreshed for our son.

We all need a cadence to count on – something predictable that grounds us when everything else is suspended so far out of reach. Running may not be for everyone. Whether your thing is croquet or crochet, painting or paper airplanes, just remember to slow things down and take time for you. As a parent of a child abuse victim, how will you slow your life down to 8 MPH? Get out. Make it mindful. Make it count.

More reading: “Cheaper Than Therapy: How running can help fight depression and anxiety,” Betsy Welch, Trail Runner Magazine

Mom’s Everyday: Sarah in a New SBS Segment

A huge THANK YOU to Liz and Moms Everyday for covering on our story and helping us get the word out about Shaken Baby Syndrome. Please share and show support to all families/victims affected by this horrific act on our innocent babies and children. The more awareness, the bigger the difference we can make!

Watch the segment here.