Note: This series of posts illustrates the early childhood experiences contributing to attachment issues in adopted or biological children. While this story is fictional, the majority of children suffering from attachment issues will have experienced much of the trauma written about here. The childhood trauma, as well as behaviors depicted, are common in lessor or greater degrees to the majority of children treated at Zion Hills Academy.
Christina shifts her bulging belly again. It is so aggravating to have this parasite in her! She had been keeping the bulge from her mom and whatever boyfriend mom happened to have living in her house this week. Christina grew up in a world full of secrets. This was just one more.
Christina lived a double life. Since she came as a child to America, she was protected under a federal program called DACA. Her mom, however, had no papers and worked odd jobs always under the table. Christina grew up knowing that police were bad people and should be avoided at all cost. Another enemy: mandatory reporters. This included doctors and hospitals. There was no way Christina would risk seeing a doctor about this thing growing inside her.
Her mother would scream and beat her if she knew about the accidental parasite growing in Christina.
She found herself drowning her fears and anger with Horse (a street name for heroin) and whiskey.
Christina didn’t remember who the father of this baby was. She was lucky to have graduated high school. Her friends and cousins often got knocked up after being tricked out. Christina was lucky she made it this long. This baby had been hard to keep a secret.
Christina taps the excess from her needle and shoots a thin spray into the air. The tourniquet on her arm makes veins bulge. It was still difficult to find a usable vein. She feels the baby kicking her. Christina is irritated as the kicking jostles the needle. Soon, however, the comfort of the Horse envelops her in a milky warmth and thoughts about the baby are muted.
The pain yanks her awake and she is overwhelmed with lights, sirens, and yelling people. Her first thought is about the works, looking for her spoon and needle. Christina notices the IV in her arm and suddenly realizes she is in labor. The EMT who inserted the IV was bombarding Christina with questions. She saw the world in a hazy fog and did her best to answer him.
The next few hours are a whirl of pain, noise, and release. She screams for pain medication.
Nurse Carrie notified the Pediatrician on call as soon as Christina is wheeled into the bay of the emergency room. The telltale tracks up and down Christina’s arm are a road map to Nurse Carrie. It made Carrie sick when she reached out and removed the still half-full syringe from Christina’s arm. She cut Christina’s rubber tourniquet free and began to prep the room for labor and delivery.
Carrie was there to care for the infant. According to the condition of Christina, this baby would likely be born addicted to whatever was shot up in the mother’s needle. Prepping the bassinette, Carrie felt the familiar nauseous wave that enveloped her when awaiting imminent arrival of a tiny little addict.
As the little girl was delivered, Carrie reached out and began wrapping the child in towels and a small blanket. The infant was screaming uncontrollably with a pitch that only comes with an opiate addicted newborn. The pediatrician arrived at the very minute of delivery and began the rigors of an APGAR score.
From 1-10, the APGAR was an indication of the infant’s physical functioning at birth. At one minute, the pediatrician called a score of four. Rescue breathing begins and the tiny baby is covered in wires. At five minutes, the APGAR score still is only a four.
The number was much too low to even let the mother hold the tiny girl. Carrie finds herself pushing the bassinette up to the NICU. The haunted, hungry screams making Carrie begin to pray. Running through her mind was a single thought: “Survive.”
Carrie was amazed that Christina came only once to see the baby. Child Protective Services was insisting that Christina enter the hospital’s 28 day rehab program. On the only visit, Christina filled out the birth certificate, leaving the father’s name a blank. Probably, thought Carrie, the only thing the mother ever gave the baby was her name: “Mariana.”
It took about two days before the withdrawal from Heroin became evident. Since Christina had not gotten any prenatal care at all, no one was certain exactly when Mariana’s original due date had been. Mariana was a little over five pounds and this suggests that she was premature.
The baby screamed even with the Suboxone to help with withdrawal from the Heroin. Carrie came almost every day to see Mariana, offering encouragement and singing. The tiny baby was tube fed and somewhat sedated in order to get her through withdrawal. Nurses came and went into the NICU, but not once did the staff see signs of Christina or her family.
Carrie knew that holding Mariana was important. She had seen infants who were not held grow up with attachment issues. This was a critical bonding stage which could affect Mariana for the rest of her life. The other nurses gave Carrie a hard time. They felt that the baby would never remember if she was held and hugged enough. Carrie knew differently.
The issue was that Mariana was not easy to hold. She stiffened every time and let loose an angry, almost rage-filled cry. Mariana always turned away from the person feeding her. Carrie knew that having been tube fed for so long, getting used to a bottle might take time. The NICU nurses, however, did not always have time. There were fussier children and since the mother refused to spend any time with Mariana, she was often left in her crib. It was easier that way. It was a stone of guilt in Carrie’s stomach.
It took about a month for little Mariana to fully withdraw from the drugs Christina had abused. In that time, Mariana suffered a significant amount of pain. The baby had two grand mal seizures. It took that entire time to teach Mariana to use a bottle so that tube feeding could be suspended.
Nurses and aids seemed to avoid Mariana. When they tried to hold the baby, she tensed her little frame and cried. It was actually more than a cry. The sound was like a dying kitten. It was shrill and uncomfortable. Unfortunately for little Mariana, the tube feeding made it easy for the nurses to avoid holding her. Despite changing her diapers, few hospital employees bothered to interact with Mariana.
Carrie knew that Mariana was not receiving the intimacy and bonding that was so vital for babies. The thoughts of what happens to babies who are not with loving parents weighed heavy in her mind. They grow up with problems. Carrie had seen this especially in infants whose parents chased drugs more than taking care of their babies. Christina, Mariana’s birth mother, refused to have anything to do with Mariana. Carrie worried for the baby knowing that she needed more attention than she was getting.
One day Carrie arrived for her NICU shift and Mariana was gone. Surprised, Carrie logged into the baby’s file. Mariana had been released into the care of Child Protective Services earlier that morning. Even though Carrie knew Mariana was bound to leave the NICU at some point, she still felt a tightening of her chest. Carrie knew that Mariana did not have the easiest entry into life and Carrie hoped that wherever she ended up, Mariana would find a way to thrive.
Continue to Part 2