Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Injustice


I haven’t written about this before for a few reasons, partly  because it brings up feelings of anger and resentment that I try to keep buried.  I don’t like to live my life thinking life isn’t fair (it isn’t by the way but what’s the point of wallowing in that?) and looking around at everyone around me and being reminded of that.  Also, I like to try and tell myself that pain is pain and we all feel it and  who am I to say that my pain is deeper than anyone elses?   Plus, I don’t like feelings of resentment and anger towards people so I try to push those feels aside so I can live in harmony with those that I love (you, my family, my friends).  And some of you just won’t understand and it’s hard to share something so personal and so raw knowing that some people reading this are not going to understand it.  I realize that my life is pretty awesome in so many ways and that what I have, many people don’t and they could feel mad and resentful towards me for  the injustice of not being blessed with what I have.   And I also recognize that anger and resentment can sometimes make us act and think in irrational ways and I like to try and be a rational person so allowing myself to really feel this anger and resentment makes me feel just a little uneasy that perhaps I am not thinking rationally—and I don’t want anyone but the Holy Ghost or Mike to tell me I’m acting irrationally (which is partly why you don’t get to comment on this post).   And also, I just don’t like to talk about it.
 
But I think maybe I ought to talk about it.  I think maybe I should tell you why I’m mad and feel resentful.  It’s a long story so if you want to know why, you will have to read patiently.

Seconds after Laila died the doctor came in and told Mike and I what we already knew—Laila was dead.  “Would you like to go see her and hold her?”  Of course we wanted to.  We walked in reverently and picked her up tenderly.  Mike sat on a chair next to me while I crawled on the bed with her.  We cried.  The room was not cleared to allow us privacy.  There were nurses standing behind a sink behind us talking quietly.  They acted as though we weren’t there, keeping their heads down, talking and washing their hands and doing something else (it’s amazing I was that with it to even know that much).  There was another person in the room besides the nurses—a police woman.  She stood at the door with her hands behind her back, her face stoic.  As she stood in front of me to my right and just a few feet away, I was conscious that she heard every single word that came out of my mouth and Mike’s mouth.  It was awkward and I didn’t feel free to say what I wanted to or cry as I needed to. 
And yet, I won’t even try to explain it, but it was also one of the most sacred experiences of my life.  It was horrifying and awkward and would have been more sacred if we had been allowed our privacy but life is so precious and when death comes the veil is so thin. 

I honestly don’t know how long we held Laila but it wasn’t long.  It was probably about five or ten minutes.  The police officer  got a call on her phone and rushed out of the room only to return a few minutes later looking very nervous and uneasy.  She approached us with her hands behind her back and stuttered over her words saying, “Uh, I’m really sorry to do this, but um, well, in situations like this, uh, I have to ask you to put her down.”  We were shocked, and confused and both thought, “They are going to arrest us.”  But then she said nicely in essence, “You need to put the evidence down.”  

We placed Laila on the bed and were ushered to a room where we were told that detectives were on the way to question us.  Before the detectives came I went to the bathroom, not knowing how long this process would be.  I looked at myself in the mirror and was horrified at what I saw.  How could this woman in the mirror be me?  There is no way to explain what I saw looking back at me but I saw in my eyes sorrow deeper than I’ve ever seen before.  My eyes green—something that happens when I cry.  I hope never to identify with that face again.

Within minutes they appeared and separated us, taking us into different rooms to question us. 
I just numbly did what I was told, shocked by the death of my baby, shocked to be questioned, wanting nothing more than to be with Mike and hold my baby and be left alone to cry.  When I look back at it now, it angers me so much that at a time when I needed to be near Mike more than any time in my existence, I was forced to be separated from him.  I needed him by me.  We needed each other.  We needed to cry and hold each other and hold our daughter and tell her we loved her and we would miss her and we were honored to be her parents.  We didn’t get that. 

I will concede and say that the detectives, at least the one that questioned me, was very nice and you could tell she felt horrible and wanted nothing more than to let me be alone with my sorrow.  I walked in and saw Laila on a bed in the room and the detective said, “I’m not supposed to but if you want to hold her while I talk to you, then you may.”  I will always be grateful to her for that. 

So we were questioned for awhile, again, I don’t know how time passed.  It was a blur but it was a long time.  Finally the woman left and my brother was allowed to come in the room and be with me.  We talked, neither of us really knowing what to say.  I discovered that detectives also went to the house and questioned my sister-in-law.  Police officers searched the room and kept anyone from going in it.  In the meantime, Mike was being questioned in the other room and was asked to sign some paper with an explanation from the detective that it was just to “help the investigation along more quickly.”  Mike was not in a state of coherent thought obviously so he went along with the detective’s explanation and signed the paper. 

After what seemed a lifetime Mike was able to come join me in the room.  The detectives came back in and told us we could go but DHS was waiting outside to follow us home “just to check the boys and make sure they were ok.”  Mike and I asked if we could have some scissors to cut some of Laila’s hair.  The woman detective said, “I’m really not supposed to but I’ll let you.”  I hated cutting Laila’s hair.  It was so beautiful and soft and I didn’t want to cut her beautiful hair.  But I needed something, anything of my Laila’s. 

I gently placed Laila on the bed and noticed her dirty diaper and said, “She was poopy!”  but a nurse came in and said, “No, that happens when a person dies.”  I hated the thought of my daughter being poopy and naked.  I hated leaving her on that bed, waling down the hall with empty arms, full breasts that ached to feed my baby.  I felt beat up, numb, and also full of sorrow or horror.

(There is much I’m leaving out because I don’t want to describe what Laila looked or felt like—that is only important for me and Mike to know right now, and my brother who hesitantly held her.  The three of us will probably never forget holding Laila minutes after she died)

There is so much more to the story of that night, parts of what my brother and my sister-in-law experienced (the calls they had to make, the parts where they talked to the boys, were questioned at the house, interacted with the police officers and the neighbors).  The story of the hours following the hospital are private and horrible and sacred and I won’t share that.  And the days following aren’t necessary to write on here either.  This story is really just about the hospital, the detectives, and those precious hours of privacy with Laila that were taken from us.

So now we fast forward to last week.  Oh, I forgot about something.  The detective that talked to me said that they were taking some of Laila’s things and that we would get them back.  The detective that talked to Mike said that we would not get them back.  I hoped he was wrong.  I got home and when everyone left our house I began the process of getting her things back.  I began corresponding with the detective that questioned Mike.  He was very nice and said he’d do what he could to help us.  

Months passed and emails passed and I got a letter in the mail saying I could pick up Laila’s blanket.  I had 60 days to make an appointment and pick it up.  I took the boys and we went to the police office and I signed for her blanket than came home and sat alone in her room while I opened the package.  There was the blanket she slept in.  It had dog hair on it from when Mike laid her on the living room floor doing CPR and also dried throw up.  She spit up quite regularly after she’d fall asleep—her reflux would bother her and she’d wake up crying and I’d go in to find her covered in throw up.  So her blanket had her throw up on it.  I cried and held her blanket and folded it and put it in her drawer where it will stay, dirty.  It might be throw up but it is her throw up and I won’t wash it.

I emailed the detective back asking about the remainder of the items taken—Eli’s special blanket from his grandma and her dress.  I eventually called him and we had a little talk.  He gave me two answers, both contradicting each other.  One was that they had to keep some evidence for the remainder of my and Mike’s lifetime “in case something happened to one of my other children.”    He paused while that sank in.  I understood clearly that while he said many times that there was no suspicious activity involving her death, we were going to be held in suspicion for the remainder of our lifetime.  So much for innocent until proven guilty.  It is more like guilty forever even after proven innocent. 

After questioning him about why, if I was innocent, I would be denied my things, he finally said, “Truthfully, it’s a lot of work for us and it’s something that has been done for years and years and we just don’t want to set a precedence for other parents asking for their things.”  Really?  Because they are my things and I should be allowed to have my things.  I could care less about setting a precedence.  Except that isn’t really true—let me set a precedence.  Change your stupid policy and give innocent parents who are mourning the loss of their child, their things back—all of them.

He said he’d try and do his best to get the rest of the stuff and I held out hope that he could.  Until this last week when he said that the DA decided not to return anymore of our things. 

And so now I find it hard to contain my anger.  It just comes boiling out.  I asked if it was a policy or a law and was informed it was a policy.  So there is no legal reason for them to keep my things.  And I want them back.  I’ve asked myself over and over again why I care so much.  

I care because they belong to me.  I care because Laila is gone and they denied me my privacy and my chance to tell my daughter that I loved her and they denied me the chance to be with my husband in the most horrifying and sorrowful moments of my life.  I want them back because I had no preparation for her death—it was sudden and shocking—and in my horror they took away from me the chance to feel the sacredness of the moment.  I want them back because I’m not a murderer and I’m not guilty and they ought to at least give me my things back.  I want my things back because while every other mother gets to cradle their children when they get hurt I get to live with fear that if something else happens to one of my children, I am under a microscope for the remainder of my life.  I’m mad because I don’t get my daughter back and the least they could do is give me her stuff back.
    
And now I have to decide what to do, if I can even do anything.  It is a question that Mike and I have to really consider seriously.  I am certain that if I were able to sit down with Laila she would say to me, “Mom, I don’t care.  Just let it alone.”  But of course she doesn’t care.  And I hope she understands if I do.  I just have to decide how much I want to care.  I don’t want to put my head between my tail and say, “Ok, it’s not a law and you have no legal right to my things but I’ll let you have them and treat me like a criminal.”  But I also don’t want this to fester and take over my life, making me bitter and unhappy forever.  So I have to decide if I should let go of this or not.  And it weighs heavily on my mind.

I just want to shake my fist at the sky and say, “This is not fair!”  And the response would be, “No.  It’s not.”  It’s just not fair.  She’s gone and I stuff my feelings inside me and accept the fact that this is the plan that was chosen.  And I say to God, “Really?  I chose this?  How could I have chosen this?”  But I did and now I have to deal with it.  I have to deal with the fact that she’s gone and I wish it were just that.  But I also have to deal with all this other, very unfair crap.  Why can’t I just be allowed to grieve her without all this other stuff being included? 

So I just tell myself, life isn’t fair.  It’s not fair that my brother can’t walk.  It’s not fair that some women can’t have children.  It’s not fair that some people cheat on their spouses.  It’s all just not fair.  Life is not fair.  It’s not.  At least not THIS life.  And the sooner we all come to this realization the better able we are to deal with whatever crappy thing we have to deal with.  But I believe that God will pay me back for every unfair minute I’ve had to deal with this past year.  And I wait for that day in anticipation where every last tear and every last injustice is made up to me in full.