Posted in Foster Parenting / Adoption, Lessons Learned

Racing

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So I never thought that at age 11, my son Hunter would be strapped into a race car. Well maybe strapped into one.. just to see what it’s like. But.. he actually drives this crazy thing around a track. And the very worst part is that there are other guys strapped into race cars driving on the same track at the same time!

I have to admit, I’m very proud of him. I’m thinking he’s the most handsome race car driver I’ve ever seen. (No mother bias here at all.) It isn’t all me though. There are many young girls who are oogling at him from the stands and coming up to talk to him after he races.

I spent my Friday evening at the Hancock County Speedway in Britt, Iowa watching Hunter prepare for his race. The day had been threatening rain up until the last minute. Much to Hunter’s excitement, it held off. You see, it was his birthday and his wish was to race. And race he did. He came in second place for his feature race.

The evening wasn’t without incident though. During the second lap, on turn 4 there was an accident. A 13-year-old racer in a car ahead of Hunter missed the turn. He spun out and went over the embankment, rolling 4 times, coming to rest on the roof in the grass at the edge of the track. All in full view of his mother who was standing next to me in the viewing box. Several other cars collided on the track and the red flag was waved.

I grabbed onto the mother who was petrified and shaking with her eyes covered. We held on as I softly told her (and I) to take deep breaths. I looked over at her son’s car as people we rushing to pull him out. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my ex-husband rushing toward the track. He was going from one stalled, mangled car to another. He finally reached Hunter’s car. Knowing I’d be panicked, he waved to me as he directed Hunter to drive forward through the crash site. Hunter was unscathed.

The mother and I were still holding on and breathing when I saw her son’s helmet moving inside the car. One last deep breath and I was relieved to announce that he’d been pulled from the car and was standing. Her son was scurried to a waiting ambulance as is the protocol for any roll-over.

The race continued with five fewer cars. Hunter finished in second place. We later learned that the 13-year-old was checked over in the ambulance and released.

Today Hunter is celebrating his birthday with friends and family at a Bowling Party. Hopefully, there will be no roll-overs.

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Posted in Foster Parenting / Adoption

All You Can Do

It seems that sometimes all you can do is go on about your business.  I would wait and wait for these hearings to take place, mistakenly thinking there would be some sort of resolution.  An outcome.  But there never was.  Just more waiting.   Day after day the routines continued.  Getting children up for school or daycare, make breakfast and then get everyone delivered and finally it’s off to work.

Until one day when the telephone rang at my office and it wasn’t a client.  It was Hilary and Steve was there too on the extension.  I hadn’t heard from Hilary since the termination of parental rights hearing a couple of months ago.  Hilary explained that she and Steve had been talking a lot about the kids and wondering what would happen to them.  I could hear Hilary’s words sticking in her throat.  Tears were traveling where words had wanted to go.  Finally in a hushed and tearful voice she asked,

“Will you please adopt Maggie and Hunter?  We know that you love them and have taken such good care of them.  We know you’ll give them both a good life.”

She waited for my response.  It isn’t often that I can’t find the right words to say.  This was one of those times.  But after a moment I was able to reply.

“Hilary, Steve, thank you so much for thinking that we’d be good parents for the children.  But you know, it isn’t our decision to make.  As foster parents, we don’t get any say in the outcome for the kids that we care for.  The department makes all of those decisions.”

Hilary and Steve didn’t know about the hearing last week or its outcome.  They didn’t know about my testimony.  I didn’t want to make things anymore difficult for them.  I can’t imagine their grief.  I continued,

“I can say that I’m very honored that you’d even consider us, much less ask us to be their parents.  And I am more grateful than you can ever know that you’d choose us.  Thank you both so much.”

After the call, I tried to put myself in Hilary’s shoes.  Making the phone call to ask someone else to take your children.  For me it would have been an excruciating call to make.  My own tears began to fall as I imagined losing my own children like this.

By afternoon though I was refocused and had more paperwork well underway when another call came.  This time from Sarah,the Department of Human Services Adoption worker.  Sarah asked how the children were doing.  I told her about Maggie’s appointments and that both children are busy playing with new kittens that were born on the farm.  Sarah went on to tell me that a Pre-Adoptive family had been chosen for Maggie.   She said that I’d be getting a call from them to arrange a short visit in our home so they could meet Maggie and play for a while.  And she instructed me that if the initial visit went well that the Pre-Adoptive couple would begin weekend visits with Maggie immediately.

My mind was whirling.  I realized that she hadn’t said anything about Hunter.  For the past 15 months since we’d been originally asked to adopt him, I had been afraid to hope that one day we’d be able to adopt him.  It had never been mentioned again. But then Sarah continued, (and I thought I could hear a smile in her voice.)

“I also wanted to ask if you and your husband would like to be Hunter’s Forever Family?”

“Oh my God, YES!  We’d be honored to be his forever family.”  My  heart felt so full in that moment.  It was as if I were in the delivery room and through the bustle of the doctor and the nurses, I could still hear that first baby cry.

I have absolutely no idea what else Sarah had to say.  I just knew I had to call my husband and hug Hunter.  I dialed my cell phone on the way out to my car.  On the third ring, he answered.

“They called” I began, with tears still falling.  “Sarah asked if we would be Hunter’s Forever Family.. and I said yes.  I’m on my way to the daycare… can you come?”

I waited as impatiently as I’ve ever waited for anything, for my husband to arrive at the daycare.  I wanted us to go together to welcome Hunter permanently into our family.  Excitement was exuding from every pore as my husband rounded the corner in his truck.  I met him with a huge hug and together we walked into the daycare.  The director was in the front office and could tell by our expressions that something had happened.  She followed us to Hunter’s daycare room.  The children had just returned from the playground with dusty knees and fingers.  I spotted Hunter across the room choosing a favorite ball from the toy bin.  He turned toward us when I called out his name.  His little round face lit up with excitement when he saw us.  I ran toward him, scooping him up in my arms.  My husband and I hugged him tightly.  Hunter didn’t know there was anything special about this particular day.  To him, it was just another day filled with balls and trucks and building blocks.  I kissed his face over and over.  Until he’d had enough of that and reached for my husband who was already prepared with  a ball for the two of them to chase.

It would still be several weeks before the adoption hearing took place.  We planned a gathering at our home for the afternoon of the adoption.  Everyone came.. relatives, friends, neighbors and even the daycare staff.  It had been a long journey.  Now a new one is beginning for a Forever Family.

Posted in Foster Parenting / Adoption

Day of Reckoning

Finally the hearing day came.  I woke up early like I do when I’m nervous about something.  I resolve my nerves by putting things in order, like unloading the dishwasher and packing the diaper bag.  Soon enough the children woke up for school and the busy-ness of morning diverted my attention until everyone was on their way to where ever they had to go.  Then I showered and prepared myself.  I dressed for success that day.  Not because I had anyone to impress, but because it increased my own confidence.  I wanted to look like an experienced and knowledgeable foster parent when I was testifying on the stand.  Impressions count in court. 

My husband and I arrived at the courthouse and found seats in the court room.  Already the assortment of attorneys were gathering at long heavy oak tables standing near the front of the room facing the judges seat.  I can only imagine the things that these tables have been witness to.  Hearings and trials and high emotions.  Fear, sadness, relief, maybe even joy.  Like on a day that an adoption would be finalized or a civil marriage ceremony took place here.  Today though the tables will witness power, control, nervous testimony and even the unexpected.

Everyone rose when the presiding judge entered the court room.  I like the Juvenile Court Judge.  He perfectly fits my perception of a very wise man.  He is of average height with a slightly full build.  He’s earned his white hair throughout the years of his bench sitting.  The stories he’s listened to.  The decisions he’s made.  None of it can be easy.  Yet he has remained for many years.  This is a judge that cares about people and their outcomes.

The lawyers began their role calls, moving around the room one response after another for each individual question posed by the judge.  Finally the Department of Human Services called their first witness.  Each person who testified, gave their version of the facts and impressions and judgements.   Then each of the attorneys had a chance to ask questions to contort what had been said in their clients’ favor.  It really seems as if no one cares what the real truth is. 

The real truth is that Hilary and Steve came from unfortunate circumstances and had found each other to manage life with.  Until they couldn’t manage.  And their family slowly and methodically ripped to shreds until there was no more family.

As the social worker on the stand began to testify it wasn’t long before I realized things were taking an entirely different route than the one on the map.  It had been discussed that the paternal grandparents would adopt Maggie.   That’s what all of the lengthy visitations had been for.  To prepare them for parenting full-time.  But that wasn’t the purpose at all.  Much to my dismay and their horror, they were being shredded too. 

“You have candle sconces and houseplants in your home that are hazards to toddlers.” It was cited as a safety issue.  (Seriously!  I have both of these too. And they’ve never said a word about it during the many inspections we had to pass for our foster care license. And you’d think that would have been addressed in their private home study.)   My antennae were pinging.  Something about this makes no sense to me.

That’s when they called me to the stand.  I rose from my seat and took a deep breath as I passed by the row of heavy oak tables.  I stopped and raised my right hand.  I smiled at the judge as I sat down on the stand.  He smiled back.

Let the questions begin!  And they did.  They started right from the beginning with my log entries.  But onlyfrom Maggie’s log.   They asked questions about he pick up and drop off times for Maggie’s visits, were the grandparents always timely; and what about the time when they returned from a visit with a pair of Maggie’s wet panties in a plastic bag.

As these silly questions were being asked, I realized what they were trying to get me to do.  They wanted my log entries to incriminate the grandparents as being bad parents.  Thus making them unacceptable to adopt Maggie.   In that moment, I made a decision.  And even before I could think it through, I turned toward the judge at my right, and said,

“Your honor may I speak?” 

He said yes… so I spoke.

“Your honor I’m a divorced parent and not once in the ten years that my children have been going for visitation with their dad have their clothes ever come back clean.”  Furthermore, Maggie is two and a half.  She’s potty training.  Accidents happen.”

I heard the attorney for the grandparents talking at their table but I couldn’t hear what they were saying.  The social worker for the Department of Human Services was glaring at me.  They had no further questions for me.

As I left the stand and walked past the heavy oak tables, the grandparent’s attorney gave me a high-five.  I didn’t realize the full scope of what my responses had done until the hearing was over.

None the less, the grandparents were still not found to be acceptable adoptive parents for Maggie.

Posted in Foster Parenting / Adoption

Until… I Got a Phone Call

I thought that once the termination of parental rights was determined, that the case would reach its culmination.  Little did I know.  In a conference room somewhere in Iowa decisions were being made about the lives of these children.  Also the lives of the grandparents and the foster parents.

The plan of the Department of Social Services at the time was to reunite the biologic family when ever possible.   In this case the family of origin was split in so many pieces.  The oldest daughter is living with her paternal grandparents.  Maggie was with her paternal grandparents more than she was in our foster home right now.  And Hunter was in placement with us.  The children were not seeing each other on any sort of regular basis by this point.  So there were three independent situations to be monitored.  Both of the girls were continuing to have issues and concerns in their situations.  The troupe of social workers were working with the grandparents to resolve what they could.

The stress levels were increasing as time wore on without resolution.  Everyone knew that at soe point adoptions would be suggested, and determined by the Department.  The adults actually providing care had very little input.  That is until…. I got a phone call at work early on afternoon in the spring.  The foster care social worker wanted me to meet with her and she asked me to bring along my logs for the children.  We set a time for me to come in the next morning.  I lugged the now quite heavy log books.  Daily entries for two children for more than a year had accumulated into quite a lot of reading.

I went to the meeting alone with my logs.  The social worker hadn’t asked my husband to come.  I checked in with the secretary and sat in the waiting room until my name was called.  Today there was a chill in the temperature controlled office building.  I saw the chill on her face as she called my name.  I followed her through the office  maze and into her cubicle.  There was no door.  She began as usual,

“How are things going with Hunter and Maggie?

I followed with my usual response, “The kids are doing pretty well.”

“I see you brought your logs, can I have them please?  We need to make copies of them.”

As she reached out her hands to take the log books, she didn’t make eye contact with me.  I knew something was not quite right.  She quickly returned without the logs.  She sat down and swiveled her chair around toward her desk facing away from me.  When she swiveled back, she had one sheet of paper in her hand.  I took a deep breath as she cleared her throat.

There was no lead up as she began. “We want you to adopt Maggie and Hunter.”

She continued, “It’s in the children’s best interest that they be placed together in one home.”
Well, there it is.  The offer.  The tension was electric in the cubicle.  She knew.  And I knew.  IT WAS NOT IN THE CHILDREN’S BEST INTEREST. TO BE PLACED TOGETHER.  Not in anyone’s home.

My role as a foster parent is to be not only a child care giver, but to also be a voice and an advocate for the children in my placement.  It was my role to observe, report, and administer appropriate care and intervention.   And to be a mentor for the biologic parents in crisis.  My rights as a foster parent are extremely limited.  I have no legal recourse should I believe that inadequate or inappropriate decisions are being made for the children.  The Foster Care liason was a foster parent who would be a sounding board of experience for foster parents wanting or needing direction or support.  It wasn’t common knowledge that they reported every inquiry from a foster parent directly to the Department of Human Services.

There will be a final court hearing in two weeks.  At this hearing, determinations will be made for the final placements of the children.

In my experience as a counselor I’ve testified and attended court hearings many, many times as an advocate for my clients.  I was well aware of documentation and presentation of fact.  I was also aware of the amount of power held by the Department of Human Services.

I left the social workers office that day knowing I was in for a battle.  Knowing it was up to me to prepare my own case on behalf of these children.  I knew that as a foster parent I have the right to testify.  I also knew that as an advocate, the court would want my ‘report’ in writing seven days before the hearing.  A copy of my report would be given to each ‘party’ represented.  Since the termination hearing, the parties being represented at the upcoming hearing would be only the Department, and the Guardian ad Lidem for the children,  Maggie’s grandparents and their attorney.

I went home, and after a tearful explanation to my husband, I went to work.  I gathered all of my log notes and the daily contact sheets from the daycare.  I wrote out a timeline of all the facts.  I knew I needed to present my information in a very ethical and professional manner.

Maggie was in extreme crisis.  She was acting out from being abused.  She was demonstrating eating-disordered behaviors, high levels of anxiety and untold loss.  At three-years-old,  Maggie was in a very bad place emotionally.  She had attempted to act out with my older children.  Because of their older ages, they were able to stop Maggie.  It was my opinion that for Maggie to have the best possibility for recovery and healing, she needed to be placed in an adoptive home where she would be the only child or the youngest child with much older adoptive siblings.  Maggie would need extensive focus and treatment.

Hunter was 18 months old.  He was developing normally for a toddler now that his medical issues had been resolved.  If he were to be placed with Maggie into the same adoptive home, Maggie would act out in an abusive manner toward him.  This scenario would result in Maggie becoming a perpetrator as well as being a victim.  And it would also make Hunter a victim.  That would not be fair to either child.

I knew full well that my testimony could quite possibly result in both children being place together in someone else’s adoptive home.  But I couldn’t knowingly set these children up to fail in my adoptive home.  After many, many discussions with my husband and very close friends.  I knew I was as ready as I’d ever be.

Posted in Foster Parenting / Adoption

The Hornet’s Nest

I thought things would be less drama-filled in our lives after the termination happened.  But that was far from the truth.  Maggie’s grandparents wanted so much to adopt her.  She’s their only grandchild and they love her dearly.  It seems every situation has an upside and a downside.  The down side here is that they’re older, he is in his early 70’s and she in her mid 60’s.  Maggie is 3.  So no matter how you do the math.. on fingers and toes or with a calculator, it just isn’t good in the long-term.  The upside is that they love her.  And every child needs someone who loves them in their lives.  Maggie’s grandparents were retired and devoted every minute to this little girl.  Of course they parented her as they had parented their son, whom they had also adopted many, many years ago.  Their parenting style was old school.  The Department of Human Services parents in the new school style.  They didn’t always see eye to eye on what was best for Maggie.

Maggie was nearing two years old but she still relied on her binkie.  Yes, I know what you’re al thinking as you shake your heads in disbelief.  I don’t think a child of that age should have a binkie either. BUT that binkie had been her comfort, her constant in an ever-changing world.  A two-year-old needs something she trusts and can depend on.  For Maggie, that was her binkie.  While Maggie was on a weekend visit with her grandparents, grandma made the decision to cut up Maggie’s binkie and throw it away.  That defining moment in her short little life, changed her completely.  Her security had been stripped from her.  Her most delicate and painful memories were no longer being held at bay by her comforting binkie.  The hornet’s nest fell from the tree and broke open.

Everything she could count on in her life has been removed from her in the past few months.  Her mother, her home, her toys.  Her mother was having visits but since the termination her mother had completely disappeared from her life.   Maggie had gone through eye surgery.  She would go from our home to her grandparents and back every few days.  There was nothing safe or constant in her life.  Nothing but her binkie.  And now it was gone.  Maggie’s reactions changed over the course of a couple of days.  First, she raged.  It wasn’t a temper tantrum.  It was panic and anger.   Frankly, she had every right to feel that way and express it in the only ways she could.   I tried everything I knew to redirect her to more positive things.  But she was having none of it.  I can’t blame her.

It began with a phone call from daycare.  During nap time, Maggie was unable to self comfort enough to fall asleep.  The daycare staff tried patting her back or rubbing the side of her face or singing quietly to her.  It didn’t work.  At bedtime, I resorted to my old tried and true relaxation methods.  After a bubble bath with lots of play toys. Warm and buttery cinnamon toast. Followed by a story time.  After I’d turn the lights down, I’d turn on her favorite music to play softly as she would fall asleep.  My ‘tried and true’ was a bust.  Eventually, Maggie wouldn’t eat either.  She was in crisis at 3 years old.

I had worked at the hospital as a psychology assistant to a child psychologist.

I called her and begged,  “I know you don’t usually work with children under age 4.  But I’ve got a little one in big trouble.”

I called the foster care social worker to get permission to take Maggie in that afternoon.  The psychologist had a cancellation.  But the social worker for our case was on vacation for the next two weeks.  I asked for her supervisor.  And I got permission.

Posted in Foster Parenting / Adoption

System Failure

Hunter remained in the hospital for five days.  After that first night and the following morning, Hilary and Steve didn’t return to the hospital.  My husband and I however had not spent a night apart since we’d gotten married, until now.  Maggie’s grandparents were allowed to have a visitation with her throughout Hunter’s hospital stay.  That allowed my husband to return to the hospital each night.

Unfortunately, Hunter’s chest congestion did not resolve in spite of all the breathing treatments and medications he received.  We returned home with a referral to the University Hospital.  There it was discovered that fluids had remained in his lungs from his birth.  During his eight months, the fluids became seriously infected.  With a procedure to flush his lungs and some extended and hearty antibiotics Hunter’s infection soon cleared once and for all.

It’s too bad the court case involving the children wasn’t as easily resolved.  Hearing after hearing allowed Hilary and Steve more and more time to resolve employment, housing and addiction concerns. With little progress being made, the Department of Human Services began discussing termination of parental rights.  Hilary would call often, late at night to talk with me.  She was overwhelmed and scared about losing her children.  She didn’t have the emotional tools to resolve all of the issues and concerns that were being brought up at the hearings.   What she needed was a foster-mother. 

Hilary had actually been in foster care herself as a teenager.  It’s what she knew.  Being shuffled from place to place.  Not belonging anywhere or to anyone.   Hilary is just like all of us.  She found ways she could to cope with her lot in life.  We all cope in our own ways.  Hers were self-destructive as often times, coping mechanisms become.  She didn’t have a strong support system.  There was really nothing working in her favor.  The whole system was ineffective and in my own opinion.. the system failed her.  From the time she was a child in foster care herself.  It failed her. 

The termination hearing was scheduled.  In the meantime the social workers were talking with Hilary and Steve to voluntarily terminate their parental rights.  Hilary didn’t want to give them up.  In her mind, it would be easier to tolerate if ‘the Department’ took them from her.  In that way, she wasn’t giving up on her kids.

The hearing was excruciating.  After discussion and input from this lawyer and that lawyer and a few questions from the judge.  It was ordered that parental rights were to be terminated. 

Hilary was trying so hard to be strong, her voice wavering as she spoke to the judge.  Tears leaked from my heart as Hilary’s eyes met mine.  Her pain filled the room.  She bravely walked to the table with the social worker and the attorney representing the State.  She picked up the pen.  Tears were splashing at my feet as she signed her name on the line.  My husband put his arm around my shoulder.  He was there to comfort me.  But Hilary was all alone as she walked out of the court room.  Behind her, only silence remained.

Posted in Foster Parenting / Adoption

Drama and Mary Poppins

There was a medical period of time with the children,  Maggie’s glasses were not correcting her vision.  They scheduled surgery for her.  We contacted the social worker to inform her, also Hilary and the grandparents.  Both Hilary and the grandparents were very concerned about Maggie needing surgery.  However on the day of surgery, neither of them came to be with her.  My husband and I stayed with Maggie.  Keeping her calm before the surgery, taking her picture, reading her stories.  After the surgery, Maggie was sick.  Miserable.  She fell asleep on my husband’s chest.  We left her there for a couple of hours because it was best that she slept through what she could.  

Maggie liked music and movies.  We got her the Mary Poppins DVD and we watched it several times a day.  She called the movie “POP”.  The lively music always made Maggie light-hearted and cheerful.  I think it was an escape for her.  Soon enough we came to discover all that she needed to escape from.

The court ordered that Hunter, Maggie and their older sister should maintain sibling contacts.  I arranged play dates for the older sister to visit our home with her grandparents twice a month.  It was during this time that Maggie began to display some disturbing behaviors.  A signal to us that she wasn’t alright. 

We tried providing her comforts and nurturing as a way to balance whatever was happening inside of her.  At two years old, it was difficult to determine what was wrong.  I had many suspicions, but no way to determine anything substantial.  Until the last visit with their older sister.  She had coaxed both Maggie and Hunter into the children’s bedroom to play.  When I heard the door close, I went to open it, and she had barricaded it.  I pushed hard all the while talking to Maggie until the door jam gave way.  This was the last visit that all three children had together. 

However, seeing her sister had triggered things for Maggie, and its effects on her were far from over.  More behaviors appeared and I contacted a child psychologist to begin working with Maggie.  Even with my counseling background, with her lack of verbal skills, I was at a loss to help her cope with what ever had happened to her before she came to foster care.   I talked with Hilary about her older daughter.  I encouraged her to share information with the social workers.  It would be the best way for her to help all three of her children. 

Hilary and I began to find common ground in helping the children together.  We began having regular conversations and she learned that someone did care… even about her.  I repeatedly told her that ‘we’, meaning she and I, had to do what was best for the children.  No matter what else happened.   And there were lots of things that did happen.  She and Steve were homeless for a time and living in their van.  They stayed with various friends and moved around frequently.  As a couple they had struggles too and Hilary ended up injured after being pushed out of the van while they were driving down the highway.  At the next visit with the children, I asked her about her bruises.  But I think she felt ashamed.  Like somehow she would be blamed.  Afterall she was living under a microscope.  At another visitation, law enforcement waited until I had left with the children and then arrested Steve for an outstanding warrant from another county.

It only got worse from here.  Hunter got sick.  He ran a high fever for five days.  Each day I visited the doctor and was finally referred to a specialist for an ear infection.  They wanted to place ear tubes to relieve the infection.  But he was too sick.  On the fifth day of his fever, Hunter became lethargic. I rushed him to the local clinic without an appointment.  The doctor finally agreed to admit him to the hospital.   I called my husband and Hilary from my cell phone as I hurried to the hospital with Hunter in his car seat.  I called the social worker too.  She had to give the hospital permission to admit him.   As foster parents you have no legal authority to sign anything on the children’s behalf.  But when the admissions clerk refused to admit him without a signature.. I signed.  (Please visit me in jail.)

Within minutes of arriving on the pediatric unit.. they began an IV in Hunter’s scalp.  His lengthy fever had dehydrated him and his oxygen saturation levels were low.  The nurse told me if he had gotten here six hours later, he would have died.  They began respiratory therapy treatments on him.  And then the social worker arrived. 

I told her I realized that I had no authority to stay with Hunter, but that I very much wanted to stay here with him.  Then Hilary arrived.  The social worker told Hilary that I would be staying with Hunter and that she was welcome to as well.  Hilary agreed to stay.  The nurse brought in an extra cot.  My husband called to check on Hunter and let me know that Maggie was doing alright. Once Hunter was sleeping, I took Hilary to the cafeteria to get some dinner.  We returned to the room and ate. My daughter arrived to check on Hunter too  and brought me some clothes and toiletries. 

The respiratory treatments continued through the night.  But at one point, his breathing became stressed and the oxygen levels dropped.  I called the nurse and they arranged another breathing treatment.  Hunter was becoming upset and held my night-gown tightly. I held him during the breathing treatment, talking softly to him.  He was alarmed by the wisps of the medication.  And of course the medication itself made him very grumpy.  He didn’t like the high steel bars of the hospital crib.  I moved a chair next to his crib and rubbed the side of his face until he fell asleep.  I laid my head down  next to him and listened to his breathing.  The sun rose and the next shift of nurses came in to check on Hunter.  Hilary woke up and heard me relay the night’s incidents to the nurses.  She had slept through it all.  I was so afraid that Hunter would stop breathing that I had watched the monitors all night long.