The biggest gift of my life came as a huge surprise. His name is Henry Zane Walker-Foster. My sweet son who turned three on March 5th, 2013. The night I gave birth—an emergency c-section under general anesthesia—was dramatic, to say the least. My potassium and magnesium bottomed out and Henry arrived on this planet six weeks early. Who knew such a magical being could arrive in a tiny bundle. Since I don’t have a single memory of the actual birth thanks to the anesthesia, it was baffling to wake up a little blue swaddled baby on my chest.
My second husband and I were not planning to have any children, and I did not enjoy pregnancy. My son is a miracle because we both almost died getting him here.
I was 39 when I made a mistake with my birth control. I vomited so much during the week prior to when my period was due, I suspected immediately I was pregnant. In addition to the “morning sickness”—which really lasted all day. My breasts and belly were swollen and I felt some general tiredness. The fatigue was normal for me due to my multiple sclerosis. The other symptoms were too much to ignore.
I had a history of miscarriages, so worried, I went to my general practitioner on a Monday. She examined me and did a blood test. The results were negative. She also told me I had a blood condition called RH-, which means there are pathogens in my blood that attacked the fetus. Thus the explanation for my four miscarriages. She gave me a shot of a drug that was supposed to protect a fetus, if I decided to carry a child.
When my doctor came back with results--not pregnant. I was relieved. I was taking a lot of medication, including a once-a-month IV infusion for my MS. All of my doctors recommended not trying to move forward with a pregnancy, but my heart would not let me let go of the idea that, maybe, somehow a child would be part of my future. I was working as a freelance motivational speaker, traveling a lot to tell the 29 Gifts Story. My second husband, and I were living in Santa Cruz, California. I flew out of town for a couple days to keynote a fundraiser for the MS Society. Now my period was late and I was still puking. I did not know it at the time, but it would be my last speaking gig after three years of traveling I would literally be grounded.
I went to the doctor again, this time with my husband. My regular doctor was booked so we saw an older guy who didn’t know my history of miscarriage. He came back in after the blood test was done smiling.
“The test was positive. You’re pregnant, congratulations.”
My response was to burst into tears in shock “Oh, my God! We can’t have a baby.” Then I ran out of the exam room. My husband got me calmed down a little in the truck on the way home. “Maybe we will be a family,” I said to him hopefully.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but carrying Henry would be the biggest accomplishment of my life, and we would not look like your typical family. My (now separated) husband was a drinker. He was a binge drinker. He would stay sober for weeks, but would then go on a bender. It made getting through the pregnancy even more challenging.
My first concern was to get into my regular GP within days. She told me I needed to go off several of my medications, but she wanted me to stay on my pain meds. My age, MS and slightly nutso tendencies combined with the hormonal mess I became would prove to make it a rocky road, to say the least. I considered aborting the baby, and two times had procedures scheduled, and each time I couldn’t make myself go through with it. I knew the little boy growing in my belly would be even harder than it was to write and publish my fist book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your Life. I often describe the process of writing book as being “pregnant” and “giving birth.”
After consulting with some OB specialists, my husband and I made the commitment to see the pregnancy through to the end because there was a little being growing in my belly who deserved a chance at life.
I got a very bad infection in legs from walking barefoot on a hospital floor, which put me on bedrest after a 10 day hospital stay while they pumped liters of IV antibiotics into my veins trying to save both me and the baby. I also developed dangerously high blood pressure, yet another complication. I found myself needing a wheelchair for the first time and was put on bedrest, which was a huge challenge for someone who was used to flying all over the country speaking for MS Society and other organizations.
Our team of doctors saw me through several psychiatric hospitalizations in Santa Cruz until they suggested we move home to the Midwest where we had family support. We decided we would make Denver home again. My parents and one of my two sisters lived just three hours away in Western Nebraska. My husband had a brother in Denver. Denver was where we met. I arrived VERY pregnant and very mentally unstable on Christmas eve 2013 by plane and my parents picked me up in Denver. My husband stayed in Santa Cruz with the huge task of pack up what we could bring back.
I was kept on opiates-- wich i dont take today because the extra 45 pounds, my MS and the high blood pressure combined left me in constant pain. My ex and I were struggling in our relationship due to his alcoholism and my hormonally induced insanity; there was abuse on both sides. But one thing we agreed on was to do we would get this little being to the planet. I was shocked when the ER ushered us straight upstairs to Labor and Delivery. The lead doc on the team came in with the anesthesiologist, saying they were going to have to change our plan.
The birth plan was to be admitted to the hospital for two or three days so the doctors could take me off certain meds, then have a c-section. Henry had other plans. Instead my ex rushed me to the ER because I started having contractions and after talking to the team of doctors, they decided to deliver right away because both the baby and I were in danger. This would mean a month long stay in to the hospital for tiny Henry as he was slowly detoxed on Methadone, fed through a tube and generally cared for by the nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. My mother rushed to Denver and between my husband, myself and my mom, one of us with Henry much of the time. I could not get out of bed so the nurses would bring little Henry in so I could hold and bond with him.
The morning after waking up a new mother, a social worker, showed up in my room. I was still heavily sedated and thought she worked for the hospital. Kathy Jeffery, she was a small black woman with serious attitude. She handed me a business Card and it said she was with the Department of Human Services. She started asking me questions about why Henry was born addicted, which made me uncomfortable. I told her my doctors were all aware of all all substances I was on and that, including the opiates and medical marijuana she seemed concerned. I also told her I wasn’t feeling well enough to talk and that I would feel most comfortable having an attorney present before I answered more questions. I knew DHS was child protective services, and they had the power take my son.
The truth is my husband and I were not prepared to be parents. We were living off my disability income (both unemployed). Plus there were police reports from the domestic violence. I knew as I listened to the DHS investigator question my husband and mother outside my room. I recall yelling at them several times to NOT answer questions without a lawyer, but they didn’t listen. My disruptive behavior earned me a “sitter” which was a security guard who sat in my room and recorded every time I peed, who came and went from the room and what was said. I made it my mission to befriend the guards. One drew me a picture of an angel. Another Left me a little cross. Another bought Henry a tiny shirt with the hospital logo on it. The nurses were also phenomenal. Despite my best efforts and doctor care, my mental condition deteriorated as the stress of DHS intervention continued and post-pardum depression took over. I went into the bell jar and saw no way out. Depression so crushing. I do not even remember giving birth to my son, but I’ll never forget the day I was told by Kathy Jeffery and some other social workers and doctors who were supposed to be looking out for the best interest of my “case” filed into my hospital room and told me to temporarily sign over my rights to Henry. He was finally eating on his own and, though still on methadone he was deemed healthy enough for the hospital to release him into the care of two foster parents who had six other kids. My husband and I were crushed by the state’s decision. We spent six months together after the birth, visiting Henry weekly together for two or three hours a week.
When Henry was six months I had another mental breakdown because my husband told he was leaving me. I ended up in an institution for two weeks this time. When I got home, the house was cleared out the house of everything in our nursery – the crib, the bottles for feeding. Everything. He took the bed from our spare room, one of our sofas. There was a sticky note on our little family picture that said, “I love you. You will be ok.—K”
He told me over the phone while I was locked up that he was leaving me to pursue custody of Henry on his own. By this point, Henry had been moved to a second foster home where he was an only child. He really thrived in their care. He was off the methadone and growing, though he was still small for his age. This couple taught Henry to swim as an infant and showered him with love because they wanted to adopt him. The caseworkers for the state had told us Henry would be adopted when he turned a year If one of us could not parent him.
One day, I had an emotional breakdown in the bathroom after one of the visits. The case workers called 911 and I was taken to the hospital and placed on yet another mental health hold. This time I was out before the 72 hour hold expired. I came home and realized the friend who I had asked to look over my house had actually stolen my credit card and charged it up and he took and pawned my wedding and engagement rings from Kevin, a computer, several digital video cameras, two expensive cell phones, countless other items, my identity and dignity. Neighbors told me he had a party and there was a parade of shady both men and women in and out of my house. I had to call the police to have him removed from my home.
I would later realize this friend had a problem with meth and had a relapse during this time. I should never have trusted him to look over the house I can see now, but hind sight is 20/20. I found the pawn receipt at one point while trying to put my house back together and called them. Nothing was left and the police did nothing with any of the information I provided. They had bigger fish to fry than catching this guy.
This story isn’t done but wanted to post it… will update it later...