Monday, March 14, 2011

did kafka write this story?

It was court day today for Reign and her mom and all the support people with our official notices to appear. 8:30am sharp in the city to the north. I was awake at 5. Well, I didn't really get much sleep in any case.

Into the ribbed tights, the acceptable suit, the nice little boots, the sterling pendant. Cup of very strong tea, long journey through the forests under the dawn light.

In the corridors of justice we waited. And waited. And waited. I said hello to the paternal grandmother and the birth father. I hugged Reign's mom, I chatted with other support people. I watched the social workers gather, each holding reams of paper.

At last Eddiethepublicdefender darted from the stairwell into the room. Reams of paper in his arms too. He came directly to me and said "have you heard, we have a settlement". Ever skeptical I asked what the terms were, what was given, what was taken. As he started to tell me--Reign would go into state custody, but maybe someday her mom could have her, wasn't that nice, and the state would no longer charge the mother with starving her child, and...
As he started to tell me, as I was about to say something...well, I was so tempted to swear, but I am a ladylike soul--the CPS lady across from us said "Eddie, Eddie, we don't have a deal".

Consternation on the lawyer's face, confusion everywhere. Does this sound familar? Are we in some careful Noh play? Or perhaps it is a novel by Kafka?

The attorney for the birthfather stomped by saying to the father and his mother "I am shocked to even see you here, why are you here?" Heidi said "my granddaughter's life is on the line, why wouldn't I be here?"

And I looked at my midwife friend beside me and said "something is very wrong here; there is evil in this hall now".

She looked at me and did not disagree.

Into the courtroom for ceremonial announcements of who we were. Lawyer bluster. Confusion.

Afterwards I spoke with one of the CPS lawyers who informed me that they had grave concern over the mother's mental state and her ability to care for her baby and she needed to prove her ability. I said "I saw her and her baby daily during the first month and I have no doubts. It's a bit hard for her to demonstrate her mothering without a baby to mother." I said "don't you people realize there is a baby with a whole vast family and everyone is hurting now?"

He told me I was being unreasonably argumentative.

So there are more hearings to come. gut feeling? Reign is in state hands and due to be adopted. She will not know the story of how we fought for her. Her mother was poor, her mother was young, her mother was without shelter.

Those are crimes in our system. How can you fight that?

But yes, I'm still fighting.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

those strange halls of justice

I saw the baby a couple weeks ago, coming from San Francisco and the best surgical care in the state, or so I was assured. She is still frail. She was traveling back to her foster mother, while her birth mom got dropped at my bookshop doorstep.

I got a baby smile, and a little more heartbreak.

The trial to determine ultimate custody of this child has been postponed yet again. Yesterday, girded in a borrowed suit-of-power, wearing my sterling Phoenix pendant and my bravest demeanor, I traveled with the midwife friend who so many years ago helped in the births of my three children, and consoled me through the early loss of a fourth. We are both under court order to appear and speak what we know of this mother and this baby.

In the overheated halls of justice, lined with numbered courtrooms for all sorts of family court matters, we waited. We looked at the list of cases on the docket and couldn't find ours; the bailiff explained that cases involving juveniles are not listed, but he assured us he would make sure we were called in time and guided to the right court door.

While we waited we talked with the beautiful redhaired mom. We met her mother and her mother's best friend from childhood. We were joined by the brave woman who runs the woman's shelter where baby and mom spent their first month, and where the young mom still lives, the baby bed still beside hers, the pretty clothing for a growing baby still there, except the little outfits she has sent on to the foster mother. We were joined also by another fierce woman who has befriended baby and mom. A circle of support. The grandmother is deaf, and so is her friend, but we carried on a little conversation. They had gone with my young mom to visit the baby just before court and they had pictures.

We looked at pictures. I don't know, perhaps I am imagining the sorrow in Reign's eyes. I was told she laughed.

Across the hall I spotted the baby's father and his mother; another grandmother. They were turned from our cluster, where despite the tension--or perhaps because of the tension--we were laughing. I looked at the back of the paternal grandmother, Heidi..and my heart went to her too, despite the messages I'd received from her son and from her that made me want to take the young mom and her child far, far away. So much...anger, so much judgment.

The birthfather slumped in his tie dye jacket. They had driven 600 miles to be here. The maternal grandma and her friend had driven about the same. Everyone was tired.

As we entered the courtroom I paused to introduce myself to Heidi and her son. These are strange moments.

Incomprehensible court babble. Clusters of CPS workers. Lawyers talking to lawyers. It took...oh, less than a half hour for the court to postpone everything yet again. The birthmom's defense lawyer is promising at least a 6 hour hearing; the state is hardlining the case. Everything is hardening.

There's a baby without her family. There's a young mother who cries herself to sleep sometimes, but who says "I'm not postpartum" and gets very defensive. There's a father who says he loves his daughter, who has seen her only a few times...and I believe he does love her, whatever he did in his relationship with Reign's mom.

There are sets of grandparents fretting and not communicating.

Tomorrow I'll find out when I go to court again. I look sometimes at the photo of Reign and her sad, wise baby eyes, and send her--through the universe--all the love I have, all the hopes I have.

As we were dismissed we paused to talk with the young mom and her mother a bit more. My midwife friend was curious what language the new mother first spoke--American Sign, like her mom, or spoken words. It was indeed ASL, and the grandmother laughed and signed that her own baby's first word--after mom--was for milk.

Some things are pretty universal. Right now, I'm tired, and hoping something wiser than I am will get Reign safe and home...somewhere...and heal all our breaking, breaking hearts.

Labels: , , , ,