Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The mother of the slightly premature baby was very nice and had seemed to have her life together, in spite of the fact that her other children were not in her custody. We were a bit surprised, then, when on the day of the baby's discharge two women we had never seen before walked to his bedside with clothes and a car seat for him.

"Excuse me", I said, "but who are you and how are you related to the baby?" It turned out they were the maternal grandmother and aunt of the baby.

" May I ask why you're here, and where the mom is?"

"She's in jail", the grandmother said quietly.

Unsure of what to say next - it's not often we have to reply to the statement that someone's in jail -I finally asked "What's she in jail for?"

The grandmother paused, and finally said, with a mixture of sheepishness and frustration, "Lots of things."

Clearly, a rapid consult with our social worker was needed, and fortunately after a bit of checking, we were able to send the baby home with grandmother. A fair number of our kids are raised by their grandmothers, because their moms are not up to the task, and I often wonder if that's a good thing. Many people seem reassured by the grandmothers' maturity and experience with babies. But aren't these grandmothers the same ones who raised the mother who is now deemed unable to care for her child? Do we have any assurance that she'll do a better job with this child?

Of course not. But it's a safe haven, and that, today, is the best we can get for many kids.


Anonymous chris and vic (CAK) said...

You have raised a good question, Neonatal Guy. Why is the grandma able to be trusted?

She is NOT the one in jail.

Do not assume that grandma is solely responsible for her daughter who IS in jail, or that messing up your life is even closely related to parenting. Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn't. You'd have to take time to go through it all with the parties involved . (My son's birth mom had a drug-using father, who undoubtedly influenced or at least collaborated, lifestyle-wise, with the mother.)

We assume that the grandma is at a different developmental stage, being older. Maybe she is wiser, even if she, too, used . . . Maybe she has gotten it out of her system, as they say, the wildness of youth . . .

She is there. She stepped forth to shoulder the responsiblity. She is putting herself out to take care of and raise a child even though she no longer has the stamina of youth. Ask me---I know---I am a grandma raising an ex-preemie.
Chris and Vic (CAK)

10:20 AM  
Blogger Athena said...

There is a group of bloggers who are parents of addicts... We love our children but also do our best not to enable them... And often, we are put in the situation of raising their children.

We may have felt as you did, once, until one of our children got addicted.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Fractalmom said...

I am the custodial grandmother of two girls, both of whom had NICU stays. I am the mother of five children, four of whom are very successful adults, college educated. The other one is a college educated heroin addict. I did not raise my daughter to be a heroin addict. She made some very bad choices in life, and continues to make bad choices. A good friend of mine is awaiting the birth of her grandchild who is being born to an addicted child who is only 18. The grandmother and grandfather are successful professionals who have other children as well. All of those children are successful non addicted adults.

You need to be very careful how you judge.

you say "But aren't these grandmothers the same ones who raised the mother who is now deemed unable to care for her child? Do we have any assurance that she'll do a better job with this child?"

Yes, you do have assurance in many, many cases. Not all perhaps. But many. My children were raised with upper class morals, values and limits. They were raised to take responsibility for their actions. They were involved in sports, extra-curricular activities, and church. They were raised in the suburbs.

Are my grandchildren safer? Yes. They are fed daily, multiple times. They are attended to with love and immediacy. They attend private schools. They go to church. They are involved in sports.

The alternative was to leave them with a mother, who, while she undoubtedly loved them, loved heroin more. A mother who frequently fell asleep. A mother who could be bathing a newborn and pass out. A mother who brings inappropriate people into their lives (i.e. drug dealers and other users). A mother who, when her newborn baby cries, could be passed out in a heroin daze and not respond. Have you ever heard of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). It happens when a child cries, and consistently, no one comes in response to that cry. That little non response lies in the psyche for years and years. Then, when it arises, we get someone who is on the roof of McDonald's with an AK-47 or becomes a serial killer.

While I applaud your questioning, be very careful.

And, for the record, methadone mothers still suffer the same tendency to 'nod off' and be non responsive as do heroin mothers. They do not make a safe caretaker for their newborn either.



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