You may have heard the horrible story of Anna Nikolayev and her husband Alex; parents of a 5 month old boy who was taken from them by California CPS because they removed their child from a hospital. After witnessing several mistakes by their current hospital’s staff (including giving their baby the wrong medication), Anna and Alex decided to remove their child and seek a second opinion at a different hospital. A doctor agreed that the child was well enough to be in his parents’ care and still CPS invaded their home and removed the child against their will.
This story brought back vivid memories of my own experience with a hospital flexing it’s muscles after the birth of my second child.
My second son was born in 2009 at UCLA Oliveview in Sylmar, California. It was a normal pregnancy, no complications or risk factors and the delivery was so fast and simple that I was amazed. My son passed all of the testing, was breast feeding immediately after birth and none of the doctors noticed a red flag in any area of his health. Unfortunately he was born during the early weeks of the Swine Flu scare on the West Coast. Being in Southern California, close to the border, our hospital was very stringent with security and visitors. My husband was only allowed to be with us during normal visiting hours. That left me alone most of the day since he had to visit during his lunch hour and then be home after work for our first son (12 at the time) since the hospital wouldn’t let anyone under 18 on the maternity floor at all. As much as these things upset me, I held on to the fact that California only required a maximum of 48 hours hospital stay after delivery. I couldn’t wait to go home.
Two days came and went. My husband was preparing for our homecoming and my eldest was eager to meet his new brother. I even had my things packed the morning I should have gone home. Then my doctor came in and said she wanted me to have a flu shot. I politely declined. I had no intention of having an inoculation of any kind while carrying or nursing my child, much less one I feared had not been tested thoroughly. I’d had this conversation with her several times over the course of my pregnancy. She finally gave up and left the room with no mention of my discharge. Several hours went by. My husband called to see if I was ready. When I told him they hadn’t even come in to do the final checkup on our son he was unhappy, but said that maybe they were just busy and to give it a little while longer. Surely they would discharge me before the day was over.
At around 4 pm a nurse came in. Instead of starting my paperwork she repeated the high-pressure talk about the flu shot. Again, I said no. She said, without blinking, “We really prefer not to release you until you’ve had the shot.” to which I replied, “The state requirement is only 48 hours and that shot is not required.” Her reply was,
“The mandatory time is for you. We can keep the baby longer if we thinks it’s needed.”
I was in shock. Did she really just threaten to use my child as leverage? I said, firmly, “I’m going home – we are going home.” She glared at me and said, “You can check out today. But your child stays here. You can visit him each day until we clear him for discharge.” At this point I began to cry and asked the nurse to leave my room. She did leave, but soon another person came to see me. This time it was the resident psychologist.
To be honest I was emotional at this point. Who wouldn’t be? I’d been told I could not take my (perfectly healthy) baby home, had no time to call my husband or anyone else for support and I felt trapped and alone. Add that to the normal weariness you feel after giving birth and I’m surprised I wasn’t falling apart. The resident crossed her arms, looked down at me and said…
“The nurse says you’re hysterical. I can see you’ve been crying. Are you having thoughts of hurting yourself or your child?”
I felt like the floor dropped out from under me. Hurt my child? What was she talking about? I told her quickly that I was thinking no such thing. I knew this was just more red tape because I’d bucked their vaccination agenda. She continued to destroy my world, “I don’t think I can allow the child to be discharged with you at this point. I think you need to speak to someone first.” And she left me there – amazed. I didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the night.
The next day a new woman came in. She introduced herself as a caseworker. I was no longer crying so I thought, “I’ve got this.” She asked me the usual patronizing questions: How are things at home? Do you feel depressed or scared? Are you happy you have a new baby? I answered each question in a level, positive manner – which was the truth. I was happy and all I wanted was to go home and share my happiness with my family….with my child. She said she could see everything was fine and would report as much. That day the pediatrician also came in and said my son was clear to be discharged. At the end of the day I was still sitting in that room. This continued for two more days.
Day 1: Clean bill of health after the delivery
Day 2: Son cleared all testing. Told my baby could not leave.
Day 3: Caseworker cleared me. The pediatrician cleared my son for discharge
Day 4: Shift doctor suddenly decided my son looked jaundice and needed ‘observation’. I saw no color change what so ever and no one ‘observed’ my child after that.
Day 5: Asked if everything was ready to go – was told ‘The doctor isn’t done with the testing.’ (yet no further tests were done on me or my child)
Each day I was also pressured, several times, to have a flu shot.
By the 6th afternoon I gave up and asked for the flu shot. They came immediately to administer it.
Within 30 minutes of having the shot I was given discharge papers.
I left the hospital, with my child, within the hour. I should have been happy. But, I was so beaten down that I couldn’t even smile. I know now that what they did was illegal. I know now that I should have had my husband call a lawyer the first day they threatened to keep my child for no reason. I know now I should have written down every name of every person who participated in keeping me in that room against my will. Maybe I was scared or maybe I was still in that post-delivery phase where you are just glad to be back in your own bed, nursing your child, and you forget the rest of the world. I don’t know why I didn’t speak up and let them know this wasn’t okay.
So, I’m doing that now. I can’t change what happened to me. But, maybe a mother-to-be will read this and realize she has rights. If something feels wrong – if your choices are taken from you – speak up.
Front page feature image “Hospital Room” © 2012 Theron Trowbridge. Used under Creative Commons – Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)