Before I start into the story today, I have to address an issue that has come up for us over and over again in the last few years, and try to explain our thoughts on a somewhat touchy subject. It is not touchy for us, but some people have terrible anger towards Shayleen's birth mother. While I can somewhat understand that people want to blame someone when terrible things happen...we will never "blame" her for anything that has happened to our little girl. We will never speak ill of her, or disrespect her, she is a part of Shayleen, and I would like it if everyone else would respect that as well. To make disparaging remarks about her, reflects on Shayleen, and believe me, she comes from a place of beauty. Even though I love Shayleen with all my heart and soul I would never, ever have the ability to deny the fact that she has another mother. She has another mother who loves her, who gave birth to her, and who will always be a part of our lives. Some of the parts of the story today are very hard to talk about now, and I still hesitate even today to share it all. But the reason I am sharing is that I have learned over the years that in sharing our stories someone can relate and find comfort in knowing they are not alone. Unfortunately, when we were going through all this with Shayleen I had absolutely no one that could say they went through the same things....or if they did, they did not want to share because they felt an embarrassment of their situation. I have talked to some professionals that wish I would share this story, while others seem unsure of what we should do. My hope is that in sharing this, there is no "big, dark secret" that our little girl feels ashamed of. It is all simply something that happened to her and that she overcame.
So back to the story, when I left off I had realized that Shayleen was a part of my heart and I was wondering how everyone would react. By Monday, when it was time to leave Shayleen was already having trouble breathing at times, was having small seizures and was barely eating. It was not even a thought in our minds that she should be put in a car and driven down to Calgary on Highway 63 in the cold of the winter in the condition she was in. We agreed that we would help her through withdrawal, and then other arrangements would be made after that. Now, what is withdrawal like? I have since found out that there are hospitals that keep babies that are born addicted in special units until it is safe for them to go home, but unfortunately Fort McMurray does not have such a unit. A baby goes through withdrawal much as an adult does, but since their bodies are so little, it seems much more violent and intense. And of course, depending on the types of drugs, or alcohol the mother used, the withdrawal symptoms can vary from baby to baby. The length of the withdrawal also varies depending on the drugs, and I believe, pure luck. I have heard of some babies that had hardly any symptoms, others that have died or been hooked up to feeding tubes and respirators for months and even years.
Shayleen had an intense withdrawal. She hardly slept for the first four weeks, she seemed to be in pain at different times, did not feed well(it would be a lot to get her to drink a full ounce at a feeding), she had seizures, stopped breathing many times and screamed like she was in agony for hours. We are still finding out the long term effects of what happened to her, but during those first few weeks, we had never, ever dealt with anything like that before, and I can remember some nights being absolutely terrified. I would sit over her bassinet on the bad nights when she fell asleep and listen to her breath. I can remember getting an "angel monitor" that we put under her while she slept, and it would be going off so many times through a night that I would just get up and sit with her instead. Her little body would be so tensed up and tight some nights that you could tell she was in terrible pain, and there was nothing we could give her. I would walk and hold her for hours and hours, trying to find a comfortable position to help her relax and let her little body get some rest.
And I will be the first to say, during those weeks I had the thoughts in my head that I was too old to be a new mother again, Tim and I were both almost 36, and since we did not know what we were doing half the time we were stressed out that we were doing something wrong, missing something, or would hurt her just because of our lack of knowledge about her condition. Even the doctors that we went to see had no cases to compare her to, so they would admit that they were guessing about what might help in some situations as well.
It was truly four of the most intense weeks that our family had ever gone through at that point(ironically we would do it again over the years because we now had some experience in the situation). We were all lacking sleep, our emotions were all over the place and we were not all admitting to each other how we all felt about Shayleen. I found out within two weeks or so how the boys felt. One night when I was up on the couch with Shayleen and she had fallen asleep in my arms, the two boys, Mitchell and Nathanial came to sit on either side of us. It was a scene out of a movie as they sat down and asked if they could tell me something. A little part of me wondered if they were going to say that they wanted to sleep, and that the baby was too much to handle. I had a guilt already because she was taking up so much attention and energy, and they may have resented that? Luckily we have been blessed with amazing children in our lives, and they both sat down that night, with worry of their own, because they wanted to tell us that they did not want Shayleen to leave. They had a fear of their own, that the little girl that they had fallen in love with might suddenly be removed from our lives. I could not reassure them yet, but I told them that as long as she needed a place we would keep her. Below is a picture at about the week three mark, we were so proud because she was starting to be more alert and was opening both eyes well. Looking back now, I realize I was not seeing how puffy she was at the time.
Little did I know that week five would bring something so terrifying that it still makes me feel physically sick when I think about what would happen next.