The bleeps of the monitors seemed to blare against the glare of the gleaming ivory floor as my husband and I wheeled our six-month-old son down the hospital hallway. I felt my guilt open up like a gash and I hid my tears from my son.
Earlier that day I had pushed my son in his stroller to our Queensbridge apartment building and then tried to pull the stroller up the stairs. But on the third stair, my son, fast asleep, slid out of the stroller. I managed to brace my hands behind his neck and head but he smashed his leg on the metal project stairs. He screamed upon impact.
As I pushed my son down that hospital hallway, I felt guilty for not having secured my son better in his stroller. I felt guilty for not calling up to my husband to ask him for help. But soon I’d find out that Child Protective Serviceswould find me guilty of something much worse—intentionally breaking my son’s leg.
The doctor, a petite young woman with a neat ponytail, seemed caring and concerned. She examined my son, probed for the cause of the accident, then took him for X-Rays. Some time later, a burly nurse with lifeless gray hairexplained that the Administration for Children’s Services had to be contacted due to the “nature of the injury.”
As we awaited their arrival, my husband insisted that we flee. I refused. We waited in fear. I couldn’t help but hear her my grandmother’s advice in stereo, repeating, “Be careful when you go to the hospital. In New York, they try to take people’s children away.”
While we waited, my son did not receive proper treatment. No cast, no ice, no gauze; nothing. I was scared but I was also indignant. I marched to the nearest nurse’s station and demanded that my son be treated while we awaited our sentencing. They gave my son an ace bandage; then, after further examination, a cast.
Four hours ticked by before the social worker swung back the curtain wall. He questioned my husband and me separately. He prodded us about our relationship, whether or not the child’s life was planned, and the circumstances surrounding the injury. Then he announced that he believed I was responsible for hurting my son. My son, the person I used my strength to push out of my womb, would now belong to them.
At that moment, the pain I felt was overwhelming. I threw my body at the social worker’s feet, crying, screaming pleas. The social worker stared at me blankly and instructed me to calm down and call a relative who could take my son immediately.
Then we all piled into a government-issued vehicle. First stop, our apartment to gather my son’s belongings. Second stop, Queens Child Abuse Precinct for more interviews.
After that, we said good-bye (for the first time) to our angel as he was ushered by strangers to his great-grandmother’s Brooklyn co-op. We would have to say good-bye to him many more times over the next 10 months.
Treated Like a Criminal
Finally, 10 months after my son was taken, we went to court. The judge advised ACS to stop the investigation and send my son home. She said that if they continued the investigation and the allegations were unfounded, I could sue the city. As part of our compromise, I had to agree to ACS visits for the next six months.
This plan made me feel that I was still being treated as a criminal, not a victim. But I accepted it. I just wanted my son home.