Post by Shy Ted
When I was in a state capital doing nursing for an agency I’d often get the rotten jobs. “Ted, can you do a special?” This means you have to care for one patient only. “She’s due to give birth today and she’s a bit challenging”.
“Shouldn’t she have a female nurse?”
Anyway off I trotted to the ward where I read the notes quickly. Nine months pregnant, schizophrenia, multiple substance abuse, prostitute, incredibly hostile and known to me from ED on several occasions. The child was to be removed straight after birth which was absolutely the right decision, Serena being quite unwilling or unable to look after it.
“Ah f**k, not you, ya c**t”.
I smiled. “Hi, Serena. Let’s just do as we’re asked, shall we?”.
“Don’t f**king talk to me and don’t look at my c**t”. Which was about par for the course.
She had been involuntarily hospitalised on numerous occasions and her mental state improved enough to be discharged but would immediately return to her chosen lifestyle even though she was chronically psychotic with horrible delusions of a satanic nature. This time she believed her unborn baby was the spawn of the devil and the fears were that she would kill the child. Well, she told the Psychiatrist she would hence all the precautions. She had been on the mental health ward for a few days and transferred to the hospital pending birth and the previous day had been traumatic for the obstetric team.
“I’m leaving” she announced and tried to get out of bed but contractions had begun and she lay back down screaming obscenities at all and sundry.
I just shook my head gently – no, you’re not leaving. Previous interactions told her she wouldn’t win.
The Obs team rushed into action and did what they do to enhance birth.
“Ted, hold my hand, I’m scared” she pleaded, suddenly vulnerable. The team nodded so I gowned and gloved up and held her hand”. “F**king hurry up, you c**ts”.
After a little while the child was born and Serena was briefly sedated while they did more of what they do but not before she screamed at it “Spawn! Spawn of Satan”.
The Psychiatrist had a quick chat with the obstetrician, cancelled the Mental Health Act detention and said she was good to leave when she woke and they were happy with her. Over the next hour she got the drugs that would dry up her milk, prevent any bleeding and so on and also Depo Provera for three months contraception and an antipsychotic for two weeks coverage.
Despite her madness she always sought out a doctor for physical health issues and it was their concerns that led to psychiatric hospitalisations where she’d behave like a caged wildcat and, believe it or not, was far worse than she was as a free person where she would find her drugs of choice and pay for them as a prostitute usually does.
Sounds horrific, doesn’t it but she was early twenties, attractive, groomed and articulate and “good at what I do” as she told us. Disability support pension, small rental unit, finances with the Public Trustee and if you didn’t talk to her you wouldn’t know she was as mad as a meat axe. She reluctantly accepted her fortnightly injections from a long suffering mental health team but avoided their visits at all costs so they were given intermittently, when she was located. And if they called when she was home it was, “I’m f**king working, you c**ts” but a few minutes later she would appear at her door, have the injection in her arm, tell them to f**k off and go straight back to “work”.
She slept for an hour or two and all her observations were normal.
“Right, I’m off”. She got up, dressed and readied to go.
“Where is the little c**t?” She knew perfectly well what had happened and the child was with Family Services so I didn’t respond.
“Was it a boy?” She knew it was from scans. “Did it have horns?” She was dead serious.
“It’s a beautiful baby boy, perfect in every way”. What does one say in these circumstances?
“Like f**k it is. It’s the devil’ child, spawn of Satan”.
And we walked out of the hospital, in silence, to the edge of the hospital grounds. “Take care”.
“Make sure they call it Damien!” she screamed, without looking back.
Back on the mental health ward I had to write up my final notes, which I did slowly, trying to delay the next rotten job agency nurses get. “Thanks, Ted. When you’ve finished take your break and then we’ve got another special for you, a real doozy this time”.
This might have been mental health humour or it might have been true. I would just have to wait and see.
Whether we like it or not this is the background of many a child available for adoption. Would you adopt this child if you knew?
Shy Ted considers himself a bit of (not a lot of) a veteran of rural and remote life, mostly, but not always, nursing. Most of what you might read about in the media, other than the superficial headline such as doctor shortages, is nonsense. It’s interesting, challenging and rewarding and not for the faint-hearted or ideologues. Where necessary, names have been changed to protect identity.
Academic for me as I’ve four I prepared earlier. For the sake of the kid, definitely. For the sake of working through the adoption rigmarole, perhaps. For the sake of Serena somehow turning up on my doorstep sometime within the next 18 years…yikes!
Thanks, Shy Ted, for another insight into a world that feels so far away from mine, even if it’s likely a lot closer in reality.
I sometimes wonder what percentage of those classified as mentally ill are in fact demonically possessed.
We have genetic schizaphrenia , more benign than poor Serena in our family that seems to be linked to the inability to absorb vitamin B. For me complex Vitamin B caused paranoia each time it was taken and Vitamin B12 spray and tablets inflamed the stomach to the misdiagnosis of stomach cancer. I dont think I am schizophrenic will ask family what they think.
There are two issues here.
1. The children available for adoption and their background.
2. This particular case – the child that Serena gave birth to.
The first issue where children are given up for adoption may be because the mother/parents are too young, or not able to financially afford the care of the child or have other problems and no support system to help them out.
The second issue deals with someone who is very unstable mentally, emotionally and physically. My concern would be how much the substance abuse and lack of care through pregnancy has affected the baby.
There are many married couples (husband and wife) who cannot have children or would like to add to their families and would be happy to adopt children who are available for adoption. Serena falls into the group of “challenging”. What is the percentage of such cases?
It then comes down to the point of nature vs nurture.
Heredity vs environment.
A few years ago, there was a case in the US, some remote area. A passer-by heard the cries of a baby, checked around and found a new-born dumped in a bin, I think. The mother probably thought and hoped that since it was in some isolated area no one would find the baby, and it would perish. The police were called, the baby taken to hospital, checked over and cared for.
When the story was published, it went global. The police were inundated with pleas from thousands of couples, all over the world, begging to adopt the baby.
Who knows what the history of the baby’s birth mother was? Also a case of substance abuse? Mental illness? How was the baby delivered? With an unknown background and all negative possibilities, there were still people wanting the baby.
Not designer ones. No prior meetings with the mother-to-be. No questions.
We’ll take the baby.
In the late 80s when I was learning the mental health trade I was sat in the interview room with a Psychiatrist who spoke in very down to earth terms. He had been talking with adopting parents of a 20 year old who had committed an awful crime. They couldn’t understand why as they were a loving family, good schooling and he was given all the advantages of such an upbringing. What can you say to such kind people as the reason is entirely theoretical?
When they had left he explained to us that most people thought adopted children were the Oliver Twist’ of this world, from an upper class family where the virginal daughter had been knocked up by the local squire and the adoption prevented a scandal. “The truth is, that almost without exception, they are the children of drug addicts and alcoholics, prostitutes and criminals, the retarded and the insane. There’s a lot to be said for the genetic and insults to pregnancy models of deviance. Knowing what I know I wouldn’t adopt”. Many exceptions to the rule of course but when I hear the experts on TV talking about the developmental and attachment problems in kids where dad has abandoned them I’m much more inclined to think it’s the inherited antisocial traits.
In earlier times, when there were a lot more ‘surplus’ children available for adoption, many people (especially those from rural backgrounds) were very suspicious of adopted children, because they didn’t know anything about the biological parents. They set great store by genetics as practised by farmers.
For example, in the children’s classic Anne of Green Gables, which was first published in 1908, comments about the 11 year old adoptee Anne along the lines of her being who knows who from who knows where are made when she first arrives in Avonlea. It was only after people got to know her that it was grudgingly conceded that ‘it’s likely her parents were nice folks.’
There is more than a grain of truth in those views. Similar to Ted’s story above, a family of my acquaintance adopted a baby boy. They were good people, hard working and reasonably well off, and they gave him all the advantages a kid could expect. Yet, he was just no good – he was constantly in trouble and ended up in jail in his early 20s. What’s more, he had a low IQ and it must be said, a face and physique that did him no favours. No amount of nurture was going to overcome nature in this case, which was heartbreaking for the parents.
Having biological children is a bit of a lottery, but adoption is even more hazardous.
I was going to respond to Ted’s comment, above, to highlight these two areas: biology vs adoption.
There is the Oliver Twist scenario where couples wanting to adopt imagine they are getting someone they can give a good home to and who will fit in their environment. Even with the best efforts from the parents, it can end badly.
Then there could be a case of a family where all the children are from the direct gene pool of their parents, all of them raised in the same environment, with the same privileges. Yet, one child turns out to be a black sheep and totally different from the rest of the siblings who may be highly educated professionals holding good jobs, and having a close relationship with their parents and other siblings.
There are the adoption success stories where it works well on both sides. The couple are happy to have a child and bring up as their own, and the child who would have had a miserable life has a happy childhood and grows up a well-adjusted adult.