Claire's Story (Part 4)

Claire's Story: Even the Carsons Can’t Get Davy to Stop Crying

Part 4, Chapter 1 | By P. Berman, K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

This is a weird place. So much rushing around. Claire can just barely hear someone talking on a phone in the next room. Who are these people? What will they do to her and Davy?

Claire takes a risk and asks Nancy, “Do you know what Ms. Alexandra is going to do with me and Davy?”

Nancy has been working with Ms. Alexandra for about a month. It has been mostly good, but she has been warned that if her drug testing ever becomes positive, Sara is going into foster care to make sure she isn’t neglected or abused while Nancy is high on drugs. She doesn’t want to scare Claire, but she knows friends should be honest with each other and she is trying to learn how to be a friend. She says, “What I like best about Ms. Alexandra is that when I tell her the truth about what I need, like running out of money for diapers, she always makes sure I get what I need. She is always willing to help me take care of my Sara. But, she is going to put your baby before you because babies are helpless and easy to hurt. If she believes you have done something bad to your baby, she isn’t going to listen to any excuses. She will put your baby in foster care to make sure he is okay and then she will get you help.”

Claire sighed and looked down. She better never let Ms. Alexandra know that sometimes she dreams of abandoning Davy. On the other hand, most of all she wants to keep her promise to God and be a great mom; it sounds like Ms. Alexandra might help her with this like Nurse Karin did. She looks back up at Nancy and says, “Do you ever get frustrated with your Sara?”

That’s all it took. Claire and Nancy talk nonstop about how tough babies are. Claire begins to feel better; maybe Davy is normal, and she is doing okay as his mom?

They hear footsteps in the hall and both immediately stop talking- they look at each other and giggle as Ms. Alexandra enters the room. Ms. Alexandra comes hears the laughter and is relieved; she was afraid Claire would spend her time alone crying. She says she has great news. She has found a new home for Claire and Davy with a Mr. And Mrs. Carson. They are special foster parents who are committed to helping her raise Davy until she becomes a legal adult at 18. Davy wakes up at this moment and begins to cry; Claire does too. Nancy figures Claire is scared to be going to a foster home. She tries to help out by acting like her advocate. “Can you tell Claire about the Carsons? Maybe then she wouldn’t feel so scared.” Ms. Alexandra smiles at Nancy.

Mr. and Mrs. Carson run a small convenience store in the town where they are now. Mr. Carson is 60 years old, and Mrs. Carson is 58. They had 2 children of their own who are now both married. Their son lives about 2 hours away and has 3 small children. Their daughter lives three hours away in the opposite direction. She has 2 small children. The Carsons decided to become foster parents just recently. They did all the required training to be “special foster parents” so they could help families like Claire and Davy. They have their own four- bedroom house with a large backyard with a small apple orchard. Claire can sleep with Davy and use a second bedroom as Davy’s playroom or she can have Davy sleep in his own room if she wants. Claire stops crying and looks up at Ms. Alexandra.

I get to choose? Really?

Claire's Story: Even the Carsons Can’t Get Davy to Stop Crying

Part 4, Chapter 2 | By P. Berman, K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

Its will be so wonderful to have children in the house again. It has been so lonely since our kids have grown up.

Ms. Alexandra had told the Carsons that Claire had been abused and neglected by her family and might have some problems fitting in to their home. They weren’t worried. They had raised both a son and daughter who had grown up to marry and have their own happy homes. They felt they could provide Claire with just the same type of loving care and structure and she would learn how to be a good mother to Davy. It turned out to be much harder than they thought. They hadn’t realized just how much they had taught their children gradually as they were growing up. Claire didn’t know the first thing about even simple hygiene like frequent bathing and brushing her teeth. They couldn’t assume Claire new anything- for example, left on her own, she had just crammed Davy’s dirty diapers into the trash can in her room without rewrapping them to insure the feces didn’t leak all over the trash can.

Mrs. Carson hadn’t noticed what was happening until the smell had spilled out of Claire’s room and all over the house. She had shown Claire how if the diaper was wrapped back up in a tight ball, and then it should be thrown into the trash can in the bathroom that had a plastic bag in it as a second defense against leaking urine or feces. While Mrs. Carson hadn’t yelled, Claire could tell she had thought it awful that she had thrown the diaper into her bedroom trash. This was so confusing to Claire- her parents hardly ever threw anything directly in the trash.

There were rules at the Carsons about everything. Claire felt the only thing she did right around the house was breathe. Her teeth weren’t cleaned right. She didn’t get all the grease off dishes when she washed them. Now, she didn’t know how to handle trash.

Davy too was much harder to care for then their own babies had been. He was premature and still didn’t weigh as much as their own children had at birth. Both their babies had eaten and slept on a regular schedule. They couldn’t figure Davy out. One day he would take two long naps; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The next day, he would sleep and wake off and on all day.

While surprised and tired, they were determined to stay the course and help Claire and Davy. It was going to be just harder than they originally thought. They decided to start with the things they felt most confident about. They had taught Claire their simple strategy for caring for an infant and getting enough sleep to function the next day. Mrs. Carson got up with her the first few nights and showed Claire how to change Davy, feed him and then put him back into bed to fall back asleep. Even after a week, this had not worked. Davy didn’t fall asleep when put back in his crib- he just kept crying. Davy had to be rocked to sleep and then put back in his crib very carefully or he would wake up again and the whole thing had to be repeated.

Mr. Carson found his wife crying softly in their bathroom their third week of being foster parents. Mrs. Carson had gotten up to go to the bathroom at 3 a.m., she had overheard Claire murmuring hateful things about herself and Davy. She had gone into the room, pretending she hadn’t heard anything, and offered to finish rocking Davy to sleep so Claire could lie down. Claire had fallen asleep the moment her head touched the pillow. Even once Davy was asleep, Mrs. Carson had not been able to fall asleep- would Claire really throw Davy into the trash and then drown herself?

Mr. and Mrs. Carson admitted to each other that they were both physically and mentally exhausted. Their children were right, they were too old to take on a new family. They felt guilty but decided to tell Ms. Alexandra to find another home for Claire and Davy. Claire could tell something was up with the Carsons. They weren’t yelling at her, they never did. But, something was up. It could be anything. They hated everything about her- that was the only reason why they were always harping at her about something. She didn’t brush her teeth right, bathe right, put her clothes in the wash…they had this endless list of what she didn’t do right.

Claire wanted to satisfy them because she liked living in their house. She had never had so much stuff of her own. They also seemed to be like the kind of parents that God loves. Their kids call all the time and there are pictures of the kids growing up all over the house. Claire desperately wanted to turn into the kind of person who deserved love. Her greatest wish was still to find someone who would love her. Sometimes she hoped Davy loved her but other times she was sure he was too selfish to love anyone. For a while she thought Larry loved her, but she hadn’t heard a thing from him since he found out she had the baby.

When Ms. Alexandra arrives, Claire and Davy are asleep. She listens carefully without interrupting until the Carsons run out of steam. Ms. Alexandra agrees with them that Claire really hasn’t been taught all the things a healthy young woman should know long before she has her own child. She tells them that no child learns everything from their parents. She asks if they really want Claire and Davy to move out today. The Carsons look at each other and sigh. They admit that if it just wasn’t so hard, they would want Claire and Davy to stay.

Hearing their concerns, Ms. Alexandra wants to provide them with as many tools as they can to help Claire and Davy. She shows them this great website full of resources that are free to them on their home computer at www.zerotothree.com.

They hear Claire singing loving words to Davy and they smile at each other; Claire is singing a nursery rhyme they taught her. Ms. Alexandra smiles at Claire and tells her she has a beautiful voice. She then calls her over to join them at the computer. Ms. Alexandra leaves them ten minutes later talking to Claire about some of the things they are learning about Davy and his sleep patterns from the website. They came up with a plan where Mr. And Mrs. Carson will take turns caring feeding and caring for Davy for four hours at a time while the other two sleep with ear plugs. Then, someone else will take a four- hour turn. They will try this for a few days to see if everyone feels better rested.

To make the plan work, Davy will have to learn to drink formula when Claire is sleeping. Davy doesn’t like the formula at first; it doesn’t taste as good as Claire’s breast milk which is so sweet and warm. However, when he is hungry, and snuggled just right by Mr. or Mrs. Carson, he will eventually drink it.

Learning Question

Have you ever searched for information about caring for children on the internet?

Explore all the great resources available to parents and caregivers at www.zerotothree.com.

Claire's Story: Even the Carsons Can’t Get Davy to Stop Crying

Part 4, Chapter 3 | By P. Berman, K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

I am going to figure this mother thing out. I will be a great mom like I promised God. He made Davy love me like I asked; Mrs. Carson said so!

While Davy was napping the next day, Claire went back to www.zerotothree to learn more about her Davy; yes, Claire was really feeling like he was “her” son and when she said this to herself, it felt good. She was going to learn everything on this site and then she would be a great mother – not a waste of space. Her happy thoughts started to fade and then took a complete nosedived as she read about the different types of cries babies made to indicate what they needed. When Davy was crying, it all sounded the same to her- plain awful. Wasn’t it just figuring it out by trying stuff? If Davy was crying, she would check his diaper. If it needed to be changed, she changed it. If he didn’t need a change, she would try to feed him. Now, this stuff was saying Davy could get scared and get lonely. He had a lonely cry? Claire began feeling stupid again. When Davy was crying, it all sounded the same to her.

What about me? I feel lonely. I get scared. No one is reading a website to help me!

Claire was overwhelmed. Part of her wanted to read more. Part of her wanted to throw the computer through her window. She ran to the window and put her head against the glass and just wailed in despair.

Mrs. Carson was walking by Claire’s room, heard her despair, and rushed in. She stroked Claire’s hair and gently asked what was wrong. Claire said she was too stupid to learn all the things on the website and would never be a good mother. Mrs. Carson reminded her that she was part of their family now and they would help her with Davy. She looked at the computer screen that Claire had been reading. It was all about different types of baby cries and how to calm down when feeling stressed out by a fussy baby with colic.

“Claire, Davy can stress me out too.” Claire was startled. She immediately stopped crying and looked up at Mrs. Caron in surprise. “Most of the material on your screen is new to me too. Maybe we can figure this de-stress thing out together. We both could use a break from Davy crying.” Mrs. Carson began to read the steps out loud:

Step 1: “Remind yourself to stay calm.” Okay, lets close our eyes for a second and tell ourselves to be calm. Mrs. Carson opens her eyes and looks at Claire. Are we calm yet? Claire looks up with tear streaked eyes and shakes her head no.

Step 2: “Next, we take four deep breathes so our chests feel ready to explode”. After her fourth breath, Mrs. Carson looks at Claire and says, “How did that feel?” Claire wasn’t crying any more, but she said she still felt bad.

Step 3: “Okay,” Mrs. Carson said, “the final next step if you still feel stressed out is to ask for help. You find someone you trust and ask them to care for Davy, maybe even for fifteen minutes to get a break.” Claire looked at Mrs. Carson; asking for help was hard. She wanted help but was it safe? Could she trust Mrs. Carson not to take Davy from her if she knew how often she needed help?

When Davy was crying a log, Claire still having thoughts of leaving him in his crib and running away from the Carsons to never come back. What should she do? Claire figured that the safest thing was to pretend she was alright. She told Mrs. Carson that Step 2 had finally kicked in and she felt fine now.

Mrs. Carson left the room feeling puzzled by the parade of feelings that had crossed Claire’s face before she said she was okay. Claire didn't look relaxed at all to Mrs. Carson; she looked scared. Mrs. Carson wondered how she could help Claire, if Claire wouldn’t tell her what was wrong. She sat on the couch and tried to puzzle things out. Then, she remembered how it had helped her as a young mother to read the parenting magazine at the doctor’s office. The articles were short and might be easier for Claire to understand than the website she had been looking at.

Davy woke up and began to cry- his diaper was full. Claire changed him quickly and then did the kangaroo thing and held him close to her bare skin; Davy was her son and so one was taking her Davy from her.

Mrs. Carson had heard Davy’s cries and how quickly they stopped. Claire wasn’t doing badly. She just needed more confidence and to realize, no mom could do it alone. During dinner, Mrs. Carson suggested they have family time when the meal was over where they would read a parenting magazine together. The first night, they found a good magazine online at: https://www.parents.com/baby/feeding/30-little-ways-to-bond-with-baby/

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