Tanis

In a small town, there was a young girl, barely 17-years-old, who could be described as neither beautiful nor smart. She was just a plain girl, a quiet girl, the type of girl most people overlook; she was invisible.Invisibility suited this girl fine. She preferred it as her weapon of choice, learning early on in her troubled life that she could avoid trouble, avoid pain, if she remained quiet and stealthy. No one quite knew what her pain stemmed from, what her story really was, but the haunted look in her eyes broadcast the certainty her storybook did not contain the pages of much happiness.

An older boy saw her, barely a year older than her, but legal in the law’s eyes and for the first time she dropped her cloak of invisibility. This boy saw her when so many others didn’t. He was her dark-eyed prince who made her feel invincible.

Together, in each other’s arms, they found solace from their troubled upbringing and united in their love they stood side by side against the world; ignoring wisdom and advice until one day they discovered they were pregnant.

They would be a happy little family.

But life isn’t so easy and the world’s harsh realities pressed against them at every turn. It wasn’t long before the girl abandoned her common sense and sought refuge with drugs, with her boy beside her.

The baby inside her could only take so much and soon her body rebelled, the drugs forcing an early birth of their baby. After only 24 weeks of pregnancy this girl and this boy were soon the parents of a 1 pound six ounce baby boy.

This baby boy fought for life, surprising everyone with his strength of will. He shouldn’t have survived his birth; his lungs were too fragile, his bowels perforated, his heart weak.

But survive he did, and thrive he began. To the doctors’ surprise, the girl stayed steadfast beside her baby’s side. The baby’s father, fancying himself a real man now, worked during the week and visited his child on the weekends.

This routine went on for five months until the child grew strong enough and big enough to be released into the custody of his young parents. The baby was a miracle, they declared. They had no explanation for how healthy and normal he was, instead attributing it to the boy’s will to survive. The doctors worried about sending home this child they had worked so hard to heal with such young, uneducated parents and they tried to prevent it but in the end the young lovers were able to carry their child out of the hospital as a small family and begin their real life.

It took only a month before the grim reality of providing for a wee infant proved to be too much for the young father. The young mother tried, but she too, was overwhelmed by the stress of life and once more they allowed intoxicants to soften the glaring hardships of their life.

In a fit of rage and stupidity one night, the young father picked his wee healthy boy child up and lifted him to the heavens yelling at the child to be quiet, yelling at the child’s mother to shut the kid up, while shaking the baby like a dog does a rag doll.

Thirty-one days after the baby boy had been released from the hospital, doctors stood over him once more, trying to again save his life.

An investigation ensued and soon the young father was taken away in handcuffs as the mother sat beside her baby, dazed and confused as the drugs wore off and the doctor’s words sank in.

Her perfect healthy boy was no longer perfect; the swelling in his brain too severe to overcome, brain damage, blindness.

For three months the boy fought to live inside that hospital, while his father remained in custody awaiting trial. Social services promised to protect the boy, to help the young mom, to do everything they legally could to ensure this baby grew up as healthy as his now damaged body could. The doctors, again amazed at the boy’s survival, shook their heads as they watched the mother take the boy home. Their hands were tied.

For another three months, the baby was safe as his mother stayed clean and doing everything she could to provide for her child. By all accounts she was a loving mother, a gentle spirit and for the many things she had done wrong, loving him was never one of them.

But the legal system failed the baby boy and soon the young father was released from jail. The restraining order ended and social services slowly slipped away from the young mother, taking their promises of safety with them.

The young mother tried at first to distance herself from the man she claimed to love. She wanted to do right by her child but time and life wore her down and slowly the father crept back into their daily lives, bringing with him turmoil and drugs. The young mother wasn’t strong enough to say no to either.

For almost six more months life carried on quietly, the world having forgotten what this young father did to his son, the young mother losing her resolve to protect her child. She loved her child but she couldn’t stop loving this boy who saw past her invisibility.

Then one fateful night, while the stars twinkled quietly and the booze flowed freely, something went terribly wrong. To this day no one knows where the mother was at the time, and to this day the father maintains his innocence.

But in those moments of time as the world stood still, the wee baby boy, barely eighteen months old, blind, mute, and barely 14 pounds heavy, fought for his life once more and was left to die.

Fate finally intervened, and in the morning hours of the next day strangers found the child and stuffed him into a taxicab. His young parents didn’t want to call an ambulance because they didn’t want the police to question them.

The boy barely made it. For three days the left side of his brain hemorrhaged. The doctors fought valiantly to save the boy’s lungs, to treat his chemical burns.

The boy endured another five weeks of hospitalization as the doctors worked to repair the damage. His hearing couldn’t be saved, his brain damaged beyond a level where any normal adult function would ever be possible. The doctors and nurses, horrified, whispered of attempted murder, sexual assault, and other such savagery as they bandaged the boy back together.

The police stood guard to ensure the boy stayed safe, trying to banish the image of the child’s broken body from their minds.

The young parents never saw their child again. The young mother abandoned any pretense she held about being able to care for the child, of being able to protect him, and signed over her parental rights.

The boy’s young father fled, worried he’d be arrested as the government and the police worked together to investigate the violence. Eventually he was caught, but justice was denied his child as the courts ruled there was insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. Social services took no chances this time and terminated the father from his rights to the child.

The baby boy, more so a baby now than ever before, helpless in his own body, found his way to one foster home after another. Eventually, with the seeds of love and the blankets of safety wrapped firmly around him, he began to heal and grow into a new version of himself. A version that never should have been.

Then one day, just over a year ago, the baby boy found me. His social worker, while searching for a forever family, stumbled across my name. She was looking for a family who could see past his limitations, his disabilities and instead see the boy with the spirit of steel and boundless joy.

She said she knew this boy was meant to be our son when she read my file. We are survivors, this boy and me. Our family, desperate to be healed, had the one thing this boy needed: love. Together, she thought, we could heal one another.

She was right.

I’ve waited a year to tell this story, Jumby’s story, of how he came to be, of who he is and what he endured to finally find the family every child deserves to have. It’s taken me this long to find the words to deal with the horror of his past.

I waited a year to tell his story because my son was a victim of violence and his perpetrator remains at large, unpunished for these crimes.

I waited a year to tell his story because I was unsure whether I wanted my older two children to learn of their brother’s past. To do so would mean stripping more childhood innocence away from my kids, who were already robbed of so much when they buried their brother.

But the time has come to share Jumby’s story, now that he is safe and legally ours. I publish these words here, at Violence Unsilenced because I’m not ready for my children to read them just yet, but I needed to write them.

I need the world to know that Jumby is more than just an adopted child. He is more than just a child who is blind, deaf, mentally disabled and quadriplegic to boot.

He is a survivor.

He was a child who was robbed of his health. His future was stolen from him, first by drugs and a premature birth and then by the violence delivered unto him by the very people who were supposed to protect him and love him most.

The promise of who he could have been and what he could have achieved was stripped away one violent act after another until all that remains is my sweet boy’s unconquered spirit and his joy for life trapped in a body so broken there is no hope for release.

He deserved better than that.

All children deserve better than that.

Jumby survived. He was lucky that way.

But there isn’t a beat of his heart that I’m not reminded that not every child is as lucky as he was.

Jumby is more than my son. He is my hero.

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Tanis blogs at Attack of the Redneck Mommy.