Saturday, March 15, 2008

Parental Rights

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With all the talk of the California judge taking away parents' rights to homeschool their children, and then, this news story about a mother being arrested for walking 10 yards away from her child, I have been thinking a lot about the rights of parents to make decisions for and about their own children.

There are so many decisions that parents need to make when rearing their children.

home birth
hospital birth
breastfeeding
formula
cloth diapers
disposable diapers
vaccines
spanking
preschool
homeschool
public school
Christian school
dating
courting
youth groups

Many of these things can stir up controversy when discussed with anyone who feels strongly about them. Why? You may think one of these choices is better than another. Or you might think one of these choices is irresponsible.

The thing is, my husband and I must decide these things for our children, and my husband and I must take responsibility for the results.

After Emelyn was born, the hospital wanted to keep her for 48 hours for observation because I had tested positive for GBS in a previous pregnancy. We told them thank you very much, but we could observe her at home.

I had researched the risks and complications of GBS and am fully capable of determining if a baby is running a high fever. She would be nursing at least every 2hours, so I felt confident that I could handle it.

They informed me that Emelyn would not be released and that it was "medically necessary" for her to stay. What was she being treated for? Nothing. What was her condition? Healthy.

The nurses told me that even though I thought I could observe her at home, that she had to stay at the hospital because she might start running a fever. (1 in 4,000 GBS babies do.) I disagreed. Strongly.

All of these conversations took place in a very cordial way with smiles on faces all around. That's the southern way, don'tcha know. Still, the mood was tense as they insisted that I could not take my perfectly healthy baby home.

My husband was at home with our other 6 children during all of this, so it was very stressful to deal with it alone, especially when the nurses would come in 2 at a time to try to persuade me.

I told them that we didn't want to make a scene, but I assured them that if they thought they were keeping our baby against our will, there would indeed be a scene. They then told me that the police would be called if necessary!

I kept phoning my husband and updating him on the situation. He did a bit of quick research to find out what the laws were in cases like this. He found that we had to sign a form stating that we were leaving the hospital AMA, "against medical advice". This would assure the hospital that we would not hold them responsible for any damages in case of a problem.

The nurses would not bring me the form and said that they could not release the baby to my custody! The baby that I had just given birth to was not in my custody? This entire time, I never saw a doctor. Only the nurses would address our concerns.

Meanwhile, my husband made a few phone calls to hospital administrators and told them that he was going to be picking up his wife AND BABY in an hour and walking out the door with both of us. He suggested that they update themselves on the laws regarding parental rights and be prepared to explain to police why they were holding our perfectly healthy baby against our will.

After many tense (but cordial!) conversations, I was finally presented with the AMA form and we were "permitted" to take our baby home.

The whole ordeal was very disturbing to both my husband and me. We saw that there are people who believe that parents can not be trusted to make decisions for their own children.

Who is best qualified to make decisions for a child? What makes one person more qualified than another? Who is ultimately responsible for the child?

It is a scary thing to think that anyone can take away the rights of parents to act on behalf of their own children.

**Updated to add this heartbreaking case of parental rights being taken away. (Contains adult content.) Thanks to Michelle for the link.

11 comments:

Holly said...

You are so right, Connie.

Scary stuff. Just how free are we to make decisions for our children? You find out when you try to "go against the expert's rules."

There's definitely a time to be "nice," and definitely a time to still be self-controlled but firm and strong about our freedoms and parental responsibilities.

Melkhi said...

Your story makes me very angry. I could say more about it, maybe later, but for now... Thanks for sharing and I totally agree with you!

Liz said...

Crazy stuff. I felt very infringed upon that a court could suddenly take away my right to teach my children how I see fit and then to hear your story at the hospital is scary! When I had my 4th child I was put on magnesium b/c of preeclampsia during labor the doctor casually mentioned that after I delivered I would go to the 5th floor but baby would go to the 4th floor because all patients must be watched after being on mag and that their weren't enough nurses to handle baby care too! OH NO SHE DIDN"T JUST SAY THAT TO ME! I sat upright but hubby beat me to the punch and said that would not be acceptable! I started freaking out saying I was feeling better and I would just come back and have her at another time when this preeclampsia stuff passed! HA! The doctor was a little surprised by our reactions and thought for sure we would enjoy the rest! HA! After about 45 minutes of "well, let me see what I can do and Well, let me call around" It was decided that I could after all go to the 5th floor with dear baby daughter as long as someone stayed with me at all times! SIGH!

Michelle said...

I can SO believe that happened to you in a hospital. This is one of the reasons hubs and I went with a midwife on this last time around (our 5th). A couple in our birth class told the story of how they didn't want their first baby to leave the room at all after the birth. The doc said, "yeah, yeah, yadda, yadda" and agreed. Well after the birth the nurses tried to take their baby girl and when they objected the nurse became VERY snippy. THE HOSPITAL CALLED CPS ON THEM!!! Needless to say, after much bantering and bringing more and more hospital admin into the fray, they were granted their wishes. And that is why they left hospital birthing and went with a midwife (not saying that's the best option for everyone - just for them personally).
"Free" country is a very subjective term these days.

The Estrogen Files said...

Abso-stinkin-lootly right!! Like melkhi, I could rant on, but I won't. Think of me in a few months when I have little Bunting and face the hospital again.

Kara said...

I agree with what everyone has said and how frustrating it is to be a parent and have somone else decide what is best for your own child. I guess to play devil's advocate for a minute I would just say that opening the paper, or listening to the news recently I am bombarded with parents who have inadvertantly harmed their children because of their lack of attention, skills, knowledge, etc. And coming from a family with lots of people in the medical field, they do see so many sad and heartbreaking stories where parents didn't do the right thing for their children which ended in tragedy. So I guess my problem is where do we draw the line...we are all good parents and can take care of our children but what about those out there that can not...who is there to protect them and how do we distingush the capable from incapable? But, Connie if I were your nurse I would have realized you were very educated on the subject and would have no problems letting you take your baby home!!

Smockity Frocks said...

Liz, A whole different floor?! I wonder if anyone took them up on that offer. Crazy!

Michelle, I would LOVE to have my babies at home, but hubby prefers the hospital. CPS makes me very nervous! I get e-alerts from our homeschool legal defense association about CPS showing up at homeschool households because they "heard" Junior isn't reading on grade level!

Kara, I know what you mean. I don't know where to draw the line, but who decides who is qualified to determine if I am qualified to make decisions for my children? And who decides if that decider is qualified to decide? I see parents doing lots of things that I would NEVER do, but if they are not harming their children, I don't think it's my business to determine whether I think it's the best thing.

Smockity Frocks said...

Sarah, CONGRATULATIONS!!

Nikki said...

I agree with melhki. Your story makes me very angry. What nerve!

It reminds me of my NICU experience with Bun. I may have to post about it. Good for you for sticking to your guns.

Jenn said...

that story is HEARTBREAKING!!! it is absolutely hard to even believe!

the bad thing about going ama is sometimes insurance companies use that as an excuse to get out of paying your bills.

after mclaine was born, the hospital we were at was so busy in the labor and delivery unit that i was moved to the cardiac care unit/critical side. it was funny when our visitors would finally find us. they would always ask how i was with their eyes wide open! i didn't know i was in critical care! lol! but the weird part was when they would take mclaine down for her weighing and vital signs. i did NOT like the way they did that. they took her out of my room, as they did with all of the newborns, took them to the nursery and lined them all up in their little bassinets and went one by one. this took FOREVER!!! one time she was gone almost two hours! it was time for her feeding. so i got up, went downstairs and went to the nursery. i was totally ignored. i banged loudly on the window. instead of coming to the door of the nursery or even coming to the window to talk to me, they "mouthed" to me through the glass windows that she was fine. i kept saying, it's time to feed her, it's time to feed her. they said, "oh, we'll do it". i said, "oh, no you will not!" at this point i was yelling to them through the glass. i pointed to the door for her to come and speak to me. she shook her head no! and then turned around and ignored me!!! i went to the nurse's station and asked what the heck was going on in there. they were all kind of dumbfounded because i was so upset and didn't realize why. when i told them, they were like, oh they can feed her for you. i said, "okay, who wants to cut these off and bring them in?!" and pointed to my chest. oh, you're breastfeeding... so she called into the nursery on the phone and i watched the nursery nurse talk to the other nurse on the phone and could hear her through the phone. "tell that mom i will be done with her and bring her back" i whipped around so fast and looked that woman in the eyes (the one at the desk) and said, they have had her for OVER two hours, just how long does this take? it is past her feeding time. either you bring her out or i am calling my doctor!" i spoke very slowly and clearly but there was no mistaking that i was upset because i was shaking! the nursery nurse could hear me i'm sure. i turned back around and looked at her through the glass. she rolled her eyes at me! i turned back around to the woman at the desk and asked her very calmly, "would you please call security?" she hung up the phone and said who is your nurse? when i told her who i was and where my room was, and my nurse was in cardiac critical care, she called up there! i heard my nurse, who was NOT a post-partum nurse tell the woman at the desk, "you had better give my mom her baby! i can't have my patients walking around looking for their babies when i have critical hearts up here!" they made me LEAVE the unit because i was not a patient on the obstetric floor! i forgot to mention that this was 10:00 at night and ira was already at home. i had my cell phone upstairs and went back to my room to call my doctor. i also called my girlfriend at home who happened to work as an anti-partum nurse at the same hospital. she was hoppin' mad and got off the phone with me lickety split and made a phone call, called me back and told me to wait right where i was and that she (mclaine) should be up any minute. she was very soon afterward, before my doctor even called back. the next time the vitals were due i refused her to go downstairs. they called security on me!
i went home the next day.

Smockity Frocks said...

JEnn, Grrr...... I see that is is common for the nursery to see the babies as "theirs". We ran into that on a few of ours.

About the insurance, we were paying for the WHOLE thing ourselves anyway. We don't have maternity coverage.

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