My Romeo

(Originally posted on my Myspace blog)

A few years ago I met a little boy with large, dark eyes, and my life was changed forever. His name was Romeo, and no pun intended, he stole my heart.
Romeo was a little boy. Very little, to be exact, considering he was about 9 months old, but looked to be about 5 months old. He was neglected, malnourished, underfed, ignored. No one cuddled, baby-talked, rocked, snuggled, or loved him.
It seems no one made eye contact with this little angel. Until he met me.
He had never been sung too, until he met me.
Nor had he been rocked, cuddled, snuggled, or touched, I swear.
Romeo had a stinky blue body cast, from his ankles to his underarms. His skinny little feet stuck out, and there was a hole to assist in diaper-changing. He had broken legs or a broken pelvis-I don't remember which it was, but it doesn't matter anymore.
Romeo had a young mom, that was too busy with all of her boyfriend drama to take care of him. In fact, boyfriend drama was what caused the injury to little Romeo. Mom didn't make him much of a priority, if he even made it onto her priority list at all. Long story short, Romeo was removed from his mom, and I was assisting a co-worker by caring for him while she did all the necessary paperwork to take to a judge.
I made a little pallet on the floor for Romeo, thinking I would get some work done while he was playing with some cute, noisy infant toys. Of course, that was before I saw the body cast, and saw his little face.
Romeo was laid on the pallet, and he just, well, laid there. No cooing, no smiling, no eye contact, no movement at all. When I touched his little hands and feet, he flinched, like he didn't know what the hell it was. I crooned his name, seeking eye contact, but he made none.
For those of you who don't have kids, 9 month olds aren't normally like this. Normal infants are not like this at all! They coo, they smile, they are learning fine motor skills while reaching for things, kicking their little legs, struggling to turn over and pull up on furniture. They suck on their hands, they drool.....they do not just lie there!!! I read a lot on attachment in college, as well as on a regular basis as part of my job, but I had not, up until that point, ever seen a child who was not attached, who was the epitome of a neglected infant. It shocked the hell out of me, and I vowed right then and there, to myself, that I would never be so down or caught up in my own life that I would hurt my children like that....I always knew I wouldn't physically hurt my children, but I guess I didn't think much about how my possible inaction could cause serious harm as well.
I still get the goose bumps when I think back to my realization that Romeo was basically just put down on a bed (or maybe the floor) and ignored, utterly ignored. He didn't even cry when he was hungry, but went right to sucking when I put a bottle in his mouth.
It took me roughly 10 minutes to get him to look me in the eye. I held him (not so easy with a cast on), touched all of his little fingers and toes, and kissed every part of him that wasn't covered by the cast. I sang to him, which startled him at first. Some stupid song I'm sure, considering I never worked without the radio or CD player going.
I don't remember how long he was in my office, but I do remember being in awe. I remember being totally shocked, and infuriated, that a MOTHER could ignore her child to the extent that he was more like a doll than an infant. My heart still clenches in my chest when I think of his little face, and those black saucers for eyes, when he finally looked up into my eyes. He had no idea who or what he was looking at. He showed no emotion, but his big eyes locked with mine for several seconds.
He never smiled, cried, or made any other sound the entire time he was with me. He didn't fuss about the lack of movement due to having the cast. And I'm sure he had to be itchy somewhere under that cast, but he made no noise to show his discomfort.

I truly was in awe. I hurt for him. I also cried for him, although no one saw me do it. I prayed for him, for a long time after that, and I still do think of him, not every day, but pretty often. I have no idea whatever happened to him, his mother, his abuser, his injury. I have no idea if he is a comfortably-attached toddler now, or if he is in foster care, or if he is even alive. I have no way of knowing.

I don't claim to be a healer, or the fixer of all that is broken in people's lives, but I hope that the little time he had with me did something positive for his little soul. He has a part of mine, that's for sure.


Li'l Foot's Mommy said...

Wow, Danielle...what an amazing gift you brought to his little life. I hope for his sake that he was taken away from his mother and placed with one of the many families in this country who can't have children of their own yet will love him like their own.

Heather said...

That has to be the hardest job on the planet. I would want to keep all the kids.

I hope he's fine now. My youngest nephew was neglected by his mom, too. She kidnapped him and because of the laws in KY, my brother couldn't get him back until they went to court. When he got him back, his head was flat and he was about 9 months old also, and couldn't sit up, didn't even try. She propped his bottle up with a blanket to feed him. He's 5 now, and sweet and loving, but still has attachment issues. He won't go out even with me, he has to have his dad or my mother with him at all times. I don't know how they are going to put him in school next year. But at least he's happy and being loved and cared for.

Kristie said...

I used to want to be a social worker but I just wasn't a strong enough person. I am so so glad that there are kids out there who you as their advocate. They are truly lucky.

Sarah said...

That is so heart-wrenching. I can just picture him from your perfect descriptions and I am just crying at the thought of a precious baby being abused that way. I can't even breathe right now.

I don't know how you do it. You are one strong woman. I could never handle your job. I would be a slobbering mess on a daily (possibly hourly) occurrence. Thank God for people like you!

I hope Romeo got the happy ending he deserves. No doubt it started with you.