Dear Mrs. Bluth,
Thank you so much for speaking with me last week; your words infused me with a glimmer of hope and peace I have not felt in a long time. How you were able to see the tears behind my eyes as we stood on line at the pizza store is nothing short of incredible. After pouring out my heart to you, you gave me the insight into so much I had not understood. You also told me that I was not alone and that there most probably were others who would benefit from what I was going through.
What should have been a wonderful brocha, one that every grandmother looks forward to and prays for, in my family, has turned into a tragedy. My youngest daughter recently gave birth to her fourth child, a little girl after three boys. Although the boys are all Baruch Hashem healthy, this baby was born with Downs Syndrome. While for some that would be just a challenge, both my son-in-law and his parents refuse to acknowledge or have anything to do with the baby. The arguments now are whether to place the baby in foster care or in an institution for the sake of sholom bayis and not jeopardize the chances of shidduchim for the boys in the future.
My daughter is depressed and has lost a great deal of weight. She cries much of the time because she cannot think of giving the baby away, yet she cannot see how she can maintain the constant and detailed care the baby requires along with caring for the older boys and trying to mend the faltering relationship with her husband.
She blames herself for the “damaged” child, pointing to everything from the detergents she used while pregnant to the chemicals in the environment she may have breathed or touched. Her husband is quick to encourage these thoughts; he is only too ready to blame his wife for something no one is responsible for. All the doctors say that genetics, heredity or anything else plays no part in why this baby was born so, after three healthy normal births. Still, things go from bad to worse with each passing day. I fear for my daughter’s sanity and am terrified that her marriage will end in divorce if she does not agree to give up the child. Most of all I fear for the other children who are caught up in all the stress and anxiety and are already showing signs of behavioral dysfunction due to the atmosphere in the house.
What can I do or say to make things calmer? There are so many people offering personal advice, most of which only serves to fan the flames of blame, guilt and remorse. The one or two voices of reason are drowned out and unheard amidst the cacophony of negativity. My son-in-law has consulted his rav, his rosh yeshiva and other bnei Torah he respects and if they do not agree with him, he distances himself from their opinions. He has taken to staying away from the house until late into the night. I spend my days helping to care for my daughter and the baby as well as keeping the house from flying into total disarray. My heart can no longer bear the pain and anger, and I am beginning to succumb to my own depression. Please help me, tell me where to go and with whom to speak so that all of us can heal and help this baby find her place in our lives!
A broken-hearted grandmother
I do, indeed, recall the lost and sorrowful look in your eyes and was glad I was able to give you some comfort. I am also grateful to you for permitting me to share your story so that others who find themselves in a similar situation can draw strength and know that there is hope.