Against the Wind

*I promised my friend Edie I’d make sure she made the dedication.  She thought of the title and thought I should tell my story.

Right now I want to scream.  I want to know why it takes so long for the legal system to acknowledge that Samuel Lewis Lovill is our son.  We’ve raised him since birth and loved him as our own.  We have been through so much and yet, we still remain in limbo.

Sammy’s biological mother, Amber Lovill, sits in a jail cell in Nueces County.  Her probation is being revoked for the third time which in all likelyhood in the state of Texas means she will serve her original sentence of two years for forging a financial instrument.  Her first two revocations were due to the fact that she tested dirty several times on several different drug screens.  The first time she was given the option to do outpatient rehab which she agreed to do but failed to show up for.  The judge placed her in mandatory lockdown rehab which lasted one year.  Three weeks after she was released on probation again, she became pregnant.

Then at 51/2 months pregnant she tested dirty again.  She had also not met with her probation officer several times in the past months and failed to pay fines that she had accumulated.  This time she ended up at Gatesville (a special needs rehabilitation lockdown)  for a year.  And my husband and I and her father became parents. Suprise!

My father in law and I travelled to Corpus Christi a week before the baby was born.  We had no information, so we hit the hospital where Dad had been told she would be delivering.  We finally found a social worker who told us that she would inform us when the baby was born and we could come to the hospital to visit.  We were to have no contact with Amber but I managed to get the social worker to sneak in her room with a camera to take a picture of her and the baby.  And then we were allowed to meet him.

He was so beautiful, so serene.  My heart went out to him and I was in love the moment I saw him.   He simply took my breath away. Dad felt the same way.  But the remaining three days in the hospital we stayed away because we did not want to take any Mommy-Baby bonding time away from Mother and Son.  This was November and she had assured her father that she would come home to live with him in Louisiana in January.

The third day arrived and the social worker called Dad and informed him that it was time for us to come and collect the baby from the hospital.  The doctor examined him and the nurses brought us back to the nursey while they checked him out and showed us that he had all the normal parts of a baby, and then some….

“He’s not circumsized?” I asked.
“Mom didn’t sign the paperwork.”
Later, she was to tell me that she did sign the paperwork and that the reason he was not circumsized was that  we were so eager to rush him out of the hospital and away from her.  Insert sigh here.

That was really it because we could have no contact with her.  So we took  Sammy and began the long treck back to Louisiana.  My husband had set up a crib in our spare bedroom and stayed with the baby the first night since Dad and I were exhausted.

The first two weeks Dad and My husband Woody and I shared the task of raising him.  But as time went on it became impractical to keep shuffling him from house to house so Woody and I became his primary residence.  I think Dad’s decision was based on the fact that we always acted like a Mommy and Daddy to Sammy.  We always felt that he didn’t deserve to be put on hold just because his mother was in prison.  But it was always our intention to work with her so that she could take on the role as mother in his life.  Until March of his second year of life we lived our life with this intention in mind.

You see, Amber lied to us about many things.  First of all, she did not tell me she was in prison for a probation violation until I found out about it on the internet.  Her lawyer had convinced her that she could win an appeal for the second revocation because he felt she had been discriminated against since she was pregnant.  Never mind that she had been revoked once before for a dirty screen, this time it had to be because she was a woman and with child.  And then the ACLU decided to jump on board, along with many other organizations and soon her case was all over the internet.  When I found the appeal and read it, I immediatly wrote to her and confronted her.

Amber had told us that she was in jail because an old unauthorized use of a vehicle charge had finally caught up with her.  My husband and I had not seen her for twenty years and had not parted on good terms.  In a drug rage she had attacked me in front of my children and had it not been for my husband coming in and pulling her off of me I might not be here to tell this story.  So we knew nothing about her until Dad told us she was pregnant in the first place.  So for awhile we were in the dark.  I wrote to her every day while she was at Gatesville sending support and pictures of her son.  When I wrote her asking about whey she had lied to us, I didn’t realize the extent of what she had done.  When she answered me, she didn’t apologize, she in fact took pride in the appeal saying that she had written it herself with the help of her lawyer.  She wanted to know if I would send her a copy.  I did.  We all got over the shock and decided that the only thing we could do is move forward and continue to be there for her.

She then wrote to me and told me that She was about to be moved from the unit she was in, to a less civilized one (talking inmates here) because they could not find her GED.  She said she was worried because of the violence in the GED Unit.  She said she would also be made to take the classes, which was ridiculous because she already had her GED.  She then asked me for something that threw me for an absolute loop ( as if we hadn’t been here before).  I am pretty good with design as I had to take a course in it to get my degree and had later worked with my husband in a short lived desktop publishing company.  My father was a photographer for a time and I seemed to have an innate sense for proportion.  While teaching I had been sent to NASA to learn web design for my school and since then my interests have evolved and so if I can do something a bit nicer for someone, I will.  So I sent Amber bookmarks, fancy calenders and inspiration materials I had created to try to make her stay at Gatesville a little less stressfull.  I wanted to show her that her family was behind her and loved her very much.  But what did she really want?

“You’re so good at that artwork stuff you do, if you could just you know, kinda make me up a GED and send it to me, it would really help me out a lot. I could stay here in this unit and not have to worry about going into the crazy unit. You feel what I’m trying to say to you?”

First of all, let me tell you that I have never in my life forged a document, nor would I.  I wrote her back and told her that it was not the right thing to do. I sent her a form to send to the board of education in Louisiana and I sent my husband to the technical school where she would have gotten her GED and as it turns out, she never received a GED.  Her mother tells us this is because she failed a portion of the test and never went back to repeat the test. Dad and I drove Sammy down to Gatesville at one point to visit her at the rehab prison and she got very angry when she again asked me to forge her GED and I told her that I did not want to be in prison along side her.  For about 20 seconds she was livid, then she got control of herself and changed the subject.

While all this is going on, she writes to me and tells me that she is trying to get cases (written up) and that if she gets three they will throw her out of the classes.  At this point I beg her to please take the classes so that she can advance herself, if not for her, for her child.  She tells me she will and I send her all the supplies she needs for classes.  Later I was to find out she was indeed successfull in getting herself tossed from the classes.  When I asked why she wasn’t in them anymore she replied, “Oh, they finally found my GED.”

Meanwhile Sammy is growing strong and Woody and I have bonded with him.  When we first became part of his life, his mother assured us that it would be a couple of months until she would be able to take care of him.  A year had now passed and she was now out of prison and in a halfway house.  I was still writing and sending pictures; Dad and I mailed her a large package of clothes and all the necessities to start a new life.  Her brother (Woody) sent her luxury items like cookies and cigarettes because he wanted to connect with his sister.  A pass was arranged so that she could visit at the end of her halfway house term.  She would be on probation for another year in Texas and we weren’t sure if she would take Sammy back with her or not.  Dad bought her a bus ticket and we hoped for the best.

He picked her up at the bus station on the 26th of December.  She got to my house at about 11:00 in the afternoon.  I thought it would be a tearful reunion when she saw Sammy, but to my suprise it was more or less just a matter of fact thing.  She picked him up and hugged him and then continued to talk to us.  She talked to him now and then, but no one ever got the impression that she really was in a hurry to get to know him.  I tried to hang back because I thought it was the right thing to do, to let her have as much time with her son as possible.  But much to my dismay, I was still the primary caretaker.  She got upset with me for hanging back and said it was because she thought I would be really upset when she took over as mother.  I told her nothing was further from the truth.  I hugged her and tried to get her to warm up, but she was very far removed from everything, even Sammy.  It was a very tense situation.  Two days later we put her on the bus and she was gone.  She would call now and then, and she would express that she had every intention of coming and getting him.  We told her we were here for her. When she returned she filed to get her probation transferred to Louisiana and Dad filled out an affidavit for her.  She said that she would probably be able to transfer by June of the following year.  This made everyone feel a lot better.

About two months later,  she told us that she wanted us to bring him to Texas in March for the bio-dad’s family reunion.  At that point we had read the first opinion on her first go round of appeals which revealed the fact that she had been 3 and 1/2 the cutoff level for methanphetamines while pregnant with Sammy.  As time went by, the more we learned, the more we feared for Sammy. The head of probation in Texas told us that Amber was considered unstable and in his professional opinion, there was no way that we should hand Sammy over to her.   Dad told Amber he was going to stay with Sammy through the reunion and then bring him home since she was coming home to live with him anyway.  An argument ensued and I got an earful from her that evening and the next day. I finally had to tell her that until she could call and not speak so angrily at me that I would not answer her calls.  She took that to mean that I was not allowing her to talk to her son.  This was not true. I called her and told her that she was free to call anytime, she just needed to stop being so irrational when she called. It wasn’t good for us and it certainly wasn’t good for Sammy.

We finally agreed that she would come and get Sammy and keep him until the transfer came through.  Everything seemed okay at this point.

Then the doctor found signs that Sammy wasn’t developing like other children.  He began spinning toys and he was not speaking.  Early Steps in Louisiana (State funded early education program) evaluated him and found him to be severely delayed in fine motor skills, severely delayed in speech and moderately delayed in gross motor skills.  He was then assigned three therapists to work with him, two once a week and one, once a month.  We called his mother who told us there was nothing wrong with him and hung up on us.  The phone calls lessened, text messages lessened.  She did not come to pick him up.  Eventually I stopped sending pictures.  Woody and I took Sammy to the beach in May and those were the last pictures she received.

Although she did not contact us, she did contact her father.  The amazing thing was that never once did she mention Sammy.  She did mention that she needed money, and he sent it.  He was afraid that if he didn’t, she would threaten to take him.  So he kept her happy.

Late fall, 2009 we began adoption proceedings.  Woody, her brother, tried to approach her.  She would not talk to us via telephone but babbled incoherentley via text message.  We served her twice and she did not acknowledge either service.  Bio father signed for his service but did not show up at court, and the judge terminated his parental rights.  Amber had texted me that I was living in a dream world if I ever thought bio dad would give up the rights to her son.  I did look for him in court.  He didn’t show.

The sad thing is, she did know about the court date.  She had a friend sign for her service and she was fully aware of what was going on.  She simply didn’t show.

So at this point, we are waiting.  We have gone through a home study, met with all sort of agencies and jumped through hoops to do what was asked of us.Amber is currently in jail, awaiting revocation. Who knows when her court date will come?  Our lawyer filed for a curator and we do have custody of Sammy, but how long will it take the curator to do what he needs to do?  Our lawyer says we are in the home stretch and that every tick of the clock brings us closer to adopting our son, but we just wonder what we will have to do next to prove that we are his parents.

From his birth, we have loved him.  He is our son in every sense, except the legal one.  He calls us Mommy and Daddy.  This is our third go-round as our older son is 26 years of age and our daughter is 24.   We love him with all of our hearts and souls.  We are there for all the good times and the bad.  We always have and always will be.  We’ve passed every hurdle that has been asked of us and all we want to do is raise our son to be the best person he can be. We want the wind to subside and the calm seas to soothe our souls and heal our family. Please dear God, make it so.

Sometimes as we go through this process, it does feel as if we are traveling against the wind.  And we wake up each day and hope that it will be the day that justice is done.  We just want our son to be safe and to be with us where he belongs.  Why does that have to take so long?

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