A mom from Seattle, Washington has shared her heartbreaking story with Love What Matters in order to raise awareness of shaken baby syndrome.
In her emotional first person piece, Angie Setlak explained that after a "stressful pregnancy due to his father not being faithful to me," and her blood pressure being affected, her son Xavier "was born four weeks early because he wasn’t growing." Her son was born healthy but spent 16 days in the NICU before coming home. Everything was "perfect" for three months, Setlak wrote, but that all ended during her first day back from maternity leave.
"I had been fielding text messages from Xavier’s father all day about how difficult he was being, and I told his dad we would find another solution so he didn’t have to watch him during the day," she wrote. "While on maternity leave, Xavier’s father had been alone with him for two hours tops, and everything had been fine. His father worked nights, and the plan was for him to watch Xavier during the day while I worked, and then I would watch him at night when he worked. My former partner had raised a 10-year-old after all, so even though I was very nervous about the situation, he kept reassuring me everything would be alright." She says it never occurred to her that her baby might be in danger, but at one point, Xavier's dad texted her asking "if he could murder the baby now." She reassured him that she'd be home soon.
"I kept thinking, ‘just a few more hours and then I can be back home with my baby,'" Setlak shared. "Then, at 2:30 I got the message every mother hopes they will never get. ‘Xavier stopped breathing. Come home now.’ I called his father and asked what happened, to which he replied, ‘He choked on milk and we are going to Seattle Children’s hospital.’ I gathered my things, choked down my tears, and made my way to the hospital. When I got there, I heard my baby crying so I thought everything would be okay. There was a room full of doctors all for my tiny 10-pound baby. After things had settled down, they let me go over to him and hold his hand. He was suddenly quiet and pale. I knew something was not right."Doctors eventually confirmed that Xavier' brain was bleeding. In a fit of rage, the boy's father had shaken him and the baby was in a medically-induced coma, suffering seizures. "I heard everything from ‘he might be blind’ to ‘he may never be able to learn, walk, talk, move…’” Setlak wrote. “But still I knew he would come back to me.”
Seventeen days later, Xavier was cleared to go home. "His father was arrested the night of the injury for first degree child abuse," Setlak noted. "I still don’t know the details of what happened that day, and I don’t know if I ever will. Since we are almost three months out from the injury, I focus less on the 'why' and more on the 'now what.'"
She explained that she tries to be "present" with her child and she "thanks God every day for bringing my baby back to me." The little boy still goes to physical therapy and occupational therapy weekly. "He has a neurologist," Setlak wrote. "An ophthalmologist, a neurodevelopmental specialist, is in speech therapy, and is now going to be going to Anat Baniel Method therapy to help awaken his brain and re-wire it. Everyone keeps telling me how lucky we are this happened while he was so young, how resilient babies are, and how plastic the brain is at this age. He is at high risk for developing Cerebral Palsy, but we won’t get that diagnosis for another 1.5 years, if he has it. He sees people for early intervention services, and I firmly believe the more we work with him, the better his odds are."
The optimistic mom tells Parents.com that she shared her story in order to let people know this can happen to anyone. "We watched the videos about PURPLE Crying," she shares. "I thought stuff like this didn’t happen to 'people like me.' And I left him in the care of the person who was supposed to love him and take care of him, not hurt him. I understand getting frustrated, I do. I got frustrated with him when he wouldn’t stop crying. But that’s why they teach you to put the baby down and walk away."
Setlak elaborated on this in her Love What Matters piece: "You go cry somewhere, or scream, or talk to someone. You get your frustrations out, and then come back to your sweet baby and start over again. To this day, Xavier still cries. And fusses. And I have moments I have to put him down and walk away. Because that’s what you do as a parent. I hope someone reading our story will take all of it to heart and realize how important it is to not shake a baby. No matter what, you never shake a baby. It’s so easily avoidable. A moment of rage changed my baby forever.”
You can support Xavier on Angie's Give InKind fundraising page.
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Family – Health.com