Helen slammed open
the door to her apartment, kicked off her shoes and wriggled
her toes in carpet as soft as a kitten's fur. A surprise!
“Sam! Where are you?” Grinning,
she ducked into the tiny kitchen. No Sam. “Honey, I got really
great news. I just been to see Doc Bloomberg.” She ran into their
bedroom, but still no Sam. “Damn!”
Back in the living
room, she found his note. He was at the hardware store.
I know just what I
need. Skipping to the closet, she pulled out a cardboard box
with “Helen’s Baby Things!!” scrawled across the side in big
pink letters. She sat floor, flipped off the lid and dug in.
Soon she had a white layette, baby dresses, caps, booties, rattles,
bottles, ribbons and her stuffed bunny spread out across the
floor. She hugged the bunny, Mr. Snuffles. Soon this’ll all be
yours, and patted her belly.
From across the room,
robot butler bonged at her. Helen flipped the box lid at it.
“Get out of here!
My mama set them aside for me, so you keep your stupid claw things
off.” It rolled back into the kitchen.
At the sound of a
lock clicking over, Helen grinned. Sam stopped short as he gazed
over the scattered treasures.
“Guess what!” Helen
Sam just smiled and
shook his head.
“I just came from
Dr. Bloomberg’s. We’re going to have a baby!”
She jumped up as Sam’s
mouth dropped open. As he swept her up in his arms, she grabbed
his neck. He was warm and sweaty from being outside. She kissed
his neck, savoring his salty flavor.
“My God, that’s wonderful,” Sam
said. “I can’t believe it’s finally happening. Is it going to
be a boy or a girl?”
Helen slid off and
backed away. “Don’t know.” She jutted her lower lip. “I wouldn’t
sign for none of them tests.”
“Honey, you know Doc
Bloomberg has to make a report to the State. We don’t need trouble.” Sam
pulled her close. “Besides, the doctors can help.”
“Not always!” she
said louder than she had intended. She took a breath. “You know
my mama lost three babies before she had me.” Helen looked at
her baby things. “It’s took me four years to get pregnant. What
if they want to take this one? No way! We’re having this baby.”
Sam pulled away with
that hurt puppy look in his eyes. Helen sighed. Why did I yell?
He just wants me happy.
“Come on, this’ll
be a good thing. And don’t worry about Doc Bloomberg. He promised
he won’t say a thing.” Sam just grunted and headed down the hall.
Helen frowned at his
back, then grinned. The muscles in his butt bunched and shifted
through his jeans. She loved the look of his behind, the feel
of it in her hands. She tiptoed behind him and slid her hands
into his back pockets. “Guess what I’m in the mood for?”
“Hey, come on!” Sam
laughed and rose up on his toes. “I’m all sweaty.”
“So? You better get
it while you can. I may not be in the mood much once I’m big
The passing months
swaddled Helen in a glow. She was going to be a mother! She watched
her body grow and change. They read baby books and attended birthing
classes. The day the baby started kicking, Helen called Sam at
work screaming. When her water broke, she and Sam had bags packed
and the route to the hospital memorized.
“Mrs. Borland? Are
She glared at the
tall woman in a blue blazer sitting by her bed.
“I’m Susan Smith-Johnson
with the Division of Child Protective Services. Has the doctor
discussed your son’s problems?”
Helen nodded and squeezed
her eyes shut to block the tears. Just moments ago she was lying
motionless in the bed drinking in the feel of her son wet and
warm squirming on her breast and inhaling his sweet-sour baby
But the bright joy
had chopped off as the nurses crowded around. “Jesus!” one whispered
as Dr. Bloomberg seized Josh and ran from the room.
Helen opened her eyes
and rubbed at the tightness in her belly. What did I do wrong,
God? This is a nightmare.
“Mrs. Borland, the
Division was contacted because of the unusual circumstances of
your son’s birth. Children born with handicaps are very rare
these days. Children with multiple handicaps like Joshua are
across her chest. “Where’s my husband? I want Sam here.”
“He’s speaking with
my assistant, Mr. Philip.” Ms. Smith-Johnson held up a folder. “I’ve
reviewed your medical file. You refused your prenatal testing,
Anger at this woman
snooping bubbled in Helen’s gut. But she knows. Helen’s head
barely moved when she nodded. “What’s that got to do with you?”
flipped through the file. “The Division is charged by statute
with investigating whenever a parent doesn’t provide proper care
for a child. In Joshua’s case, that would include medical testing.”
Helen thrust herself
up. “It’s none of the State’s damn business! We’ll see to Joshua’s
needs, handicapped or not.”
The social worker
shook her head once, left then right. “It’s too late. You’ve
already deprived him of critical medical services.”
“What are you talking
about? Josh was just born.”
scowled. “Please don’t pretend to be ignorant. Dr. Bloomberg
discussed this with you, it’s in your file. Legally, Joshua was
a separate individual since he was conceived, a life-in-being
with all the rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. When
you refused prenatal tests, you acted contrary to Joshua’s interests.”
“What good would the
tests have done? Maybe they could do something about the heart
valve thing, but they can’t cure Down’s Syndrome. They’d have
taken him. I wouldn’t allow it.”
“Allow it! That’s
exactly the problem here.” Ms. Smith-Johnson stood up. “Joshua
isn’t your personal property. The Supreme Court ruled years ago
in the Kevorkian Society cases that everybody has a fundamental
right to self-determination. That includes preborn citizens like
Joshua. He should have had a guardian-ad-litem appointed and
a decision made on his behalf on his future. You’ve robbed him
of that choice.”
Helen turned away. Go
to Hell. Josh is mine!
“So, what do you and
your husband plan to do? Joshua is going to have a lot of special
Helen shook her head
without looking back. “I don’t know. Sam and I haven’t had a
chance to talk. I suppose there are programs for kids like Josh.” Helen
looked back when Ms. Smith-Johnson laughed.
“There were programs
like that when you were born. But prenatal testing and genetic
therapy have eliminated birth defects. Funding for those programs
ended years ago. There just wasn’t a need.”
“So? Sam and I don’t
have a lot of money. We can’t give him stuff we can’t afford.” Helen’s
heart thumped in her chest.
stepped closer. “The State still operates a residential facility
at Woodburn for special needs citizens. It’s staffed with all
the necessary specialists. Of course, you would have to surrender
custody to the State.”
“What!” Helen gasped. “My
baby isn’t a day old and you want to take him? Are you crazy
or just stupid? If he needs a help, you can give it to him in
shook her head. “There are only ten clients at Woodburn, all
with severe handicaps like Joshua’s. The cost of operating a
program like that with our clients scattered across the State
would be prohibitive.”
Helen shook her head
violently. “No! I won’t give him up. I’m his momma, for Christ’s
sake. Sam and I’ll care for Josh ourselves.”
“I’m sorry Miss Borland,
but I can’t allow that. You’ve already proven you can’t be trusted.
The Division will be taking emergency custody of Joshua immediately.
I had hoped you would see reason once you understood how serious
this is.” Ms. Smith-Johnson flipped open a cell phone.
The years that followed
felt like prison to Helen, only she was locked out rather than
in, locked out of her son’s life. Joshua lived in a wonderful
group home. It was bright and airy, stocked with the latest teaching
tools and modern conveniences. The staff were dedicated and loving,
experts in their fields. The surgeons corrected Joshua’s physical
defect with tissues grown from his own skin cells. Biochemical
and genetic therapies pushed his learning capacity to its limits.
He grew fast, straight and strong. But Helen could only watch
as a spectator. All the mother/son things she’d dreamed of were
done by others.
Worse, she lost Sam
soon after Josh was taken. She was angry and needed to vent at
someone, and Sam was it. She came home from a visit one day to
find him waiting at the door with bags packed.
But the final blow
during one of her twice-a-week visits, when Joshua called one
of the staff members “Mommy Nancy”. A ball of pain crashed against
her ribs and Helen fell over. As the staff ran over shouting,
Helen wondered if it wouldn’t have been better if Joshua had
died at birth.
sat rigid at her desk with her cell phone pressed to her ear.
“Officer, this is
an emergency! A child has been kidnapped…No, the kidnaper is
his mother, Helen Borland. Joshua is a ward of the State. His
mother had visitation at Woodburn today. Ms. Borland took him
during her visitation without the staff realizing it…Yes, we’re
sure she’s gone. Her apartment is empty. Clothing, furniture,
everything, gone!…No, I don’t think she’ll harm him. But Joshua
has serious health issues. He just started a new genetic therapy.
Stopping the treatment could be dangerous… Thank you.”
Helen hadn’t expected
to get away indefinitely, but she hoped for a couple of months
with Joshua. I’ll show the State I can take care of him! They’ll
have to give me a chance after that.
They were on the run
for 48 hours. The sheriff’s squad kicked down the hotel room
door at 2 a.m. with guns drawn. Helen was tackled and cuffed
while Joshua screamed.
Helen clutched the
edge of the defendant’s table with her court-appointed attorney.
They had met briefly that morning.
“I recommend you accept
the proposed order and avoid a trial. You really don’t understand
how serious this is. You have a lot to lose here beyond Josh
in the civil case. And you still have your criminal trial coming
up on the kidnapping charge.”
Helen just shook her
head. If she opened her mouth she’d just start yelling. The prison
doctors had given her pills to help stay calm, but she hadn’t
taken them. No way I’m going to give him up. He’s my boy.
The bailiff walked
past and shouted, “Hear ye, Hear ye! The Family Court of the
State of Delaware in and for Sussex County is now in session,
this fourteenth day of June 2027. The Honorable Susan B. Attmore
Behind the bailiff,
a black woman strode through a door, mounted the steps to the
bench and sat. Judge Attmore examined Helen and her attorney
then glanced at the other table where the prosecutor and Ms.
The prosecutor stood. “Certainly,
your honor. We’re here on the petition of the Division of Child
Protective Services to terminate the parental rights of the defendant
Helen Borland to the minor child Joshua Borland. The father Samuel
Borland has signed a consent, and submitted the appropriate medical
certificate last week. He won’t be appearing today.”
The judge nodded
and scribbled. “The social report doesn’t mention any plan for
adoption. What is the Division’s goal in this case?”
“Adoption isn’t a
viable option,” the lawyer replied. “Joshua was born with multiple
handicaps that will require extensive treatments. Even with the
State providing an adoption subsidy, people looking to adopt
aren’t willing to take on the responsibility of managing that.
The Division’s plan for Joshua is long-term foster care at the
State-run facility at Woodburn.”
Turning to Helen,
the prosecutor added, “I recognize it’s unusual to seek termination
when there’s no plans for an adoption, but the Division feels
compelled by the ongoing, willful neglect Josh suffered, neglect
that predates the child’s birth and caused him to enter the world
with his handicaps. This petition is to protect Joshua from prevent
further abuse, not to free him for adoption. For this reason,
the Division also is requesting an order for involuntary sterilization.”
The judge looked up. “This
is a procreation rights case? I didn’t see that in the petition.”
The prosecutor leafed
through a file. “You’ll find that on page seven.”
The judge frowned
as she riffled papers, then nodded. “I have it. Proceed.”
“The Division will
prove that Helen Borland knowingly rejected medical tests that
would have permitted Joshua to make a decision on his life. Thus,
she deprived her son of his fundamental right to make choices
on the nature of his existence.”
The lawyer’s voice
became a vague droning as Helen’s gaze slid to the floor. God,
please help me.
“Mrs. Borland? Mrs.
Helen glanced up at
“Mrs. Borland, pay
Helen nodded, then
dropped her gaze to the floor.
“After the testimony
I’ve heard, I’ve no choice but to grant the Division’s petition
here. The evidence of willful neglect is overwhelming. You refused
prenatal screening for Joshua, depriving him of his right of
self-determination. Worse, you absconded with Joshua from his
treatment facility, placing Joshua in grave danger.” Helen closed
The judge paused until
Helen looked up. “Your son has rights. He’s entitled to a decent
home, adequate care for his needs, and a right of self-determination.
You’ve deprived him of those rights and sabotaged the efforts
made by the State. There’s no excuse for that.”
The Judge paused and
leaned forward. “Josh is not your property. He’s a free citizen
with the same rights as you. And if you won’t care for him, you
have no right to his care and custody.” The Judge looked back
to her file and began speaking in a monotone.
“Your actions convince
this Court that you are unfit to parent this child or any other.
I am granting the Division’s petition to terminate your parental
rights, as well as the Division’s request for involuntary sterilization.”
Helen turned to find
the bailiff and a policewoman standing beside her chair. The
policewoman grasped her shoulder.
“I note for the record
that Mr. Borland earlier signed a consent to this order and has
filed a medical certificate for his sterilization. No further
action against him is ordered.”
Helen felt the screams
bubbling up again from deep within. She pushed it down with raw
force. She’d gotten good at that while she hid the pills the
doctors gave her. They’ll put me someplace quiet tonight, and
I can take them all. Helen breathed deep and sighed. Soon, it’ll
all be over.
“So ordered, this
27th day of June, 2027.”