READ IT: Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery Speech - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

READ IT: Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery Speech

BRANDY FOREMAN: Thank you all so much for taking the time to come today.  I want to start by telling you that I am the wife of a Chief in the United States Navy, I am also the mother of 4 children under 10 years old.  My oldest child has special needs: his medical diagnosis includes both autism and mental retardation.  At the age of 9, my son, Hayden, functions at about the equivalent of a 3-5 year old.  He did not crawl until he was 3, he did not walk until he was 7, he was not toilet trained until just this year, but he has been the light of our lives since the day he was born.  As you can tell, my cup overflows, so I do not easily give up what limited free time I have.  However, when I heard about this breakfast and the chance to help the crisis nursery, there is nothing that could have kept me from it.  In my humble opinion, there is no greater cause than our children and the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery is one of the greatest champions in this area that our children have.

My family and I moved to this area in the fall of 2006.  At the time, I was about six months pregnant with baby number 4.  For a few months before our move, my husband had been having some medical issues which worried me.  I kept pestering him to see a doctor but he kept putting it off.  On December 29, 2006, I gave birth to our 4th child who we affectionately call "the grand finale".  Shortly after her birth, my husband finally kept his promise to see a doctor. 

I will spare you the details, but that appointment led to a referral to a specialist which in turn ultimately led us to the crisis nursery.  On February 8, 2007, the day our 4th child turned exactly 6 weeks old, my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer.  He was only 28 years old. 

Here we were, far from home, new to the area, and suddenly we were cancer patients.  My husband has always been my rock during hard times; I had no idea how to take care of him, let alone 4 children.  He underwent surgery to remove a foot of colon in March of 2007.  It was during that surgery that doctors discovered the cancer had spread to lymph nodes.  The cancer was a stage 3. 

My husband was to have chemotherapy every other Friday for six months.  There were some treatments early on that he had to go to alone because we could not afford childcare.  The cost of that much childcare for 4 children was more than we could handle – especially when you add a nursing infant and a special needs child to the mix.  The cost issue aside, I couldn't imagine anyone I could trust my children with.   We were blessed that my oldest son's teacher was willing to care for him.  Our blessings further multiplied when a social worker from the cancer center gave us some information on the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.   

To be frank, the first time I looked at the information about the nursery, I thought, "What kind of parent would have to send their kid to a crisis nursery?"  I had visions of being grilled about my parenting, being looked down on for not being able to handle things; I think I half expected to have someone take the kids from me if I asked for help.  It was with a feeling of deep shame that I called the nursery the first time.  I just couldn't bear the thought of my husband going to another chemotherapy treatment alone.  They took my information and a short time later called me back and told me they would be happy to watch my three youngest children.  It didn't even faze them that they'd have to warm up breast milk for the baby, they were happy to do it.  When we took the kids to the nursery, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the accusations, the pity, and the condemnation.  I never found any of that.

What I found was very nearly like a family.  The staff was warm and friendly from the minute we arrived, until the minute we left.  They never asked why we couldn't handle things, they just helped.  They did offer us more services if we needed them, but they were not pushy or rude, they were helpful in providing information much in the way you would do for a friend.  By the time I came to pick the kids up, they were in tears.  Not because they had a bad time, but because they did not want to leave.  To this day, they still refer to the crisis nursery as "that adventure place".  They went there almost every other Friday through the end of my husband's treatment. 

I am happy to tell you that my husband is currently in remission and doing great.  Looking back, I cannot begin to imagine how we could have gotten through it without the Vanessa Behan crisis nursery.  It was hard enough, mentally, to go through that time period, but if my husband had had to sit through treatment alone, I'm certain it would have been unbearable. 

Now that I've told you what the nursery has done for us, I feel it's just as important for me to tell you what a place like the nursery could have done for me in my childhood; it may also help explain why this nursery holds such a special place in my heart.

I spent my early childhood living with my mother and 2 sisters.  My mother was a high school drop out who had her first child at the age of 16.  By the time she turned 23 she was a single mother with 3 children. There were two different fathers who had very limited involvement.  My mother was the product of an abusive childhood and her temper reflected it.  At times she worked three jobs to try and make ends meet.  We would frequently be left with babysitters she didn't know, and that was when we were left with a sitter at all.  I started being abused by these "babysitters" in kindergarten.  Also in kindergarten, I watched my mother's boyfriend sit on her and strangle her close to death. We didn't leave because we had no place to go.  In first grade, I recall being chased down the street and kicked repeatedly by my mother because I'd dropped the gallon of milk I was carrying home from the store.  By second grade, I was sometimes responsible for making my sisters dinner when my mother couldn't be home.  When I reached the third grade, I was being emotionally, physically, and sexually abused to the point that I stopped going to school. It was at this point that my father's family finally stepped in and things improved for us. 

I tell you all of this, not to gain pity from you, but instead to help give you an understanding of what it is like to grow up as an abused child. My story is what happens when there is no Crisis Nursery to turn to.  In retrospect, I can see that my mother and I were growing up at the same time.  We have a great relationship now; however I can see that back then she had nowhere to turn for help.  There was no crisis nursery to turn to when she was overwhelmed.  There was no crisis nursery to turn to when she had to find a babysitter to make it to one of her three jobs.  I can't imagine how very differently my early childhood may have been if there had been a place like the crisis nursery for my mother to turn too. 

I also can't imagine how very different my husbands treatment, his recovery and my ability to support him would have been had I not had the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery to share the weight.  His fight to survive cancer was as challenging as my fight to overcome the abuse I had lived through.  It was my turn to be his rock but I just didn't know how to do that and parent 4 children alone.  The Nursery became another one of those angels dropped in my life just when I needed them most.  Knowing the children were safe – and not with someone like the babysitters I experienced growing up – I was able to focus my strength on my husbands health. 

I cannot think of a better reason to stand before you today than to say, a Nursery could have saved me from the childhood I experienced and it very likely helped save my husband.  Thank you for the role each of you plays in making sure there is a Crisis Nursery in Spokane that protects children like I was and strengthens families like mine.  I am forever grateful to know there are so many of you that allowed me to be the rock for my husband when he needed it the most.

 

 

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