‘There is something wrong. She won’t open her eyes and is very weak.’ I drove to the babysitter’s house like a rocket! I collapsed in tears. Everything was chaos after that.’

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“I have always said that December is my favorite month of the year; it is the perfect time to count our blessings and spend time with our family. Three years ago, I was very excited to start the new holiday traditions with my new little family; my husband and my newborn daughter. Scarlett was 3 months old when December started, and it was a busy time for our family with me going back to work and getting ready for finals.

Baby girl lays asleep on mother's chest
Courtesy of Thalia Macias

On December 2nd my day started as a regular, busy day. I took Scarlett to her caretaker and headed to school to present a project and then to work. However, my day took a wrong turn when around lunchtime I received a call that no mother should ever receive. The voice on the other line said: ‘There is something wrong with Scarlett, she won’t open her eyes and she is very weak.’ I immediately panicked and told her to call 911. I drove to the babysitter’s house like a rocket! When I arrived, Scarlett’s dad was already there and the ambulance as well. I saw my 3-month-old baby having a seizure, and I lost it. My baby was being held by the babysitter while the paramedics were giving her medical attention. I stood in the corner in panic.

I left in the ambulance with my daughter. Her seizure continued all the way to the hospital, lasting about 10-15 minutes. Far too long for an infant!

We were rushed into a room as my baby was still unconscious, and I just wanted her to wake up and look at her beautiful eyes. The ophthalmologist walked in and checked Scarlett’s eyes and the words that came out of her mouth still haunt me to this day… ‘YOUR BABY HAS BEEN SHAKEN.’ I was hysterical! I knew what that meant, as a former journalist I had already done a story about a baby who went through the same thing. My sister and husband stood up motionless, while I collapsed in full tears imagining the worst case scenario. Everything was chaos after that.

Within minutes a case worker showed up, followed by the cops and child abuse investigators asking for a detailed timeline of our week. We were being questioned as my daughter was getting MRI and CT scans done. Detectives asked the same questions over and over again, and each time with more pressure wanting for us to give an answer we did not have. We were separated and were told that if we did not cooperate, we would not be able to see our daughter. And of course we wanted to cooperate, but we were so confused. The fact that she was physically abused just did not make sense. We were in denial. Who could be capable of hurting our baby? We trusted everyone around her! What really happened? (Until this day I do not have an answer).

Throughout her time at the hospital, we were told she had a hemorrhage behind her eyes and bleeding in her brain. Everything was a waiting game… Waiting for Scarlett to wake up to find out to what extent her brain had suffered damage, and waiting to hear from detectives on the next steps of the investigation. My faith was tested and I had many conversations with God, the ones I never had before. I blamed him many times, and others, I begged him. I asked him many times, why? Why my baby? Why this? What did I ever do to him! I prayed with my whole family around her as she was on her hospital bed unconscious. Two days went by and she finally opened her eyes, and she looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes and smiled. My heart had never felt so much joy! That is the day I knew God was in my life and he was by my side all along. I had prayed so much and he was letting me know everything was going to be okay.

Baby with hemorrhage behind her eyes and bleeding in her brain lay in hospital crib
Courtesy of Thalia Macias

Our time at the hospital was a mixture of spending time with our daughter, to being questioned many times each day, to talking with lawyers and trying to understand what really happened with neurologists. Even though we don’t know what really happened, we believe she was shaken for a small amount of time. Enough time to cause bleeding, but not enough to cause irreversible brain damage. After a few days at the hospital, we were all home together again… with a criminal case still open, a long list of doctors’ appointments and a very scared mom and dad.

Mother lays kissing head of baby daughter who was shaken
Courtesy of Thalia Macias

Because of the blood that she still had in her brain, there was a possibility that she could get another seizure, so we were sent home with an anti-seizure medicine. We had to give it to her twice a day, each day. If we did not follow that schedule, the possibility of having a seizure increased. We had many sleepless nights terrified that she could get a seizure while we slept.

Since I was a stay at home mom now, I was with her most of the day, and it was very hard! I was afraid to hold my own baby for months. I would just hold her when I had to feed her and would then put her down after that. It sounds harsh, I know. However, we were very traumatized by the whole investigation, especially me. We were questioned about the way we carried her, if we rocked her to bed too hard, if we played rough with her, even if any of our family members disappeared with her in their arms. All of those scenarios of what could’ve happened were haunting me. However, doctors assured us that simple things like that would not cause her brain to bleed, it had to be a strong force and a back and forth shake of her head.

I remember one day I was trying to teach her how to sit by herself the way her pediatrician showed me. As she was sitting on the bed, I grabbed her arms and helped her pull herself up to the sitting position. Somehow, she slipped and fell back on the bed. I immediately panicked! I grabbed her and ran to my husband and told him what happened with tears pouring down my face. I did not sleep that night thinking I had hurt her. It sounds silly now. Every child that is learning how to sit will fall back or on their side, it is a normal part of that process. But in my mind, a simple movement like that was able to hurt my baby. I chose not to go to many family gatherings because I was terrified of letting someone else carry Scarlett. My heart would literally stop, and I just wanted to cry. I felt as if I had no power over her well-being while she was in someone else’s arms. We constantly checked her soft spot to make sure it wasn’t bulging, as according to the neurologist that was something to look for.

Baby sits playing with toy in lap of mother
Courtesy of Thalia Macias

As Scarlett learned to crawl, we would put a safety helmet on her head and even then it was difficult to let her crawl on any hard floor that did not have carpet. When she started walking, I lived in fear, I just wanted to be able to keep her inside a bubble so she wouldn’t get hurt. There are many times we find ourselves subconsciously restricting our daughter to the simple things that most children get to enjoy, thus, making us feel horrible as we know she has to experience life. Unfortunately, our fears of losing her continue to exist and will probably continue to exist for a long time.

Now that she is a toddler, we try to give her as much liberty as possible but we still are far more cautious than the typical parents. We do NOT leave her side. Even if we are with family members, her dad and I take turns to be next to her. It is a lot of work for the both of us, however, we feel the need to protect her. Many people have judged us for the way that we treat her, as we may appear to be ‘helicopter parents.’ I am living with so many fears and feelings I still have to process that it is hard to just relax. I am traumatized! I am afraid to lose my child! I live with that fear every day and I shouldn’t. PTSD is a real thing. Now I will ask that you please do me a favor… the next time that you see a mom and she is being too overprotective, or you think she is a little too much, just stop and think. Maybe that mother has been through a tough experience with her baby. Maybe it was hard for her to conceive or maybe that child has some special needs that are not noticeable. No mother should live in fear that something will happen to their child every single day, but I do, and I know that many others do as well.

Father smiles as he holds baby daughter in restaurant beside his wife
Courtesy of Thalia Macias

Two months after she was shaken, I noticed her eye was drifting to the side, and at 9 months she was diagnosed with strabismus. When she was 1 ½ years old she had her first eye surgery, which did not work. Now we are doing patching full time in hopes to repair her vision, however there is the possibility that her eye will never be able to fully recover.

Little girl with strabismus stands smiling in home with pink glasses on and eye patch on left eye
Courtesy of Thalia Macias

As the days go by it gets easier, and every day we are thankful that she is here with us. Now, our little warrior is 3 ½ years old, she knows her ABC’s, her colors and dreams of becoming a firefighter.

She is such a strong little girl and we are extremely proud of her! This obstacle gave me a new outlook, it gave me the opportunity to appreciate life, even more, to be with my daughter all day and be able to celebrate every small milestone with my princess. I thank God every day for life, her health, her love and for this opportunity. It has not been an easy journey, but it has been the most beautiful journey of my life.”

Mother crouches down beside daughter who stands behind rainbow pinwheel outside
Courtesy of Thalia Macias
Little girl with strabismus sits smiling in shopping cart in aisle of grocery store
Courtesy of Thalia Macias

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Thalia Macias of San Diego, California. You can follow their journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d love to hear your journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read about more survivors of shaken baby syndrome:

‘I realized I had missed 20 calls from my mom. The night before, her father picked her up. I arrived at the ER very confused. All I remember was her yelling and crying.’

‘He asked me if he could murder the baby now. His father had been alone with him for 2 hours and everything had been fine.’

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