When Adam was born, he got a few moments to cuddle with his mom, but then the nurses wanted to get him to the NICU. I moved to hand him to a nurse, but she said, “You can carry him, just follow me.” I’d been a parent for all of 10 minutes, but there I was carrying my 4 lb. 12 oz. newborn son down to the NICU. I stayed with him while they started an IV (it took five agonizing-to-watch attempts) and got him on oxygen. I stayed with him for an hour (an hour for which my wife still hasn’t entirely forgiven me) before I finally tore myself away. My wife and I spent the better part of the next 17 days in the NICU with him. Even though he was mostly just lying there sleepily, awake for only 30 minutes at a time between naps, it was still hard to leave him. We drove the 13 miles to and from the hospital two or three times every day until he got to come home (on Father's Day).
This morning, two years to the day since he came home from the hospital, I took Adam to daycare. The whole way there, he was singing the names of all the people (and dogs) he’d see at daycare. He ran to the door. But as soon as we walked in, he started grabbing at me and whining, “Up, please? Dada, up...” He was begging me not to leave him. I don’t worry about him for half a second while he’s at daycare. He’s happy, engaged, actively learning, and safe. But still, it broke my heart to pull him off me and walk out the door.
I can’t imagine the experiences of families escaping terror in their homes, coming to the United States seeking asylum, and having their children ripped from their arms. These parents aren’t leaving their infant or toddler with loving NICU nurses or saintly daycare providers, but with uniformed officers who are not allowed to provide comfort to the child, and kept in cages. The parents and children have no idea when or if they'll be reunited.
I say, “I can’t imagine,” because that’s what we all say. “I just can’t imagine,” we say, shaking our heads.
Of course, it would be more correct to say, “I don’t want to imagine.” I’ve tried to imagine what that would feel like for me if Adam were taken away, not knowing where he is or when I’d see him again. It's not that I can’t imagine, it’s that I’m not willing to. I refuse to imagine it. It's too terrifying, too damaging to even allow the thought any entry.
Laws aside, it's unethical for any country, any human, to treat children like this. I don't want to think about the situation of these families, but I owe it to them to try. Because maybe by really, fully considering the horror they are living I can be forced into action.