My baby met her daddy in prison
My baby, Bria, was just 3 days old the first time she entered a prison visiting room. She was there to met her daddy and her daddy was about to meet her. They were about to meet each other, and it was in a prison visiting room. I tried not to think about it as I got her bathed and dressed that morning. She was so tiny, so innocent, and so unaware of where I was about to take her. I was so excited to see Ron but sad that prison would be the first place he would see his daughter.
The waiting room
We walked into the prison visit waiting from of Lima Correctional. It was full of people. I held my baby a little closer—more people, more germs. Thoughts of doubt and feeling conflicted about bringing her here started to cloud my mind. I did not want any of my children in a prison. That included a prison visiting room. But I desperately wanted my family to become strong and healthy. I wanted, needed, Ron to meet his beautiful daughter. Just looking at her filled my heart with joy and hope. She was our gift from God.
We were called up to the desk to be processed next. Bria was unwrapped from all of her snuggly blankets and passed through the metal detectors to her big brother. She looked so tiny, so vulnerable and so out of place here. But then again, so did my sons. We were all out of place here in this prison. We didn’t belong here. And yet, here we were. Coming here 3-4 times a month of our own choice. We were on a mission to build a strong foundation and even the magnitude of this place was not going to stop us.
I wrapped my precious baby safely back into her blankets and carried her through the metal locking doors and into the visiting room.
Meeting her daddy
We waited. Finally, Ron walked into the room. He looked nervous— no, he looked sad, but also filled with anticipation. He walked over and greeted our sons. Then he looked down at his new daughter. He gently picked her up and held her without saying a word.
Tears streamed down his face as he gazed at her tiny little face. They were not the same kind of tears that he had cried when he met his sons in the delivery room. There was joy, but also so much pain mixed in the tears that rolled freely down his cheeks. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then began to talk with us when he opened them again. We talked about all of the excitement of her birth and homecoming. About what amazing brothers she had. And how happy we were to add her to our family.
She was cuddled and kissed while she slept. In a prison visiting room. Then, she opened her eyes and saw her daddy for the first time. In a prison visiting room.
It wasn’t long that I encountered new challenges of bringing a baby into prison.
Feeding my baby
Soon, it was time to feed her – in a prison visiting room. I was breastfeeding, so I need to find a more private place to feed her. I asked the CO (Correctional Officer) where I could sit to feed her. “In the bathroom, on the toilet.” I was told. I was shocked. So, I rephrased my question. The result was the same – “In the bathroom, on the toilet”. The only place I could sit and nurse my child was on a dirty toilet seat.
I took my beautiful baby into the nasty, dirty, prison bathroom to feed her. And I cried. This is not where I wanted to be. This is not how I wanted my baby girl to meet her daddy. Even though she would not remember having to be fed in a dirty bathroom stall, I would never forget it. It was demeaning, disgusting, and humiliating.
I reminded myself why I was there. I was not going to let this system steal my family! We were going to make it—and if we were going to make it, we needed a plan for family visits with our new baby. Now it was my turn to collect myself. As I walked back to the table, I felt my determination grow stronger. We were going to make the best of this horrible experience.
Opportunity often presents itself in the weirdest ways. Just when we think life is over, we can find a glimmer of hope that leads us to a new opportunity…
Find a solution
We sat together, talked together, and even laughed together for the rest of the visit. On my way out, I stopped to ask who I could talk to about a problem in the visiting room. I spoke to a Lieutenant about the unacceptable situation of having to sit on a toilet seat to feed my newborn baby. She began to tell me about all the rules and why this was the case. I asked her very nicely if next time I could just take a seat into the bathroom and sit in a corner instead of having to be in the stall. She agreed.
It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than a toilet in case of an emergency. For future visits, I brought bottles with me, and I had a backup plan. I had not realized the extra planning I needed to do with an infant in the visits. From bottles, to diapers and wipes—everything had to be planned ahead and packaged in clear containers, so I could get it in. But it was worth it to see my husband and daughter develop a bond on those visits.
He was not a stranger. He was her Daddy. And for a season, that was our family time. In a prison visiting room. Until we had to adjust to daddy coming home.
It isn’t easy to overcome all of the obstacles you will face because your husband is in prison. Hold on tight to your family. Do whatever it takes to find ways to connect and spend time together. It is worth the effort!
I am rooting for you!