YUKON - Isaiah prefers to be in a room by himself, hates bright lights and resists being touched. At night, he still wakes up screaming sometimes, for no apparent reason.
No reason other than he was born to a meth addict and tested positive for drugs at birth, as well as for syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease. Isaiah also has mild cerebral palsy and epileptic seizures. His far-sightedness requires thick glasses, which look out of place on a child who will turn 3 in August.
Ruth and Paul Durbin, both 41, took Isaiah into their Yukon home when he was three days old. His mother, who is said to be mentally retarded and schizophrenic, as well as drug dependent, gave birth to him while in prison.
Isaiah is one of 89 so-called "prison babies" the Durbins have taken into their home in the last seven years. They are children of women who are sent to prison, or who give birth while in prison. The Durbins, as well as other families, keep some children for only a few days, some for a few months, some for years.
Isaiah is one of only three they will keep for good.
After Ruth Durbin saw the mental condition of the mother in court hearings, she offered to adopt Isaiah. It wasn't easy and required a fight with the state Department of Human Services, she said. But between persuading the judge and dealing with Isaiah's night terrors and grumpiness, she made him a permanent part of their family.
And she says they love him as much as their four biological children, ages 16 to 24, and two other adopted children, ages 7 and 5.
There were times, however, when doubt and fear prevailed. When Isaiah was inconsolable and refused touch. When all he could do was suck his thumb and sob.
"I was trying to work, Paul was trying to work, and we didn't know how to comfort him," Durbin said. "Never did we ever think about giving him back or anything. It was just, what do you do? I didn't know how he hurt, why he hurt. His cries were so different."
Each drug has its own effect on babies. Crack-addicted babies, for instance, are grouchy and fidgety, but sleep a lot. They want to be swaddled in cloth Durbin calls it the "crack wrap."
Meth babies like Isaiah, however, can hardly stand wearing clothes or shoes. They don't like noise or bright lights or other people. And although they don't sleep well, they don't fidget either.
"It was like his body would shut down and he'd be limp in my arms," Durbin said of Isaiah. "Even crack babies like to be in a room with people. Isaiah didn't want to be in a room with anybody, he wanted to be in a room himself. If anybody even came by and talked to him, he'd scream."
Simply put, Durbin said, "meth babies want to be left alone - they can't take the stimulation."
Brain scans showed Isaiah had some abnormalities, but nothing major, Durbin said. Then, at five months old, he started having epileptic seizures.
The adoptive mother finally quit her job as an insurance secretary and the couple decided they could live on a $40,000 income. Her husband is a machinist. Being home full-time with their three adopted children plus the babies they take in temporarily has made a huge difference.
Isaiah, for instance, will now allow cuddling "on his own terms."
He'll play, even one-on-one with other children, though he won't play in groups. More often, though, he'll play by himself, but near other children. He still walks on his tiptoes 90 percent of the time, but at least they can now get shoes on his feet.
And the joy does come.
"He just has this great big grin and beautiful lips and just to see those little dimples in those big fat cheeks is just heartwarming," she said.
Still, there is a lesson to learn from Isaiah, as well as from the dozens of other drug babies that come through the Durbin door, or end up in state custody.
Some mothers, she said, live with terrible regret over what they've done to their children. Durbin tells them they must look forward, not back, and make the best life they can for the child they were dealt.
She doesn't need to remind them that the sleepless nights and seizures were all preventable. But she can hope for the next one.
"If they would think twice before they take that next snort in their nose or injection in their arm, they'd stop and think what they're going to do to their children," Durbin said. "That is my only wish, to make even one child more safe."Archive ID: 857399