After Ellie endured dozens of clinicians and multiple hospitalizations, the Gertzes came to the sad realization that their daughter would never be able to function in the family constellation. They faced a wrenching dilemma: Do they give up their daughter to protect everyone else?Read the whole thing, and then let us know what you think.
Lori Gertz told of the family's struggle in a blog, and she and her husband, Craig, 45, shared their story with the Tribune in an effort to help other families by raising awareness and calling for more resources for children with mental illness.
Eight years ago, giving up their daughter would have been unfathomable. The Gertzes had one son — Jonah, then almost 4 — and longed to have more children, but, after seven miscarriages and Lori Gertz nearing 40, the window was closing. So they turned to adoption.
Eventually, a 34-year-old New Jersey woman chose them from an online site, just eight weeks before her due date. On Jan. 5, 2003, Lori Gertz accompanied the birth mother into the delivery room. She was the first one to hold and feed the 8-pound newborn.
"No one could have felt luckier and more joyful than us," Lori Gertz said. "We have beautiful photos of that day … proof of a mother doing only what was in the best interest of her child. I wish she had that presence of mind when Ellie was in utero."
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In 2005, it took Ellie pushing Lori Gertz — now eight months pregnant with Talia — down a flight of stairs for others to recognize this wasn't about the "terrible twos" or bad parenting. This was something that could not have been prevented by the Gertzes.
When they met Ellie's birth mother, she revealed few habits beyond bingo and cigarettes, and nothing in her pristine medical records suggested otherwise.
Only after the woman's brother started e-mailing the Gertzes did they discover other vices. She began drinking and smoking pot in her teens, graduating to PCP, then crack cocaine, a routine she continued during her first trimester. "I know she was clean for the remainder of her pregnancy because she was in jail," wrote the brother.
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