(Note from Erin: This shouldn’t be happening but it has become normal. We need to make sure everyone sees this. Please forward this to everyone you know. Our hearts are with this poor mother.)
The story of Nashville, Tennessee, mother Tamika Seagraves and her children is one of tragedy upon tragedy. It is the story of a mother who began questioning the things that she had been taught after catastrophe struck not once, but twice, taking the lives of 2 of her babies. Now, she is fighting Child Protective Services for her other children who have been taken from her.
Tamika has been pregnant 3 times, and in each case, she gave birth to premature twins, a boy and a girl every time. The first set of twins, Zayden and his sister Ziria were micro-preemies, born at just 24 weeks. Though Ziria grew stronger and eventually went home, Zayden never went home. He only survived 13 days.
Two years later, Jordan and Jaliyah were born at 35 weeks. When Jordan passed away at just under two months of age, his mother began questioning, looking at vaccines and the vitamin K shot. At the same time, Child Protective Services began questioning and looking at HER.
Whistleblowers who are NICU nurses have confirmed that they have seen premature infants injured in the NICU by vaccines, and a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that there are adverse effects from vaccinating very low birth-weight infants.
Jordan’s autopsy stated that the cause of his death could not be determined, but DCS (Department of Children’s Services) has blamed Tamika. Instead of closing out the case when the autopsy report came back, DCS stepped in and seized custody of Jordan’s twin sister Jaliyah. Tamika was able to place her older daughter with family members and keep her out of the hands of DCS.
According to court documents, DCS has accused Tamika of demonstrating “erratic behaviors” because she refuses vaccinations, stopped a medication for her child out of concerns for its side effects, “tried to have Jaliyah seen by a holistic chiropractor as opposed to a pediatrician,” and missed doctors appointments. One was reportedly missed due to snow, and another because her older child was sick that day.
Jaliyah has also been slow to gain weight. Tamika says her growth pattern is similar to her big sister Ziria, whose growth was very slow during her first year of life also. Social workers and doctors at Vanderbilt have labeled Jaliyah “failure to thrive” and reportedly place the blame on her mother. Tamika says that there is more to the story and paints a very different picture than painted by DCS workers.
On December 5, 2016, Tamika gave birth again to another set of twins. When they were 5 weeks old, DCS seized both of them. Tamika says that the reasons that CPS gave her for taking the youngest twins, Zaylen and Zaliyah, had nothing to do with the twins, but everything to do with the allegations that she was already fighting concerning her daughter.
Just before court on Friday, March 3, Tamika was handed documents that accused her of “nutritional neglect” of Zaylen and Zaliyah, and of “lack of supervision” for Zaliyah.
She is very confused about these allegations. She explains that the youngest babies were exclusively breastfed, and that she was following the feeding recommendations of the hospital’s lactation consultant and the babies’ nurse-practitioner. Could the medical experts have missed some important cues that could have altered their feeding advice? If so, Tamika doesn’t understand how she could be held responsible when she did what she was instructed to do.
Concerned Friends Speak Out on Apparent Injustice
One of Tamika’s friends wrote to Health Impact News asking us to look into her story. She told us that she sees Tamika like a sister, and that as long as she has known her, she has always had a passion for caring for others, especially the elderly and children. She says DCS “snatched” Jaliyah from her home “after the police came and lied to her to get her outside to talk to her.” Tamika notes that her oldest child Ziria was in the home at the time Jaliyah was taken, but Zirai was not taken. Tamika was able to place her with some relatives shortly after Jaliyah was taken into custody, in the hopes of keeping Ziria out of the hands of DCS.
Other friends have written on Tamika’s behalf. In order to protect them from possible DCS retaliation, we have not published their names, since some of them have children of their own.
One friend describes Tamika as “a sweet and kind woman but most of all a loving mother.”
“She is the most loving and caring person I know,” writes another friend. She also spoke of Tamika’s passion to care for others. “I was amazed at how well she was able to handle what life was throwing at her [with the premature babies and losing 2 sons] … it had made her love for her 2 daughters even stronger. … there is not doubt in my mind that she is doing everything to make sure her children are well taken care of. … You are looking at one GREAT MOTHER!!”
Tamika told Health Impact News that a friend warned her about Vanderbilt Hospital, telling her that she fears the hospital is using such unusual children for medical studies. She pointed out that it is extremely rare to find so many factors present in the same family – an African-American mother with 3 sets of twins, all premature births, each set with a boy and a girl, and deaths with the boys in 2 of the sets of twins. She reports that even though her oldest daughter had slow growth, just like Jaliyah, as well as other health issues, DCS did not become involved in their lives until after her second baby died. She says:
I will never back down. I am my children’s voices, and no one is going to fight for them like I am. I will never stop fighting for my children.
Tamika’s Tragic Story
When Tamika found out that she was having twins the first time, she was overjoyed. Zayden and Ziria were born too soon, at just 24 weeks, on January 4, 2013. They were very tiny, weighing less than a pound and a half each, and went straight into the NICU. Both received the vitamin K shot. Zayden died at 13 days old from sepsis. Ziria had breathing problems and was on oxygen until she was 9 months old. She was fully vaccinated up until age 2.
Jordan and Jaliyah were born May 28, 2015, at 35 weeks. They both received the vitamin K shot, but no other vaccines. After a couple weeks in the NICU, they came home. Most of the time when they slept, the twins slept together in their crib. Tamika says that they liked to snuggle together.
On the night of June 21, when they were almost 2 months old, Tamika recalls that Jordan was uncharacteristically fussy that night. Though they did not usually co-sleep, on that night she put Jordan in bed with her, hoping that would help him sleep.
At around 3am, Jaliyah’s crying woke up her mother. That is when Tamika discovered that Jordan was still and unresponsive. The terrified mother called 911, and he was rushed to the hospital. All attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead an hour later.
The twins had been at the doctor the week before, and the doctor reportedly tried to convince Tamika to vaccinate the babies. She said that he told her that, if she didn’t vaccinate them, they were going to die.
To this day, Tamika wonders if the babies were given vaccines at the hospital before they were released, despite her concerns and refusal. She noted a tiny spot on Jaliyah’s leg that looked like a shot mark.
Vitamin K Shot Carries Serious Risks
During the months after Jordan’s death, the devastated mother did a great deal of research. She discovered that the vitamin K shot, which she presumed to be harmless, actually carries a black box warning label, and that the package insert states that “deaths have occurred after intravenous and intramuscular administration.” (Note: the shot is typically given intramuscularly.)
A number of other statements on the vitamin K injection package insert have concerned Tamika Seagraves, including:
- “Benzyl alcohol as a preservative in [the vitamin K shot] has been associated with toxicity in newborns.”
- “Benzyl alcohol has been reported to be associated with a fatal “Gasping Syndrome” in premature infants.”
- “WARNING: This product contains aluminum that may be toxic. … Premature neonates are particularly at risk because their kidneys are immature.”
- “Hemolysis, jaundice, and hyperbilirubinemia in neonates, particularly those that are premature, may be related to the dose of vitamin K injection.”
During the months after Jordan’s death, she reports that she made frequent calls to the coroner’s office trying to find out what had happened to her baby. According to the Justice for Jaliyah Facebook page:
The coroner eventually told her that they could not determine cause of death. By this point a friend of Tamika’s had told her that with both of her boys dying that perhaps she should look into vaccines. She began to dig into vaccines and decided perhaps they had played a part in the boys’ deaths. She asked the coroner if this could have been the case. The coroner responded in a way that made her think that yes, vaccines could have played a role, but that the coroner was not at liberty to suggest that (all calls are recorded from the coroner’s office). Jordan’s death record reads, “Couldn’t be determined.”
Even though there was no cause determined for Jordan’s death, DCS has blamed his death on Tamika for co-sleeping, a practice that has been vilified by some doctors and social workers, despite its safe practice throughout most cultures in the world and throughout virtually all of human history. There is no evidence that co-sleeping played a role in the baby’s death. He is the second twin boy in the family to pass away. His older brother died at only 13 days old, while he was still in the NICU. Tamika is sure that Zayden’s death clearly had nothing to do with co-sleeping or anything that she did or did not do, but Tamika feels that the social workers are blaming her.
Twin of Deceased Baby Seized by DCS
When the DCS case investigating Jordan’s death was due to close, DCS caseworker Freeman Peters showed up at Tamika’s home requesting to take a picture of Jaliyah. He reportedly said:
She’s so pretty. I want to show my supervisor.
That was apparently a ruse. When Tamika refused to allow him to take a picture, DCS supervisor Tiffany Washington reportedly called Tamika demanding that she take Jaliyah to doctors at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital because Mr. Peters thought that she looked small. She told her that if she refused, they would seize custody of Jaliyah.
She was small. She was a preemie baby, who was following a very similar pattern of growth as her big sister Ziria, who grew very slowly during her first year. Doctors at Centennial Hospital had recently recommended testing for thyroid issues, due to elevated TSH levels, but Tamika reports that DCS did not want the judge to see that. Jaliyah had a history of vomiting and Tamika was in the process of working with her own doctors to find out what was going on with her daughter.
“Failure to Thrive” Used to Seize Child
DCS later did seize custody of Jaliyah, citing “failure to thrive.” Tamika says that she was following the instructions that doctors had given her with feeding Jaliyah her formula. Medical documents show that Tamika was given very confusing and conflicting feeding instructions. She was following the instructions to the best of her understanding, but the instructions were very unclear.
For example, one document from Vanderbilt contains instructions to feed 4 bottles a day, and to feed her 8 times a day – both instructions on the same instruction sheet. She says that at one doctor visit, she was asked what proportions she was using to mix the formula. She says that she gave the wrong answer because she didn’t remember the right numbers, but when she was home, she followed the proportions that were written down by doctors.
Tamika reports that though Jaliyah was tiny, she was doing well. She was a happy child, meeting her developmental milestones. She was walking and talking, energetic, playful, and peeing and pooping well – all of which are indicators that the child is thriving. She fed her when she was hungry.
She rarely cried. She was a very content baby. She didn’t start crying a lot until they took her away from me.
She often vomited, and doctors at Vanderbilt said that it was reflux and prescribed medication. Tamika said that the medication did not seem to be making a difference and that she was horrified to read the side effects of the medication. These types of medications, known as “acid blockers,” have recently been linked to increases in kidney disease and other side effects. (See: Stomach Acid Blockers Linked to Brain Damage and Kidney Disease.)
Doctors and social workers were very unhappy with her when she discontinued the reflux medication. She later learned that it was not reflux at all; Jaliyah had a hernia which was causing some of the problems. She has since had surgery to repair the hernia.
Since Jaliyah has been taken from her, she has grown more. Tamika says that her big sister’s growth rate had also increased after she turned a year old. Jaliyah was also given more calories in her formula, something that Tamika says that she would have done herself if they had worked with her. She says she never intentionally withheld calories from her child; she was simply following the instructions that she had been given.
Before Jaliyah was taken, a nurse had been coming into the home a couple times a week. She told Tamika that her baby was indeed growing, albeit at a slower rate, but that it was normal for preemies to grow slower than their full-term counterparts. Vanderbilt has reportedly told social workers that she was not growing, but that is not what the nurse’s records show. The nurse has testified that Tamika didn’t do anything wrong.
Still, Jaliyah was placed into state custody. Tamika wonders why the state never showed the same concern over Ziria, whose growth pattern was very similar to Jaliyah’s. Ziria had more health issues than Jaliyah in her first year. She questions Vanderbilt’s involvement. She says that it was not until after the death of her second baby that Vanderbilt and DCS began to scrutinize her. She questions their motives.
Jaliyah was placed into the custody of Tamika’s mother, who has complied with every doctor visit request with Vanderbilt. From the court record, it is clear that DCS was aware that Tamika and her mother have not been on good terms, and they placed Jaliyah (and later Zaylen and Zaliyah) with her.
Tamika reports that her mother has refused to cooperate in allowing her court-ordered visits with her children. She says that her mother told her that DCS has told her not to let her see them, even though a judge has ruled otherwise.
Newest Babies Seized – Breastfeeding Blamed
Zaylen and Zaliyah were born on December 5, 2016. They were 34 week preemies, but they were both released to go home with no health concerns at less than a week of age. With these babies, Tamika didn’t want to take any chances. She refused all vaccines, the eye ointment, and the vitamin K shot, citing religious reasons. She chose to breastfeed them.
DCS showed up in early January to seize the new babies. The initial documents for seizure cite reasons that concerned Jaliyah, not the new babies. Social workers apparently didn’t even know the names of the new twins, calling them Baby A and Baby B.
It was not until Friday, March 3, that Tamika was handed a document at court alleging “nutritional neglect” for both twins and “lack of supervision” for Zaliyah.
DCS sent the babies to a new pediatrician, Dr. Roderick Bahner of Capstone Pediatrics, in mid January. He diagnosed them with failure to thrive and prematurity – twin gestation. He said that the babies should only receive formula, even though Tamika had been pumping her milk for the babies. He wrote in a medical report:
Breastmilk will not provide the enhanced calories required for growth.
Tamika asks how it is possible that, since breast is best, her breastmilk could not have the needed calories for her babies, and how her babies could have failed to thrive.
It appears that the reason that her babies were not thriving could lie with inadequate breastfeeding advice given to her by experts. Their prematurity also certainly played a significant role.
The babies were indeed small. They had only reached back up to their birth weight when Tamika took them to a nurse-practitioner on January 4. According to AmericanPregnancy.org:
A 7-10% loss is considered normal for breastfed babies. Most babies should regain this lost weight by days 10-14 of life. If a baby loses a significant amount of weight, is sick, or is premature, it may take up to 3 weeks to get back to his or her birth weight.
The babies were 4 weeks and 2 days. Combined with the history of Tamika’s children to gain weight slowly at first, this may not have been alarming. Indeed, Tamika reports that the nurse-practitioner was not very concerned. She scheduled a follow-up appointment for January 19 to check their weight. They discussed the possibility of supplementing at that time if necessary.
Her concerns were calmed, and she continued feeding her babies as she had been instructed at the hospital where she gave birth – about every 3 hours for about 15-20 minutes at each feeding. She said that the nurse-practitioner had told her not to allow the babies to nurse more than that per feeding. She complied.
Tongue Tie Affects Breastfeeding, Significance Downplayed
When Health Impact News asked if she experienced pain when nursing, Tamika described “red, shooting pain.” She didn’t realize that this is the universal description of the pain associated with a baby with a short frenulum, or “tongue-tie.” She said that the lactation consultant at the hospital where she gave birth said that the babies did, in fact, have tongue-tie, but she told her that it wasn’t severe enough to be clipped.
Dr. Jack Newman of the International Breastfeeding Centre is considered by many to be the foremost breastfeeding expert physician in the world. He encounters tongue-tie frequently in his clinic. He addressed the issue in an email interview with a writer for the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and posted the interview on his Facebook page. He wrote in part:
Many physicians will tell mothers that yes, the baby has a tongue tie, but a tongue tie does not interfere with breastfeeding, which is obviously not true. And most physicians will not release a tongue tie because they don’t know how. It’s not difficult, but if you don’t know, it’s frightening to do it. We teach physicians how to do it in the clinic.
Many mothers stop breastfeeding because the baby is not gaining, or does not latch on, or the mother has severe pain. Getting help for breastfeeding cannot wait weeks, but unfortunately we see many mothers and babies who don’t get help for weeks when it may be too late to turn things around. For example, if a baby is not breastfeeding well because he has a tongue tie, this results in a decrease in milk supply over time. If the decrease in milk supply continues for weeks, it may be difficult to turn things around.
Could the youngest twins’ failure to thrive been easily prevented if the lactation consultant simply recommended a tongue-tie release? All of the mothers in this writer’s extensive experience with breastfeeding mothers who had a tongue-tie release procedure done have reported immediate relief from painful nursing and a significant increase in their milk supply.
Instead of that reportedly happening with Tamika and her babies, Tamika has been blamed and her children kept from her.
In Friday’s hearing, the judge reportedly told Tamika:
No disrespect to you, but your breastmilk is not giving them the nutrition that they need.
The much more likely scenario is that her milk was fine, and that the problem lay in the mechanics of removal of the milk due to the babies’ tongue-tie, resulting in an inadequate milk supply. Instead of separating babies from their mother, which presents an emotional trauma all on its own, would not the more responsible action in the best interest of the children be to work with the mother to repair the feeding issues, even supplementing if necessary for the babies’ growth?
Vaccines Recommended, But Avoided for Now
The same doctor who stated in his report that Tamika’s breastmilk was inadequate also wrote in a letter that was presented to the court that:
We have been asked to give atestment (sic) to the need for vaccination of young infants. We are aware that the biological parent (mother) has historically rejected the children receiving vaccinations. There is scientific evidence to urge vaccinating all infants to protect them from illnesses associated with these vaccines. Illness associated with the vaccines usually given to these infants can be very dangerous. It is with these considerations that we recommend these vaccines.
Sincerely, Roderick Bahner, MD
Tamika was greatly relieved when the judge honored her parental request not to compel her babies to be vaccinated. She reports that DCS workers were very unhappy with the decision.
Tamika Seagraves is one of many parents seeking to do the best for her children and to navigate the mountains of conflicting medical recommendations, from vitamin K to co-sleeping, from vaccines to breastfeeding. Her family has suffered devastating consequences that may have arisen from following prevailing medical advice. All she wants is to have her children back home and to be able to grieve the loss of her two sons. Is she being punished for trying to make decisions based on medical advice? Or worse, as she fears, are her children now targeted for research because of the unusual circumstances of their births – against incredible odds – 3 sets of twins, all premature, all boy/girl sets, the only children born to an African American mother, with 2 of the boys dying as infants?
Note: It is legal in the U.S. to do medical experimentation on children that are wards of the state. See:
How You Can Help
Supporters set up a Facebook page for the family after Jaliyah was taken, called Justice for Jaliyah. There are several more court hearings scheduled over the next few months.
The Governor of the state of Tennessee is Bill Haslam. He may be reached at (615) 741-2001, or contacted here.
Senator Thelma Harper represents the Seagraves family’s district. She may be reached at (615) 741-2453, or contacted here.
Representative Bill Beck is the Representative for the Seagraves’ district. He may be reached at (615) 741-3229, or contacted here.
*Article originally appeared at Medial Kidnap.