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Rebecca took her newborn to the doctor. The next day, all 5 of her children were taken into care.

Trigger warning: This post contains matters of child abuse.

It was mother’s instinct that told Rebecca Wanosik there something was wrong with her three-week-old baby daughter, Zeydn.

“I had her propped on my shoulder to burp her and I could feel her ribs popping,” Rebecca tells Mamamia. “The best way that I can describe it would be a similar feeling and sound to cracking or popping your knuckles.”

Right away Rebecca addressed the concern with her midwife, who told her it was nothing to worry about. But as a mother of four other children, Rebecca’s gut told her otherwise and she went out of her way to raise it with her paediatrician.

Again she was told to stop worrying.

A few weeks later, Rebecca saw two of her older children on to the school bus.

falsely accused of child abuse
Rebecca with her husband Anthony and their daughter Zeydn. Image: Supplied.

"I was holding Zeydn, and waved her arm at her brother Zavier and she fussed at me," Rebecca says. "Later that day when I touched her arm while strapping her into her car seat, she fussed at me again."

Rebecca immediately called the doctor and got an appointment with the first available paediatrician.

What unfolded after that, Rebecca says, will haunt her forever.

The paediatrician was critical of the fact that Rebecca had chosen a home birth, and told her Zeydn was likely suffering from some shoulder dystocia, caused by it. Rebecca remained with her daughter while she was taken down for an X-ray.

But back in the doctor's office, she was told the wrong type of X-ray had been ordered and Zeydn needed to go back down.

This time, Rebecca was not allowed to go with her.

"I was curious why they were now doing a full body scan and naively assumed that they were just trying to get the best image possible," Rebecca says. "I was wrong. I was so very, very wrong."

After the scan, Rebecca was taken into a private room.

"The paediatrician walked in and told me that he'd called the police and the children’s division of the Missouri’s child welfare system," Rebecca says. "He said I couldn’t leave as they were on their way because 'someone had hurt my baby'.

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"Those words alone are enough to traumatise any mother, but he motioned with his hands as if he were snapping a twig in half and that motion is something I don’t think I will ever be able to unsee."

It turned out that Zeydn had a fractured right arm and three posterior rib fractures in multiple stages of healing.

The doctor thought Anthony, Rebecca's partner, who is step-father to her four other children, was responsible.

falsely accused of child abuse
The doctor thought Anthony, who is step-father to Rebecca's four other children, was responsible. Image: Supplied.

"The detectives made it abundantly clear that they didn’t think this was a medical anomaly but that someone had inflicted these injuries on my child intentionally," Rebecca says. "The worst part of it was that they thought they could manipulate me with their questions to try to implicate my husband for something I knew he didn’t do. I was asked questions like, 'How’s your relationship?' and  'What is the possibility that your husband may have picked the baby up wrong and hurt her?'

Later, Anthony was asked directly if he'd hurt Zeydn but he was adamant that he had not.

That night all five of the Wanosik’s children were removed from their home and placed into protective custody.

Rebecca and Anthony were distraught. While they tried to get their heads around what had happened, social services heaped pressure on them to admit they'd injured their daughter.

"But it simply wasn't true," Rebecca says.

A month later, Rebecca's phone started going crazy with Facebook notifications and text messages. Friends and family were urging her to turn on the TV and switch to the show 20/20.

The episode was about two families, Cynthia and Brandon Ross, and Andrew and Bria Huber.

"Their situations sounded like exactly like mine," Rebecca says.

Cynthia had taken her two-month-old son Ryder to the doctor for a swollen ankle. When the doctor had discovered multiple fractures throughout his body, he and his older sister were taken away from Cynthia and placed in the care of their grandparents.

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falsely accused of child abuse
All five of the Wanosik’s children were removed from their home and placed into protective custody. Image: Supplied.

Meanwhile, Andrew had heard his three-month-old daughter Kenley's hip pop during a diaper change and had taken her to the emergency room. Kenley was taken into care.

It turned out both children had an underlying medical conditions that caused their bones to become brittle. Ryder was later diagnosed with metabolic bone disease and Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder, while Kenley, it turns out, was suffering from Ehlers Danlos and a severe vitamin D deficiency.

"I reached out to Bria and Cynthia on Facebook and they encouraged me to do my own research," Rebecca says.

Rebecca managed to get the court's permission to take Zeydn to a specialist in Boston. There she was diagnosed with rickets and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, both of which would have caused extremely brittle bones that would fracture easily.

Both Rebecca and Anthony were also diagnosed with the genetic condition.

It was a huge breakthrough. But the process of getting their kids back was far from immediate.

A full 10 months passed before the family were officially reunited.

It was, of course, a happy occasion. But Rebecca and Anthony are still dealing with the repercussions of what they went through.

Despite proving they were innocent, their names are still listed on the state child abuse registry. They cannot volunteer at their children's school or chaperone field trips.

"We've lived through every parents' worst nightmare."

Now, Rebecca sits on the board of Fractured Families, an organisation that advocates for reform in family courts, with three other families.

If this post brings up any issues for you, you can contact Bravehearts (an organisation providing support to victims of child abuse) here.

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