CHEAHA STATE PARK — Danielle Holm, 32, sat on a bench Wednesday afternoon outside the Cheaha Restaurant taking in the horizon where the mountain drops sharply down to Cheaha Lake.
Just out of Regional Medical Center, Danielle has a belly still swollen from a pregnancy that ended Monday with the birth of a healthy baby boy.
Her arms, however, are empty. Her son was taken from her the day after he was born and is in the custody of the Cleburne County Department of Human Resources pending a hearing at Cleburne County Courthouse this morning.
“We told them that we were going to do whatever we could,” she said as tears ran down her face. “I’m his mother. I’m supposed to be nourishing and bonding with him right now and I can’t.”
A social worker with the Cleburne County Department of Human Resources said it is against the department’s policy to comment on the cases they handle. She declined to give her name.
The couple is unsure how to get their child back, said Christian Holm, 35, Danielle’s husband of eight months. He is soft-spoken with piercing eyes hinting at the passion that set them on their journey.
Danielle, from Sarasota, Fla., and Christian, from Savannah, Ga., met two and a half years ago online through his posts about his beliefs. He was taking care of his grandparents. She was working. She responded to his posts and they chatted online for about six months. Then they met in person and fell in love. In August 2015, they moved to New Hampshire together.
Christian declines to say he’s religious.
“We stand up for creation, which is nature,” he said at the park.
He pointed to the view and said nature is all wavy lines and movement — it’s alive, patterns with substance, Christian said. Man’s creations are straight lines, static, patterns with no substance, he said. Nature is God’s creation and man should protect it and preserve it, he said.
The two decided to try to live as close to biblically as they could. In their eyes, that meant getting rid of personal belongings and setting off on a journey to serve God.
“You have to try and trust in God to inspire others to help you, because that’s how God works,” Christian said. “But those people must accept the inspiration of God.”
The process of surrendering is difficult, though. It took them until May to start travelling, and even then they were driving, he said. They only recently left their car in a storage unit in Montgomery and started walking.
They found the journey amazing; people they met along the way would give them money, food and water to keep going, they said. On the way they stopped at probably 30 churches to talk with people and minister to them, Christian said.
They travelled about five miles a day and ended up camping at Cheaha State Park a few days ago, Christian said. Danielle had gotten some prenatal care with a midwife in New Hampshire. She’s gotten care along the way as well including a sonogram about six weeks ago; she’s unsure where, Danielle said. When she went into labor, it was almost three weeks past her Sept. 25 due date.
They got a ride to RMC and she gave birth at 6:53 a.m. Monday to a healthy 7-pound 5-ounce boy.
Once the baby was born, they had decided they would then do whatever it took to take care of the family. With that aim, Christian asked to speak to the hospital social worker, to find out how to be in compliance and not be “harassed.”
After the hospital social worker left, the couple said, DHR social workers came to the room. The social workers questioned them for a long time, asking about their background, where they’d been, where they lived, the couple said. They asked for identification.
At some point during the interview, according to Christian, the social workers said they were going to take the baby because of the couple’s religious beliefs about “man’s creation destroying God’s creation.” But Christian also believes it was about their refusal to give the baby a Social Security number and surrender him to a system that is destructive.
“They said our view was dangerous,” he said. “We were just trying to follow the Bible as close as we could and speak for Jesus.”
The police took their baby about 6 p.m. Tuesday as Danielle was breastfeeding him, she said.
“They haven’t spoken to us whatsoever,” Danielle said. “They took the baby, said ‘He’s ours and this is the court date. Be there.’”
They let her see the baby again at 11 a.m. Wednesday, but the baby is no longer at the hospital and they don’t know where he is.
She said it’s been the most painful 24 hours of her life and they have no idea what to expect at the hearing. They’re trying to find a place to live and are receiving help from Helping Hands Ministry to set up the residence. Christian said they haven’t seen the place found for them yet, and he’s not sure what town in Cleburne County it’s in, but he’s trusting it has four walls and a roof. He hopes that’s enough.