- Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman decided to have three children while in captivity because they wanted to get a head start on their dream of a large family.
- Their eldest son is still afraid to close his eyes after being woken up by masked men with machine guns.
- Their three young children remain traumatized, but appear healthy and on a path toward recovery in their new home.
Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle, the Canadian-American couple who were held hostage by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network for five years in Afghanistan, said they decided to have children in captivity because they had always wanted to have a large family.
“It was a decision we made,” Coleman told the Toronto Star. “We did think about it and talk about it and it’s difficult to explain all the reasons, but, for me, a large part was the fact that it has always been important to me to have a large family.”
Coleman’s family was rescued earlier this month by Pakistani security forces after five years spent at several different prisons as hostages.
Boyle, Coleman’s husband, told the Associated Press that he and his wife were desperate to make the most of their time as hostages.
“We’re sitting as hostages with a lot of time on our hands,” he explained. “We always wanted as many [children] as possible, and we didn’t want to waste time. Cait’s in her 30s, the clock is ticking.”
“This took our life away from us — this captivity with no end in sight,” Coleman said. “And so I felt that it was our best choice at that time,” Boyle continued. “We didn’t know if we would have that opportunity when we came back. We didn’t know how long it would be. It was already unprecedented, so we couldn’t say, ‘Oh we’ll only be here a year or six months.'”
Boyle said that he and Coleman had always aimed to have “a family of 5, 10, 12 children,” adding jokingly that this was because they are Irish.
The three children the couple had in captivity — four-year-old Najaeshi Jonah, two-year-old Dhakwoen Noah, and six-month-old Ma’idah Grace — are all traumatized from the experience and face a difficult road to psychological recovery.
Jonah, the oldest child, reportedly is afraid to close his eyes after a traumatic encounter with his captors.
“A bunch of masked men with Kalashnikovs then came into the room — their mother and father aren’t there — and start picking them up and say, ‘Come on, come on, we go in the car,’ pulling him to some place he doesn’t know,” Boyle told the Star.
Boyle also described the psychological state of his younger son, Noah.
“It seems everything reminds him of the horrors of prison,” he told CBC. “Cameras are equated to hostage videos, pens are equated to syringes used to drug his parents with ketamine by the guards, slamming doors is associated with cell searches or worse, it seems his healing process has barely begun.”
“Ma’idah Grace seems scared most of the time,” Boyle says, speaking about his newborn daughter, “but also to have discovered there are more decent people in the world than she knew; her world until last week consisted of two good brothers and two good parents and about 15 guards of increasing fear to her.”
“These are children who three days ago they didn’t know what a toilet looks like. They used a bucket,” Boyle said in a video that CBS said was recorded after they were rescued in Pakistan. “Three days ago they did not know what a light is or what a door is except that it is a metal thing that is locked in their face to make them a prisoner.”
Nevertheless, Boyle says that after travelling through various airports at which his children asked him if this was their new home, the family’s new surroundings at Boyle’s parents’ home in Ontario, Canada have allowed his children to start on the long road to recovery from the trauma the family experienced.
“Last night he wouldn’t close his eyes because he was so excited,” Boyle said of his son Jonah. “He just wanted to sit on his pile of toys with a gigantic smile on his face. It took him about three hours to fall asleep, and it wasn’t three hours of panic. It was three hours where he just wanted to really, really cherish this gigantic rabbit and these plastic Lego blocks and these toys.”
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