Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Taking a step back

I've been away thoroughly enjoying the pity party that I threw myself. Don't feel bad that you weren't invited. The sangria was excellent- but the Criminal Minds reruns were tiresome. It was a month of me looking around at the day to day workings of our story, and realizing that I'm totally out of my pay-grade here. If someone were to show "5 yrs ago me" a video of current me- I would have run for the hills. Well- I would put current me on a diet, slick some bronzer across my T zone- and then run for the hills. Even "2yrs ago me" was way more put together. She had a clean house and took her kids to the park to walk with friends. Current me is constantly running around chasing the most urgent crisis with formula or spit up on my shirt, and I talk about illness and death the way most stay at home Moms talk about Scentsy and Mary Kay parties. I lost myself during the past 3 years as our story took over.

Don't worry- this is not your invitation to the pity party. This post is getting better.

We are in the exact same position court-wise with Baby 4 that we have been for two years. We go to court next week for another adjournment. He'll be freed for adoption next year- hopefully we'll be able to adopt next year, but I'm not holding my breath for all that.

Baby 9's case is progressing nicely towards reunification. We are doing 6 visits/week right now, and seeing Mom socially as well. The 'seeing Mom' has gone really well, but it's a huge time commitment. Baby 9 is brilliant. She's the happiest baby I've ever met. She wakes up smiling every morning. She started crawling at 5 months old and is into everything. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to keep her. I love her so so much.

Baby Girl has been blowing us away with her progress. She's taking steps now, and crawling, and doing stairs. She's a rockstar. We've gotten so many bad updates on her health last  month, I lost count: She's deaf, she can't have the heart surgery that she needs, she had to go back on the ventilator and oxygen 24/7- which is awful since she is now mobile. I see so much of myself in her. Not the strength- that's all hers, but the attitude that accompanies her fight. She is considered severely speech delayed. It makes sense now that we know she is missing a lot of what a typical baby hears. The therapists have been working hard on pictures and sounds with her, and she does alright. I started looking into ASL and signing as a primary language maybe 3 weeks ago. Before that, we had just been doing baby signs: "more", "all done", "eat". I thought it would benefit her to sign more. Apparently she agrees. She has picked up around 20 more signs, and she does an ASL version of babbling where she makes up gestures and watches to see what gets a reaction. It's almost like she's going to to do what we teach her- plus some, just to show off. If she keeps up this interest in ASL, I can see her communication delay disappearing very quickly.

In the past couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to meet my local foster friends out in the real world- in court during a 3 hour stint in the lobby, at a MAPP panel where we shared our story with fosterlings, and at our agency's foster parent appreciation banquet. It's interactions like these that allow me to step back and see what our life is really like outside of the daily humdrum. I love the people that are living their own love stories. Being around them- hearing the triumphs and losses they go through for foster care... It's like walking with warriors. I'm in awe of them. They are so strong and make such a huge impact in our world. Their kids are being given everything these foster families have to offer. Then, because they are so awesome, someone will point out that I'm one of them. I'm in the warriors club; which is great news since I was feeling like president of the homely housewives club. Foster care hasn't consumed all I once was, I've been in battle and just gotten a little banged up recently.

All of my Mommy Facebook friends share that quote about the days being long, but the years going fast. Foster Care is kind of like that- The days are draining, but the years are fulfilling.

Our overall story is amazing. I can't believe I live like this. We have 9 kids who have changed our world forever just by being here a short time. Our daughter found us all the way across the country when we weren't even looking to adopt. We've put families back together. We've helped sick children get well. I can hold my own in most medical conversations- and pick out the inaccuracies in episodes of Grey's Anatomy. I've made friends and lost family. I've questioned my faith and received answers from a loving God who has never let me go. All while holding beautiful babies tight every night before bed, and getting to be the one who tells them they are good and they are loved.

So I packed up the pity party and put on some lipstick. Our story is too important to complain about how hard it is.

"Children born to another woman call me 'Mom.' The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me." ~Jody Landers

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Today we took a break.

 I didn't check my Facebook. They didn't watch TV. No foster care (Except a visit for 9- which is why she's not in the picture). No dishes. No baths. No work.

We ate lunch with friends, fed some ducks, and went swinging bottom side up.

I like life a whole lot more when I'm spending it with my kids.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wanted: Nice Normal Family

I live my life in various shades of chaos. I always have. It looks good on me. I think that's why I fell so hard for foster care- I'm kind of built for it.

The past month has been heavy with opaque chaos:

My Mom is still all cancer/fight like a girl/radiation sucks.

I'm all this is what siblings are for- to share in the caretaking when the parents get sick and old/ I hate being the only child

Baby 2 & 3 have been here for 2 weeks, which is awesome and exhausting all at the same time.

Baby Girl had and MRI and sleep study done this month and both came back with bad news. We're really fortunate to live 10 minutes away from a children's hospital, and that's where we planned to do all her surgeries and what not- but now it seems they are in over their heads. We have to choose between Philadelphia or Boston and pursue more intensive testing and treatment from a bigger program. So, my daughter is a lot sicker than I ever cared to admit and we have to drive 5.45 hours away from now on to see her Doctors.

Baby 9 has started visiting 4 days/ week. I'm making the gun to the temple motion. I'm not against visits, but tethering me to the house for 4 days is torture. I asked if we could link 2 of those visits together with an overnight, so I would really only have to send her 3 days/week. They said maybe next month. Because an extra 2 weeks of this crazy schedule is helpful to who?

And Baby 4?

Baby 4 hates all of it. The changes, the bustling around, the whispering about things he doesn't understand, the little kids trying to use his toys.

And Relative Resource came to town and had 2 visits.

Then he went to camp.

Then camp ended.

Now the behaviors are out of control.

Well, out of my control- which is the whole point, right? He's trying to be in charge so all these unknowns can't hurt him. But what ends up happening is we get through 3 hour screaming tantrums, trashed bedrooms, privileges taken, food uneaten, toys broken- and we're left with a hurt kid who wants affection and attention paired with a tired Mom who wants space and silence.

No, I don't want to watch Spiderman on the couch with you after you threw a dirty pull up at me.

It got really bad last weekend. We had to take down his bunk beds and bookshelf for safety reasons. More than half of his toys were broken and needed to be tossed out. All of the remaining toys are now stored in my dining room instead of in the bedroom- again to ensure everyone's safety and the integrity of my walls/windows. I ended up calling the pediatrician and asking for help. They offered to send us to the children's hospital for a psychological evaluation.

This is not the first time that a mental health diagnosis or medicinal treatment has been mentioned concerning Baby 4. Every teacher, therapist, caseworker, etc has asked me about it. I've been viscerally opposed to both ideas. He's A BABY!! I don't want to dope him up or label him because his reaction to stuff no kid should ever have to go through is socially inappropriate. So I push and push for more play therapy- more talk therapy- more support groups. He's been in therapy every week for 31 months.

While I champion the cause of refusing to unjustly add more stuff to 4's life, am I also refusing the very thing that could help him? Am I delaying the inevitable, and keeping him unhappy and struggling longer than necessary?

He doesn't like raging. He doesn't like being in timeout. He doesn't like having no friends. He wants to be able to do better.

I don't have the answer to my dilemma. I'm hoping the evaluation will help shed some light.

So I emailed the caseworker, letting her know what was happening. My email was long and emotional. Her response was, "Thanks for the update." Yep.

Then Therapist #1 came to our home and talked about what was going on:  How are you feeling when you do these things? MadWho are you mad at? My Mom. What made you mad? She put me in my room. I thought you said you went to your room after you started screaming, so it sounds like you were mad before that. I'm mad that I won't live here anymore  Where would you live if you didn't live here anymore? With my Dad.

Yep. It always comes down to that. Permanency. The one thing I can't give him.

They continued: Do you like Baby 2 & 3? Yes. Do you think they like you? No. What makes you think they don't like you? They think my scars are gross. [me] Did they say that to you?! No, but everyone thinks my scars are gross.

That's a heavy load for a tiny soul.

So I mentioned it to the caseworker when she cam for her bi-monthly home visit. Her response? "Well, you know the kids were calling him 'burn boy' at camp." No. I didn't know that. Why didn't I know that? Turns out there were conversations about it between the caseworker and camp director, but no one thought to include me. Baby 4 didn't say anything about it- which is disturbing in the 'My 1st grader doesn't tell me when bad stuff happens' kind of way. She ended her visit with, "So, things are going well here.." Clueless. Worthless. Depressing.

Today we saw Therapist #2. He talked to me alone for a good part of the session: I got a call from the pediatrician. Yes, things have been rough and I reached out to them for help {followed by details of the past month} Wow, you have a lot on your plate. You're looking at me like it's not his behavior getting worse, but my reaction due to stress. I assure you, the issue at hand is definitely these behaviors that are not typical of a child this age. Are you going to continue to have children coming in and out like you have been? Yes. ***Blank Stare*** <<crying because I'm uncomfortable and sleep deprived>> This is our family. We have a lot going on, but that's how we function. Kids come in and out- that's what foster care is. We're a foster family. But it's not working for 4. Any threat to his stability will cause these explosions. He needs less triggers. So moving him to another home after almost 3 years would help him? (Something that I didn't pay attention to because it was a ridiculous comment about how a more stable home would be better for him unless we could somehow change our current situation.) How do I turn my back on foster care when it's what brought us together in the first place. Fostering is part my identity. It's what I do. I'm not saying stop taking kids forever, but for now. I'd consider it.

Baby 4 needs a nice, normal family. Not one with a cancerous Granny on the couch, and a dying baby with her 6 full time nurses in the next room. Families with babies who leave and come back mysteriously several times/week, or who go from 4 people, to 6 people, to 5 people, to 7 people, back to 5 -all in 4 months- need not apply.

But here's the deal: Nice Normal Families don't do foster care!!!! Not for long anyway. They would either have to quit or become an insane chaos ridden family before they could ever see Baby 4's case through. If we were the kind of family Therapist 2 thinks Baby 4 needs, we would have never said yes to take him. Nice, normal families take healthy, white newborns. (Nice, normal families don't come right out and say stuff like that, though)

And that nice, normal family? What would they do when these behaviors come up? Nice, normal Moms do not know how to dodge a flurry of pee filled pullups. Nice, normal Dads don't go buy a new bed frame at 9:00 at night because the one that's currently up is too hard to be banging your teeth on, so we have to switch it out.

I have yet to see the lines of nice, normal families who are waiting to take traumatized kids off the hands of us crazies. If you do happen to see such a line, they are welcome to try to do this better than me.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Oh, So Good!

Lately, I've been reading way more blog posts than I've been writing. Mostly because I can read while feeding Baby 9 in the wee hours of the morning. I read this today and audibly gave a sigh of relief. This is what I've been needing to say:

"Please: Do not tell me I am being too easy or too hard on her. Therapeutic parenting uses a different set of skills. Do not hide her inappropriate behavior from me or try to rescue her from discipline. She needs firm limits and boundaries to grow. Do not make excuses about her choices in front of her or say, “All kids do that . . . kids will be kids.” Do not give my child gifts because you feel sorry for her or believe we are not doing enough for her."

Friday, July 26, 2013

When Foster Care is Good

Being a foster parent is hard, and it's easy to complain about it 24/7 on a loop. Many foster parents and foster bloggers do this- myself included- and it's not just because we're self absorbed brats. We really want to educate and prepare others who are about the embark on this journey. It's also an act of solidarity to speak out against "the man". We want to let the others know they are not alone in dark places.

Clearly, though, there are bright spots. Moments of purity and hope that keep us coming back for more. I've had a lot of those recently.

Moving from 2 kids to 3 was an adjustment for me. Baby Girl was sick during the past month, but even on a good day she needs a lot of medical attention. Baby 4 had all of his end of the school year field trips and family days before being home for summer break. Baby 9 is, well, a newborn, and as such needs me all the time. I've been urging my husband to go back to school for 10 years, and doesn't this punk decide to start listening to me now? So our schedule has been jam packed, but in a really good way.

Baby 9 is a delight. She sleeps and eats like a champ. She smiles in her sleep and sticks her tongue out proudly when you talk to her. I dress her up like my own real life doll and parade her around in different headbands and hair bows everyday. Her case was dead for the first 2 months, but now we are going to court pretty regularly and having a lot of visits.

I feel like I'm doing her case right. I'm completely attached to her- committed for life, yet I fully expect her to reunify with her Mom. I have not freaked out once yet over her case, even though some craziness has occurred (like the caseworker holding a service plan review without telling me). I have a prior connection to Mom that has given me some perspective. We had mutual friends in high school and spent prom together. It makes it easier to root for her. It makes it easier to understand her and appreciate how much she loves 9. I'm not as scared as I have been in past cases. Not because this case is less scary, but because I'm not trying to fix anything. I'm trusting the process. Oh, the plan is for baby to live in a halfway house? Sounds good. What? That plan fell through? Perfect. Overnight visits already? Sure! Judge said no? Works for me.

We'll see how long I can keep this going. I feel like giving this "good foster mom" attitude a solid try before going back to the Mama Bear mode where I'm most comfortable albeit more stressed.

When I think back on the good times in foster care, all our Hallelujah calls come to mind first. The rush of the moment you know your life has changed forever. Most people only get a handful of those moments: graduations, weddings, births, big moves, new jobs. I've gotten all the normal moments AND 7 calls that my family will never look the same after I hang up the phone. Those calls are addicting.

I also think about the normal family moments that we get in between caseworkers and court dates. I don't get around to blogging those much because I'm busy experiencing them. Going to the splash park on sweaty summer days and watching my son climb and splash with other kids, catching my baby's first steps on video, and making crazy faces with my kids and giggling until our stomachs hurt. The hugs and kisses and bedtime songs. Foster Care is a big force in our world, but sometimes we forget it's there for an hour or maybe even a day. Those times are good.

Foster Care is good when I'm surrounded by other people on this road. I have great friends and family. I've been blessed. But I feel most comfortable and accepted when I'm with foster parents. We all earned our stripes, and even when our ideology differs, we belong in the club. I really love other foster parents.

The good part of foster care is not what I expected. I went into this thinking adoption would be the silver lining. Foster Care was a means to an end for us. Now that we are getting closer to Baby 4's possible adoption, I'm realizing it's less of a "win" than I thought. I'm so honored to be his Mom and making it legal is awesome, but the getting here was good. Watching and facilitating the healing that brought us to the point where we even want to be a family- that was the good part.

What sticks out to me most when I hear or participate in foster care horror story exchange is that we all would do it again. I have never heard a foster parent say, "I wish I had never taken that kid" or "If I knew then what I know now, I'd never have gotten certified". A life with no regrets? That's when foster care is good.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Baby 1

All during MAPP training, we were asked several times what the child we were hoping to have placed with us would look like. I am a people pleaser by nature, so I would have it no other way than to answer. "A child under 5 yrs old who needs a place to stay safe". Vague, PC, dripping with the "please certify us" desperation that controlled our lives. But really, the child that we wanted placed with us was a black newborn boy. I don't have any good reason for that- he's just who I wanted. He's who I pictured parenting for my whole adult life. Brandon and I spoke about it late at night when no one would ever hear because it's just not nice to try and special order a baby to your preferences. We never even whispered our hope to anyone at the county, and we would have honestly said yes to just about any child when we got our first Hallelujah.

It was a Wednesday when I got the call. The family I nannied for at the time was on vacation, so I was out with my Mom doing some thrift store perusing. We had just pulled into my driveway when I got the call. I told my Mom to run inside and get Brandon while I dug a receipt and a pen out of my purse to write down what the Matcher was telling me. When they got back to me, I had written: "Newborn Boy. AA, COMING TODAY!!". That was followed by a flurry of cleaning, shopping, packing the diaper bag, and installing the carseat. 6 hours later I sat on the couch holding my dream in my hands.

I've never fallen in love so fast, and I don't think I ever will again. Baby 1 healed a lot of hurt that I had been carrying in an empty womb. I believe I owe that baby my life. I am no longer who I was that morning at the thrift store. I am a better person because of Baby 1. Even 4 years later I would rush to lay my life down for him.

He was with us for 8 months before being reunified with his Father. One of the most important things Baby 1 taught me was how to grieve. I've been very sheltered and protected in my life. I never knew how to lose everything in one sweep and still keep going. I know how to do that now- because of Baby 1. Losing him was like drowning in scalding hot water.

It was about 4 months after I said goodbye, when I got slapped in the face by foster care. 

I was at court for Babies 2&3, so my phone was on silent. When I got out of court, I had 3 messages from the matcher: Baby 1 was coming back into care. Could they bring him to us? Since they couldn't get me on my cell, they had tried my house and gotten my Mom- who was there watching the boys. She told them where I was and that she knew for a fact that we would definitely take him back. She had already started making up his room again. I couldn't breathe: so disappointed, so elated, so worried, so hopeful. Then I got another call from the matcher. The CPS investigator had gone to the daycare and determined the baby was not in imminent danger, and would not be coming into care.

Devastation. Just when I had started to heal, they pour salt in the wound. I had to stop driving because I was hysterical. I pulled into a Wendy's parking lot and sobbed for 20 minutes. Not only was he taken from us once, and dangled in front of us to just be taken again, but I knew what the CPS report was about and it sounded like he wasn't in a great situation.

Still, I healed. I've had to say goodbye six more times since then. Every time it's just as hard, but I get better at it.

It was about 4 years after I said goodbye, when I got slapped in the face by foster care. Version 2.0

This Wednesday at noon, I was at the pharmacy picking up meds for my Mom who was recovering from cancer surgery on my couch when I got a call from the matcher: Baby 1 was coming back into care. Could they bring him to us? I bought every kind of fun kid thing in that pharmacy: candy, crackers, juice, toy airplanes. Brandon went right from work to Target to get a cozy blanket and a pillow pet for him, as well and pullups since we don't know if he's potty trained. I flew around the house: making up the same room he was in when he was just days old, and prepping Baby 4 for a new roommate who would now take up the bottom bunk. I got a call from the worker at 3:30 saying the investigator was going out to tell Dad about the placement, and the baby should be brought to my house after that. So we waited... and waited... until Thursday when the worker called me back to tell me they found a relative resource, and the baby would not be coming into care.

Devastation. Just when I thought the hurt was over, and my wounds had healed, they sliced open my scars while I laid there impotently. My whole body aches for him. It's a physical pain just as much as an emotional one.

Still, I'll heal. And the next time that Hallelujah rings, I'll stand proudly with my cheek to that phone, knowing the slap could come. Because that boy never stops teaching me. This time the lesson was from afar, but it was loud and clear:

A Mother never really loses her babies; even if they are where she can't reach. I'm here for him in the only way I can be. I'm waiting at rock bottom with a pillow pet to break his fall should he ever need me.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Shot to the Heart

** Sitting on the couch holding Baby 9, Baby 4 playing video games, Baby Girl fussing on the floor***

Me: (to BG) What's wrong dolly?
4: (doesn't even look up) I think she's sad she can't live with her real Mom
Me: You mean her other Mom?
4: That's what I said.

Oh, Hello insecurity.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Believer's Dilemma

I believe that children are supposed to be raised by their biological parents. I refuse to believe God places children in the womb of other women with the intention of sending them to a nice foster or adoptive family. I believe foster care and adoption exist because people make poor choices, not because some children are destined for this road.

I believe that in the event a child can not be raised by their biological parents, a relative or person close to the parents should be sought out. I believe that the children deserve some connection over no connection: Growing up with Grandma in the house where his Dad was raised. Seeing pictures of her Mom as child in her Aunt's scrapbooks. Hearing stories about his family from the best friend who his parents call "cousin".

I believe that the very act of placing a child in the home of a foster or adoptive family causes loss and trauma, so it should only be done when the child's family can or will not care for them safely. I believe this trauma (some would call it a wound ) happens regardless of the quality, preparation, or love of the fost/adopt family.

I believe that every service should be provided to a parent to help them regain custody of their child before and after removal. I believe that poverty is never a good reason to remove a child. I believe the only children who should be adopted are the ones where everything else has failed. I believe rehab, transportation, food/clothing assistance, housing, and medical care should be readily available to the families involved in the child welfare system. I believe in diligent efforts. I believe children from tough starts become the heroes of tomorrow. I believe giving children the world, but denying them their family does not save them.

I believe children should have every safe opportunity to see their family after removal. I believe those opportunities should extend past adoption and beyond just birthparents. I believe children have the right to all of their information, and to the unedited version of their story. I believe sheltering our children from the truth does not change what happened to them. I believe talking about it and facing their history head on with them is the only loving choice. I believe more contact is the solution to the child's questions and fears post-adoption, not a break from contact until they are older. I believe sharing the child with their biological family in no way diminishes the role of  foster and adoptive parents in their child's life. I believe pretending a biological parent is just "the woman who delivered her" (said by an adoptive Mother at a foster care class recently) only denies the child of a meaningful connection. I believe abuse and neglect do not sever familial bonds.

I believe foster care and adoption should give more to the child than it takes away.

I really do believe all that stuff. Really, Really.

But then you have this child in your house who is injured and screams in the middle of night- fearful that their Mother will find them. It gets a little harder to believe.

And you have a Grandma who was told to just come and the baby wouldn't be placed in foster care, but she never made it. Or the Uncle who waited 2 years to step forward as a relative resource. Or the sister who forgot to tell the caseworker about the boyfriend living in the house. It gets a little harder to believe.

You get to know the people who open their homes and hearts to children who need someone. They are kind, passionate, and knowledgeable. They don't dismiss the gravity of what these children face. You kind of wish they were your parents. You see them love these kids and you see the kids love them. You see how the foster parent grieves when a child goes home- the fear for that child's safety that keeps them awake at night. You know that child will yearn for them too. It gets a little harder to believe.

...and it gets really easy to be negative...

When you see the Dad who "lost" his monthly bus pass for the 5th time in a row and can't make it to court or a visit. Or Mom, who loses her welfare and food stamps because she failed to comply with the substance abuse recommendations. But then they walk in to CPS with more expensive sneakers than you can afford. Do you see the caseworker bringing Dad to his 4th orientation for the court ordered parenting classes? Because he goes to orientation, but misses the rest of meetings... And the reunified children you love more than your own life? They are wearing last year's shorts you bought them- that are too short now, and they are covered in flea bites. You know their diet consists mostly of yogurt tube pouches and hotdogs. Diligent efforts have been made for over half of your 8 year old's life. It gets harder to believe.

Sitting in the hallway, wondering if you're doing the right thing by not going into the bedroom as your 4yr old rages after a visit. Walking a 6 week old baby through the metal detectors at the county jail to see a parent. Having the transportation company driver tell you no one showed up for the visit that the kids made Valentines for Grandma. When Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and Grandpa all mean members of your family more often than members of the child's family. It gets harder to believe.

Because explaining homelessness is harder than saying, "She couldn't have raised any child". As is explaining rape and incest harder than, "There is no Father listed your original birth certificate.". Because there is a difference between, "The judge told your Dad that it is not safe for you to live with him ever again.", and, "Your Mom signed an agreement stating that you will never live with her again, but she can write you 2 letters every year.". Don't forget, "I know Grandma said you are going to live with her, but when the caseworker sent her the papers, she never filled them out. The judge can not send a child to live in a house that hasn't been looked at by the caseworker. We need to know the house is safe.". It gets harder to believe.

I've been very blessed to be surrounded by awesome foster and adoptive parents both in real life and in online community. I recently have heard a lot of chatter about relatives coming to take kids, how the parents get all the rights, and asking for ideas to get visits reduced. I'm stuck in my dilemma because I still believe for these kids. I know there are all kinds of details and injustices that make everyone's situation the exception. I know what it's like to be devoted to a child and so fearful of what could be. So when someone who is really well meaning says they hope Baby 9's family never comes around and we get to keep her forever  I know they don't really mean they hope my daughter never gets answers about her biological connections. They aren't saying that an "easy" adoption story of abandonment is preferable over a "difficult" adoption story where everyone fought to the bitter end because this child is loved and wanted by her whole family.

I really mean it when I tell my friends that I hope they can adopt the child who was placed with them. More accurately, I hope they get a child placed with them who actually needs to be adopted. I feel their relief and joy when they come out of court with a surrender or a termination of parental rights after years of tears, and attachment, and second chances.

There is a lot of room to get self righteous educate on these topics. There have been a couple of people I really want to call out on their behavior. Equally so, I can't imagine being given the chance to fight for my biological child and having years go by without any movement. I don't think it does right by the child or the biological family to let reunification efforts linger for years and years. The system leaves a lot of room to become suspicious and defensive toward biological families and reunification. That's even before noting how damn hard it is to go love and let go.

I don't want to be bitter. I want to be a believer.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What I learned at court

We had court for Baby 4 last week. I learned that Kim Kardashian is proud of her baby bump and Drew Barrymore is blonde after being brunette for a while- all from the magazine I read in the lobby. I really should have expected nothing less. We go back in July. Sigh.

Our yearly recertification inspection was this morning. It went as planned. House is good. Family's good. Are you willing to adopt if the opportunity arises? Yes. That's good.

Oh....Baby 9- she's throwing me for a loop. I'm so in love with her. She came into care with no information about her family. Then we got some information and had one visit. Now we have no information again and visits are all cancelled. She has a newer judge who doesn't seem too warm or fuzzy for foster care, but also isn't known for crazy decisions. Everything inside me is yelling, "Anything can happen.", except my heart which says, "Go ahead and get your hopes up. She'll probably stay forever.".

Having a newborn is exhausting. Baby 9 thinks it's perfectly acceptable to be awake and ready to play from 1am- 4:30am daily. Baby 4 has taken to her pretty readily, but Baby Girl is not impressed. She wants to touch Baby 9's toes or hold her hand for a second, but then she wants 9 to promptly be placed out of sight. It's actually really funny.

Right now we are in the hospital with Baby 4 for surgery. He's had 9 of these since being with me. I am the only one here since Brandon is home with the girls and no one biologically related showed up. It's hard not to  feel offended on 4's behalf. I'm doing a really terrible job controlling my temper as a matter of fact. How dare you say you want this baby, but let someone you've called as tranger be with him every time he wakes up from anesthesia?!

Baby 4 has asked about adoption a lot since he came with us to Baby Girl's adoption. He says he wants to be adopted. He's asked what his name would be if he was adopted and we talked about making his current last name his new middle name- so when you say his full name, it sounds like we've just added our last name to the end. He wants to see the judge again and pick where we go to dinner afterward. We ahve been telling him that nothing will happen until after he's 7 years old, but when we go see the judge she can tell us if he can be adopted or not.

Then  there was the day where it looked like Baby 9 would be having visits on the same day as 4. I was talking to my Mom about our schedule and Baby 4 got really confused over why 9 would be visiting Baby 4's Dad. We explained that the visits are in the same building but the kids would be in different rooms- Baby 4 with his Dad and Baby 9 with her Mom. He said, "Oh, is Baby Girl going on a visit too?". I told him no, Baby Girl is adopted, not in foster care so she doesn't go on visits. Baby 4's eyes got really big, "I won't go on visits when I'm adopted?". I told him visits are different in adoption. Instead of going every week to a building to see your Dad, he'll come to our house for Christmas and to your birthday parties. We'll invite your Dad to all your school concerts and sports games, and we'll ask him to come with us to the zoo or mall sometimes. Baby 4 very promptly retracted all his former pro-adoption statements and let me know he will stay in foster care because he wants to go to visits.

So I shook my fist to the heavens because it's not fair that Baby 4 has to contemplate such big problems as such a tiny human. Then I cried because shaking my fist at the heavens is my only recourse in this whole situation.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Rainbow Baby

The past month has been CRAY ZAY.

I grieved hard core for Baby 7 & 8.

 I climbed my way to the administrator of Child Protective Services in search of therapy for Baby 4 to address Baby 7's death. His caseworker actually said to me that "the trauma" had not affected him because "I mean, does he cry everyday?" I said, "You can't even say what the trauma is, how can my 6 year old live with it?!". It's a really long story that I'm trying to forget, but in the end we see a trauma therapist tomorrow.

We had a service plan review for Baby 4 where everyone comes and talks about where the case is going. Clearly it's still going nowhere fast. Court is next week where we'll do nothing at that time and schedule another date for 6 months out.

Baby 4 is having two surgeries on the same day in a couple weeks, so we've had lots of appointments for that.

This is not foster-related, but my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She beat breast and ovarian cancer in 2003 and has been in remission for almost 10yrs. Her breast cancer is back now, and it complicates things that she already had the breast removed -so that's not an option this time around.

Still, I started feeling like myself last week. The weather got really nice and I was able to get Baby Girl out of the house and into the sunshine everyday. Over the weekend we were able to get together with a bunch of friends and have several playdates for the kids. We went to the zoo yesterday. Last night I went to see Stuck, It's more than a movie. It's a movement. , with my Mom.

Today we got a Hallelujah. It was my first call from a new matcher in my agency. I had it in my gut that it was a respite call and quickly began going over in my head if we could do a respite right now as we exchanged niceties and small talk. Her call wasn't just to chat, though. Neither was it about a respite. She was calling to see if we could take a newborn baby girl in 30 minutes. Healthy, full term- delivered to my door easier than ordering pizza.

Now in major decisions that affect the whole family, it's only right to pause and consult your spouse. But I didn't. I said yes before I even realized what was happening. Baby 9 was already here before Brandon came home from work. He was really excited though :)

I can not stop staring at her. She is the perfect blend of sweet and sassy. LOTS of hair and the cutest baby neck rolls. She smells like Johnson's and smiles in her sleep.

In no way does adding Baby 9 erase the loss of Baby 7. Life doesn't go on like normal. There is no normal anymore, but she is a really beautiful sign that while life has changed us forever, every moment has been necessary to bring us to this moment. She's the little rainbow after our storm.

We have no inkling or clues about how her story will go. This case is so different from any of our other children. She came to use clearly well cared for. She had bags packed meticulously with new clothes, toys, diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, and bath supplies. That has never happened before. If she stays for week or  a year really isn't the point. She's helped us see the light. We'll work just as hard while she's with us to bring light to her life too.


This post was written earlier this week, but I didn't end up posting it because I'm seriously sleep deprived and totally entranced by Baby 9. She is healthy and beautiful. Everyone has settled nicely. While our schedule is overflowing, so are our hearts.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Today was a strange day. I had to tell people what was going on. I talked and talked, and cried, and watched Baby 4 cry. A couple people from the county called to check in. The medical examiner submitted his official report and the investigations are closing.

It turns out Baby 7 did not die from SIDS. He had a hole in his stomach that allowed his abdomen to fill with formula and acid. Infection from that situation caused his death. He was very sick already when I saw him for the first time on Monday. The medical examiner said he had never seen this. The Pediatrician said that it happens in older people, but they are usually in a lot of pain and seek help before the situation becomes fatal.  There was nothing that could have prevented his death. It was a condition he was born with and it's symptoms can all be explained by normal baby stuff- He was lethargic, but some newborns sleep all the time. He was fussy at feeding time; could be gas or reflux. He was eating less and less for every bottle, so they switched his formula to a more gentle one.

Baby 8 is susceptible for this because his brother had it, so they have alerted the other foster family and he will be monitored closely by the Dr. His risk drops significantly if he remains healthy through his 7th day of life.

Our homefinding caseworker called to give me the, "This tragedy is not a reflection of you in anyway" speech, and in my hurt I really felt like saying, "So taking Baby 8... that was your way of offering condolences?". It's hard not to feel blamed for 7's death when the choice was made to remove the other baby so quickly. Everyone has so many flattering words about how great we are and how the agency thinks so highly of us, but when they had the opportunity to back us up and try to work with Bio-Mom they didn't even try. She's grieving and they wanted to make her feel better. OK, I really really do get that. Honestly though, how much better does she feel? Is her grief relieved because her baby is in yet another house without her? Probably not, but now we have lost 2 babies and are left with only the comfort of knowing no one thinks we killed them. Thank you foster care.

I believe in Divine planning and I really think everything happens for a reason. I don't know what possible reason can explain Baby 7 being born only to live for five days in pain while no one even knew. I do know that the foster Mom for Baby 8 was called about the twins before we were and she did not take them. I know that she has a prior connection to the family. It keeps coming to my mind that perhaps she was always supposed to have Baby 8, but she wouldn't have been able to have 7 die in her house the way he did here. Maybe that was my role all along. If I knew going into this that my role was to watch 7 die so this other Mom wouldn't have to, I think I still would have said yes. I just would have spent those 16 hrs I had with them differently and I would not have involved Baby 4.

I am obsessively looking at pictures of the boys. I have none of Baby 7 with his whole face showing because his hands were always up by his mouth and he was always wearing little baby hats. The best picture I have of his face was post-mortem in the hospital. I never took pictures of his little feet. I never even held both babies at the same time. We ran out of time too soon. They were both asleep by 9pm and I thought it was best to get them in their cribs and get some rest while I could, but I wish I had held them while they slept. I slept through almost half of the time I was given with them.

We are left to pick up the pieces of the whole ordeal. I ordered a memorial plaque and a personalized wooden block for Baby 7. I desperately want to share his picture, but can't. I just want to do what I need to do, to feel what I need to feel, so I can get through this. We were set to go on vacation tomorrow to visit a friend who lives in South Carolina. We cancelled that trip when we got the babies, but still have the child care arrangements for 4 and Baby Girl as well as our travel budget. Brandon and I are talking about maybe getting away this weekend somewhere not too far just to reset and recharge a bit.

We haven't decided what we are going to do with all the baby stuff we set up for the boys. I sent everything I bought for each of them as well as any blankets or clothes they used while they were here. I didn't know what else to do with it. It's not like I would ever put another baby in the clothes I bought for our baby who died. But all the newborn boy clothes that I pulled out of attic, but never used. Or the bassinet in our room or the pack'n'play in the living room. And the changing table with the infant tub on the second shelf. I haven't done anything with the infant car seats in the van. Putting them away to me means going back to normal- which doesn't feel right. Keeping them out makes me feel like we are anticipating another baby- which makes me feel like we are trying to replace Baby 8. At the same time, though, I really want another baby. Just last week I felt like maybe foster care was over for us and now I'm hoping they call us tomorrow. In my heart, though, I only want them to call if they have healthy newborn twin boys who aren't going to die on my living room throwrug. Soo... that doesn't seem like a healthy place to be bringing kids home to.

I've been rambling like this all day. I'll spare you any more of this. Thank you for all the prayers and kind words. They have really been helping. The support from other foster parents has been amazing. We are a great little community.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Heavy Hearts

At 5pm yesterday, I picked up the twins. They were tiny and perfect. I brought them home to a huge welcoming party with everyone in anxious anticipation for their arrival. Yes, yesterday was a very good day.

This morning, the boys were napping -on their backs- on a blanket- on the living room floor. I was sitting right next to them and 6 feet away Baby Girl played with her nurse om the carpet. Baby 4 leaned over the babies and said, "He's got boogers". I went to wipe Baby 7's face and his head turned to the side and out of his nose poured foamy yellow discharge. I picked him up and realized he wasn't breathing. Baby Girl's nurse started CPR while I called the ambulance. The baby gained his angel wings before he got to the hospital.

SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants aged one month to one year. 

African American Babies have a 2 times greater risk of SIDS.

When their Mother was notified, she was obviously distraught and wanted Baby 8 removed from our home. The caseworker felt this was the right choice for everyone involved. They picked up 8 this afternoon and placed him in another foster home. While we certainly understand the decision, it leaves us in a desolate place. We love these babies and are grieving. There is no closure for us. There is no service or bereavement group. Most of our friends hadn't even heard we got the babies, and now they are finding out about this. I feel like my heart break isn't valid because we had them such a short time, but valid or not- I'm devastated.

CPS and the Police department are conducting their investigations. Several people came in and out today- taking pictures and interviewing us. Autopsy results will ultimately close both investigations. Our agency assured us this will not affect Baby 4's placement or our certification. There will be a court date to discuss the "Fatality of a child in foster care", but we shouldn't have to go to that. The nurse that was here was told she could be subpoenaed to testify.

We are going to take some time to grieve and heal. Please pray for Baby 7's family.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Can you keep a secret?

I'm a little done with foster care. We got our re-certification packet int he mail this week and it was the first time it seemed inconvenient to fill out the forms and get a physical in order to continue to keep our foster home open.

We didn't get TPR for baby 4 this month. Instead, the county just offered to suspend everything for another year. So we go back in 2014 to talk about permanence- 3 years after removal.

Our adoption for Baby Girl was finalized one week after the suspended judgement. Although she's always been "ours", having her be really for real- like I don't have to call anyone if we want to leave the country with her or wonder what a judge will think of my home- is really liberating, and normal. I never wanted to be normal, but I think maybe I'm old enough to start considering it.

So we started talking about our future in foster care. Clearly we will stay certified because we need to see Baby 4's case through, but after that we will likely have 2 forever kids with medical needs that require plenty of attention. We thought maybe we should only take respite kids for now. So we did.

We got a call for a 4 day respite. A 5yr old girl and her 1 yr old brother. And I nearly died. They were cute as buttons. The baby was pudgy and so sweet, like seriously edible. It was the first time I felt like they were someone else's kids and didn't belong with us. That never happens. I usually feel like any kid could some into our family and find a place. When we got the call to take them again two weeks later, I said no.

Both of the matchers in our agency have been replaced in the past 6 months. The new matchers don't know us, and we haven't gone out of our way to introduce ourselves or ask for kids because we were uncertain. That hasn't stopped them from calling though. Calls for placements- a 7 year old girl severely underweight, and 11 yr old boy who does great in school, a 9 year old girl who has autism- No. No, No...

Baby 4 and Baby Girl are having surgery in May. We are scheduled to go on vacation next week for spring break. We aren't sure if our love story has turned a new page.

Then today we got a Hallelujah. The matcher said, "I have a possible placement", and I got my "No" ready.

Born today... No Information... Discharge on Monday... Twins... Boys....

The matcher got silence.

"Can I call my husband? I'll call you right back."

I got an equal amount of silence when I asked Brandon. He asked me what I wanted him to say. I wanted him to say no so I could blame him for the whole ordeal. He said yes and I squealed.

 Who am I kidding?! I love this. In what other universe do you pick up your phone on a Friday and bring home 2 babies on Monday? We have the room. We have the time and skills. They need a home and we have been blessed with more home than we need. I am SO EXCITED and totally going to do foster care forever.

So I went to Walmart and bought cute little matching outfits and snowsuits, teeny tiny diapers, and baby boy pacifier clips. It's been a year since I did that for Baby Girl and 4 years since doing it the very first time for Baby 1. That trip to Walmart does not get old.

Something is different though, and that's where the secret comes in. There is literally no information on the boys. Nothing about family or possible relatives that could take them. I'm convinced we can do this, but I'm not 100% convinced they are actually coming. We can't see them until Monday. I don't know their names. I've decided to keep this placement on a need to know basis because it just might not happen. But I had to tell someone, so I thought I'd start with the whole internet. So just don't tell anyone, OK?


Oh, and we have Baby 2 & 3 for the weekend too. When it rains, it pours!

Friday, February 15, 2013

We're Alive

Foster Care has felt a lot like treading water lately. I'm putting forth the effort, but getting nowhere. Behaviors are the same. Caseworkers are ambivalent and no help at all. The name issue from August got dredged up again today. TPR is in less than a month, but I'm being told not to hang my hat on anything. Relative resource's second home study hasn't been started yet, but she's coming up for the trial. I feel like baby 4 is mine. He's been with us 2 years. We love him and he loves us. I'm still working to prepare him for anything, but it's hard because he needs answers, not all the possibilities  I hate working with the public school system and wish I could homeschool. I am literally feeling all the frustration from the beginning of the case multiplied by every single court date where we've gotten nothing accomplished. So here I stay, just trying to keep my head my head above water, and wishing I was a little more in love with our love story.

Oh, and leave it to me to complicate things: We are finalizing our daughter's adoption with the same judge that has Baby 4's case exactly one week after TPR. I can't leave him out. Baby 4 is so excited to go, but he is still asking if the judge will let him get adopted too. I kind of hope he asks her why he can't be adopted in the cutest little 6yr old voice he can muster.

So, that's that. We're still here and I think I'll have a lot of drama blog material coming up in just a few weeks.

On a positive note:

 We had a great birthday party for Baby 4 this month and some of the Bios came and acted very appropriately. It was a good day.

We've gotten to have Baby 2 &3 spend the weekend several times since Christmas and they are perfect.

I'm teaching another MAPP class right now and really enjoying the grown up time out of the house.

Baby 4 told me yesterday that when I get really old, and then turn into a kid again, he'll be my Valentine :)

Baby 4's Valentine's day heart <3