Tag Archives: Foster parent

I Chose Loss

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I chose loss. I volunteered for it. Signed up and waited for my turn. I chose loss; but I never thought it would feel like this.

Four days ago I lost my daughter. My beautiful baby girl, who had only ever known life in a NICU incubator. Four days ago I held her in my arms as she lay dying, trying to choke back the sobs as I whispered my love to her. It was the first time she had been cuddled to my side. Four days ago I lost the sweet child I’d been planning and preparing for during the past eight months. And I walked into an empty home filled with baby things I had hoped to fill with loving memories.

I kissed my baby goodbye and walked out of the small, dark room they use for these things, trying to hold it together long enough to get to my car. Long enough to get out before I completely lost it. But I couldn’t make it. Walking through the NICU halls I could see all these other beautiful smiling babies—success stories who had once fought for their lives in this same place. And I lost it, right there in front of the elevators, as I ran to find a bathroom where my sobs choked me until they turned out my breakfast. And I lost it again in the elevator. And the car. And pulling into my garage with its stores of baby goods. And when I finally climbed into bed and pulled the comforter over my head in a useless attempt to shut out the world.

I’ve lived in hiding for the past four days. Barely leaving my front door, other than a trip to the ER when the grief translated itself into physical illness. Today I had to get out. Not for me, but my sweet three-year-old son who doesn’t understand any of this. For my rambunctious love who has been trapped inside our small home for days as the wind chill dropped to -40 outside.   It seems a fitting temperature for death. But not for little boys. So we bundled up and drove to the mall playground. I didn’t want to go. I knew what would happen. But I chose this, and so I held his small hands as he jumped and played. And then the inevitable—we rounded the giant tree to find an adorable little baby girl sitting in her mother’s lap. I couldn’t breathe at first. I needed to look away, but that sweet little boy’s voice kept telling me “Over here, Mommy” as he ran right towards her. I tried to turn my back on them, to hold my son’s hand while looking in another direction. I kept catching glimpses of her mother—looking bored as she held this sweet baby in one hand and texted with the other. I wanted to run up to her and scream, “Don’t take this for granted! Pay attention for all of us who can no longer hold our babies!” But this would only make me look like a mad woman—reveal all the cracks that are breaking into my carefully held together mask.

I wander through purposeless days–throwing away baby shower checklists and registry cards, opening letters that were sent while she was still with us, hiding baby toys in a now forbidden closet. I try to focus on my sweet little boy and hold things together so he can experience some sense of normalcy. And I wait. I wait to find out the funeral arrangements, to learn if she will be buried or cremated, to find out if I will be allowed some small memento from her brief life. Just like I waited sleepless nights to find out if she made it through delivery and her first night, waited to meet her for the first time, waited to be allowed in the NICU.

I wait because this was my choice. My sweet girl is not my biological daughter. And although I have anxiously awaited and prepared her arrival for the past 8 months, I have no legal rights to her—to see her in the hospital, to make the choice to end life support, or to plan her funeral.

I am a foster mom, and I chose this.

I chose to love children who were not my own. Children to whom I have no legal rights. Children whose futures lay in others’ hands. Children I could not love any more had I been their biological mother.

I met my son when he was two and a half—all questioning eyes and nervous giggles, as he tried to stow away toys and hide behind curtains. Over the past 11 months we have learned together what love and trust and family mean. I may have to get permission to take him out of the county or change his hairstyle, but he is my son. And we are moving towards adoption.

The precious little baby I lost was my son’s half-sister. From the time that the biological mom knew she was pregnant, I knew she would be my daughter. Nothing is ever certain in foster care, but according to the case worker, there was a 99.9% chance she would be placed in foster care. And because they strive to keep siblings together, as long as I wanted her, this beautiful girl would become a part of our family.

And I did want her. I knew from the time they told me that my son was on the track for adoption that one day I would want to adopt a little sister for him. Most people doubted my choice. I’m single and my son is overcoming a truckload of special needs as a result of his trauma. People questioned whether or not I could parent two kids. They asked if it was wise for me to take on more “work.” They wondered if it was in the best interest of my son to live with his sister. They doubted that the baby would be safe with a special needs kid in the home.

Once the time came for her birth, we realized the severity of her health problems and were told that she probably wouldn’t survive the delivery. A therapist told me it was better this way. And then she did survive delivery . . . and the first night . . . and the first week . . . and I finally confided to a neighbor what was going on. She told me to leave the baby at the hospital. That she wasn’t worth all the work and I had my hands full already. The doctors felt she’d never survive, that it wasn’t worth using extreme measures on a hopeless case. And since I wasn’t even the foster mother yet, I got to hear the news without any of the obligatory “we’re sorry” or caring bedside manner.

They meant well. They just didn’t understand that she was already my daughter. So I continued to fight for her and pray for her and stay awake nights hoping for a miracle. One week turned into two weeks. And just when I thought things might be more hopeful, I got a call from the caseworker—they expected her to die in the next few hours. I’d only seen her once, I’d never held her, and I had no rights to go visit her; but my baby was about to die. The sweet little girl I had loved and prayed for and stocked a nursery for only had a few precious hours left.

I lost my daughter. The sadness is unimaginable, and every day my thoughts are filled with her and the future that we were robbed of. I remember all the plans I had for our family, and it’s sometimes more than I can bear.

But I remind myself that I chose loss. I chose to be a parent whose child could be torn away from them at any moment. I am a part of a system where kids are moved on to different foster homes, placed with family members, returned to parents, and then come back into the system again. I am a parent in a system that asks me to love each child with every part of me—just as if they were my own—and then be willing to lose them. That’s what I signed up for. That’s what I wanted. And though I never imagined one of those children would be lost this way, I knew there was every possibility that my heart would be broken. This is what I chose.

But I also choose love. I choose hope. I choose to believe she is in a place where her tiny little body is no longer filled with pain. I choose to believe that God will bring healing to our family. I choose to believe that this pain, and loneliness, and suffocating sadness won’t last forever. And I choose to carry her heart in my heart forever. I chose loss, yes. But more importantly, I am choosing love.

photo amaia

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Happy 3rd Birthday, Little Man!

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So, this is a few months late in coming.  But I wanted to share.  I am totally ripping off an idea from Megan at http://www.millionsofmiles.com.  It’s a great blog that you should totally read.

Anyway, the idea I’m ripping off is a birthday letter which I plan to do every year for Little Man.  It also has a list of his favorites.  Hopefully next year he’ll be talking enough that I can actually ask him the questions, but for this year you’re just getting the mommy perspective.

 

My dear sweet boy,

Although I’ve only known you a few months, you’ve already stolen my heart. I remember the first day you came to me. I found out you were coming just a few days before, and had a chance to meet you twice. When you were dropped off at my home, you ran around the house playing with the few toys and books I had and then trying to stuff them in your tiny backpack. I’m sure you thought you were going to leave soon, and you wanted to take everything with you.   And that was when I fell in love with you.

You are a big three years old now, and you are so fiercely independent. Maybe because you’ve had to be in your short life, but my, are you so willing and insistent on doing things yourself. And you’re very good at it too. You want to cook the food, pour the milk, turn on the bath, open the packages, and turn on the car. You’re even trying to change your own diaper.

You are so smart! Sometimes, I swear, you’re too smart for your own good. In the short months you’ve lived with me, you have come to learn where we live and how to navigate there from any direction. You remember when bridges are coming up, and when we’re going to go underneath roadways. You have such an engineer’s mind—always taking things apart to see how they work, and then putting them back together. You can figure out every child latch invented (or break it open with brute force). And man, are you strong. You love to push around heavy things and haul gallons of water to the porch to water the flowers. Although, sometimes your strength gets you in big trouble when you get mad.

Ooo, and how you get mad sometimes. You go at it with everything in you, and you can have such a hard time calming down. I think you might hold the world record for the longest temper tantrums. But you are learning and growing every day. And you get mad props from me, baby. You have to fight every day to overcome so much. You fight to push past special needs and developmental delays. And you fight to overcome the chaos and confusion of growing up in the foster care system. And you fight to communicate and learn language. I am so proud of you for fighting to overcome these things. I know you can do it. I’m here for you, and I’m cheering you on!

When you first came to me you only spoke a few words, but you have come so far baby! You are talking up a storm! And though we’re still working on being able to understand all your words, you have come so far in just a few short months. Every day you’re learning new words and sentences. And everyone is in love with your voice. Seriously. You’ve got this raspy, jazz singer voice. It’s a voice that sounds a little out of place coming from your adorable little three year old body. But it’s entirely endearing. I’m so proud of you and all your hard work, buddy!

You can be so thoughtful—you get concerned when other kids are sad or crying. You’re always saying “Oh no!!” and running to me to help them out. Or running to them and trying to give them a hug—even if they don’t want one. And oh, how you love to hug! Everyone—even strangers you just met, is likely to get a Little Man hug!   Everyone loves how affectionate you are. And you’re always trying to help out—whether it’s welcoming a new kid, trying to serve me food at dinner time and make sure my plate is never empty, or cleaning the house (and I seriously love that you love cleaning so much, please always stay this way!!!)

I love you and I am praying for you every day.   And I’m not alone. There is an army of people who are madly in love with you and praying for you. People who are always demanding to know where you’re at and when they’ll get to play with you again. You make people fall in love with you so easily! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you! I believe in you, and I know we’re in for a great adventure together. I’m so glad God brought us together—I’m so lucky to be your mommy, and you’re teaching me so much. Your third year is going to be so amazing! I can’t wait for the journey!

Love,
Mommy

austin tigers

Favorite Toy: Elmo doll

Favorite Drink: MILK!!

Favorite Food: Waffles. Oh. My. Word. You would eat waffles for every meal if I would let you. And you are always wanting food—even if you’re not really hungry. You wake up (about six times a night) and the first thing you always say is “Eat. Eat now.” Sometimes you will wake up from a deep sleep, start drinking milk or going to the kitchen to scavenger for food which you will eat, and then fall back asleep.

Favorite Activity: Driving mommy’s car and playing at the park

Favorite Song: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Whenever it comes on in the car you gasp, scream “My song!” and then start dancing. Most adorable thing ever!

Favorite Cartoon: Little Einsteins, or as you call it “Rocketship!”

Favorite Books: I’ll Love You Forever, Pat the Bunny, Go Dog, Go

Favorite Lullabies: The song from I’ll Love You Forever, “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins

Favorite Sport: Swimming, although I’m sure you’d be in love with tackle football if you could play it.

Favorite Ice Cream: Chocolate

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Sleepy Adventures

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Another thing you may have read on Facebook:

In the past two days I have watched Little Man wake from a deep sleep and

A) pick up his milk, drink it, and set it back down;

B) join in right on cue with the applause at a concert; and

C) walk to the kitchen, open a bag of muffins, grab two and head back to bead where he proceeded to eat them.

All of this was followed by him falling immediately back to sleep. I’m wondering if this could tell me something about why he wakes up so often every night. Any ideas? Does this sound like sleep walking type stuff?

Proudest Mommy Moment Yet

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If you are my Facebook friend, you’ve already read this, but . . .

Proudest mommy moment yet: whenever we see someone hurt or upset, or someone tells us they are sick or in pain, I have Little Man stop and pray with me for them. We always hold hands and end with “amen.” Tonight he was being stubborn about brushing his teeth and I told him to please brush his teeth because mommy’s back hurt. He held out one hand to mine and tried to touch my back with the other, before saying “amen.” I didn’t understand him at first and then he kept asking me to take his hand and saying “amen, mommy’s back.” Needless to say we stopped and prayed right then.

Getting teary eyed just typing it. When you think it’s not working, when you think they’re not paying attention, just wait! As one of my favorite musical theatre songs says, “Careful the things you say, children will listen. Children may not obey, but children will see, and learn, and know.”

 

When the Bough Breaks, the Cradle Will Fall

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And . . . no baby.  After hauling tons of baby stuff into my home, installing a car seat, and reorganizing 2 closets and Little Man’s dresser so there would be room for the baby’s stuff.  And it’s not like I’m heart broken I’m not getting a baby–hey my life will definitely be easier with one.  But, the reason I’m not getting him is that he is not being taken away.  On Tuesday the investigator said it was so serious they couldn’t wait till today to remove him and he needed to be taken out right away.  But mom wouldn’t sign the consent form, so they had to wait till court today.  And now mom has “a plan.”  Mom with lots of substance abuse issues has a plan.  So the baby is staying with her.  And I know I’m a bit skeptical, but I am worried about the safety of this little baby.

So, I’m trying to decompress from this.  And now there’s a whole heap of baby stuff to be returned to all my awesome friends who were letting me borrow it.  Ugh.

A Three Year Old’s Dream

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Today I took Little Man to Billy Beez, a huge indoor playground of tunnels, slides, ball machines, trampolines, and mazes. He LOVED it. It was like all his dreams come true. He was giggling, laughing, and running around like a crazy guy! It was adorable.

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It was a great payback for how awesome he was last night. Last night I was miserably sick. It sucks being a single mom when you’re sick. Ugh! I thought maybe it was allergies, but by 5:30 last night, I was shivering with a fever and I literally couldn’t keeps eyes open. It didn’t help that Little Man was up all night the night before. But he was a rock star last night. I ended up laying under a pile of blankets while he surfed between a variety of shows on the PBS Kids app. God bless that app. It was a lifesaver. After a good nights sleep, I was still sick this morning but feeling much better.

So he was due for a special treat. Thanks again Angie and Chris for the gift card!

The Merry Go Round of Crazy

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I mentioned in my last post that there was lots I needed to catch everyone up on.  The past 2 1/2 weeks have been so crazy — so much stuff going in Little Man’s world and in mine.  It all started with a visit to a pediatric specialist at the Center for Development, Behavior, and Genetics.  That translates to a specialist that works with kids with a variety of special needs.  He’s crazy hard to get into–appointments often take a year to make.  However a year ago, when Little Man was still with bio mom, there was some concern that he might have Autism, and so an appointment was scheduled.  And now the time had come for that appointment.  We actually came back from vacation a day early to make this–it’s that big of a deal.

Since I’ve had Little Man it’s been clear to everyone involved that he doesn’t have Autism.  However he does have a whole list of other issues and troubling behaviors.  So this was a very helpful appointment.  Some of the things he was diagnosed with were no shock–developmental language disorder, at risk for learning disability, and severe problems with impulse control, explosiveness, and aggression.  Others were a bit of a surprise, but not too intimidating–probable ADHD.

But then there was one other diagnosis.  The one at the top of his chart.  I’m not going to make it public yet, because I’m not sure I’ve bought into this diagnosis.  But let me tell you, it’s bad.  Like, really bad.  In fact, when I did my home study they had to ask me about a long list of challenging behaviors, medical conditions, mental health issues, and special needs.  I said I’d take kids with severe learning disabilities or special needs.  I said I’d take kids who started fires.  This is the ONE THING I said I couldn’t handle.  The place where I drew the line.

God has a great sense of humor, huh?

I received a copy of the doctor’s full report and it was full of lots of things I just had to laugh at.  Like “He can be very sweet, but is also prone to violent and aggressive outbursts.  Many things trigger him very quickly”  And “He actually exhibits quite a lot of attention-seeking and limit testing behavior with his foster mother.  She is quite skilled in her responses to this behavior.”  Well, thanks.

That week I actually had three different appointments for Little Man.  Two days later I took him into the clinic for a follow-up appointment for a health problem he’s been having.  We saw my favorite doctor there-she’s awesome.  Little Man was displaying a few challenging behaviors.  Most of the time he was pretty good.  But then he started throwing a chair.  Nurses came in, afraid that someone was getting hurt and the doctor needed help.  Welcome to my world, folks.  Anyway, Little Man was fine and at the end of the visit the doctor told me “I wish I could bring you in to train the other foster parents–you’re great.”  Did I mention how much I love her?  So much better than the snooty doctor who stepped in the door one time and before even saying hello told me I needed to teach my son that his behavior wasn’t acceptable.  (Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do?  I thought I was supposed to encourage the yelling, hitting, and throwing.)

The next day I had an appointment to determine if Little Man was still eligible for services as he transitions out of EI and into the school district system (since he just turned 3).  It was an interesting meeting–two people from the school district, his special needs preschool teacher, his EI coordinator, his caseworker, bio mom on the phone, and myself.  The preschool teacher started bragging on how far he’s come in the past few months and that he’s doing so great.  But I had come to the meeting with my report from the specialist he saw on Monday.  And when they passed it around, everyone’s jaws hit the floor.  For real.  His caseworker said “I had no idea it was this bad.”  Maybe she wasn’t getting my desperate e-mails.  Who knows.  His teacher was shocked.  Apparently he spends a lot more time acting out at home than at school.  But his EI coordinator listened to my descriptions of his behavior and said “That is exactly what he was behaving like when I was doing in-home services with him before.”  Well, at least someone else has seen it.  They clearly saw his need for continued services and assigned him to everything the doctor had recommended.  Win.

As I was leaving the meeting, his caseworker walked out with me and we were able to have a good conversation.  She apologized for not knowing Little Man’s needs were so severe and promised to raise him to the next level of care (which means I’ll receive a higher reimbursement and can start a college fund for him as well as buying some of the therapeutic tools and toys he needs).  I laughed, “Yeah,” I said “my definition of a good day had drastically changed–the other night he hit me several times, bit me, pulled my hair, and pinched me, but it really was a good night.”

Then she started talking about mom and I asked her about some of the things she’d said in the meeting.  I wanted to know if mom was really making progress on getting Little Man back–because that’s how the caseworker was speaking to her during the meeting.  In the process of answering that question it came out that mom does not, in fact, have other children.  I was told multiple times by other caseworkers and by Little Man’s lawyer that mom had several other children who had all been freed for adoption and that meant he was on the path for adoption as well.  Now I was finding out that wasn’t true.  Apparently dad has other kids that have been freed for adoption, but mom has no other kids.  Woah.  That is a huge difference.  I felt like the ground had been ripped out from underneath me.  The caseworker shared some other info about his court case that had occurred the day before (I didn’t even know he had one), things going on with mom’s progress, and we made a plan to meet at my home for her visit the following week.

The beginning of the next week she came out for the visit.  She sat on my couch and observed Little Man and was completely shocked.  For real words that came out of her mouth:  “Is he always like this?”  “You should think long and hard about whether you want to adopt him, because I can’t promise he’ll ever get any better.”  Not so encouraging.  I know she’s just doing her job, and she needs to protect him against someone who says yes and then after adopting decides they can’t handle it.  But seriously people, if your biological kid was diagnosed with special needs would you just send them back?

In the midst of all this craziness we also had Little Man’s epic birthday party, I met with a social worker at the specialist’s office to discuss ways to handle his challenging behaviors, my computer completely crashed–losing about 3 months worth of work and being out of commission for nearly 2 weeks, I enrolled Little Man in his new special needs preschool program and took him for a tour, and dealt with an incredibly infuriating screaming episode in the middle of a nice sit-down restaurant.  (Seriously, Little Man, I refuse to accept defeat and stay at home or the park for the rest of my life–you need to learn how to behave in public, sincerely Mommy.)

So, if you’ve been wondering what’s going on in the world of Little Man, the answer is A LOT.  A lot that is super overwhelming.  But there’s been so much that’s super rewarding too.  Like . . .

* My baby, who could only speak about 5 words three months ago, is now talking up a storm.  He can speak in complete sentences and is learning new words and phrases every day!

* And he is not just looking at books anymore.  He is “reading” them.  For reals.  He picks up “Go Dog, Go” and carefully turns each page and says words and sentences that are on that page.  “I like it!  I like that hat!”  How magical is that!!

* He has decided that he now loves being at our home.  (I’m sure all the amazing toys his friends got him for his birthday are helping that!)

* He overheard “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” in church and it’s new favorite song.  He sings along and does the motions–his favorite part is the “tick tock” part, with “Don’t touch me!” coming in as a close second!

* He also has decided he loves being at church.  No more crying when we start heading that way.  Instead he’ll start asking for church multiple times in a day!

* He has gotten so much better at staying at the table during mealtimes.

* I have significantly less bruises and injuries than I did a month ago.  His violent behaviors are getting much less frequent (and more importantly) much less damaging.

* And also super encouraging: an awesome friend contacted someone she knows who is a specialist in that diagnosis I was so afraid of.  And she thinks it’s wrong.  She described another diagnosis which is similar, and in some ways even harder to manage.  But the major difference:  the love, support, and affection I give him now can radically change and even cure what he’s dealing with.  And that is a HUGE light at the end of the tunnel.