Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Lord's Work

THANK YOU for all of your recent supportive, encouraging comments and "virtual hugs".  They have helped to buoy me up the past couple of weeks.

One of the first comments I received from another foster mom was, "this is gods will and we are here to just help him carry it out...even if it takes some heartache."

Her words stood out to me as do the words a young mother wrote regarding motherhood:

"Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God's work."

Just this morning I came across a quote on a friend's blog which I've read and heard many times but it really sunk in as I specifically applied it it to being a foster parent:

I feel very strongly that God works through other people and that FAMILY IS EVERYTHING.  If I can be an instrument in His hands to help a family get a second chance to stay together then it is worth all of the heartache.  (and maybe I'll even get a little heavenly "extra credit" in the meantime to make up for all of my weaknesses and imperfections).

More thoughts on the subject which have resonated with me:

I have heard it said that "God couldn't be everywhere at once so he created mothers." 

Allow me to tweak that thought: Sometimes mothers and fathers need some extra help and children need a safe home environment while their parents work things out- (granted they can work things out).  In such cases, I think it's appropriate to say
"God couldn't be everywhere at once so he created foster families."

I'm grateful and humbled to be part of a system, as flawed as it may sometimes be, which gives parents, like Christian's father, a second chance.  [Had Christian been placed back into his mother's care, on the other hand, I would have had some serious concerns for his safety.  One of the biggest fears we had after learning that his mother was going to be given reuinification services was that he would return to her care and we would be watching the news one night and hear a story about shaken baby syndrome; Then we'd see a mug shot of his mother appear on the screen.]  

Two final thoughts:

"Nurturing the young, comforting the frightened, protecting the vulnerable, teaching and giving encouragement need not- and should not- be limited to our own children"  -Russell M. Nelson

"If you're listening, if you're awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; it's purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold ever more wonders." -Andrew Harvey

Friday, July 16, 2010

Goodbyes Are Hard

Today is the first day of the Trial Home Placement.   (Skim this post under "BACK TO THE HEARING" to get caught up)

This morning my husband graciously offered to drop Christian off to his dad so that I could shed my tears in the privacy of our own home. 

It's a stay-in-my-pajamas-all day, let-my-child-watch-way-too-much-Disney Channel, take-the-phone-off- the-hook, and bring-on-the-CHOCOLATE kind of day!

Goodbyes are hard.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Christian

Besides the fact that Christian won't be going home to a mommy, the thing that breaks our hearts most about him leaving is watching our 2 year old (she'll actually be 3 in a couple of months) try to process things.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been repeatedly explaining to my daughter that the baby will be going home to live with his daddy for good:  that we won't just be dropping him off  to visit his daddy for a couple of days and then be picking him up again a few a days later, but that he'll be going back to live with his daddy forever and that we won't need to babysit him anymore. 

I've almost felt a little guilty for drilling it into her little head because sometimes, just out of the blue in the middle of the day, she'll turn to me and matter-of-factly state, "He's not our baby- we're just babysitting him."  On the other hand, I don't want things to come as a big shock to her and I certainly want to be open and honest with her. 

Speaking of honesty, I was recently asked by someone if we were going to tell M. that the baby was leaving.  I was  a bit dumbfounded  by the question, and although I was tempted to blurt out one of the sarcastic replies brewing in my head I simply explained that we had been preparing M. for Christian's reunification for quite some time now.  (Refer to this post).

Other times when the issue comes up (like when M. recently saw me packing up the baby's clothes and asked what I was doing) she inevitably asks "WHY?" despite all previous explanations. 

ME: Because we're just babysitting him, honey.  Remember?  Now his daddy is ready to watch him.

M:  But WHY?  Why is his daddy ready to watch him?

How do I answer that?  As with adoption, I've just decided to keep things as simple, honest, and age-appropriate as possible, but that also means that I find myself saying the same things over and over again so that I don't overwhelm her with details she can't understand.  The problem is that my simple answers don't always satisfy her:

"His daddy wasn't able to take care of him so we were able to babysit the baby and love him, but now his daddy is ready to take care of him again so he's going back to live with him."

M. gets a confused and sad look on her face and earnestly asks "But WHY does he have to go back to his daddy?"

The question-answer cycle is repeated as often as necessary.

We've discussed that it will be sad to see the baby go and that it's okay to cry (I wanted to stress that point to her because I've always had an unhealthy and unrealistic tendency to repress sad or angry emotions- almost as if they're something to be ashamed of).   I also add how special it was to have him in our home and that we can always remember him by looking at the pictures we have of him.

A couple of nights ago as I was tucking M. into bed the subject of the baby's leaving came up again.  This time she didn't ask why he has to leave or state what she already knows will happen, but she started weeping and turned to me and said, "But I don't WANT the baby to go to his daddy!" 

Broke.   My.   Heart.

My eyes immediately welled up in tears and I was glad that I had already turned out the lights so that she couldn't see the pained look on my face.  Why am I so afraid of letting my child see me cry?  Mommies and daddies cry too!

I did my best to comfort my little girl and I reminded her that we could keep praying to Heavenly Father for a brother or sister.  I asked her if she wanted to say a prayer right then and not only did she want to pray, but she actually kept her eyes closed the whole time and kept very still- unlike her usual wiggles and giggles that often accompany prayer time.  

Anyway, with all of the emotions stirred up in all of us over the past couple of weeks it has made us wonder if it's even fair to M. to take another foster placement.  Is having to say goodbye going to be too traumatic for her? 

I don't know the answer to that because I don't know what God has in store for our family.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Christian's Nine Month Update

Christian had his nine month week well baby check a couple of weeks ago and I am happy to announce that  he has gained TEN POUNDS and grown SIX INCHES since being in our care!  He is certainly not the same scrawny, unresponsive baby we picked up from the DCFS Office last last November. In fact, as Christian's dad was undressing his babbling baby down to his diaper at the doctor's appointment he chuckled as he told me that his friends have endearingly given his baby the nickname "Chunker".  I laughed because I've always considered a pudgy baby to be a healthy baby. There's just something about pudginess, dimples, and fat rolls on babies which I find not only cute, but sweetly cherubic as well.

At the doctor's appointment I asked Christian's dad how things are going with day care arrangements. He told me he was in the process of getting some friends to pass background checks before DCFS would even consider them as options for babysitting. Christian's dad also mentioned that Christian's maternal grandmother isn't interested in babysitting for him and Christian's mom now wants to officially and legally relinquish her parental rights so that she won't have to pay child support. When I heard this I told his dad "You just need to find a girlfriend who really loves babies!" half-joking but half-serious.  He gave a slight smile but he also looked a little sad and then fearing that I should have kept my thoughts to myself I said, "I mean it would be nice if you had a girlfriend to help out . . . not that you need to find one."

This is what makes us most sad about Christian leaving: He won't be going home to a mommy. And everybody needs a mommy, right? It's not even a question- it's a fact: Everybody needs a mommy- period. No . . . exclamation mark!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Infertility: Hope and Healing Book Review

{Finally} . . . the Book Review I promised months ago on Infertility: Help, Hope, and Healing by Kerstin Daynes.

I consider myself to be more of an introvert than an extrovert which is why I admire others who are willing to open up their hearts and publicly share their experiences of dealing with personal issues in an attempt to provide encouragement, support, and hope to others. True to the title of her book, Kerstin Daynes does exactly that: she provides help, hope, and healing to those dealing with and trying to make sense of infertility. Not only does she share her own experiences, but she uses insights and perspectives of others who have had similar struggles in order to help broaden people’s understanding of such a delicate subject.

Although this book is a wonderful resource for those personally struggling with infertility I also highly recommend it to friends and family members of individuals struggling with infertility or to anybody who would like to come away with a better understanding of infertility. Especially helpful in that regard is an appendix in the back of the book titled, “Supporting Someone Who Has Fertility Challenges.”

Other useful appendices to her book include one on infertility facts, a glossary of helpful terms, and recommended resources. I appreciated that each appendix was short enough (2-3 pages) to give some very basic yet pertinent information but not too long as to be considered overwhelming which is understandable as Kerstin describes her book in the preface as “only a beginning” which will hopefully “open a door by encouraging dialogue and discussion”.

With that invitation, let me start some dialogue by saying that I think one of the hardest parts of dealing with infertility is that all too often, women dealing with fertility struggles (including myself) mistakenly base our worth solely upon our ability to bear or carry children and we may even go so far as to let that one aspect of our life define who we are. Kerstin addresses this exact problem when she writes:

“We often spend so much time and energy dwelling on what we lack and how we do not measure up to others that we neglect areas of our lives that contain glimpses of greatness.”

However, Kerstin reminds us that infertility is just one of many aspects of a woman’s life and she wisely encourages everyone to discover the other areas of our lives which contain “glimpses of greatness”.

“Celebrate that you have other parts of yourself that are functional and keep track of the context of your whole self, your whole life, and not just the narrow window of infertility.”

Great advice.  On the topic of finding support and avoiding alienation, Kerstin wisely counsels:

“We all have reason to be disappointed by life. Find comfort in knowing that others can understand, strengthen, and lift you, even if they know nothing of the sadness of infertility. As you recognize how similar you are to others, you choose to be understood. You choose not to be alone.”

What a wonderful concept which can be applied to virtually any trial and to both sides of the trial as well. Allow me to paraphrase the “flip side” of this quote: [Others can] find comfort in knowing that I can understand, strengthen, and lift them even if I know nothing of the sadness of ____________ (fill in the blank: divorce/unemployment/raising a child with special needs, etc.)

That’s another great thing about this book- although it is specifically geared towards dealing with infertility, the advice and wisdom shared could be beneficial when used for practically any trial!

The longest section of Kerstin’s book, which I found particularly helpful, were the chapters containing practical strategies for coping with infertility on all sorts of levels: physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and socially. The advice in these chapters was very useful and I was particularly drawn to the chapters that addressed dealing with fertility socially and on a spiritual level, since those aspects of infertility have been the most challenging for me to deal with personally.

Throughout this book Kerstin uses her Christian beliefs and the scriptures as a framework for understanding infertility. She specifically uses the Biblical examples of Sarah & Abraham, Isaac & Rebekah, Hannah & Elkenah, and Elisabeth & Zacharias, who all faced fertility challenges which surely must have tried their faith.

One of my favorite lines in the whole book which really puts things into a beautiful perspective made reference to Abraham and Sarah, who eventually went on to become a father and mother of nations:

“The Lord had a unique plan for this family, one that was different than the normal “grow up, get married, have children, and live happily ever after” plan. The plan that He had for Abraham and Sarah included all of the things He had promised, but they happened at a different time than they expected. In the end, they experienced joy, perhaps more exquisite because of their patience, faith, and “judging him faithful who had promised”

Another favorite passage from the book which describes the ultimate source of healing for any ailment or trial is:

“Through Jesus Christ, we can find the strength to move forward even when all seems hopeless. Because of Him we can be empowered to progress towards becoming what Heavenly Father sees we can be. Additionally, applying the atoning power in our lives will bring much needed healing and relief."

And once more, drawing upon the examples found in the scriptures and using beautiful imagery which she naturally infuses into her writing, Kerstin offers hope on her website that "despite infertility, we can live our lives in the fertile parts of our wildernesses"

If you are interested in reading Infertility: Help, Hope, and Healing by Kerstin Daynes borrow it,  buy it, or   take a look at her website for an excerpt. 

By the way, Kerstin will be speaking at this year's Families Supporting Adoption (FSA) National Conference.

What if Infertility Didn't Exist?

Although infertility isn’t a prerequisite to adopt or do foster care, I, for one, know that if I had a houseful of children who came to me the “traditional” biological way, I would probably be too busy to think about adoption or foster care. Perhaps it would be a thought in the back of my mind, but I honestly don’t think it would be a priority to me.

With that in mind, here’s a thought: What if there were no such thing as infertility? Would there be as many people wanting to adopt? Sure, there will always be people who are passionate about providing homes for children through fostering or adopting regardless of their reproductive capabilities or family background. But I wager that if children came to families solely by being “born” into them, there would be a heck of a lot less people eager to adopt, which also means that there would be a heck of a lot more children in the world missing out on a family. My husband and I can’t imagine what our life would be like without our little girl (well actually we can, but it is just too heartbreaking and painful to do so). If it weren’t for adoption she wouldn’t be in our lives!

Perhaps the most tragic consequence of living in a world where infertility didn’t exist is that the options for women faced with unplanned pregnancies would be limited to either bearing and raising their child, finding family members or friends willing to help out, or abandoning or aborting their child.

What a blessing adoption can be for all members of the adoption triad: women placed with unplanned pregnancies in search of a loving family for their child, men and women who wouldn’t have the opportunity to be parents if it weren’t for adoption, families wanting to welcome another child into their home, and perhaps most importantly, the adopted child.

God works in mysterious ways. Perhaps infertility is one of them.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

2010 FSA National Conference Tickets Giveaway

Two years ago I attended my first Families Supporting Adoption National Conference.  All I can say is that it was so worthwhile that I kicked myself for not having gone before.

If you are looking for more information, support, and  hope regarding adoption I HIGHLY RECOMMEND going to this year's National Conference which will be held at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, Utah on July 30th-31st.

If you are interested in winning TWO FREE TICKETS (a $70 value!) to this year's National Conference click HERE.

If you are a birthparent, Registration is FREE.

See you at the Conference!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sunshine Award

A couple of months ago as I was catching up on my blog reading I was surprised to learn that I received a BLOG AWARD from one of my "original" adoption blogging buddies, Brenda Horrocks.

Then, a few days ago I was both happily surprised and humbled once again to receive the SUNSHINE AWARD from the Thrifty Momma herself, Paula Schuck.

It is now my turn to "pay it forward" and bestow the Sunshine Award on blogs I find particularly noteworthy.

But first, allow me to take a moment and brag about BRENDA:

Brenda is a huge advocate for adoption and foster care.  She and her husband Brad have a beautiful family created through adoption and they have served together as Co-Vice Chairs on the Families Supporting Adoption National Board. 

Ever heard of Matching Mondays?

Brenda is the heart behind that campaign aimed to encourage others to adopt children from the U.S. Foster Care System. 

See this clever graphic?

Yup, that's attributed to Brenda, too from another great blog of hers.

Needless to say, Brenda is pretty amazing.  THANK YOU, Brenda for your friendship and inspiration.

AND NOW-  on to the awarding!  Drum roll, please . . .

NOTE: My personal interpretation and criteria of a blog deserving of a "Sunshine Award" is not necessarily one that is happy and chipper all the time, but a blog that leaves me feeling either enLIGHTened by a different point of view or something new I've learned and/or WARMED by someone's example of compassion, hope or humor.  And since this is my adoption blog versus my "regular" private blog the following blogs are all adoption and foster-care related:

Thank you, fellow bloggers, for bringing me sunshine! 

If you feel so inclined to pass the Sunshine Award on to others here are the Official Rules as listed on Brenda's blog:

1. Post picture on your blog or in your post.
2. Link to the person who gave you the award.
3. Spread the sunshine to 12 blogs (or however many you wish to award).

Stay tuned for a longer post in the future (one which I started a long time ago but haven't quite finished yet as 12 blogs are a lot to review!) where I'll explain exactly why I love these blogs.