Thursday, November 24, 2011

Guest Posting: FAQ About Foster Care

Today I am guest posting on my friend Amanda's blog, Punkins in Love

Amanda is an adoptive mother and as you will see by her header her two boys are STINKIN' cute!  Both her children have open relationships with their birthmothers and their families so Amanda knows a thing or two about open adoptions.  Unfortunately, Amanda and her husband also know firsthand the heartache of going through a failed prospective placement, a subject which she may write more about  in the future. 

Besides being a mother Amanda is also a nurse and a runner- she has run the Ragnar (more than once) which automatically makes her go up a few extra notches on my "Awesomeness Scale".  I admire anyone who not only trains for but finishes such events.

Head on over to Punkins and Love to see my answers to Ten Frequently Asked Questions about Foster Care

P.S. This guest post totally counts as one of the (at least) six posts I wanted to post before National Adoption Month comes to a close!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rose in Bloom/Change in Plans

Earlier this month as I dropped Rose off to a visit with her mom I was overcome with a lot of different emotions- (mostly grief-related) about the prospect of having to “drop her off” in the near future- FOR GOOD- and not being able to conveniently pick her back up a few hours later.  Although I was all alone in my car I was still somewhat surprised at how emotional I became because I like to think I’m much more calm and collected than I actually am and I pride myself on not showing too much emotion.  As I felt the warm tears starting to form in the corners of my eyes on the ride home I chided myself.
My inner dialogue went something like this:
You knew this placement was only going to be a couple of weeks to a couple of months max till she’s placed with relatives- so why all the fuss?
I know- I know . . . But even so, five weeks is PLENTY of time to get attached to a child when you’re the caregiver 24/7.  I just don’t know if I can handle fostering another baby again- it’s just too emotionally and physically exhausting.   Maybe we should only foster children rather than babies. 
I proceeded to think about our previous toddler and pre-school age foster children and the advantages as well as challenges that such stages of development present.  True, there isn’t as much physical work involved as caring for a baby, but there is plenty of other emotional and social work in terms of helping them regulate and express their emotions appropriately, setting boundaries, and establishing a sense of routine and structure in their daily life. 
Then again, I thought, Maybe we should just call it quits altogether as far as foster care goes.  I don’t think I’m strong enough to say “yes’ to one more placement only to have our hearts broken one more time.  If we knew we were done building our family then it would be different, but it’s such an emotional roller coaster trying to guess what might be in store for us in terms of if we’ll ever be able to adopt one of our foster children in the future.
Q:  Well then, why DON’T you quit?  Nobody’s forcing you to do this, you know.
I know.  But I just feel like I’m “supposed” to.  And there’s so many kids out there who need safe homes, and it’s really not that much of a sacrifice since we only have one child and we always have an extra bedroom.   I reminded myself of all of the other reasons why we’ve continued to foster.
As my soliloquy continued it became much more dramatic and I started feeling sorry for myself and even owned up to the fact I was feeling jealous of Rose’s mother- because she gets to have what I want most- a baby. . .  and I’m just the substitute mommy- not the real mom.  I’m “just” the foster mom.

Speaking of which . . . I recently came across the following picture which deeply resonated with me.  The caption read "A mama is a mama."  

But I’m the one who gets up in the middle of the night to feed her and I’m the one who changes her diapers and launders all of her (and my) spit-up covered clothes, and I’m the one who takes her to the doctor, but what do I get in the end?  Nothing. 
My self-pity began to escalate:
We voluntarily open our hearts and our home to caring for a baby and in the end we don’t even get to see her “bloom” –so to speak.  (I knew there was another reason I’d refer to her as Rose.)  And, of course, the timing for saying goodbye is just GREAT- her colic is slowly improving, she’s only waking up once during the night now, and she’s outgrowing her helpless newborn stage and entering the fun, social stage where she’s smiling at everyone she sees and cooing and starting to laugh.  And NOW we have to say goodbye?!
Perhaps I NEED foster care in my life to help me be less self-centered, more humble, less judgmental, more grateful, and in general, more loving- because it’s not the first time I’ve had such thoughts.  I eventually talked myself out of having such a martyr-like attitude and reminded myself that it’s better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.   
Fast forward to a week ago:  Our family has been preparing to say goodbye to Rose, knowing that any day we would get a call from her caseworker letting us know that her relatives have been approved to  care for her and that we need to get all her things together so that she can be transferred into  their care.  Well, it turns out there’s been a change of plans.  Although both relatives did, in fact, pass their background checks, for various logistical reasons the Division decided it would be in Rose’s best interest to keep her with a fost-adopt family.  We were asked if we would be interested in having Rose in our home on a more permanent basis and we said “yes”.  How could we not?
So now it looks like we’ll have Rose in our care for a little longer- until the Permanency Hearing in Spring- and that will give us a little more time to see her “bloom”.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Beautiful Heartbreak

There’s an inspirational music video which has been circulating around the web recently featuring two women who have both suffered some pretty huge trials in their lives.    One of the women is Stephanie Nielson (commonly known as Nie Nie in the blogosphere) and the other is war survivor and refugee, Mariama Kallon.

Although I have never seen Mariama Kallon speak in person, I have heard from others who have heard her share her story firsthand and/or read her book, Delivered by Hope, just how imspirational and truly amazing her attitude is- the key word here is attitude.  And anyone who is familiar with Nie Nie's story knows how she has always maintained a positive attitude since her accident.

The video I’m speaking of is from Christian artist Hilary Weeks and is called Beautiful Heartbreak.  Incidentally, I happen to have a very talented sister-in-law who contributed her mastery of the violin to the String Section of this particular (as well as many other) soundtracks. 
Regarding the title of this song:  if you’re like me your first instinct is to think that the words “beautiful” and “heartbreak” most certainly don’t belong together; It’s an oxymoron.  There’s certainly nothing beautiful about getting your heart broken and having your hopes dashed, right?   However, as I proceeded to watch this video my heart was touched and I understood the message behind the phrase “beautiful heartbreak”.  The words to the chorus in particular seemed to speak to me:
Every fear, every doubt, All the pain I went through
Was the price that I paid to see this view
And now that I’m here I would never trade
The grace that I feel and the faith that I find
Through the bittersweet tears and the sleepless nights
I used to pray that He’d take it all away,
But instead it became
A Beautiful Heartbreak.
I also thought it was very powerful to see Nie Nie and Kallon hold up framed hand-written signs for the camera describing what trials they had gone through and then- as a direct result of consciously choosing to maintain a positive attitude despite their trials- they held up additional signs at the end of the video with words describing some of the beautiful and good things they could focus on, in spite of, and in Mariama’s case, as a direct result of their trials. 
Just as touching to me was the montage at the close of the video of many other women (and a sweet little boy) who would look directly into the camera without speaking and hold up hand-written signs of some of the battles and heartaches which they were facing or had faced.  A powerful technique, which, incidentally, has also been used in this website which I was referred to after a woman posted this picture on her blog:

What a great reminder that you just never know what other people are struggling with, despite how “together” they appear.  As the words to a favorite hymn state “In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see”.   You just never know.  Or, as this quote states:

[I’ve always liked that quote, but when I heard it was attributable to Plato I suddenly liked it even more – as if his thoughts deserve more credence than the rest of ours do!]
So- what does the concept of a beautiful heartbreak have to do with my experiences as an adoptive and foster mother?  Quite a bit, actually.  If I were to make a list of the five hardest things I have ever had to face in my life infertility would definitely rank at the top if the list- perhaps second or third.  And although infertility is not a prerequisite for doing foster care or adopting as I mentioned in this post, the fact of the matter is that if my life had been different than the way it has turned out- namely, with a house full of children I had given birth to all conveniently planned and spaced two to three years apart- I would probably be too busy to ever consider doing foster care or adopting.  Perhaps not- but I’m just guessing, based on what I know about my own capabilities and limits.
Heartbreak is such an appropriate word to describe infertility.  Infertility is lonely.  It’s alienating and discouraging.   In a word, it’s . . .  heartbreaking.   When you find yourself in the position of not being able to have what you’ve always wanted most (children) let alone what you’ve always expected would come naturally you start to question not only your worth but your worthiness. 
You feel like an outsider when compared with most other women (that’s my first problem right there- comparing my situation to someone else’s, Why do we do this?)  WOMEN- STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER WOMEN because usually such comparisons focus on someone else’s strengths or blessings compared to our weaknesses or seeming “lack” of blessings!

Yes, infertility can make you feel inadequate- lacking- and even broken inside.  
The good news about my personal “beautiful heartbreak” with infertility is that my desire to be a parent far outweighs my desire to experience a pregnancy.  I am grateful for adoption- beyond words.    Without adoption and the selflessness of my daughter’s birthmother I would never have the chance to be a mother.

Furthermore, the desire to “mother” in me is so great that I’ve been given the opportunity, through foster care, to help parent six children, aside from my daughter, over the past five years.  Of course it’s hard when we have to say goodbye to our foster children, but it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  [At least that’s what I have to remind myself when I need an attitude check concerning foster care because I feel like I’m just too emotionally exhausted to say “yes” to one more placement.]
The other night as I was putting our foster baby in her bassinette after a middle of the night feeding I thought “This bassinette sure has gotten a lot of use over the past few years.”  I did the math (no small feat considering it was probably two or three in the morning and my mind was not in prime condition) and calculated that it had been used by four babies in four years.  That’s pretty much on par with the Duggar’s rate- Not Bad!  Then I sarcastically thought to myself, “It’s because I’m so fertile!” because I know, realistically, that just the opposite is true- it’s because of my infertility that I’ve been able to care for four babies in four years.
So, if I had to make a video of my own personal heartbreak with infertility, modeled after Hilary Weeks’ Beautiful Heartbreak- [technically the credit goes to director Jed Wells] I would start out somberly looking into the camera and holding up a sign that reads:
I’m not quite sure how to fill up the middle, although I can think of some pretty dramatic images of negative pregnancy tests, intrusive doctor examinations, being surrounded by a room full of laughing women at a baby shower while trying to hide my pain behind my smile, etc.  but I DO have an idea for the ending scene:  I would be kneeling over the bassinette and I would gingerly kiss a baby’s forehead and lay him or her down to sleep and then hold up a sign with a contented look on my face and it would read:
“4 babies in 4 years”.
Granted, they haven’t all been my babies and I’ve only been able to “keep” one, but as I reflect upon some of the blessings that have come from something as heartbreaking as infertility, nurturing those four precious babies has most definitely been one of them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

But I Wanted to Grow in YOUR Tummy!

I’ve been meaning to write about something that happened several months ago.  A few days after a bridal shower I was talking to my four year old daughter and she was wondering about the funny name of the event we had attended.
But why is it called “shower”? she asked me- both amused and confused about the name.
I explained that it wasn’t like the shower you take to get clean but that there are a lot of presents at the party.  I proceeded to tell her that a shower is just another name for a party to celebrate for when people get married or when someone is going to have a baby.   Then I remembered back to a year ago when she accompanied me to a baby shower.
“Remember last year when we went to the party with all of the presents for your friend’s mommy’s baby before her little sister was born?  That was a shower.”
“ Like when I was in your tummy and you had a shower?!”   she said with enthusiasm.  It wasn’t so much  a question as it was a statement.
I paused.  This had never happened before and I was caught off guard.  My daughter had forgotten that she was adopted despite the fact that whenever she hears the word “adopted” she proudly announces “I’m adopted!” and despite the fact that the first couple of pages in her baby book are full of pictures of her birthmother smiling and holding her and embracing us.  Maybe she was confused because I also have pictures of her baby showers and when I get to those pages I always say “Everyone was so excited when you were born that we had a big party to celebrate!”
“Honey” I gently reminded her  Remember? . . .  You didn’t grow in mommy’s tummy- you grew in [her birthmother’s name]’s tummy.”
“Oh” she said, with a disappointed sigh.  “But I wanted to grow in your tummy!”
I felt an emptiness the moment she said those words and I don’t know if it was my own issues with infertility that were making me feel that way or if it was hearing the disappointment in her own little voice and trying to sense how she was feeling at the time that made me feel that way.  But I was also very touched by her longing to have been so intimately and literally connected to me. 
I went on to explain that even though she didn’t grow in my tummy she would always be my little girl and that seemed to appease her for the moment and she went on talking about something else.
I’m sure this will be just the first of many conversations to come up about where she came from and that not all future conversations and inquiries will go so smoothly (having a more open adoption would surely help to lessen some of the mystery surrounding further questions) but for now we’re just playing things by ear and trying to be as open and age-appropriate as possible.

National Adoption Month Blogging Challenge

So I’m feeling like a bit of a slacker because as of today National Adoption Month is officially halfway through and although I’ve accepted Mrs. R’s blogging challenge I’ve only blogged once this month!  I do have somewhat of an excuse as we were out of town for a week and I am still in the process of uploading a hundred pictures (no exaggeration) to our private family blog and getting caught up documenting what’s going on in our personal lives over there.

However, I have a goal to post at least six more times on this blog before the month is over- that’s an average of three times a week- so I don’t feel too bad.  I have a couple posts “mostly written”, a few more barely started, and there are always a few floating around in my head at one time.  If you’re a blogger like me the challenge is actually finding time to sit down and finish.  So . . . stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

National Adoption Month 2011

November is National Adoption Month.

Speaking of Which  . . . has a new, updated website- Check it out!

I recently registered with the site and found it to be very user friendly.  Not only that, but a caseworker contacted me back with information I needed about a waiting child's case within 24 hours after inquiring.  Very impressive!