Paternal Aunt made another stab at trying to convince Husband and I that it would be best for the three kids to stay in Sending State. Reading her message, my feelings came fast and furious. This is how it went:
Indignant. “You think the kids would be better off with family who are so neck-deep in denial that they never even noticed that mom and dad were drug addicts and the kids were being neglected?! Pu-lease.”
Anger. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Fear. “She’s obviously desperate. But What if the court decides the kids ARE better off in sending state?”
And then a different kind of Fear. “….What if she is right? What if it IS better for them to stay with the family that they know? What if we take these kids and we screw them up big time? What if we can never love Baby G and Brother the way they need to be loved? What if I resent them and this decision we’ve made? What if this ruins my daughter’s life? What if I never have a date night with my husband or drive a car that was made in this decade or buy clothing from anywhere but the thrift store again? What if mom ends up getting all the kids back- how will this devastate my family, and how will that screw up baby G? What if this is The Biggest Mistake We Ever Made?”
I’m nothing if not overly dramatic.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this today, and I’m not sure how to articulate what I’ve discovered. I guess that’s why I’m taking up blogging- to teach myself to articulate my feelings, and not just feel them. Bear with me, I promise that as long as I keep writing, I’ll get better in time. Maybe not in this post. But T.I.M.E.
I’ve realize that I am full of self-doubt. I know most people have some self-doubt, but I am full of it. And even as I write that, I am reminded that I was full of self-doubt about this decision when I made it. But I was also full of faith in Jesus, and I was able to breathe and trust that He was directing my path. When I forget to remember God, when I get all into my own head and can’t get out, the result is I am full of fear.
I do not know what is going to happen. But He does.
I don’t know how to be a good parent to all these kids. But He does, and I believe He will teach me.
I don’t know how to have patience with the kids or plan the meals that will relentlessly come three times a day or still be a great (or, let’s face it, even a barely passing for acceptable) wife even with all this new stress in our lives. But He knows how to help me with all of that.
I feel so much more peaceful.
This post did not go the way I thought it would. I thought I would write and write about my conflicting thoughts and emotions. But He reminded me, He is more than enough. I’m thankful.
Yup. Four kids.
After much soul searching, Husband and I have decided that we are ready, willing, and looking forward to parenting all the kids. That means Boo and her brothers will [probably] be arriving here by the end of the month. I’m excited and scared. Four kids! It’s what I have always wanted! But right now, we are finally just getting our finances in the order they need to be after a rough two years. We have a business that we are still trying to get off the ground. Our house is kind of small for four kids- we rent, and don’t own. And we don’t own a vehicle that will transport all of us at once. We’re still thrilled.
The kids’ paternal grandparents and aunt are both upset about placement and are fighting us and DHS. They don’t want the kids to leave the state. I understand why, I really do. But the grandparents lived right next door while all the neglect and drug use was occurring (they say they were unaware of the drugs), and never once called DHS. The aunt says they hate confrontation to an extreme. I am not okay with the kids being placed with them. I know they would give the parents unrestricted, or at best restricted, access, even if DHS makes it clear they are to have NO access. I might be okay with the aunt taking them, except that we love Little Lady too much not to fight, she has stated time and again that she wants to live with us, and we are more than prepared to have and love the boys like our own. Plus, the judge would place the kids with the grandparents before the aunt, so she’s kind of out anyway, even if she doesn’t see it that way.
They’re contacting me because they’re upset that, as Husband is blood to all three, and they are only blood to two, the judge has said that he is legally obligated to place them with us. But apparently he has moral reservations about taking the kids from all their friends and family there in the state- from aunt, both sets of grandparents, great grandparents, cousins and friends- and moving them 1500 miles away. So grandma and aunt are holding that over our heads- “The kids have already been taken away from their parents. How can it be right to take them away from all of the family that love them and that they have ever known?”
Its a powerful argument, and one that Husband and I have deeply considered. However, the fact of the matter is that all of those people, except perhaps the paternal aunt, have a history of placing bio mom’s and dad’s needs above the three kids’. There is history of drug use, alcoholism, or extreme codependence on the part of all adults involved. We are uncomfortable with that, and don’t feel that the kids should have to grow up in those circumstances when there is an opportunity for them to get out. Yes, it’ll be tough for the boys, as they don’t know us. But Boo didn’t know us when she was placed with us ten years ago either, and now we have an unbreakable bond.
They all want Boo, Brother and Baby G. They’ve each asked us to reconsider. But here’s the thing. I really believe that God placed these kids on our heart for a reason. I’ve prayed with an open heart and asked Him whether we should withdraw our request for placement. Would it be better for the kids to stay there? The answer I received was swift and concise: Absolutely Not. So we move forward. Placement will be decided on the 15th, and I am hoping the kids will come the following weekend.
Four kids. Wow.
So, we have dealt with the back and forth with DHS. I’ll spare you the two and a half months worth of DHS drama, but essentially, they told us initially that Boo would need to be separated from her little brothers because she had become too “parentified”. We immediately requested an ICPC to bring her the 1500 miles to our home, and DHS agreed to it. Bad sign for Wren.
Husband and I are, in theory, all for keeping siblings together, especially those who are already so strongly bonded. But the kids’ county didn’t put up too much of a fight when we requested Boo, and in fact, never even asked us to take the boys. So, now we’re preparing for our Boo to come back to us after all these years. She was my first baby, when I was just 23 years old, and was with me from when she was 12 months old through 24 months old. I’ll never forget how my arms ached after she left. I would lay down at night, and they would literally ache from not carrying her during the day, from not hugging and loving on her. Her and her brother’s departure launched, in retrospect, the most trying two year period of my marriage and my life. And now she is coming back at ten, almost eleven, years of age. The little girl who once knew me as Mommy will be back in our home.
My feelings about this are nothing if not ambivalent. I mean, I’m so excited she’s coming back- BEYOND thrilled. But why did she have to leave in the first place? I was the only Mom she knew. Why couldn’t she have stayed and been saved the heartache and grief this recent removal and termination has begun and will be sure to bring? Were those 8 years with her mom worth it? What about the last year or so? Does she even recognize her mom as a different person? Did she sense anything was wrong? Will she grow up and resent us for adopting her? I realize I am assuming here that Wren’s rights will be terminated soon, and while I know nothing is certain in Foster Care, I am relatively sure this will occur swiftly due to the severity and sensational nature of this case.
I wonder if Boo will grow up thankful for the time she DID have with her mom? For the happy memories she’s sure to have of a better time, when her mom was loving and present? How can I possibly be so selfish as to covet those years and wish to steal them for myself instead of Wren? Especially when I know that if J and Boo and stayed with us, we never would have had Little Lady. I’m a walking contradiction of feelings and emotions.
Our house, once perfect for foster kids, has changed significantly. The office has become Little Lady’s nursery and the office has moved out onto the dining room table. The two back bedrooms, once upon a time two kid bedrooms, are now a room for finishing wood projects and holding materials for husband’s business that can’t be left out in the cold garage, and a storage/guest room filled with off-season clothing, old books, extra blankets, and hand me downs from friends for Little Lady when she gets older. Generally, this would not be a problem if we had a basement, attic or a garage to store all this extra stuff, but we don’t. I’m going to have to start working on clearing out the guest room and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the stuff. If I pack it all up in storage bins, I’m hoping my mom will let me store a lot of it at her house. ‘Cause my mom rocks. Hope I’m as awesome a mom as mine is.
…And I’m back. With another post. Kind of a crazy one.
Husband and I had a talk. It didn’t go the way I expected it to. He told me he was done fostering, but wasn’t ready to close our home, whatever that meant. He said that after Blue Eyes, he just couldn’t see himself fostering again, but he wants kids. So we started pursing fertility treatments like we’ve never pursued them before. And lo and behold… for the first time in my many many many years of TTC, I got to see those two perfect pink lines.
And things haven’t been the same since. Baby Flora was born the last week of May 2014. She is the light of our lives, the love we knew was possible but hadn’t fully experienced. She is ours, and we’ve fallen in love. As of today, Little Lady is 13 weeks old. (13 WEEKS!!)
I LOVED being pregnant. I loved being encouraged to eat a lot. I loved the special treatment I received from folks, offering me their seats and opening doors for me. I loved the special knowing that there was a life growing inside of me. -OUR life. Feeling her kick was amazing. Each time she had a bout of hiccups, I became ecstatic and had to share it with whoever was around me. She got the hiccups at least twice a day, every day.
Four weeks before Little Lady was born, her cousin came into this world. Wren, my sister-in-law, birthed her fourth and final child. Wren had been instrumental in our becoming foster parents ten years ago, when her first two children, J- age 3 and Boo- 9 months, were removed from her care. We lived in an adjoining state at the time, so an ICPC was conducted in order for us to get custody. We became licensed and were granted temporary custody of the kids. Wren wasn’t getting herself together, and even though the case was a concurrent placement, we realized after seven months that we were in love with the kids and completely ready to adopt. DHS was ready to go for TPR. Wren must’ve smelled the time running out, because she threw herself into one final attempt to work her case plan… and did. 4 months later we were making the painful transition of sending her kids back to her.
At first, things went great. Wren wasn’t as attentive a parent as I would have liked to see, and she harbored a lot of guilt that kept her from being the disciplinarian she could’ve and should’ve been. But the kids were safe and happy, they adjusted well, and we were able to continue a wonderful relationship with them, and developed one with Wren.
A few years later, Wren, enrolled in nursing school, fell in love with a man. They moved in together, and she became pregnant. This time, she said, she would do things right. A few months after Brother was born, Wren and her boyfriend were married. She was close to graduating from school, was working full time, and a full time mommy to three kids. We heard over and over from Wren and other family members that her husband was ‘lazy’ and ‘useless’, but we, being 1,500 miles away at this point, weren’t really sure what that meant.
Just a few months shy of her graduating, right around the same time I had my big news -IT’S A DOUBLE PINK LINE!!-, Wren shared her big news- IT’S A DOUBLE PINK LINE!! Now, I’m one for always celebrating a pink line, but even for me, this was a toughie. She and her husband were barely able to support the family they had now. How would they support a new baby?? Her reaction when I told her I was expecting and would give birth right around the same time as her? “Oh, wow. That’s great. I was going to ask you guys if you wanted to adopt this one, but I guess you don’t now.” Um, what? She and I both kind of laughed that comment off, but I couldn’t help but wonder why she said it in the first place. That was my first clue that something wasn’t right.
My next clue was that when I would ask her how things were going at school, how tests and homework and working all while pregnant and caring for 3 other kids was, she would say fine, but she hadn’t slept for 2 days. I’d laugh and then say, how is that possible? All I DO is sleep. Sleeping was my job the entire first trimester. But she was serious. She hadn’t slept for 2 days. Then, after graduation, she suddenly dropped from our lives. Gone.
She didn’t text or call about the gifts we sent for Christmas, and neither did the kids. She stopped answering our calls. She just… disappeared. Family would tell us she and the kids were alive and well, but we would hardly know it.
Days before Baby G is born, she starts communicating with me again via a few text messages. She has decided to get her tubes tied. After she is released from the hospital, I hear nothing. I give birth to our first daughter. I hear nothing from her.
In order to make a long story a little shorter, I’ll get to the point. She’s been using again, and this time it’s bad. The kids have been removed. J’s father has custody of him. J, who was just 3 when he lived with us, is now 13, a TEENAGER, and NOT in foster care, Praise God. But Boo (now 10), Brother (now 4) and Baby G (newborn) are all back in care. And DHS is moving to terminate rights immediately. This is how far gone Wren is. It’s bad.
After months of
dealing with denying the loss, I know I am finally ready to really open our home back up. We’ve had a few calls, mostly ones that don’t fit our profile. But, a few weeks ago we had a call that I think could have been a perfect fit. A 13 year old girl who had a relatively stable life and good relationships within her family. Until she didn’t.
She was described as being respectful, thoughtful, and a good student. She wasn’t a child I needed to have in my line of sight every moment she was awake. She was on no psychiatric drugs, and had no history of them. She was just a kid going through a rough time at home.
Husband said no, absolutely not.
Words were exchanged. An argument ensued.
I lost. And I don’t usually loose.
But here’s the thing. Accepting kids again has to be an agreement between us, something we are both comfortable with. We always said that from the very beginning if one of us were uncomfortable with any aspect, we wouldn’t move forward until we both had peace. I will not go back on that, and if Husband says no, then no amount of me rationalizing with him will make him more apt to say yes. Because its not about reason, it’s about emotion, and feeling safe and prepared.
I think the worst part of the argument (which happened over the phone while we were both at work, by the way), was when I said, “I don’t understand why you’re holding me back. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this!” His response was classic husband. He sneered, “You’ve been waiting your whole life for a thirteen year old girl?”
Okay, I get his point. But he completely overlooked mine.
I kept his bedroom door shut for two months after Blue Eyes left. In my mind, there was nothing to see there but an empty shell of what it was. Husband opened it as spring was coming and it lets a little natural light into the hallway. I silently struggled with him for a few weeks. I would walk by and close it before leaving for work every day. I would come home and it would be open again. I gave up after a few weeks because I realized it wouldn’t be healthy for me to shut up my fears and thoughts and emotions about Blue Eyes into that room. Each morning, on my way to the bathroom, I walk by that open bedroom with the bed made and the toys put away. And I glance in, wondering who will live there next (wondering, will I fail again?). And I wait, because I absolutely believe that I was created to be, born to be, a foster parent, and eventually an adoptive parent (shh, don’t tell the county we plan to adopt- they’ll start throwing kids left and right at us). So when a girl needs help, when a child needs a safe place, any child, I know that’s what I was meant to do. I know that’s what I’ve been waiting my whole life to do.
I think I screamed a whole lot of nonsense at Husband after he said that. I think it might have ridiculousness. Not sure. I’ve blocked it from my memory. But suffice it to say he won’t ever make that remark to me again.
I believe that within the next 3-4 weeks we will have to have The Talk Abut Taking Placements Again. I plan to talk to him face to face (not over the phone) and try to keep heightened emotions at bay. I’ll let you know how that goes.
What’s it like being the foster parent of a child who goes to a psychiatric institution?
It sucks. Feels like it sucks the life out of me.
Oh. And he ends up there for double the stay period allowed because the county can’t get it’s act together? Double sucks.
I hadn’t updated the blog for the month of January because Blue Eyes was doing pretty well. We were dealing with stuff that just seemed to be normal foster care issues. Then in February, I started to note some changes in him. One day early in the month, the school called. Yes, the school that deals with kids with emotional, behavioral and psychiatric disabilities. They said he was out of control and needed to be picked up. Husband got there and Blue Eyes was… different than we’d ever seen him. Police were called. A nine year old was taken away in handcuffs. Blue Eyes.
I have been dealing with the aftermath in my favorite way- denial. Unfortunately for me, Blue Eyes’ therapist at the hospital doesn’t let me stew in that place for long. She brings me back to reality pretty quickly. But I don’t want to face the reality of what his life is going to be like in 1 year, 3 years, or 10 years. I don’t want to think about it.
Or about how powerless I really am to effect any change.
Except through prayer.
Husband accused me yesterday of being “different” since Blue Eyes left two months ago. And I am. I am depressed. But am slowly starting to come out of it, too, as I learn to talk about it. My feelings of failure and angst and hopelessness and helplessness are beginning to subside. I stopped stalking his biological sperm donor on Facebook. I stopped I imagining running into him at Walmart and causing a scene. I stopped thinking that this is personal or happened to him because of *us*.
He lived with years of abuse. Years. Of abuse. During his most vulnerable and influential years. All that can’t be undone by a few months in my house, after the removal. The abuse will take its toll, one way or another.
I can’t think about fostering a child with hurts like this again. Am I too weak? I feel I poured myself out for him. Was that a mistake? I knew he wasn’t my “forever child”, but I wanted to make sure to love him like he was. Did I go wrong there? Because now I am left picking up the pieces as Blue Eyes is sent to residential treatment with little hope of returning to a family setting any time soon. Would I even be able to have him back in the home after all that happened? I doubt husband would support that.
And now my home is empty again. Again, I’ve gone from the ‘instant mom’ to the ‘instant married woman with no children.” Not only is my home empty, but my heart is too.
Everyone from the therapists to the agency to the GAL tell us how incredible we are. “Superstars” was used more than once to describe us. It makes my stomach turn. We are not superstars. We did not go through six years of hell like Blue Eyes did. We did not have multiple psychotic breaks even after removal from the chronic trauma, before the age of ten. We are not superstars. We were unable to protect him. We are failures.
I’ve come to realize maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe I just want to adopt. Not foster. Maybe I want forever.
Tonight, I see. I experienced.
It lasted less than 10 minutes. It felt like an eternity.
Blue Eye’s eyes went grey.
It’s been just over three weeks, and I’ve been waiting for an explosion to know if I could handle one or not. I could handle this one. I pray they are not going to get increasingly worse, though I expect they might.
I don’t know how those who don’t have faith in God can do this. Can I be real? Like, for realz? I was scared. If I didn’t believe in God, I would have been frozen. Prayer got me through this. No joke.
Blue Eyes had an awesome, incredible, very good day at school. He came home and worked on a project for 2 hours straight, interrupted only for dinner, quite a feat for him. His concentration and patience were wearing thin, and he began to get frustrated when he realized he could not finish the project before bed. A raised voice, “But it’s MINE”. I explained he was frustrated and needed to set it down for a moment. “But it’s MINE!” Bummer. I need you to go to your room.
Yelling. Faux crying. What a show. 5-minute timer starts when it’s quiet.
Quiet. Timer beeps. He walks out. I turn, startled. There was The Look. It was all over him. His face, his body. Chin to chest, eyes glaring up, arms crossed, daring me to say something, daring me to speak. It stopped me cold. Only for a split second. I recover.
Cheerily, sing song-y, “Go brush your tee-eeth!” Glaring. Staring. I feel the blood rush through my body, feeling the fight or flight response coursing through my veins. Happily, “Honey, is there something else I can do for you?” Smiling, “What is it, would you like to talk to me? I will gladly listen.”
Stomping, a kick to a heavy bookcase. “That looked like it hurt. Bummer.”
Stomping to bedroom, door slamming, locked. The door has a lock?! How could I have lived here for 18 months and never noticed that?
I pick up the abandoned project at the kitchen table, putting it away in its box.
Stomping back out. Tearful, “Just give it away, give it to some other kid. Give it away, give it away, I don’t care, just do it, give it away.” I am watching my back, I feel I could be hit at any moment. I don’t respond to his ramblings. I watch carefully as I turn my body to pick up the pieces. “Lord,” I pray outloud calmly, reassuringly, ”I thank you that You are a good God, and you are in control. Father, I thank you for your love. Thank you Jesus, for your blood. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord.”
“GIVE IT AWAY!!! I DON’T CARE! GIVE IT AWAY, TAKE IT AWAY, I. DON’T. CARE!!!”
Slowly, calmly, making no sudden moves, I walk to his bedroom. I reach blindly for random toys, whatever is close to my hands, because I can’t see straight, I can’t think straight. I grab his piggy bank along with whatever is nearby and put it in the puzzle box I have in my hand. “JUST GREAT! JUST FRIGGIN’ GREAT. GIVE IT ALL AWAY, I DON’T CARE!” I walk slowly toward the side door of the house, unsure what to do with the booty I just stole.
Blue Eyes has two big boxes that are his most treasured possessions. More so than even his DS, which he loves because of the status (big kid status, don’chaknow?) but doesn’t really understand how to use it. He knows how to use boxes, feels safe in them. He likes to hide in them and watch tv.
He runs back to his room, maniacally screaming, “YOU CAN’T TAKE MY BOXES AWAY!! THEY’RE MINE!! AAAAAH HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Door slammed again. Locked again.
Boxes inside. Dang.
Ten seconds. Door opens. Blue Eye’s yelling ensues. I continue to praise God quietly. It’s the only think I can do when my adrenaline starts to flow like this, when I sense danger, real or perceived.
He throws himself on his bed, crying. It’s over. Blue Eyes is back. Where did he go?
Sobbing, “Please don’t send me away.”
My heart breaks. “No, sweetheart, you have a lot of big feelings. We will talk more another time. Tonight, you are safe, you are loved, and you are not going anywhere.”
I rock him, this husky, heavy nine year old, on my lap, back and forth. I kiss his forehead. Tell him he is loved and safe. He hugs my arms and tells me he doesn’t want to leave, doesn’t even want to go to school tomorrow. Wants to be with me all day.
He is a toddler again. The breaking away, the coming back, the fits of rage, and the release of a cry. He is a giant, nine year old, toddler.
I tell him I will be here when he gets off the bus tomorrow. I will be here all night. He relaxes. For the first time since the night he arrived, he asks for his door to be open. All night long, he makes clear to me.
He eventually sleeps.
Husband, who was at work, thinks I am too easy on him. Thinks I need to stand my ground, make him obey. I think, I don’t want to get into a pissing match with an aggresive traumatized child. My number one goal is to get him back into a relaxed state of mind, not an anxious, hyper-aroused state of mind. If that means staying calm and delaying consequences for an angry outburst, so be it.
Where was Blue Eyes?
Now,I go read my Bible. And then I, too, shall sleep.