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*Heart to Heart is The Best Way to Wear a Baby!

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I mentioned a few posts back that T*Bug have a younger sister. She is now 10months old. When she was removed from her bio-mom and placed in another foster home, our caseworker talked with us about our obligation to arrange sibling visitations.  T*Bug had just lost everything and everybody, including their baby sister. Not only did they miss her, they had concerns for her. Where was she? Was she ok? So this was an obligation that I had no problem fulfilling.

Our caseworker mentioned that we did not have to meet at the social service department for visitation. We were welcome to meet anywhere, and that we could even arrange to take baby-girl for an afternoon each week, and spend time as a family together.

I liked this idea, because the idea of going to the SS office and sitting in a sterile room for an hour and having the kids try to ‘force’ this hour together was not appealing. I also didn’t want to have to take T*Bug back to the SS offices. They have bad memories of the offices and going there might be confusing for them.

We are now in our fourth weekend with baby-girl, she is fitting into our family weekends nicely.  I think it has been good for T*Bug to be with her and L*D are bonding with her as well.

I have to admit that after I take her home, for the next 24-48 hours I miss her. I carry her in a babysling  when she is with us. I am a huge advocate of ‘baby-wearing’. Georges and I carried L*D for the first year that they were home with us. I think it was great for bonding and attachment with them. So, now I use the same sling to carry baby-girl. My hands are free to wipe snotty noses, tie shoelaces or give extra hugs to the other four. But this has the added benefit of bonding time. We have gotten to know one another, baby-girl and I. And here it is…I am falling in love. Every Saturday…there she is cuddled up in the sling, heart to heart, we breathe in unison.

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This weekend Miss N is going out of town, so baby-girl will be dropped off after school on Friday, and I will take her home on Sunday afternoon. This will be an interesting weekend, not because we will have her all weekend, but because it’s a busy weekend, filled with soccer games, Lola’s 7th birthday, Kadampa Center, and I have a women’s circle that is meeting this weekend (not to mention my usual weekend chores…laundry, clean house and grocery shop for the week.)

With all the chaos a fifth child will bring to our home this weekend…I will be happy to have my second heartbeat back, it’s easier to breathe with two breaths.

*Heart to Heart is The Best Way to Wear a Baby! This statement isn’t intended to say that it’s the number one way to care for a baby, but instead to signify how great it is! Try it, you’ll like it.

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A Meditation on FosterCare

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Bug….

When we were in our Map (foster care) classes, they lead us through an exercise that now, seems so relevant. Follow along and try to imagine…

..Imagine you are five, you are in your home, and it’s 3 days before Christmas.There is a knock at the door. It’s the women that has been visiting your family for the last year, Miss J. This time she tells you that you and your sister will be coming with her. You gather up a few items of clothing and you are able to pick one special toy…you choose the nightlight animal (even though it doesn’t have batteries). You say goodbye to your Mom, you say goodbye to your baby sister and you get in the car with your younger sister and Miss J. You are crying, and through the tears wondering…where are we going? When will we see our Mom again? When will we see our baby sister? What is going to happen to them? How long will will be gone?

You fall asleep, during the ride, and wake up in the driveway of a home (not an apartment) in a neighborhood that is not familiar. You enter the house, and  you are greeted and overwhelmed by two big dogs (you have never been around dogs), two kids that seem to be about the same age, and a man, a big man.

The house smells different than your house, there is no carpet under your feet, just wood floors and throw rugs. You walk down a hall to a bedroom that you are told you will be sharing with the young boy. There is a bed…this will be your bed.

Days pass, weeks pass you try to adapt…the food is different. At each meal you are presented with food that you have never experienced and asked to just try a bite.  The music you listen to is different than the music that your Mom often played at home. Even though these people are nice, they look different, sound different and even smell different. Your senses are overwhelmed and your heart aches.

There are different rules in this house, and words and actions that no one seemed to notice at home, bring unwanted attention in this home. You keep wondering “When will we go home?”

One day you go to a large office building and at the top of the stairs you see Mommy and your baby sister…FINALLY! Today is the day, I am going home, you spend time with your family in a room, playing and laughing, then you are told it’s time to go. You put your jacket on, take the elevator down and then your Mom kisses you goodbye. Wait? What? She’s leaving through a different door, what is going on? You scream, cry! You get back in the car with your younger sister and the lady you have been staying with. You have started calling her Mom, because she is sweet, and gives you hugs and kisses your forhead when you are scared, she listens to your words and you know that she genuinely cares about you…but…she is not your Mom.

You look out the window of the car, and tears stream down your face and you wonder “What is next?” You enter the house where the man (that you now call Papi) and the two kids are laughing and playing. They don’t know that you just saw your Mom, and now she’s gone, they don’t know that you cried all the way home. You try to jump in and laugh with them, so that they don’t see the hurt you are feeling.

You wake up the next day, eat breakfast, and drive the new route to the new school you have been attending, where you sit, with new classmates, and learn from a new teacher in a new style of learning (Montessori).

You can stop imagining now, and return to the safety and warmth of everything you know. As for T and over a million other children in fostercare, they can’t this is their reality.

I try to remember this lesson, daily with Bug and T. I try to mend their hearts and let them grieve. I try to be their new safe place.

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Love Comes Softly…

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I have been thinking about this for awhile and I am finally ready to put my thoughts into words.

I watch the TV show Parenthood occasionally,  when I remember it’s on and I actually have time to watch. There has been a story-line lately that has touched a nerve. Not so much in a bad way, but it is still unfolding. The story-line describes a young couple that ends up adopting a a school-aged boy from fostercare. The  mother struggles with bonding with this child.  At one point the Mother even questions their decision to adopt the child, as she finally admits her frustration “He doesn’t love me”.

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Now…for my 2cents. I think many (not all) bonding issues arise when there are unrealistic expectations. Every adoption story is different as is every parent and child. Many prospective adoptive parents have expressed fear that they may not bond, or even be able to love a child that they are not biologically connected to. The good news is…yes you can, BUT,…it may take time.

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Many Mothers express how it was ‘love at first site’ when their newborn was first placed in their arms. If you follow this idea, then it can lead to frustration as an adoptive parent. Most biological parents have 9 months to dream, nest, bond and yes fall in love with this child. Most have names chosen, rooms decorated, celebrations had and with the miracle of science most even know the sex of their child, as well as having detailed photos of the child snug in the womb.

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Adoption can be very different. Our experience with L&D enabled us to create a bond and fall in love over the 10 months it took to bring them home. Our agency sent monthly DVD’s, photos and allowed us to send care packages. We watched each DVD over and over, memorizing every smile, every gurgle and every coo. We felt we knew L&D before we ever held them in our arms.

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Think back to when you met your partner/spouse was it love at first sight (don’t confuse love with lust here 🙂 ). How much more do you love this person today compared to the day you met them? How much more do you love your child today than the first time you held them? Love is a journey…it comes softly.

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Vanilla Care, Chocolate Hair

Vanilla Care, Chocolate Hair. I can’t take credit for these words, it’s actually a really great blog that teaches white Mama’s how to care for black hair.

When T & Bug came to us, Bug’s hair was a braided mess, and T’s hair was starting to ‘lock up’. Georges took T and had his hair cut real short. That was easy.

I posted on facebook asking for advice on how to take out the braids. One of my great friends posted a website that takes you through how to take out the braids. I read several blogs and one thing that I learned is just how important the care of black hair is. What I mean by that is how other ‘Mama’s’ will judge the care of your little girl, by the care of her hair (correct me if I am wrong).  So this new information just added to the pressure of learning how to do Bug’s hair.

I took a trip to Target and was completely overwhelmed by all the products, I got some great advice from another mama that saw the bewildered look on this white mama’s face.

I washed and conditioned Bug’s hair, then I brushed it into a ‘poof’ on top of her head and finished it with a bow. Since then I have switched between two poofs and one poof.

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I have had several Moms tell me how much work it is if it’s not braided and I ought to just braid it.  To be honest, I enjoy the time we spend every morning brushing out her hair, as she brushes her baby-dolls hair.

On the first visitation with Bugs bio-mom, she seemed concerned that Bug’s hair was not in braids. On the second visit she actually brought beads and bands to braid her hair during the visit.  I don’t know if I am doing something that is viewed ‘wrong’, but as I said the time  I spend brushing out Bug’s beautiful ‘cotton candy’ hair is time that I love, how can that be wrong?

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It’s Not All About Me…Sometimes it’s Not About Me At All

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I was having a conversation with my mom about foster care and I was expressing my frustration with some of the people in my life that are not supportive of the situation. I explained how we know what we are doing, and we are ready for this adventerous challenge.

Then…to my surprise she says:

“I know you and Georges will be great parents, and I am so glad that there are people like you that can do this, but I am worried about me! I am worried that I will fall in love with the baby and be heartbroken if they are reunited with their parents”

WOW! How selfish of me I thought. I had considered this from so many angles and have had hundreds of conversations with L & D preparing them for the situation, but I  had never once thought about the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…close friends. I am fortunate that we have such a loving extended family. It’s always interesting when someone shows you a situation from a different viewpoint,and opens your eyes and heart.

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The Two Most Frequently Asked Questions About Foster Care

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I could have included this in my post ‘Oh the Things People Will Say’, but there are two big differences with  this post and that one. First, these questions are usually asked by the people I know and love; friends and family. Second, they are usually asked from the heart, the intention behind these questions are 100% sincere, and have our best interests in mind.

 1.  Are you concerned these kids will be ‘messed up’?

True, many of the children that have experienced fostercare, have challenges. These challenges range from learning disabilities to severe behavioral problems. For the most challenging cases, there are special people who step up to be ‘therapeutic foster parents’ these are usually professionals that know how to help these special situations. In our case, we have discussed what we believe to be our areas of understanding, and our limitations and will work with our case worker to have the best situation for both the children and our family. We are able to do  what we are able to do. Just the idea that the children have been separated from the only home (even if that home includes abuse or neglect) is enough to create trauma for the child.  So the simpliest answer is…”yes, there may be challenges, we expect challenges, but no, we are not worried about it. we know that it is expected and we are ready for the challenge. ”  There are over 500 children in fostercare in Wake county (the county we are resisted with) at any given time, so if it’s not us taking on this challenge than who? I know that this question comes out of concern for us…but we believe that every child deserves a home…

          2.  Aren’t You Afraid you will be attached, and then have to let them go?

 Early on in my blog I addressed this. Yes, I think about this everyday. The ultimate goal of fostercare is re-unification with the biological parents. The statistics are 40% of the children are re-united with a biological family member. If my heart does not break a little when they leave our home, then I will not have done my job.  My job as I see it, is to offer them the most loving, normal (as normal is in our crazy home) family experience while they are with us. I would not do this if I didn’t plan to enter into it with an open heart, I believe that if I tried to protect my heart  then I would be cheating them of the family experience they deserve. I ask you…to bring up an old cliché’ “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all”.  I will not walk away from this challenge.

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When is the Baby Coming?

Lately friends have been asking “when is the baby coming”. In this post I thought I would update everyone where with where we are in the licensing process.

We have our Fire Marshall visit on Tuesday.  We have to have wall mounted fire extinguishers, and a ‘POSTED’ fire escape route for this visit.  This will be our first fire inspection. I think it is quite funny some of the things that are required of us. Our house is small…I think someone would have a more difficult time finding our fire escape route than actually finding a way out on their own.  But, it is required and we are used to jumping through the hoops that agencies require of us.

The never ending, HUGE File!

We still need:

Then the whole family including the dogs need health certificates and TB tests. (D&L have theirs).

The interesting thing is that nothing really overlaps between everything we had to do for L&D’s adoption and what we need to do to become licensed foster parents.  At least the paperwork is nowhere near what we had to do with L&D.

 

After we have all these things done, then we have another home visit.  So that is where we are at. Once we are completely licensed, our placement call could be that very day, or a few months.