We fostered a 17 year old for two weeks.

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We had a 17 year old foster youth for two weeks in October. We didn’t share this news with many folks because sometimes my good ol’ gut does some great intuition checks. I knew it was destined for a flaming mess. We still said yes. Sometimes, you just have say yes to give things a try. I believe in taking chances on people sometimes. It has to feel right. We also denied this youth a year ago when DCF reached out to us and here she was coming back around and we were being asked again. It felt like we had to take a chance.

Result: Did not go well.

Okay, that may be too simplistic, but truthfully the first week was wonderful as challenging as that may have been. She wanted to participate, she wanted to be loved. She was demanding and arrogant which was to be expected. We got her connected to a pediatrician (she hadn’t been in years), a dentist (she had 5 cavities identified more than a year ago that were never tended to and had ACTUAL HOLES IN HER TEETH), a support group (literally had never been to any support group). All in two weeks. All being told, we are pretty damn good at this stuff if I do say so myself.

What we did not expect was her being transphobic and homophobic. You may say this happens from time to time so why were we so surprised by this? Because she was transgender herself (hence why we said yes to begin with). It was a fascinating train wreck to witness. She completely rejected the identity of being trans or being part of the LGBTQ community and yet she most certainly was not receiving the support she needed in order to navigate complex identity issues in a school or settings with other providers. She was offensive about our own LGBTQ identities including our daughter. She flat out refused to call her by she/her pronouns. Terrible, fascinating, perplexing. All those things and then some. Odd.

But she smoked. And she would do anything, absolutely ANYTHING, to get cigarettes. She had some language around quitting so we got her to a pediatrician to get some patches prescribed. Low and behold she loved cigarettes themselves more than anything as well. Of course this turned into doing outrageous things to get them.

One Saturday, we had an outing and it went well. Well enough for her to self-sabotage. That was enough goodness for her. She was done. And she sure made sure of it. We ended up kicking her out of the house. Literally. As I huddled with my 5 year old in the bathroom calling the police I realized this may not have gone well. The police came and removed her from the property and that was that.

Since then we have moved on quite well. Q has done pretty good all things considered. Q actually still just misses Bug more than anything and this has somehow gone a bit unnoticed in her world.

Needless to say we are all set on the fostering front. At least for a long long time. I think as far as developing our family goes we would prefer to try for more permanent placements. Perhaps we can revisit this fostering thing in the future.

Perhaps not.

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One week left.

In one week Bug will leave us to go onto his next journey. We will love and snuggle as much as we can possible squeeze into these last precious days.

While we will do our best to celebrate all that we have experienced and learned from our time with him, we will also be hurting. Please hold space in your hearts for us in the next couple weeks if you can spare some.

This I know.

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I sat in the chair that my Grandfather rocked me as a child and sang the lullaby I can most easily recall from my Grandmother. Feeding him, rocking him, and adding another young soul to the history of that chair, is important. It validates my experience, that when I rock future babies, infants or teenagers or grown adults or if my adult child rocks me, I can recall the love that is forever built into that chair. This I know.

I realized that I will not get much longer with this little baby. That my heart and soul will forever be changed by him, but that this is one of the few times I have left with him to do this very thing. This I know.

When I sing the same lullaby I will recall his coo. His contagious smile. I will remember his aura that commanded me to be present. To be 100% mindful of tending to his exact need. This I know.

I watched as the sun set behind the mountain and the skies turned to dusk. The birds flocked to their trees for the night, the bats came out for their nightly hunt. In a little over a month’s time the air will get more crisp. The leaves will start to get their autumn colors. He will be gone. This I know. 

The seasons will shift. My heart will heal. Love is forever. This I know.

Phone call with bio mom.

The meeting was scheduled for June 26th. I was instructed to go to the DCF office where we would have a call with Bug’s bio mom and I would meet this unknown cousin. I asked what I was supposed to talk with his bio mom about and what the meeting would be like. No response.

So I show up to the meeting, only after panicking and making a plan of talking points with my best friend. I realized I didn’t know what in the world I would say to the woman whose baby I love so dearly.  Armed with talking points, I went to DCF where I waited a really long time. The social workers came out like a whirlwind and we went into a conference room quickly. I noticed the cousin was not in attendance and then they were dialing Bug’s bio mom before I even sat down.

The social worker whispered sternly “first names only!”. And then the bio mom picked up.

Before I could get my feet underneath me in the insanity that I found myself in, bio mom was angrily telling them off. Because they hadn’t given her an update in over a month. A MONTH. They hadn’t even contacted her to tell her he was okay. She demanded visits with him (as she should since her rights have not been terminated). They cut her off and were rude, just rude. She got upset by this (obviously).

Before I knew what I was doing, I leaned over and slowly took the phone from the social worker. Clearly they have never gotten the memo about kindness or deescalation. They looked at me, appalled that I had the balls to take her phone (to be honest, so was I).

“Hey mama, I’m one of the foster parents, let’s just chat you and me. Can I tell you about him? Can I tell you about his smile and how he sleeps?”

Of course, she started crying right away. She instantly was more calm and I gave her detail after detail about him. The social workers tried to interject at one point and I shushed them and told them it was not their turn to talk.

I told her how he sleeps, how he smiles. I told her how much he weighs and how much he is eating. I told her how loved he is everywhere he goes. She thanked me for taking care of him and for loving him. I was floored by her thanking me. I had painted her to be something that she is most definitely not. She is just a mama that needs help. And I have so much kindness and concern in my heart for her.

I was then shooed out of the conference room and they continued their yell fest with her.

No cousin. No discussion. Just in and then out.

Maybe kinship. Maybe not.

3 Months.jpgThe end of June marked 3 months of Bug being with us. He can hold his head up like a champ now, he coos and smiles, and laughs. When he really smiles he scrunches his nose up and there is a nose crease right in between his eyebrows. He loves repetition and I play the “goo goo gotcha” type games and make ridiculous sounds and noises I never thought I would find myself doing. Anything to hear his giggle and to see him happy. He physical symptoms of the NAS have improved dramatically.

Early to mid-June DCF informed us that there was a kinship placement identified. Surprise to us since they told us they had explored kinship already and we should expect this placement to last at least a year or longer. Turns out not so much. So next came the really awfulness of the unknown. They kept trying to get us to “make a plan” and “figure out a transition”. They also laid the guilt trip on us THICK. And I mean THICK. Every moment they get, they like to tell us how “hard it will be for him the longer he is with us”. After I got over my whimpers and wounds, I kicked into action.

I told them to do their job. They need to come up with the plan. They need to offer options. And I reminded them that we are not responsible for why he is in care, nor are we responsible for any additional “hardship”. I did not use drugs while pregnant. I did not go to jail. I am not the social worker that didn’t explore kinship options.

This random cousin, that we do not know the name of or have contact info for, doesn’t have daycare set up, nor is she even licensed yet. What exactly would you like us to do?

I also told them that Bug now knows that the world can provide for him and that his needs can be met. This is a significant thing that our 4 year old did not get as a baby and we will struggle for a LONG time (perhaps forever) trying to address that neglect. I told DCF that this is indeed the exact reason that babies are placed with foster families. So that they can learn that the world, although a scary place, can indeed keep them safe and provide for them. It is okay for him to get attached. If he knows he is loved and can attach, we are doing things right. Having loved and lost is hard, but never having attachment is near impossible to fix. BELIEVE ME.

So here we are. A month later. No update. No info whatsoever. No idea.

So we carry on…

2 Months and a Lifetime of Love

2monthsBlue.pngWell it’s been a full two months since we have had our foster baby, we now call him Bug. He takes about 5 ounces in his bottle, he holds his head up, he smiles. He poops all the time, and projectile fluids are neat. Bug has hairy ears, baby chub that is starting to create rolls, and he loves loves loves to be outside. His symptoms from having Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome have decreased. Overall we have seen positive growth and improvement in his health.

I wish I could have found the head space to write more frequently to document this but something tells me more of this experience will be written looking back on it. Goodness knows it takes a lot of energy to care for a newborn and writing just hasn’t been the top of the list.

I will say that the feeling of fostering a baby is a rollercoaster. He is wildly cute and lovable. Most of the time, the days and nights go on without thinking about the magnitude of the situation. Other times, a wash of anger/sadness/grief/panic/anxiety comes over me. It passes quickly when Bug cries out and requires a bottle, a diaper change, or a snuggle. But the truth is, he is not going to be ours forever. I will not know what he is like in his teenage years, or who he will fall in love with. I won’t hold his hand as I age and he won’t bring me mother’s day gifts when he is older. I hope that his body and his heart know how much he was loved as a baby. I’m counting on that body memory that we see so present in our oldest child from early childhood trauma. I’m counting on Bug knowing we stayed up and gave countless snuggles, that we were there at every turn to love him through it. As long as he is with us, I will continue to show up and be the mommy that he needs and deserves. My heart will always hold him dear and I will love him forever and always.

Hospital Part 2: Rainbows

I arrived to the NICU last Sunday for some special instructions on caring for and feeding Tiny Man. Due to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, he has a few symptoms that we are working on learning how to support him with. A calm and confident older nurse welcomed me which was a nice change of pace from a couple of days prior where the nursing staff treated us like baby-snatchers.

The Nurse sat me down in the recliner and promptly went to work of treating me like any other mama learning how to care for her child. She showed me lots of ways to do things and never once made me feel bad or weird. It was a fast paced tutorial but once it was over she said “now you snuggle” and wheeled away to do notes a few feet away.

After my lesson was over, a different nurse asked if he could play some acoustic music for us. I was thrown off by this but said “sure” feeling like this was an entirely different experience than just 2 days prior. As he played his guitar, I finally slowed my brain. I started breathing at Tiny Man’s pace. I smelled his head. My heart swelled.

As I was leaning back in the recliner looking at the birds and clouds, the Guitar Nurse started playing “Over the Rainbow”. I looked down and at that moment I saw Tiny Man’s eyes finally open. I burst into an immediate slobbery, uncontrollable cry. It was the first time I had let the emotion sink in. This was a BIG deal.

The all-knowing nurse wheeled over to me and squeezed my shoulder. She whispered into my ear “I don’t know where this journey will take you, but you are strong enough to do it.” Turns out she has fostered children and has adopted as well. Of course the Universe sent her my way, of course! She let me ugly cry, the Guitar Nurse let me ugly cry, and just kept playing “Over the Rainbow”. She left me with “Of course it’s hard. But we do it because they are worth it. And he is worth it. However this lands it is always worth it.”

It is such a great privilege to be part of this little one’s life and his journey.