Mommy Bloggers Gone Wild

I see this trend in the adoptive mommy blogger world and it makes me feel a little uneasy so I want to clarify what my blog is about. What I see is some mommy bloggers who start to get a following so they share more and more of their lives and their children’s’ stories that are private and not for their parents to be telling. They share more photos… things the kids might find embarrassing when they are older. They enjoy the attention and start focusing on their social media image more than their real life family. It’s as if they forget that their kids came from trauma so making their faces and story so public could cause them more trauma but the free stuff and attention they get from their posts seem to be more important. I get it, it’s hard to see clearly when your head gets big, but I hope I can always remember why I wanted to foster and adopt and keep that my focus. I would never want my own selfish interests to cause my children more harm… I mean they have been through more in their short lives than I have in my 30 some years. I don’t get it… I don’t get why any mom would want to risk it so I want you all to keep me accountable.

At this point I might get 40 views on my blog and I’m totally ok with that. I started this blog to share my journey through foster care in the hopes that other foster moms could relate and I could connect with more in the foster/ adoption community. There is a reason I don’t put my name anywhere, or my kids faces. There is a reason my instagram and Facebook are private. This is not about using my kids and their stories to build up my blog. This is not to give parenting lessons or tell anyone else how to go about their journey. This blog is simply to share what I have experienced and by writing it down, it helps me to let go of some of the pain and heart break. So, if you ever see that I am sharing too much of my girls’ stories or maybe you think I’m going off track from my original goals of this blog, PLEASE, tell me. Please, keep me accountable. The last thing I would want to do is cause my girls more pain, whether it would be now or when they are older… because once it’s on the internet, it doesn’t go away.

 

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Stress, Coping and Being Single

The last few days I’ve been dressing the girls in matching clothes. They think it’s fun and I think they look adorable, so why not! We did a trip to Target last week because a lot of their matching clothes are getting too small. It got me thinking about the last time I went on a matching clothes shopping spree and it was probably last summer… when things were really starting to fall apart for Sunshine. Her mom let me take her on a mini vacation with Princess and me, so I wanted them to have all matching outfits. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it is important to me to have them matching when things are stressful and when I realize I don’t have much control over my girls’ future. When they match, it feels like we are all one… one family. I can look at them and picture what it might look like to know my kids will be with me forever. It really is silly, but I think when we are stressed, we find weird ways of coping to get through the days.

In general I don’t think I’m good at coping with all the stress and unknowns of foster care. I’ve had so many people say to me “I don’t know how you do it” and I can honestly say, not very well. I am the queen of going numb and not letting myself feel deeply. Being a competitive athlete, I mastered this skill long ago. When I quit competing I let myself open up again, but it’s easy for me to go back to feeling numb. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel, or don’t have full on meltdowns when things are bad, but it does allow me to get through the day and still be an ok mom. Being single adds another layer to this because when the kids go to bed and I can finally let things out, I don’t have a spouse to vent to and go through this with. Yes, I choose this road but I really didn’t know how bumpy the road could be. So instead, I aimlessly scroll through Facebook or try to work. When I do get time with my foster/ adoptive mom friends they usually get an earful of my venting because they really are the only ones who understand… and I can’t even tell you how thankful I am for them.

Luckily, things have been going pretty smoothly with Princess’ case. I have a good relationship with her parents and literally, nothing has changed in the two years I’ve had her. But this week is court, and things can change. It’s bringing me back to the hard times with Sunshine’s reunification and I’m letting myself picture the same things with Princess. It’s dumb really… why am I letting myself think the worst when really the odds are in our favor that what is best for Princess will happen? I guess I would rather think the worst (because that’s what usually happens) and then if something good happens, I will be pleasantly surprised. I’m looking forward to the end of the week, when I will know that either it’s been continued (most likely IMO), rights are terminated or the parent/s services’ are reinstated. At the end of the week I will know what conversation I will have with her parents… no conversation will be easy but we have a good relationship where I can be open with them about what is going on. I’m so thankful for this because in a situation where I feel like I have no control, I can at least let Princess’ parents know where I stand on things and how I think we can work together to make the best life for Princess.

In the times that are stressful it always reminds me that we aren’t guaranteed a certain amount of time with the ones we love and in every day we should try to find some kind of joy. Whether it’s as simple as an “I love you” from your oh so challenging 4 year old or a fun outing with a lot of new happy memories, there is some kind of joy… there is something that helps me remember why I chose this bumpy road through foster care that is way bigger than me and my lack of coping skills.

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A 2 what hearing?

Wow, it’s been awhile since I have written on my blog. I’m hoping I can start posting on a more regular basis and share a little more about the crazy journey of fostering that I kinda skipped over, but today I’m going to talk about what’s going on now.

Through fostering I’ve learned many things I never thought I would learn about… things they don’t teach you in training classes. I’ve learned about drugs, how they affect people, what to look for if you think someone is using, statistics, what kind of paraphernalia is used for different types of drugs. I’ve learned what it means to 5150, what rehab looks like, and countless things about court… defacto parents, contesting, continuing, appealing, a .22 hearing, a .26 hearing. I’ve learned about guardianship and how the process works through probate court. I’ve checked the who’s in jail (yep that’s a thing) website more times than I want to admit and even checked the coroner’s website a few times.

This coming week I’m heading into unknown territory… a .26 hearing. It is to determine if parental rights should be terminated. If they are, the adoption process really begins. The chances of parental rights being terminated on a first attempt in the county my little one is from seems to be a long shot, but it definitely has my stomach in knots. The idea of this little girl forever being in my home is exciting, yet devastating. It is exciting because for her, it’s what she wants at this point and to be able to tell her she now can feel secure in her home that she has had for the past two years would be amazing. It’s devastating because, although her parents might not be able to take care of her and provide a stable home, it does not mean they don’t love and care about her (and she loves them). The judge could also decide to offer the parent/s services again which is a real possibility in this case, and to be honest, that scares the crap out of me. The idea of her leaving at this point would be… I can’t even go there. I will be counting down the days until court and praying the judge and attorneys see what is truly in the best interest of the child, because really, that’s what this is supposed to be about. I look forward to being so stressed about this that I feel nauseous all week and will probably lose a few pounds (perk of foster care haha).

I’ve learned to trust God through this process but I’ve also learned that trusting in Him doesn’t mean it will be easy. There have been many times I have yelled at God and asked Him why He’s letting his children suffer but then I remember this is a fallen world filled with sin so crappy things are going to happen. He can’t always make everything right but He can be there to comfort. I hope and pray in this case He makes everything right because I’m not ready for another hard time… and this time it involves two girls who don’t need to have any more trauma.

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Reunification :: Joys and Sorrows

With Sunshine’s reunification plan set in place and a date set it’s starting to get real. I’ve been asked many times if I’m okay and it’s a complex questions to answer. I’m so happy for Sunshine’s mom… that after a year, she’s able to raise her daughter. I’m so sad for me because my life is going to be flipped upside down and I’m going to miss seeing her sweet face every day. And I’m torn for Sunshine… this is the complex part.

I tried finding a blog that talked about this because it would have been much easier to post someone else’s words than try to come up with them myself but here goes my attempt at explaining something that is hard to understand. Reunification should be a happy time for a child in foster care, and for some, it’s the moment they’ve been waiting for for a very long time. For Sunshine, because she is so young, it’s a different story. Many articles talked about the initial loss and grief a foster child feels when they are taken from their family but I think they could quite possibly feel that same kind of loss and grief when they are removed from a loving foster home. Articles I read talking about successful reunification mention that the children get to go “home” when reunified. Again, this is probably true for older children but for a child who entered foster care as a baby, the only home they have ever really known is the home of their foster parent/s. Transition time is crucial but I don’t think it can ever fully prepare a toddler for the life as they’ve known it for the majority of their life to be taken from them. Yes, the birth parent has done all they needed to do and has truly changed their life and yes, they should have their child back but I think it’s important to remember that this is not always a joyful event for the child. I’ve been told many times how resilient Sunshine is. She is resilient because she had to be to survive. She has been through more in her short life than any child should have to go through. I wish she didn’t have to be resilient. With time, her memories of me as her mommy will fade and she will once again see her birth mom as her mommy but it will take time, patience and a lot of love. I’m fortunate to have a good relationship with her mom and there is a good chance I can be a support for both Sunshine and her mom after reunification. I’m thankful for this and I think it will help Sunshine realize that I haven’t abadoned her and all the people who have loved her for the past year are still here for her, just in a different way. She will adjust, she will be happy, but she won’t be celebrating the day she leaves her house, her dogs, the person she’s known as mommy and the life she has known for the past year. My heart will break for her and be filled with joy all at the same time.

 

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Testing the Waters

Foster care is probably one of the most unnatural things you can do. You love a child with all your heart and you give them away. I don’t think we were ever meant to lose a child, no matter what way you lose them. Of course, this is a situation I chose to put myself into, not really knowing how big the risk of a broken heart would be. Now, knowing how much I can love a “temporary” child, knowing how much it will hurt when I say goodbye, would I do it again? In a second.

Part of foster care is family reunification…actually it’s a big part of it. The birth parent will start with shorter, monitored visits and as time goes on and it looks like they are making progress, the visits will get longer. Eventually they will be unsupervised. Then they will be overnight and eventually they will have weekends. Sometimes my protective foster mama claws come out and I don’t want to see more visits happening but then I have to remind myself that reunification is the goal and birth parents need to show that they are capable of raising their children. Natural instinct is to keep your child away from things that could potentially hurt them but with foster care, you have to think quite the opposite. This is the best scenario I can think of…

There is a tub of water and you have to put your child in it. You don’t know if it is freezing cold, luke warm, just right, hot or boiling. There is a chance your child could be fine… maybe even enjoy being in the tub. There is a chance it might be so cold, they want to jump out, but really, they are fine… they just need to get used to the water. It could be so hot, it burns their entire body leaving permanent scars. Or, worst of all, it could be boiling, leaving burns so bad your child doesn’t make it through the night. Human instinct is to not put your child in the tub because why would you want to risk serious injury or death? But, as a foster parent, it’s what I have to do. Slight burns are what help show the social workers if the birth parent is ready or not. Sometimes social workers listen, sometimes they don’t. But they literally need to test the waters with birth parents. If they don’t, there is no way to know if they reach the minimal parenting standards they need to reach to get their child back.

Everyday I learn something new about foster care which inevitably teaches me something about myself and how much further my heart can be pushed than I ever thought. If you have ever said to me “I don’t know how you do it” please know that I don’t either. I’m not some super human who can perfectly love a child and give them away… or even love a broken person all the time. It’s a constant journey. I journey where I know I need God. I need to know He is here, he is watching over Sunshine and ultimately He has a plan. I have had moments of complete peace in the most hectic times that are humanly unexplainable. It’s an overwhelming feeling knowing that God really is here.

Right Now

As I rocked Sunshine to sleep tonight, instead of putting her in her crib when I knew she was out, I sat down and held her. I looked at her eyes, watched her breathe and just took in the moment. It was a moment I will always have with her, and sadly a moment her mom won’t have. I wanted to foster because I loved the idea of being able to give a child a safe, loving home while their parents’ heal. Part of that is truly loving the child like they are your own. I don’t know how long Sunshine will be with me and trying to guess how it’s going to end is not fun. I’ve learned that I have to live for the “right now”. I’ve seen quotes (and even posted a few) about not living in the past, not living in the future but living for the moments right now. I’ve always thought that sounded great but it applies more to my life now then ever before. I realize that even though she will be taken from me one day, every single moment we have had can not be taken away. Every video, picture and memory will be with me forever. I’m more thankful now than ever before that I know how to use a camera. 🙂

I guess the life lesson I’ve learned is to really live for the “right now”. Right now she is here with me. Right now I get to see her laugh, smile and make her funny sounds. Right now I get to take her on all kinds of adventures. Right now I get to see so many of her firsts. Right now I get to dress her in the cutest clothes and take her shopping. Right now I get hugs, kisses and the amazing feeling that I can comfort her and she feels safe with me. I’m living for the “right now”, right now!

 

One of the many firsts I got to experience with her…

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Coming Out of the Fog

It’s been two months since Sunshine came into my life and I can finally say my life is starting to feel “normal” again… but it’s a new normal. I was sad at first. I missed my life. I missed sleeping in until noon. I missed being able to go out and grab dinner with friends whenever I wanted. I fought it and thought that somehow I could have my old life with this new little one that demanded all of my time. I couldn’t put her down, she needed to be rocked to sleep, she would wake up in the night when I would try to get work done. She wouldn’t eat, she was sick and she was trying to adjust to a new home. We were both in transition and we both had a hard time at first. As prepared as I thought I was, I wasn’t. No matter if you foster, adopt or birth a child, I don’t think you can ever fully be prepared for how it will change your life and I’ve come to the conclusion that is perfectly normal and healthy to grieve the loss of your old life. I don’t feel bad about it… that had been my life for all of my adult years. I walked around in a daze, my friends thought I was mad at them because I didn’t respond to calls or texts. I kind of remember conversations I had with people but sometimes I was so exhausted it took all my energy to smile, nod and look awake (sorry if you had a convo with me lately) :). My mom would ask me about something that was two days away and I couldn’t handle thinking that far ahead. My goal was to get through the day… that was all I could handle. I fell behind on my work and was slow responding to emails. I’m still trying to find a balance with work but I’m slowly getting caught up and back to normal.

Two months later and the fog is lifting. My smiles are real and the joy Sunshine brings into my life is priceless. I can have conversations and actually enjoy them! I can think ahead and make plans. I have baby sitters so I know if I need to go out for some adult time, I can. Every hard day was worth it. Seeing Sunshine grow and learn is the most amazing thing… and to be able to say I played a part in it is pretty much my biggest life accomplishment. To know I’m able to impact a life… wow! Now I get why people have more than one child. 🙂

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