Baby Love

It has been a month since our little girl, Baby J was brought home! We have come a long way in a short period of time. She is recovering and healing. We are earning her trust.

We’ve noticed some developmental delays and waiting on our local early intervention program. We have yet to meet birth Mom, visits have been scheduled once weekly for two hours supervised at the agency. She has 3 other siblings staying with her grandparents and they may visit as well. The nerves always take over around visit times.

Our love multiplies each day. We are in the process of purchasing our home so a few extra days picked up from work has been needed. I asked my Mom if she could watch Baby J for a little while. She told me “I can’t wait to see her. I hate to get attached but I think I am already.” That statement makes me sad because I know that attachment is what these kids need the most, but I get it. I respond “Don’t hate to get attached, they need the love more than our feelings.”

You can say that over and over again and it doesn’t make it easier.Β  I’ve brought my parents along on this journey. They have fallen hard for my previous placements, that have gone home. Foster Grandparents grieve too. I don’t usually go out of my way to introduce my kids to extended family for this reason.

So I can come back with a strong response but truth is, I do get worried too. So very worried I am going to fall in love, too deep, too fast, all over again. But its not going to stop me. Here we go again, diving in and we have no idea how deep.

Change is good

54 long days had past since Baby Boy left our care. It’s safe to say I was going insane! We had taken some foster classes and listened to everyone talk about how busy they were in their counties. We were beginning to consider switching to a more needed county. It drives me insane for my beds to be empty when another foster parent tells me there are more kids than foster homes in their county. So we did, we looked around and were told we must be licensed for at least a year to switch and can only foster ages 5 and up! What!? I felt like I wasn’t good enough.We even talked to the Case Worker about increasing our age limit.

So I sat eating breakfast with my husband and said we need a change! I was made to be a Mom. I thrive on the crazy of tiny humans. They are my fuel and my reason for living. I’ve felt a lot of guilt about needing to go back to work when no one was here calling me Mom. I needed to help pay the bills and move on, but I grieved harder than I thought I needed to. Baby Boy’s Grandma had not kept in contact or responded to me like she had promised, crushing me harder knowing I probably will never see him again even if its a picture.

A big piece of my heart was missing and I needed to figure out how to live on. A bit dramatic it seems but its the truth. I know what I’m getting into every time I take a placement, this isn’t for me.

I was just about to rearrange my living room furniture just for anything to change. My husband was moving the couch so I could mop my hard wood floors as the phone rang, it was children services. They have a 4 month old baby girl hospitalized from abuse. My husband mouthed “a 4 month old!” Butterflies take over you knowing your life is again changing in the matter of minutes. A new life, new story, new family, new culture. We accepted to take her in and visited her that evening. My heart is filling up again.

I seem to be more at peace with this placement and the possibility of reunification as again grandparents are involved. Maybe its experience and each time I hand them back it will easier not because my heart will hurt less but my understanding will be better.

On Christmas day Grandma of Baby Boy sent me a picture reporting he was doing well and thanked me for my love and care. The few and far between moments that make this all worth it.

Vacation

It has been a little over a week since baby man was placed with his Grandma. I don’t even like to open up my picture gallery on my phone as it is completely full with his sweet face. A new question I noticed our foster care specialist asked is “are you taking pictures often?” YES! I wonder if it has been a issue of foster parents not? I joke around and say his ratio to pictures to the days of life is way off! I just watched a comedian talk about how the baby boomers only have one, black and white, thumbnail size picture of them as a kid. That made me lol. Us ‘millennials’ take a picture each hour of the day with so many devices to store and print them. Anyways, I’m getting way off topic here πŸ™‚

We finally got ourselves a nice long vacation booked later this month! I’ve been picking up hours at work because there’s only so much cleaning you can do to your house, although it never gets clean enough it seems. We haven’t been asked for any placements or respites. Its kind of weird. We were asked about a respite case before our license even arrived in the mail! Then a sibling group and a baby over lapping each other. It’s been quite around here this past week. I figured as soon as I booked something we would get a call. But I think were going to finish out the end of this year focusing on us again.

We were denied a vacation earlier this year by the birth parents. Yes, they have the ability to decide if their kids can go or not. However, our FCS said if given enough time they could present to the judge it would be in the best interest of the kids to remain with the family for vacation. We we’re not comfortable with respite care. I didn’t want to confuse or upset the girls more, and I would spend my whole vacation worried about them.

So were going to take this quite time and really enjoy ourselves. It is annoying as a young adult when people tell you “wait before you have kids. Enjoy life!” I’m thinking I enjoy kids, they will be my life! That is very true, I do love having kids around but some things you have to take a short cut on with kids. Your food gets cold so theirs wont be, you may leave a store sooner because of crying etc. So I’m going to take my last few moments before the next adventure to slow down, read signs, take pictures and fall in love with my husband more.

What is an NAS baby?

david-103The nurse looked at me and asked “have you ever had a NAS baby?” Nope! As a matter of fact I am a nurse and I have never heard of this acronym, not even in our foster classes. NAS stands for Neonatal Abstinence syndrome. Our girls were starting to spend over night visits with their birth mom and getting closer to reunification when we received a call for a 3 week old baby. We were told his mother left the day after he was born. He tested positive for heroin and other opioids. We arranged with the intake caseworker to see him that evening.

He was in a special care nursery. I’ll never forget the day I first saw that sweet baby. The nurse just finished feeding him and turned him around to us introduce us. She placed him in his bed making sure to bring all his wires with him. He had leads on his chest and a pulse oximeter to his foot. He began to cry and I could only try to imagine the pain this little boy has had to feel withdrawing. My eyes filled up with tears. At this point we could not sign for him to be in our care until he would be discharged. However, we decided we were going to take him in when he was ready. He needed a mommy and daddy. For three long weeks he had been fighting on his own. The nurses were great but he had no constant familiarity with their schedules.

It was not easy but we managed to arrange our work to be able to transport our girls to and from visits and take turns staying with the baby. Children under two were not aloud in the Special Care Nursery and only immediate family.Β  Thankfully they did consider our girls his foster sisters and twice they were able to see him in the hospital. We had to provide proof they were up to date on vaccines and have their temperature checked each time.

I stayed late nights with him, this made me feel guilty I wasn’t home enough for our girls. We took advantage of the girls overnight visits with their birth mom so both of us could stay with the baby. They provided us with guest rooming and we were able to be called in for all his feedings at night. We didn’t do much sleeping! If he slept for 15 mins straight it was a blessing. Each day he would be scored on a finnegan scale. Depending on his scores he would be weaned on his medication. This scale looks for common withdraw symptoms such as high pitched cry, lack of sleep, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, increased muscle tone, and tremors to name a few. His first two week treatment with methadone was unsuccessful. He was also taking phenobarbital to reduce risk of seizures as well as clonidine to help control NAS symptoms. When children services got involved the doctor tried subutex which slowly began to help him. The nurses told us they could begin to see improvement when we stepped in. We held him and talked to him for hours. Love is a powerful medicine.

I have videos of him jerking, these are called myoclonic jerks. Some things we tried to calm him down were swaddling, soothe pacifier, laying on a warm blanket on his belly, walking down the halls, music, & warm baths. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, nothing was his ‘go to’. We often would feed him laying on his side on a pillow in our lap to help him eat a little slower. A lot of times they have trouble coordinating their suck, breathing and swallowing.

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It was exhausting mentally and physically. He was the loudest on the unit. You could hear him screaming at the ward doors as they buzzed us in each time. It takes a team! After many hours and days of weaning off most of his medication a week later he was finally approved for discharge. We got to take our little guy home! He was sent home on one medication and he would need to follow up with a high risk neonatologist as well as physical therapy evaluation. It was not the typical discharge, here we come walking out with two CPS case workers, the hospital social worker, a nurse and our now three kids!

It was a relief to be home, all of us in one place but just for the weekend, our girls would be going home forever on Monday! He brought much happiness in such a hard time. The girls were our first foster children, our first to be reunified. They loved to help out and give him lots of cuddles.

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We got to cut his wrist and leg bands off that were getting tight on his little limbs, we saved these for his life book. For the first time in his life he wasn’t attached to any cords, no beeping, no scores, no lights on 24/7. He could relax, he slept for six hours!! Although I’ll admit being home was easier on everyone it was still very hard, and still can be.

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Through many trial and errors we learned what helped soothe and what didn’t. Today we have reached many milestones and victories. He is a happy, healthy five month old baby boy. We are unsure of his possible upcoming developmental setbacks but he is thriving now with appropriate love and care. We love you buddy! πŸ™‚

For more information on NAS babies visit:

http://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/neonatal-abstinence-syndrome-(nas)

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Mom & Dad?

2-galaxy-2016-573There is a lot of awkward moments you come across in foster care and the title of Mom & Dad is a huge one. For babies, its more natural but for a 5 year old, it is not. This is a difficult age to the contrary of what we thought. A 5 year old knows shes not with her parents, and something bad happened but not old enough to be able to understand why she had to be taken away. We have a 5 year old nephew. He is awesome, easy going for the most part and oh so lovable. We accepted up to this age in hopes that he could have someone to play with. Actually we originally agreed to ages 0-4 but we pushed the limits for this sibling group. We had to change our paperwork and resign it. You also have a character check list your family decides are some things you’re willing to consider. These things can be as simple as a peanut allergy to sexual abuse victim. It seems harsh to go ahead and uncheck the more complex life’s these innocent kids have been burdened with, but you HAVE to be honest. You need to really understand what you are mentally, physically, emotionally ready for. In retrospect we were probably not ready for the whole Kindergarten thing and all of the hard emotions she came with but I do not regret our decision to take them into our home. This 5 year old had a really hard time dealing with emotions. She would shut down when you tried to show any sort of affection. We did not overwhelm her with hugs and kisses but we did continue to tell her we loved her as she walked into school and tuck her in every night. We rented the Tangled movie and she covered her eyes and hide behind the couch when they mentioned love. I know, I know this is the cooty age, but this was something more. It made us incredibly sad to see her uncomfortable with a very natural part of life. For a long time she has not felt that love. She was simply in survival mode. She loved being tucked in at night. This became a time she would usually let down her guard. She began to ask every night to be tucked in. I would cover her up, tuck her in and tell her I loved her. Then one day as I walked out of her room and flipped off the light she said “I love you!” With a huge smile, I told her again that I loved her. This is a huge milestone. These are things you picture yourself doing as a foster parent and showing them loads of love but I guess I never considered, what if they wont accept our love? She never called us mom and dad, although sometimes we would refer to each other as so. When speaking about her biological parents she would say “my other mom and dad…”, she viewed us as her parents. I’ll never forget the day I took the kids to the park. They were playing the classic freeze tag. This boy ran up and froze her. She playfully cried “help!” I ran over and unfroze her and she yelled to the boy “my mom unfroze me!” Time froze forΒ  me. All those sleepless nights and tantrums paid off. I can never replace her birth mother. I just want her to feel the love a mother can give. The safe person a mother is.

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