They’re just Normal

I get home from a visit lugging in my bags and the baby. I go to get the bottle from the diaper bag and find a golden envelope. I turn it around curiously and see “Thank you” written in pretty writing. I’m so excited hoping its a picture of little 4 lb newborn baby J or a note written by her mother. I bend the metal clasps, lift up the seal and see money. I open the envelope as wide as it goes to check for a note but there is none.

I am the other woman raising her child. I am the one getting to watch the milestones and wake up to smiles but she chose to give some of her money to me. She didn’t hand this to me in person probably avoiding a refusal. I sat on my couch holding hundred dollar bills in disbelief. They’re just normal people.

Its a thought that constantly goes back and forth in my mind from how could they ever do this to their child to they’re just normal people who made bad choices. She wanted to support her child. She thanked me when she could have so many reasons to hate me, she doesn’t. She appreciates me raising her daughter.

I was not even sure how to go about handling the situation. I wanted her to know her gesture was sincerely appreciated. The caseworker addressed that due to ethics money is not aloud to be given. However she may purchase things she needs such as clothing or diapers. So I will be handing this back. Exactly what she may have tried to prevent. This time the envelope will have a note in it, from me. I want to thank her for her thought.

As much as I love my little one, I hope her mother can work through her hard times and be able and willing to raise her kids in a safe and stable home.

Advertisements

Sacrifices

I didn’t believe it was ever going to snow this year, but it finally did. I was on my way to see my dad. He was scheduled for surgery. I watched the snow fall from his hospital room window as we waited for the nurse to tell us it was time to take him to the operating room.

I wish as a child you could understand the deep love parents have for you. I remember being a moody teenager refusing to talk to my Dad. I made him cry and broke his rules. I wish I could go back.  I’ve always loved my parents but now as a adult I truly realize the sacrifices they have made for me. I now know that they were the only ones who really ever had my back.

My Dad taught me how a man should treat his wife and provide for his family. How to play with your kids and teach them about life every chance you get. I become that much more passionate about being the best foster parents we can be when I think of the love my parents show me. I want to be those people there for them in the worst times of their life.

He laid in his hospital bed cracking jokes about which son can have his rolling tool box and who gets his saw. Probably mostly to keep my Mom calm. We laugh along but deep down inside terrified of the day that will actually happen where his things will be inherited.

His surgery had been pushed back several hours. We were enrolled in a continuing education class that evening for fostering. Mid surgery we had to leave to get to this evening class. On the way we were stuck in traffic at a complete stand still due to a accident. We called the instructor to let them know but had to run into the building to avoid at 15 minute cut off. We made it in time. We sat in a room with a group of other foster parents with bags under their eyes in their work uniforms eating a bite really quick for dinner. My Mom text me during class a picture of my dad giving the camera a thumbs up! Thankfully, he got through his procedure without any complications.

I have changed my status from working full time to be able to stay at home with my kids. Now that our home is empty we have felt that financial strain of that sacrifice. Our case worker said there has not been any little ones taken into care in our county and things have been slow so I have been back to work part time.

2016 goes down in history. It’s been hard and messy but has shown us the intense love a parent can feel. Our hearts, time, jobs and relationships have all been sacrificed to make our dream of fostering come true and we don’t regret it one bit.

Unnesting

It began pouring cats and dogs when we placed the baby with his grandma, in the parking lot of Arbys. This is foster care, awkward and messy. I carried the boxes and bags to her quickly. As we stand in the cold, pouring rain exchanging things she begins to thank me, she tells me she will keep in touch with us “because he loves you too.” I almost lost it. This made the transition a little easier. The worst part is the fear you’ll never get to see them grow up and they’ll forget your face. She told me she would put a picture of us on his dresser and always tell him how special we were. That is the best thing you could ever say to a foster parent.

Later that evening we picked up some dinner and came home. I don’t think it really hit me yet. We have had kids in our home for the last 10 months. We had no break in between placements and were denied vacations from birth parents. I walked up the old wooden steps quietly, half way up remembering I didn’t have to anymore. This morning I’m kind of lost but I continue to watch the clock and think hes probably hungry or sleepy right now.

When you’re expecting a new baby you wash all their new clothes given to you from a baby shower and hang them up by size. You set up their crib and put all the newborn diapers in place. But when you foster, you keep putting things away. You may take it down and prepare to restart. When each time a child goes home I feel the need to go through their closets organizing, I clean everything for the next children. I put away the bottle rack and warmer, the bath tub, swings and jumpers. I call it ‘unnesting’.

You pack their things and put away what you may use for the next. You move the coffee table back where it belongs because there’s no babies rolling around today. 🙂 Its crazy to go from potty training age, then back to infant and with each child you have to learn where they are with their milestones and maybe start all over again.

Here are 5 quick tips for nesting and unnesting for foster care:

  1. You can never have enough storage bins! I feel like I’m always buying them and still can’t fit all my clothes. I even send home lots of outfits. I love shopping for kid clothes. Sorry, not sorry.
  2. Convertible everything. I have the 4ever Graco seat that we’ve used on our newborn and our 18 month old and we love it. Only down side is when they’re tiny you gotta wake them up to go into a store. We kept a carrier in the trunk for the cart. Convertible baby tubs with a sling that is removable. Cribs that break down to toddler beds to twins. Bottles that turn into sippy cups. There are even high chairs that turn into little desks, its getting crazy guys! Not only are you saving, its very convenient to always be ready no matter the age.
  3. Try to Stay organized. Key word try. This makes it easier to find what you need, when you need it. One way is with toys, I keep a bin with baby toys, one with baby dolls and girly things and ones with trucks and boy things for the living room, everything else stays in the playroom. That way toys are not taking over your floors and you can take down what you need. Although most of the time kids will play with whatever.
  4. Make a kids kitchen cabinet. This one is full of the colorful plastics. Their sippy cups, bottles, plates, thermos etc. This has helped with loosing lids and all the little pieces and I’m able to find what I need.
  5. Keep diaper boxes. They become very convenient when you need something to transport their clothes and toys in, if they move.

What do you do when a placement leaves? How do you unnest?

14914844_10211523977281601_246476961_n.jpg

Kids Cabinet

14872526_10211523977481606_90524905_n

Toy Bins

With Heavy Hearts

We knew this day would come, but hoped not so soon. Our little guy is going to be placed with his Grandmother while his birth parents work through their issues. So many emotions are going through my head right now. I’m not sure if I should be angry? Happy? Relieved? Depressed? I loved this boy with all my being but the thought that he wasn’t ‘all mine’ was always right there. I get overwhelmed thinking I have to perfectly articulate his transition. I spent several hours today typing out his daily schedule, what calms him down and the foods hes tried so far. I type, and then back space again and again. Am I going over board? Does this make me look like I think shes incapable? I wrote a brief letter thanking her for someone stepping up and loving him but do I sound sarcastic?

I started getting some of his things ready to go. As I keep these kids, I look at all their toys and clothes and think what I’m going to send with them when they go home. I remember what they came with and what has memories. That day is always on my mind. How is there a correct way to tell a five month old, I love you but Mommy and Daddy won’t be back to get you. It feels like you’re letting them down.

I’m disappointed in the way things are handled and the lack of care given for these kids futures. Blood is best, repeat that and remember it. The only question we were told that had a wrong answer on the home study was “Do you think its in the best interest of the kids to be reunified with family?” I may answer this differently depending on the case, but I know the answer they want to hear.

I question myself, would I rather grow up with my grandma or adoptive parents? A question I’ll never be able to answer. I read another blog that someone so selflessly stated why would you want to keep these kids away from someone else who loves them? That is how I’m looking at it. I’m not going to get in the way of his Grandmothers love.

I do this for the kids, and I’ll keep doing it. Not for the birth family, not for the case workers, not for the state but for each individual little soul that walks through my door. As long as I loved them as much as I could and raised them as best as I can, I’ve been successful. I’m trying to not think of ourselves as failures.

He has certainty touched my life. I’ll never forget his sweet morning smiles and ticklish giggles. May his Grandmother soak in every sweet moment and milestone he crosses. I will let my heart grieve but try to remain positive.

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.  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.

David (26).jpg

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.

David (121).jpg

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.

David (97).jpg

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! 🙂

For more information on NAS babies visit:

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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 for  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.

Save

Save