Forgiveness

It’s been awhile (again). My poor neglected blog. Tonight, I’m thinking about forgiveness. It’s a cornerstone in the faith. Forgive as you have been forgiven. And all the jazz. There is little I don’t forgive. However, that little is growing. I want with all my heart to forgive Matthew’s birth mother, Carlee’s birth mother, and my ex-sister in-law. But, I can’t. They never personally wronged me. They hurt my kids. My nieces. I have no forgiveness in me for them. I hate that. Every time I think I’m getting close, there’s another hurt that makes itself known. There’s another news article my precious son will read one day. There’s another bout of seizures that makes my daughter cry. There’s another saying from my niece, words she shouldn’t have hear. I know forgiveness isn’t about them. It’s about letting it go in my own heart. Who cares if they try to make up for their actions, that’s not the point. The point is my own heart. The unforgiveness festering into bitterness. Wondering why they weren’t punished enough. I struggle with it a lot. I’m thankful that Carlee’s birth mother has found a mentor of sorts. Someone who doesn’t harbor the anger that I do. I’m so glad she has her in her life. She needs to see what went wrong and ways to fix it. She needs that motherlyish love. She won’t be getting it from me anytime soon. Matthew’s birth mother is in prison, where hopefully she’ll remain until he’s well into adulthood. But it will be long before adulthood that we’ll have to have a conversation. “Who gave birth to me?” and though he’s been here since he was 35 days old, there is a world of pain waiting. And I hate it. Pain from the woman who gave him life, the life she stole from his sister and brother, the family members that chose not to be in his life though they had the chance, and where he stands in the middle of those feelings. I don’t even know how to begin that conversation. A little at a time based on age, but the hurt it will cause him, even if he chooses to ignore it, to me that’s unforgivable. She’s going to cause my son pain. My sister-in-law allowing the worst thing to happen to a child, happen to my firstborn niece. Her neglect, her abuse, her verbal sewage. I’m furious on my nieces behalf. I don’t forgive her.

But I want to. I know it’s the “right” thing to do. I don’t know how.

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Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This….

Oh, what a day!

Is than an understatement? Am I being dramatic? Who knows. What I do know is that I have been through the emotional wringer today. Carlee’s setbacks became very apparent today, the rumination, it is like a PTSD trigger. Okay, not to make light of PTSD by any means, but that year of vomit, it took it’s toll on me and seeing her start again, it’s making me a little crazy. I don’t want to see her regress. She’s been doing so well. Because she’s been doing so well she’s been used to having her cup and food. Without it, she’s a very angry non-verbal three and a half year old. Then that brings up bitter feelings toward her birth mother that I’ve tried really hard to rid my soul of. But knowing she’s walking around and living her life while she sentenced her daughter, my daughter, to a life of suffering, it just makes my blood boil. It makes me want to punch something. And cry.

There were a few high points today. My kids at preschool dyed eggs and painted with bubble wrap and playing in shaving cream. They were adorable. Bluebird fell asleep in the Ergo and I got to watch his sweet face dream. I had two really good talks with moms on the playground about life and foster care and special needs.

It was just one of those days. High and low and lower. My foster friends are getting babies left and right. I’m happy for them, I’m happy for me. But when you really stop to think about it, it’s damn depressing. All these children being removed. All these lives interrupted. I love that Bluebird is here, he’s a joy, but the ‘why’ of why he’s here is sad. And I don’t wish sad on any child. It’s the paradox of foster care. We make smiley faces and say “congratulations” when someone gets a placement. Congratulations on what? “Hey, there was a child abused, but yay, you got a baby.” I do it. We all do it. I’m glad these babies and kids have a safe place to go, but God, I wish it wasn’t needed. That parents could just parent without the neglect and the abuse. That they could break what seems to be an endless cycle. Maybe we’re the ones to break that cycle. Maybe that’s why we says congratulations. We could be the ones to stop the abuse. To change their futures. To change their family history. Or maybe I’m being dramatic.

Foster Care Changed Me

There’s nothing quite like foster care. To raise a child that’s not yours by birth. Having to get out of your introvert bubble and dealing with people in your life and in your home. Powers that be examining every aspect of your life from your income to your driving record to what medicines you take. The invasion goes on and on. I get it, it’s important that no child slips through the cracks of the system. It sadly happens much more often that in should. So we don’t complain. At least out loud. We speed clean our homes, spiff up our children and smile and welcome yet another stranger in our homes. Sometimes with very little notice. I got a call once and set up the appointment and honestly could not remember who I set the appointment with. I had a name but no memory of who they were. Add special needs to the mix and you get even more people. Therapists, home health, Community options, public school teachers, and the list is ongoing.

We literally give our blood (blood tests). We give our homes, our hearts, our tears, and our laughter. And if we’re really lucky, that child gets to stay with us. Two of our four placements stayed. They were adopted. They became ours. Forever. After going through all the turmoil, the months, even years, of living in a state of unknown. Living with your life, not your own, and with very little control. Having to drop your life at a moments notice for a visit, a court hearing, a house visit, and any other number of necessary interruptions. Days of sitting in a tiny waiting room, waiting for a relative that never shows up. Hours of waiting in a court house for yet another no-show. Not being able to take a trip without permission. Many many many nights up in your thoughts, your worst nightmares, and just maybe daring to dream. We do this. For years.

Foster care changed me. It changed me to my core. I am not longer the passive mother I used to be. I used to think what everyone’s opinion of me, that is somehow mattered. I became stronger than I ever imagined I would have to be. I have my ducks in a row at all times. I have binders and binders of court records, visitation schedules, missed visits, no shows, medical records, and in the back I have two final orders of adoptions. In those paper it says that no matter what happens these two children are mine. NOTHING can change the adoption. NOBODY can dictate to me what to do with my children.

Foster care changed me. It changed my heart. To weep for children without a home. To mourn a child I raised for eight months, a baby who called me mommy. To mourn the loss of my first daughter and her blue eyes and curls. To rejoice when we were told by phone “he’s yours forever.” To be able to march into any doctors office and never have to hear “you’re not her real mother” when demanding a test.

Foster care changed me. Most I feel is for the better. My children have a level of compassion they would not have had without it. I’ve given speeches at churches overcoming my fear of public speaking. I have a voice for the voiceless even if that voice shakes when spoken.

Foster care changed me. I never knew what happened in court. I’d never even been a courtroom. I now know behind the scenes. I know what a GAL is, what a CASA worker is, I know the lawyers who love us and would defend us to the ends of the earth. I know the judges who have praised us for what I’m doing and will always be on our side. All I can say is that those two children are our gifts, we’re the ones who are blessed for having them. I know social workers who rave about us. I know a list of people who would vouch for our family.

Foster care changed me. I made friends with people I never would have any other way. I’ve been out of my comfort zone so many times, I can’t remember what my comfort zone looks like anymore. I’ve gotten the immense joy in picking my own family members. I’ve quietly rooted for birth families, relishing when they make good choices, if not for my child, then at least for the other children they have. I’m cried if it fails. I’ve had to share my child with those who share their blood. That is hard, but it’s what’s right for them. I’ve had to suppress comments, knowing they mean no harm. I’ve hugged them, laughed with them, commiserated with them, mourned with them, I’ve been angry with them, bewildered by choices. And I love them despite all of this.

Foster care has changed me. I have the fiercest mama bear protection over my kids. After all they’ve been through, I silently dare someone to mess with that. I would defend my children until my last breath. If anyone tried to hurt them, physically or emotionally, well let’s just hope they don’t. I know what it is like to say goodbye, I know the hurt, the empty place in my heart that no one can fill. There will never be another baby J, there will never be another Little Miss. I was blessed to have time with them, to share my love with them. I have seen my boys cry at having to say goodbye over and over during transitions. I know it made their hearts softer. These five children are mine. They are ours. They share our last name. We are a family and if anybody tried to mess with that, a mother bear would look like a kitten next to me. I sincerely hope nothing like that ever happens. It would be a mistake to all involve.

See what I mean, foster care changed me. There’s nothing like raising and loving a child you didn’t get the honor of bearing. “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The depth of that tragedy and the magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me.” Jody Landers It could be switched to daddy as well. It’s not just me in this journey. My husband has shared in all of these emotions and supported me through many of them. If I’m a mama bear, he’s a daddy lion. No one messes with our cubs!

So if you’re considering foster care, please know it’s not easy. It’s messy and sad and causes more heartbreak that you thought possible. Kids are not in foster care because they came from happy healthy families. Something happened. Things happened that horror stories can compare with. We are broken while trying our best to heal them. It’s not easy and it WILL change you. But it will be for the better, and in the mean time you will fall in love and even if they are only with your for a little while, they will know that love. And it will stay with them. If you get the miracle of adoption, it will change you even more. You will never see the world the same again. Rose colored glasses are shoved in a drawer. The world of foster care is hard. So hard. But in the end whether they stay or go, it’s worth it. And if they stay, you become a family forever and nothing can ever change that.

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The Love of Family

I know this is mainly a blog about Carlee, but I do have four other children :). Our youngest child came to us through the miracle of adoption through foster care. His story is cruel. We have no contact with his birth mother (if you can call her that) or her family. Matthew came to us at 35 days old and there was no doubt he was meant to be ours. When he was about six months old, the investigators in his case found out that the man we thought was his father, was not. We then found out his birth father wanted him. We did a three month transition to his new home. For his privacy and theirs, I won’t talk about what happened, but two weeks after we said goodbye, Matthew came back to us. Thirteen months later his adoption was finalized and he was ours forever. But that doesn’t mean his birth family vanished. The things that happened were not meant to harm Matthew. I know they would still throw down their lives for him. We entered into an open adoption with his birth father. I didn’t know that that relationship would give me the little sister I always wanted. Matthew biological aunt and I have grown very close. We claim each other as sisters. Matthew is the spitting image (what does that phrase even mean) of his Uncle. His aunt and uncles and cousins are getting ready to move across the country. I had them all over to my house last night for a birthday/going away party. As I watched Matthew play and run with his cousins, as I watched my oldest son fall in love with the newborn baby cousin, as I watched Matthew’s aunt and uncle play with him, my heart felt at peace. It’s not easy to maintain contact with birth families, there can be drama and heartache, but I know for Matthew it’s the best option. I saw his family loving him. We are his family, there is no doubt about that. I am his mother, my husband is his daddy and my kids are his siblings. My brother is his uncle and my parents are his Nanu and Grandaddy. But we’re not the only ones. His has people. People who love him, people who look like him. People who gave him his beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair. People who gave him his nose. He shares their blood. It’s hard to share my son, I’m so protective of him and his story, but they make it easy. I know they love him and that is all. There are no expectations, just the love of one little boy. The love of this one little boy has brought two families so close together. This one little boy has given me the little sister that I’ve always dreamed of. This one little boy has brought them a touch of the joy that he brings us all the time. I’m sad they’re leaving. They are doing what’s best for their family and I can’t argue with that. I hate to see them go, but I’m so blessed to have them in our lives. A child can never have to much love and this one little boy is covered in it.

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About Birth Parents

I want to say a few things about birth parents. Our two youngest children are adopted from foster care. In most cases, children are in foster care because they were abused or neglected. In general, social services does not take children from happy, loving, and safe homes. (Yes, it does happen, but it’s rare) Our adoptions were not happy ones. We weren’t handpicked from loving birth parents who chose our family to raise their children. We were picked by the county as the best home for the child in that emergency minute. Our life isn’t about newborn open adoptions or international adoptions, where children are placed by their parents. So my words about my birth parents, may be harsh, may be angry, and when I look at my beautiful babies, I feel they are justified. I am working incredibly hard to be loving towards them. It’s a daily battle. A bout of night time seizures makes my blood boil. It’s hard to be loving towards the person who hurt my daughter. A missed visit, makes my heart sad, that effort is not put forth.

I do not wish to offend anyone who has lovingly placed their child for adoption. That is an amazing sacrifice, to do what’s best for your child, to give them life at all. But, that is not my case, my son’s case, or my daughter’s case. They were removed from their homes, their parents, because of trauma, neglect, and abuse. Their beginnings are sad. The rest of their lives, well, I hope they are amazing. But, they will always know, this isn’t where they started. One day we have to break their hearts and tell them the truth about the people who gave them life. And that breaks my heart.

If my words towards any of the birth parents in my life are angry at times, be patient with me. I try not to speak ill of them, but they are in my life in one way or another. Times come when I am bitter and, well, pissed off at their actions. I will try my best to keep this from happening, but I know it will. It’s all part of our story.