Skip to main content

A Tribute to the Hard

I spent December 30th making a sweet two year old birthday shirt for a special kiddo with another Foster Mama.  This Mama is fierce and crunchy in all the best ways.

I need to share about Crunchy Mama and her children because their story matters so very much.

We met at a support group meeting where she was holding her first foster child, JB.  A very medically complex baby with a G-Tube  who relied on machines and nursing care to survive.  I was seated next to her, her partner and this chubby bundle, with bright eyes, just in awe of how a machine would click and he would fuss and she would adjust and then he'd seem to settle in better. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't quite sure how she could possible know what to do, nor could I understand why she had chosen, on purpose, to take on such a hard placement the first go round.  In those first moments next to her, I had decided that this woman was a far better human than I could ever be. Either that, or she was too new to fostering to be jaded like me.

And then she took placement of JB's baby sister a year later. She was on the support pages looking for advice on how to support their Mom, a former foster youth herself. Asking all the right questions and trying at every turn to refrain from judgement and be supportive of the woman who birthed these beautiful babies.

Along the way, the babies' Birth Mom asked them to adopt JB.  She had recognized she couldn't meet his medical needs and the level of care he required. He had spent close to 300 days in the hospital in the previous year and needed an advocate who not only understood the medical jargon but would stand up to anyone, head doctors included, who wasn't going to fight alongside her to protect JB.

Then on New Year's Day, just shy of his 2nd birthday that sweet baby passed away. 

Crunchy Mama shared that after the emergency room team pronounced him dead she removed all of the medical tape, and tubes, and bathed him.  She wrapped him in a blanket and held him for hours until they came to take him to the morgue.  I understood instantly why that was important.  He was finally free of the tethers to the trauma. She was his mother, it was the last thing she could do. Because even though she had been the force keeping him alive as long as he had been, his birth mother had the right to plan his funeral.

I can't even begin to wrap my head around that kind of grief.
********************************************************************
Not even two weeks later, another baby sibling was born and Crunchy Mama took placement of that baby too.

Another Foster Mom and I sourced a fancy baby seat that Crunchy Mama thought would help with two babies.  If this was something that could bring them just a bit of comfort in such a difficult time, celebrate this beautiful new baby, and make their life easier, then I was going to do it. We arranged for me to meet her just as she was arriving home from the hospital with the baby.

Due to the circumstances that are foster care, her partner wasn't home and she was coming home to the emptiest of houses. I wish I could say my presence at that moment was on purpose but I had no idea she was going to be alone when she got there.

I watched as she placed the baby carrier gently on the floor, knelt down and began to unwrap this teeny tiny, few day old baby from the pink fleece blanket she was bundled in.

Crunchy Mama looked into the baby's eyes and then up at me standing in the doorway. In a split second, I saw all of the fear, grief, love, joy, sadness, confusion, and fatigue of the previous 2 years wash over her face. I told it her it was ok to let go.

Her cry was primal.  It was guttural. We sobbed together on the living room floor about how unreal and unfair all of this was. How shattered their family was. How much love they had to give and how they will find a way through it all.

I tried to pour as much understanding and love as I could into that hug. It can never be enough though. How do you comfort a friend when their baby dies and they bring that baby's sibling home? The sibling they will never meet.  The sibling who's life will always be in the time "after JB".

As she got settled, I took pictures and held that sweet baby as her friends arrived with lunch and to help her until her partner arrived home.

***********************************
A few weeks later the dual birthday party that had been planned was turned into Memorial and Birthday Party. Beautiful pictures and videos of JB were shared. As was a beautiful poem about two mothers each loving their prince until he laid down his sword.*

Even in the moment where she was entitled to claim him as all her own, she didn't.  Even after weeks of emotional hurt and turmoil from JB's Birth Mom she was steadfast in her vow to love their son and share him always. The Mother who was there for his first breath and the Mother who was there for his last.
***********************************

I asked Crunchy Mama if I could share their story. She agreed without hesitation.  "What good is the love we pour into words if we don't share them?" 

I'm so glad I can share how even in the worst circumstances she could still find compassion for JB's birth family.  I am proud to have a friend so committed to the principals of the goals of foster care to support families and keep them together.  I'm honored to count her a friend and I feel privileged that I was trusted enough to share these moments with her.

**************************************
*Poem by Crunch Mama

Once upon a time, there was a young woman carrying her first baby inside her belly. She was not a princess: she came from a hard place, not a palace. Oh, the hopes and dreams she had for this baby were that he would be a king, that she would make a life for him entirely opposite from her own childhood.  

As they do, however, a sneaky Trauma Goblin snuck into their life. The goblin hurt the young woman with a thousand small cuts; though they were invisible to a stranger's eye. The goblin tried to take her baby from this world: but was defeated by the strength the woman had used to protect him from her wounds. 

But the woman was wounded and she was tired and scared. She left the baby until she could she heal, but she promised she'd come back. 

And so a fresh faced warrior, untouched by the meanest of Trauma Goblins, was called upon to care for the special, fragile soul. "I'll take care of you for as long as you need" the warrior whispered. 

And alas, she soon went to war for him, because he had become a king in her heart, as well. And the boy was loved by the warrior every moment.  And his mother, the young woman, came back as she had promised her son, and was loved by the warrior. And slowly, the young woman grew to love the warrior as well, though she had despised her at first for taking her baby.

The Trauma Goblins were appalled. They shook their fists and they scratched their heads. This was not the way it was supposed to go! Their plan to divide and conquer backfired in the strangest of ways. 

Acceptance grew in place of anger. 
Love blossomed over what was once a desert terrain of resentment. And the young woman both feared and cherished these flowers because they were beautiful, but so easily plucked from her life, as she had seen done countless times before.  And so the warrior built a fence around a patch a special flowers and thought : I can't save them all for the young woman, but I can save these.  I am just a warrior, but I can learn how to garden. And so she did. It was hard work and it meant taking off her iron battle gloves and getting her bare hands dirty. And tentatively, the young woman started to trust that the flower patch would be safe. So she built a fence and tended to it from the other side. And the women could not see each other, as they were on opposite sides of the fence, but they each tended the garden. 

And one day, longer than expected, but shorter than they wanted, the baby boy laid down his tiny shield at their feet. And the women wept together because he was supposed to become their king. And when they thought all the world had gone and cold and dark, they each looked up and saw their flower patch in full bloom. And the fences were gone, for the baby boy knew they were no longer needed, so he took them with him. And all the women saw was the beauty of each other's flowers, but they could no longer tell which was whose. And the baby boy smiled, for that had been his plan all along.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She Never Cried

Sheila called to wish Sarah Happy Birthday and she shared a story with her that as a baby she never cried. Not when she was hungry, not when she was tired, never. She never cried.
A little later Sarah said to me:
"Mom, my Mom said I never cried. I don't really believe that. That can't be true can it? Don't all babies cry sometimes?"
Oh my sweet girl. The red flag went up for her too. As I listened to Sheila share this story fondly, I felt sad. That was a sign of her RAD. That was because she couldn't count on adults. That was because she cried and no one came so she learned not to cry.
"It doesn't sound right to you, does it?"
"No."
"I know your Mom shared that story because she thinks it's cute you never cried. It made me sad. You are right babies cry so adults take care of them. You know how you had a lot of different adults that were supposed to take care of you as a baby?"
"Yeah, like 10 foster parents."
"Well …

Minimum Parenting Standards - Monday's Post

I can't figure out Blogger's time zone and I may not have time to write Monday evening so here is Monday's post.

This week we are having another "team" meeting. This time to discuss the "minimum parenting standards" that the kid's Mom has to meet in order to be "good enough" to parent them.

Now I have all kids of issues with this entire exercise. The first being that these kids deserve better than the minimum. The second, that good enough isn't going to cut it with their issues. The hardest part though is being asked to write down a guide to being their parent FOR their parent. Putting my commitment to first reunify a family to the test. It is one thing to suggest ways in which she can be a better parent and to support the goal by not bad mouthing her and encouraging the kids to share their true feelings. It is an entirely different thing to sit down and write a guide for a woman who has yet to grasp the basics after two years.

It wa…

Reader Question: Did You change their names?

Yes we did. We actually started using their new names shortly after their good bye visit with Sheila last August. So the only name that really changed this week was their last name (kind of, one of them actually had our last name). We had started using them so we wouldn't have to try to do a name change mid-school year. Plus the kids had only been in the school the last 1/2 of the year so they didn't know everyone yet. The school was great about going with the new first names.
At some point Simon spontaneously asked his teacher if he could change his name tag on his desk to our last name. He was tired of waiting on the legal stuff. He started to write Simon Almost Last Name on his papers. So we asked all the kids and they asked for the same update. Their report cards and benchmarks still had their legal names. 
The name change was a bit cumbersome at first. We sounded like owls because someone would ask for a person by their birth name and we would all answer "Who?". W…

FAQs

I had some questions asked of me recently that I thought I would answer here:

1) How do you keep doing this after so much crap?
I actually had two different foster moms ask me this. One dealing with a false allegation and one in a kinship case with a pregnant, unstable bio mom.

I'm not sure I have an eloquent answer to this question. I think I've reached a point where I see the bigger picture - the kids.  That's not to say this stuff doesn't drive me nuts or make me emotional. I would be spitting fire if we had to deal with a false allegation. I'm really upset about the potential of having to make a decision about another baby. But if not me, who? We are good at this. There are kids that need me. And I probably need them. I am a caretaker by nature.  What would I be doing with myself if I didn't have 15 different obligations all at once? I have no idea because I've always been this way. And right now all of the current drama is related to my children. I s…

It is a process

It's a physical ache. A pain in the middle of my chest.  And it causes hot tears, the kind that sting my eyes.  It settled over me today and I couldn't shake it.

It started with news that more people in our lives are expecting and today, I just couldn't muster the happiness.  I heard complaints of not feeling well and my ability to plaster the smile on my face just vanished from my body. I left the house to "run an errand" but really I just needed an escape.

All week I've been able to communicate and tell people about Solana leaving without any trouble.  I probably sounded like a PSA for "How to be the role model foster parent".

People were asking:

So will you get to adopt the little one? Is she staying?

Well no, actually.  She is going home in a few weeks. That's the goal of foster care. We are really happy for her dad. He really gets it. We've built a relationship. I'm so glad she doesn't have to go through the pain of adoption or …