Friday, June 28, 2013

The Little Blue Cot

   It has occurred to me today that God is in control.  Someone that I greatly admire and care deeply for received a difficult diagnosis recently.  In the Facebook post where she shared her condition, she made the statement that even though she was surprised, God wasn’t.  That’s been rumbling around in my head ever since. 

   This morning I was thinking about the little blue cot in my dining room.  We got it for Christmas.  The Little People were still in foster care then so they received a bunch of donated gifts from our agency.  When our caseworker brought them, she brought us this little, blue, child-sized cot.  Hubby and I thanked her for everything and exchanged odd glances.  What were we going to do with the cot? Apparently, when she was picking up the kids’ bags, she saw that laying out and felt like we needed it.  I stuck it off to the side of my room because I didn’t see the need.  We talked that night about what kind of person would even donate such a random gift.  It’s not exactly at the top of most children’s gift lists.

   In January, Little Miss got sick and I pulled the little blue cot out and set her up next to my bed so I would hear her if she started to have a seizure.  The seizures kept coming and the cot stayed out.  Usually if she has one, she sleeps for about 30 minutes afterwards.  On days that she has clusters of seizures (thankfully those are becoming fewer) she may have 10 – 15 in a day.  She may spend the majority of the day incapacitated so I bring the cot into whatever room that I am working in.  I can cook dinner or do schoolwork or help Captain color and still be close by if she needs me.  That little blue cot has made a big difference in our acclimation to this new world with epilepsy.  It is one of those little things that you suddenly become really grateful for when you are forced to start counting the blessings that you do still have. 

   I have struggled lately with some of the limits we have come to realize recently but this morning I was amazed at the providence displayed by that gift.  Back in December when I still though temper tantrums were our biggest issue, he was already putting things into place for this fight.  The God that cares about the sparrows and the flowers knew before I did that we would have days where my little princess was unconscious for 8 hours straight.  He knew that while I was working on my semester projects, her brain would be misfiring.  He knew that her brothers needed me to not be stuck in her bedroom waiting for the next episode while they tried to tend to themselves.  He knew that in the chaos and the pain and the overwhelming distress, we would need a little blue cot for her to lay on with her blanket and her bear.  As much as this has shaken me, I find it comforting to know that God is still on His throne.  He was not surprised.  He knew this was coming and He was prepared to supply all our needs before we even knew that they existed.  If you are in crisis today, take a look around.  You may just see evidence of the creator who knew what was coming and is with you through it all.  You might even see your own example of a little blue cot.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Praying for Poop

   I have this cross hanging in the nursery that has part of a verse from 1 Samuel on it.  It quotes Hannah, a woman who had been barren as she dedicates her son to the Lord and praises God saying “for this child I have prayed.”  I hung it there when that was still the spare room and my children still lived only in my prayers.  We ended up putting the changing table against that wall so I have had this running joke in my head for about a year that I prayed for poop.  I was changing a particularly disgusting diaper one day when I had this epiphany that babies come with poop, lots of poop.  See when we pray for children, we tend to have this picture in our head of bedtime cuddles, frilly dresses and toothless smiles.  I don’t know about other women but I know I never sat and prayed for dirty diapers.  If you want the baby though, you have to take the poop along with it.  On rough days I remind myself that all of it is an answer to prayer.  The blessings that I call my children are worth the messes. 

   We have had a lot of poop lately.  When they brought Little Miss to us, they told us that she had seizures when she was a baby.  They said that she still took a little medicine just to be safe but that she had grown out of it.  For a long time that was true.  We had a little scare on Christmas of 2011 but then they disappeared again and they decided that was just the result of more stress than her little brain could handle.  Then this January she had a seizure, and then another and another.  Then all of the sudden it got really, really bad and soon I was following an ambulance to the children’s hospital and calling the church so that they would pray that my little girl would just wake up.  Nothing has been the same since that day.  We have bounced from specialists to emergency rooms to more and more tests.  Some days she would wake up and between the seizures and medications, she wouldn’t know who I was anymore.  She would just stare at you and smile with a blank look in her eyes.  I had to quit the job that I loved because of her constant medical appointments and not being able to find childcare that wasn’t afraid of her.  I almost had to quit school but managed to hang on by a thread and finish the semester by living off 3 to 4 hours a sleep each night for a few months.  Things have eased up some but our whole world still revolves around this monster they call epilepsy.  Even the little things that I never would have thought about are a big deal now.  Like, when we go to a restaurant, I have her sit in a highchair so that if she has a seizure and falls, the sides will catch her before she hits her head on the floor.  And, I sit in the new mothers’ section at church now because it is right by her Sunday school room and they need to be able to get me, just in case.  And we have to be extra careful because little things that used to be normal are dangerous now, like swinging or swimming or riding horses or… It has been exhausting and devastating.  There have been days when I felt like I was breaking and I just wasn’t sure how much more of this “poop” I could handle. 

   We were blessed with two wonderful CASA workers (Court Appointed Special Advocates) that have been with the little people since day one.  One of them is a nurse and a few months ago, she came with my to a neurologist’s appointment so that CPS could better understand what was going on.  After that, the department came to me and asked if we still wanted to proceed with the adoption.  They said that they understood if we didn’t.  We hadn’t signed up for a kid with special needs.   What they didn’t understand, is that we believe she is an answer to prayer and we weren’t willing to throw out the baby just because of the poop.  I couldn’t turn my back on the child who had called me Mom for a year and half just because she got sick any more than I would have abandoned my biological son if he needed me.  I know in my heart that Little Miss and Little Man were both given to me by God.  Last week, when they finalized their adoption, I had total peace knowing that He is going to get us through whatever trials lie ahead.  It’s not because there is anything special about us because honestly we still aren’t real sure what we’re doing here.  We just keep putting on foot in front of the other and believing He will direct our path.  Along the way, we just keep thanking God for entrusting us with all those dirty diapers and the beautiful little people that accompany them.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's* Day

I saw a post on Facebook recently about Caregiver’s Day.  It was a more inclusive version of Mother’s Day that incorporated all types of relationships that “have made a significant impact in our life.”  They talked about the many people that don’t get a day because society doesn’t call them fathers or mothers and suggested that you  “hug your caretaker whether they’re your mother, father, siblings, aunt/uncle, cousin, grandparent, foster parent, mentor or friend and tell them thank you for valuing you as a person and taking the time to show they care.”  Now, I’m all for showing appreciation but this really irritates me.  I guess it irritates me a lot if I’m postponing the blog I have in my head that breaks my multi-month silence to vent about it.  It’s about more than just the rebranding of a hallmark holiday though.

In foster care, there is a push right now to re-label me as a foster carers.  In fact, a few states have already legislated the change because, I guess, there was nothing else important going on in the government that day.  Apparently that is more PC and it doesn’t hurt the birth parents feelings as much as hearing us called foster moms and dads.  Now, personally I don’t think that should really matter.  If your child is in foster care than 99% of the time it is because you royally screwed up.  You need to be uncomfortable because maybe that will motivate you to step up and be the parent your children desperately need you to be.  More importantly though, I’m not a carer.  I’m a parent.  There is a BIG difference.

My kids go to a sitter after school who cares for them.  She feeds them snacks and plays with playdough and sends them home.  If they are sick or cranky or mean to the other toddlers, she calls me and I have to go get them.  I sincerely hope that she cares ABOUT my kiddos (and I feel like she does) but her job as a caregiver is really only to care FOR them and their basic needs while I am away.  That’s not the job that the state wants me to do with foster kids.  I am supposed to spend the night on the floor in their bedroom when they can’t sleep because they are afraid of their abuser coming back.  I am supposed to love them enough that they can learn to attach even though it means my own heart gets broken.  I have been hit and kicked and bit and spit in the face and called every name under the sun and I am supposed to just take it because I understand where that came from.  A carer doesn’t stick around for that.  When Little Miss came to me, she would scream at the top of her lungs for hours at a time and flip off strangers and get violent in a way that I would not have believed a child so young could.  A simple caregiver calls someone to pick up a child like that; a parent loves the broken baby who doesn’t have words to say how bad she hurts and celebrates as the fits eventually get shorter and fewer because it means she is healing.

I am a foster parent.  I do everything that a parent does, only I do so with kids from hard places who might stay forever or leave tomorrow and take a piece of my heart with them.  I think it is insulting to rebrand my position to appease child abusers who don’t want to be reminded that their baby needs a mom and right now, because of their mistakes, that’s me.  It seems to me that instead of changing my title to further emphasize my status as a less-than-real-mother, we should expand the definition of mom.  As a society, we should recognize that there is more to parenting than blood and there are many paths to motherhood.  Women who adopt or foster or raise step children or take in kinship placements or fill the role some other way are mothers.  We do them, and their children, a great disservice when we ignore that.  So, I’m eschewing Caregiver’s Day.  Instead I want to wish a happy Mother’s day to all the moms and all the moms*, no matter what your asterisk represents.