A Forever Family

“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers. He is hers in a way that he will never be mine. And together we are motherhood.” – Desha Wood

“To adopt means to “legally take another’s child and bring it up as one’s own.” (Webster’s dictionary)

My husband and I took Kiddo’s hand and headed to the court room. So much had led up to this adoption day. For weeks I had toggled back and forth about whether becoming a forever family was in the best interest of all involved.

Was I making the right choice? Would the love I could offer this kiddo as ‘mother’ be enough?

“It feels like I should be loving this child more than I am,” I said to my mother just days before. My mom lovingly reassured me my child needs me, and the love I feel would keep growing over time.”

On many levels she was right. I had already turned to two other mom friends for advice. One helped me understand that most new mothers have a chance to bond with their baby for 9 months while in utero, then deliver a baby filled with love that is pure and absolute.

Another reassured me that my kiddo’s need to hate and fight at times was much like a feral animal filled with terror. The bruises on my skin and in my heart would eventually go away.

Yet despite all these wise words, I still found myself grappling with uncertainty right up to the night before our trial date.

Pouring my heart out to other foster/adoptive parents I asked,
“How do you know you are ready to adopt? I keep questioning if the love I can offer is enough.”

The outpouring of love and support I received was immense:

“It took me longer to bond with my child then the other two we adopted for many reasons but I now love him, delight in his strengths, accomplishments, his love for others, his relationship with each member of our family . . . (the list went on and on)”

“Love is a choice. I have spent many a day praying for God to help me. Hang in there. This is a calling not just a romance.”

“All my children have come to us through adoption (none through birth) and all at different emotional and developmental stages. Each bond has been unique, coming in its own time, no right or wrong, just uniquely. Some felt fast and others took much longer. Who says our love and bond has to be instant? Thank you so much for sharing your heart.”

“Doubt is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Love can move mountains. It’s just such a slow process when you have trauma, abuse or attachment issues. Praying for your strength and clarity.”

Now here I was just moments from being sworn in and still a little doubt remained.

God must have known it too, because as soon as we walked into the courthouse waiting room, our caseworker pointed us back outside.

“We have a big problem,” she said. “Kiddo’s birth mom is here.”

A flood of emotions filled my heart. Were we in danger? How come she missed the termination hearing? Was she here to take back custody?

Silently I said a prayer. “Dear God, though it may break me, if it is in the best interest of our child to stay with the birth mom, I promise to be strong and let go.”

Several long minutes later, law enforcement asked the birth mom to leave. It was then I knew I had a choice: either ignore this woman as she passed us on the sidewalk, or offer her compassion and closure with a loving heart.

“You are kiddo’s birth mom, correct?” I asked as she neared.

She nodded with tears in her eyes.

“May I hug you?” I asked.

With her permission I held her, then genuinely thanked her for giving Kiddo birth.

I then watched her weep in gratitude before saying goodbye to her baby one last time.

As we approached the court room, our caseworker shared that the mom showed up to make sure her child was happy and would be going to a good home.

Every ounce of my being then knew with certainty that I am safe to love my DAUGHTER now and forever, and to call her my own.

ETE

Sweet Child Of Mine

“Children are mirrors; they reflect back to us all we say and do.” ~ Pam Leo

For whatever reason I haven’t slept soundly for several weeks, so after a very long day as of late, I began to reflect on my day.

Up at 6 am, out the door by 7:30, first appointment until 8:15, dog park to exercise dogs, run errands until 10 am, sit down for a snack, second appointment from 11 to 12:30, lunch, catch up on bills and do laundry, out the door again by 2:30 to see third specialist until 4:15, then stop at the grocery store.

Being tired, I should have called it quits from there, but I promised Kiddo we would go to a community event that was taking place outdoors from 5 until 8.

I checked the clock. It was 4:45. Though I knew we might be one of the first to arrive, I hoped to make an appearance then leave.

We had to park a couple of blocks away then walk across black asphalt in 90 degree weather. I wasn’t even sure where to go, so I grabbed the invitation and Kiddo’s hand as we strode past all the people and wound our way over to the tents. The flyer in my hand indicated there was a bouncy house, so as soon as Kiddo spotted it, we headed in that direction only to be told it was $1 per minute to go in.

Though I had a little money with me, I really wasn’t expecting to have to pay.

I looked at Kiddo who was in a starting block position, with arms bent and feet ready to run inside the inflatable.

“Can you break a ten?” I asked the attendant, wiping the sweat and humidity from my face.

“Sorry” was the answer. “I forgot to bring change.”

I looked around to see if anyone near us could help us out. People started looking away or shaking their heads.

At this point you might be wondering if I handed over that ten bucks and let Kiddo start jumping to “their” heart’s desire.

Nope. I was way too hot and exhausted for that.

“I’m very sorry honey,” I said to Kiddo taking “them’s” hand. “I didn’t think to bring any change so we need to leave.”

Rather than throw a fit, Kiddo sweetly walked with me back to the car. I was so grateful I almost cried.

“I’m really sorry you didn’t get to go into the bouncy house,” I said as I tucked “them” into bed later that night.

Kiddo encircled my neck with loving arms. “It’s okay mama. We all make mistakes. Just try not to let it happen again.”

I still smile every time I think of it.

ETE

 

 

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

Life Is A Gift

“Synchronicity is God sending us messages anonymously.” ~ Deepak Chopra

In the summer, a doe visits us on our mountain property. We call her Mandi. This is her 4th year so far, and I know this because when Mandi was just a fawn she was curled up under some willows down by the creek. I would hear her cry out every now and again.

For several days I listened and I prayed, all the while remaining hopeful her mom would return, but she never did.

Around day four, Mandi began to move around. Her legs were wobbly and her white spots were fresh. I could sense her hesitancy as she gained the courage to venture from out of her hiding spot.

Slowly, she made her way over to our bird feeders. I joyously watched her munch on some fallen corn and downed seeds. From a distance, I began to quietly talk to her, reassuring her that everything would be alright.

I knew Mandi’s chances of survival were slim, but that didn’t stop me from having hope. I kept telling her again and again that she was safe and that so long as she stayed close to our house and remained tucked into the shrubbery every night, her chances of survival would be good.

My heart so wanted to walk near her, yet I intuitively knew the importance of keeping my distance so that Mandi could thrive in her natural environment.

I continued to trust and to pray.

Around day seven, God-Source sent in a mama doe with a youngling. This doe allowed Mandi to nurse for awhile, and it was beautiful to watch. I had thought for sure they would all walk away together as a family, but for whatever reason the doe and her youngling moved on after the feeding. This went on for several nights until Mandi was strong enough to make it on her own.

Today it is not uncommon to see Mandi two to three times throughout the day. She often returns to lick off the salt block or roam through the grass, munching on wild clover or leftover seed casings from the lawn.

Last month Kiddo noticed this special deer for the first time when I began talking to her from our front porch.

“Hello, Mandi,” I said knowing it was her, because unlike the other deer who wander in, she is not the least bit fearful of our dogs.

“Mom, who’s Mandi?” Kiddo whispered in awe.

I smiled then explained the story of how Mandi and I first met.

After a moment of silence, Kiddo’s reflecting eyes lit up.

“Mom, guess what? Mandi’s birth parents couldn’t take care of her so God brought her here where she is safe –She is just like me!”

I embraced Kiddo with a nod while silently giving thanks to God-Source for sending such a gentle creature with a beautiful reminder of the gift in everything.


ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

Abandon’Meant’

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

These past few weeks have contained a lot of emotional release for Kiddo. I recently came back into the house to witness “them” curled up in a ball and sobbing uncontrollably.

I had told Kiddo I had to leave the house for just a minute, but somehow “them” interpreted this as my leaving for good even though I was just running to the end of our driveway.

After some hugs and a talk to clear things up, Kiddo began crying even harder letting me know “them” was still afraid. “Don’t ever leave again, okay?” Kiddo said, somewhat bossy but mainly insistent.

I gently pulled Kiddo up so I could look deeply into “them’s” eyes. “You are safe,” I said. “I know you were feeling scared because I left you for a moment, and I’m sorry about the confusion, but I was gone for just a minute and then came back.”

We cuddled a little more as I began formulating a question to help shift “them’s” perception.

Knowing “them’s” history plus having worked with many private clients whose inner child had become wounded at some point from the belief of abandonment, I lovingly asked, “So when you think about your last family, does it bring up memories of being left all alone?”

Kiddo sobbed even harder. After a little love and some coaxing, “them” shared how past parents had left and never came back.

“So you believe they left you?” I asked

Head deeply buried in my armpit, Kiddo nodded.

“Are you sure about that?” I asked, using the collar of my shirt to wipe “them’s” tears and runny nose. (yes I did)

Kiddo’s eyes met mine with a look of confusion.

“So you believe your last family left you?” I asked again.

Before Kiddo could answer I continued, “Or is it possible that YOU left them?”

Kiddo’s face shifted from confusion to contemplation.

“Just maybe,” I ventured to say, “They didn’t leave you, but YOU left them? Just maybe you knew deep in your heart that you were not safe and so you prayed hard to God who heard you and then an angel came to get you and helped you take some of your clothes and toys, and you both drove far far away.”

I could tell by Kiddo’s face this new perception was a healing one, and, so I instructed “them” to stand up in front of our full length bedroom mirror and repeat the following after me . . .

“I left you (X) because I wasn’t protected. Though I miss you lots, it was MY idea to leave. God heard my prayers and sent an angel to help pack up my things so we could drive far, far away. I left you because I deserve to be safe. I deserve healthy love. Thank you God for answering my prayers.”

Kiddo then stared in the mirror for quite some time before running back into my arms to declare, “Mama, I just said goodbye to (X). It was my idea to leave.”

Yes! Thank you God for helping Kiddo finally see that this was all “meant” to be.


ete

P.S.
Time to go wash the shirt 😉

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

The Rainbow in the Storm

“Childhood trauma does not come in one single package.” ~ Asa Don Brown

So the kicking, hitting, and spitting are now being replaced with angry words and tears. As much as I welcomed the change, I wasn’t convinced this new path was any easier.

I mean at least when Kiddo was sending me unexpected blows to the face, arms, and legs, I felt somewhat in control. Lately I have been barely able to hold the space whenever Kiddo opens up about past childhood events that are so gruesome and disturbing, I nearly lose my lunch.

Thankfully we have the assistance of a child counselor who is guiding me through it step-by-step.

One late afternoon Kiddo was triggered by another memory so heavy it hurt my heart. For privacy sake we’ll call this particular perpetrator “X.”

“Aren’t you angry at “X”, Kiddo?” I asked, slapping a cushion for emphasis.

Kiddo turned and slapped the cushion too. “Yes, Mama, I mad.”

Knowing the importance of giving this pain a healthy outlet, I led Kiddo outside and together we took turns naming each abuser, including “X”, as we kicked a soccer ball “to the curb.”

Once there was no more anger left to give, Kiddo started walking toward the house only to turn and run into my arms.

Sobbing, “Mama,” Kiddo said in between each spilled tear. “I feel very sad ‘cuz I miss “X” a lot.”

I held and rocked Kiddo for several minutes as we spoke about confused feelings such as loving and loathing “X” who was a primary caregiver in recent past.

A little later as our day was winding down, I intuitively asked, “Kiddo, are you ever angry with God because of all that has happened to you?”

Kiddo thought about this for a moment. “Yes, Mama. I angry at God and the angels ‘cuz they made very bad choices.”

“Do we need to go kick the ball again before bed?”

Without hesitation, Kiddo’s kind eyes met my soul. “No, Mama. it’s okay. God and the angels are making good choices again because I am safe with you and Papa now.”

(Be still my heart.)

ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

‘Moms’ The Word

“Everything has changed and yet, I am more me than I’ve ever been.” ~ Iain Thomas

It’s been nearly 6 months since Kiddo walked into our world. Never could I imagine that such a little soul could change my whole life in such a short amount of time.

In all honestly “them” has been both a blessing and a pain in the you know what depending on the day, and from what other moms have told me this is pretty typical.

Add in past triggers such as trauma, abandonment, negligence, and abuse, and this might explain why Kiddo has been acting out in such dramatic ways.

Numerous times in the last few weeks I have been kicked, hit, and spit on whenever things do not go “them’s” way.

“Given all this little one has been through I am not at all surprised,” the child psychologist recently said. “Kiddo is finally feeling safe, so consider these behaviors a huge compliment.”

Hm. Okay. Maybe after I get past my surprise of how hard a little kid can hit, and then beyond my shame and guilt for having to hold “them” in a restraint for several minutes so we can both stay safe and until “them” is calm enough to receive love and reconnect.

Even though the fostering classes warned us that kiddos with special needs can be a challenge, until I actually experienced it, I had no idea how trying it could be.

Yes, the honeymoon is over so-to-speak, and now “the shit is getting real”: two to three doctors appointments per week; night terrors; temper tantrums; and lack of sleep – all are taking its toll.

“Have you considered giving “them” back to the state?” – This is a question that has come up more than once from some other moms who are close family and friends.

“Oh, Yea,” I honestly reply. “On more than one occasion.”

I then laugh to release my stress and say “but I just can’t. I committed to do this, and besides, Kiddo has been through much too much for me to walk away.”

The other person then usually replies, “You are such a gift to this child,” or “You sure are a good mom.” or “I don’t know if I could ever do it.”

Then at some point in the conversation someone asks, “How much help are you getting from others?’

I again laugh for release. “When you are a foster parent you are expected to stay home and watch the child, so other than some half days of daycare to shop or work with a client, not much at all.”

I then get asked, “Is your husband Steve around to help?”

“As much as he can muster,” I reply. “Right now he’s going through a training program for his job so Kiddo and I get to spend about 10-15 hours a week with him on average which isn’t as much as any of us would like.”

Recently a mom friend reminded me how important it is to have others who can relate. “Michelle,” she said, “if I were in your situation I would want someone to ask me if I have had time to grieve my old life and process all the new changes. So have you?”

No sooner than she finished, my eyes started welling up with tears.

I knew this was my clue to start asking for some help. And so I began with my mom friend who was kind enough to listen when I began to unload. She then opened her own backpack to share some of her personal fears, vulnerabilities, and experiences.

This really helped a lot. Not only because I appreciated the adult conversation but because it felt good knowing I wasn’t the only one who worries they’re messing their kids up or wonders if their parenting techniques are any good.

As the days went by I began asking for more help from other moms who then came forward with their own backpacks and experiences and vulnerabilities. Together we dumped, unloaded, and sorted things out.

Since then I have come to appreciate why it is said being a mom is the hardest yet most important job one can ever do.

Thank you Mom Club (Regina, Bonnie, Kellie, Gayle, Naomi, Lindy and many more) for helping me lighten my load.


ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

Mother Lode

“Little souls find their way to you whether they’re from your womb or someone else’s.” ~ Sheryl Crow

In some cultures, there is a belief that children choose their parents so as to teach them whatever lessons they need to learn in this lifetime.

I am beginning to see the truth of this, because having Kiddo in my life these past four months has been some of the most magical and most difficult days of my life.

A huge KUDOS to all you parents reading this because I had no idea how time consuming or how challenging this would be. Juggling kids and career and spouse and pets plus making time for family, friends, and the upkeep of the house . . . Holy Moly. It’s a good thing I have been working out.

Seriously.

Also, things have been way more amazing than words can say such as being able to witness all the new ‘firsts’ and rapid growth spurts as Kiddo gets bigger before our eyes.

Yet as grateful as I am to God-Source for allowing me to parent this little miracle, I would be lying if I told you I have been patient and accepting this entire time.

Let me tell you there have been days where I couldn’t help but wonder “what the heck am I doing?” and “why did I ever say yes to this?”

Not only is this a child we are fostering with special needs which means we have very little history on record to refer to when we are asked questions like “did “them” have chickenpox or how was their delivery, but also I have no idea how long Kiddo will be with us, and this very idea has caused me to keep putting up protective walls as a crazy way of hoping it will keep me from getting hurt.

Yet the more I do this, the more Kiddo nestles deeper into my heart. Just a few weeks ago “them” started calling me mom.

The first time it happened I froze. I wasn’t able to accept this endearing term at all.

Why?

Well, at first I had myself convinced it was because I was afraid that God-Source might separate us again and I was keeping myself from being hurt.

But then I was reminded by the caseworker that “them” doesn’t remember meeting the birth mom and has no ties yet to anyone specifically. And that if I don’t allow a bond to form, the child may never attach to anyone.

Wow. This is a really big deal, so, why then have I been resisting it?

The truth is I have waited for this for a really long time, and now that I have it, I am having a really hard time allowing myself to be loved as a mom.

Though it’s beautiful and miraculous and honoring, it is also a huge responsibility.

Quite honestly I want to run and yet I want to stay. I love the role yet I also fear it. So there are days I want things to go back to the way they were but I know I would miss what I now have.

I have heard this is normal, yet I still feel afraid, and so I will do what I have taught so many others to do when they feel fear — I will keep moving through it one day at a time and continue to trust knowing I am doing the very best that I can.

Merriam Webster’s defines mother as “a female parent”

Parent is defined as “one that brings forth offspring (i.e.: parents to twins)”
OR
“a person who brings up and cares for another (i.e.: foster parent)”

Happy Mother’s day to all of you moms reading this.

Though admittedly I have been having difficulty allowing myself to be called MOM, I know it’s because I have had a belief that only the woman who gave birth to our Kiddo was deserving of this.

And so I take it one day at a time, slowly giving myself time to process it while allowing the possibility that Kiddo has really chosen me to be the mom. As I take this all in, I smile from within and simultaneously need to take a breath just to accept the enormity of it.


ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

Teachable Moments (part 2 of 2)

“We should pray to the angels, for they are given to us as guardians.”

– St. Ambrose

 

The cart was no where to be found, JayJay was whining her little head off, and the f-bomb had just erupted from my mouth.

I steered quickly to the back of the parking lot, then let out the dogs to do their thing.

I needed to cool down and God must have known it, because no sooner than I stepped outdoors, the frigid temps shot my mind back in place.

“I’m sorry I said a bad word,” I said as soon as I returned to the driver’s seat. I then pulled my vehicle up so it was just outside of the entrance.

I began taking long deep breaths then asked Kiddo to join me in asking the angels for help.

“Dear angels, we need your help. Please help us find the wallet.”

Intuition guided me to use my cell phone and call the store to find out if anyone had turned in a wallet within the past hour.

“Yes, we have it,” the service rep said, “We’ve just been waiting for you.”

“Praise God!” I said as I hung up.

I bundled up Kiddo once again, this time nearly skipping into the store.

Once the back office received my proof of address, my wallet was safely returned.

“Do you happen to know who turned it in?” I asked.

Management didn’t really know. We then inquired with the service counter.

“The cart guy,” answered the service rep.

“Well, please tell him thank you,” I said, being sure management heard me as well.

As Kiddo and I proceeded to leave, we saw “cart guy” near the entrance of the store. Though his face was shielded behind cold weather gear, his eyes were warm and sincere.

“Thank you for returning my wallet,” I said, unzipping the main pocket and reaching for some cash. “I’d like to thank you for doing that.”

The man held up his hands and said no. He informed me that taking rewards is against store policy, and he insisted he was just doing his job.

“Well then please let me thank you with my words,” I said. “I am so very grateful to you.” My eyes began pooling with appreciative tears. “I just took in this Kiddo into foster care recently and ever since my head hasn’t been on straight.”

The man blessed me and thanked me for doing such great work.

Hearing this was very unexpected, yet it felt really good.

He then shared that he had seen the cart way off to the side but something told him to go get it.

“It was so cold out, I ignored it at first,” he said, “but something kept telling me I better go and get it”

I smiled big and said, “That ‘something’ was your angels.”

The man’s kind eyes lit up. He knowingly nodded.

Thank you angels! Thank You cart guy!
Thank You God!

Thank you angels! Thank You cart guy!
Thank You God!

Kiddo and I sang these words in the form of a tune all the way back to the mall.

ete

 

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)