Sunday, July 2, 2017

foster baby mama drama

So, Melody is coming back. She was a little girl that lived with us for 3 years, then went to live with auntie. Two years later she is coming back to us. I am feeling all the emotions.

The emotions I'm struggling with are not for her,  but for her mama. Foster baby mama drama.

I can only speak to my interactions with her and from my side. The first phone call was good. Melody was our first foster daughter. First foster kid. I was at Zumba and came home and there she was. I spoke with her mom a few days later, explaining we had a minivan and we were glad to help her out during that time. It went well, she was all, thank you thank you. That was the last time it went well.

Mostly, during the three years, she spoke through the social worker to complain about Melody's hair not being done right, her clothes being unkempt and us not lotioning her enough. This was the alpha omega for Melody's mom--her daughter's appearance.

Traditionally, the Tribe Called Hall is a motley one. She had a point. I grew angry and bitter. I would get up with her child in the middle of the night when she had nightmares. When she'd talk to her mom on the phone,  Melody begged her mom to come get her and be done with this. And her mom would say, just a little while longer. And I rocked and held Melody after those phone calls, while she wailed and sobbed. But yes, Melody was not gap model level prepared for visits, so she had a point.

Then there were phone calls of vitriol and the time she called the cops on us. Which is typical and common for foster parents to experience. I cried and shook as she ripped me a new one once. It was totally unexpected and like a hurricane full of pissed off bees. Part of this was my fault I think. I was so angry at her for hurting this girl. While Melody was never abused, her mom was hurting her by not doing what she had to do to get her back. Basically stuff, like sobriety, she wasn't even trying to do. At that point, Melody had started calling me mom too. I'm sure my anger triggered the mom's and she's better at controlling people with anger and fear. After the cops were called on us, Mr. Hall took over the communication.

For him, it went well. He could talk to her. She talked to him. It was soothing to listen too. She would be logical and approachable. Deal with able. Mr. Hall has the magic of dealing with the most difficult of women and making it ok.

Then Melody went down to an auntie. She was gone, I was spent. We spent almost a year recovering. We got a dog, that helped. I was happy never to deal with her mom again. I was done. I never expected Melody to come back. I thought her family would absorb her because we are the white village, dismissed and shameful. Sending her back to the foster care system means sending her here. But Melody is one of many and family didn't get in this business like we did. They are trying to help out family, we are growing one and inviting others as we go.

So now the mama is going to be back in my life and I am struggling. Fundamentally struggling. I say to Mr. Hall, 'how do you deal with it, the mom?' He says, "I don't focus my energy on that, we are here to support Melody. I pick my fights." Which means he has control over his emotions and can use a system of dams and bridges to direct the water accordingly.

I envy him.

I'll need to try, my hardest, to feel these things and deal with reality.

Reality number one, in order to adopt Melody, the state needs to do what's called TPR, or termination of parental rights on mom. This is very hard. Judges don't like doing it for a lot of reasons. The state has a current TPR filed and they'll try again. For this, I will go to the hearings. For now, she is our foster daughter. We'll treat her as our own and love her all the same.

Reality number two, mom isn't doing well. Visits with Melody are canceled as a result. The aftermath of visits or missed visits are hard on Melody. This is when she cries and sobs. This is when she carves holes in our drywall. This is when I need to stop the anger and bitterness from growing and soaking in.  Because I can't. It will kill part of me. The very part I use to help. I will be sad with Melody. I will love on her and seek out love too. Mr. Hall and the rest of the tribe are great at being her for each other. This is what we do.

Reality number three. When Melody comes we will have a party. To celebrate her and to let her know she is cherished and super loved. She is a child of God. For this. I have to start thinking of her mom in the same way. She is also a child of God. I need to practice forgiveness, mercy, love. Mr. Hall says she doesn't know any better and that is why she can't be the mom Melody needs. And he's right. So I will consciously pray and practice what I've been given.

Reality number four. No matter what, Melody comes with her mama. Even if she stays with us forever, the mom will be part of this. God gave me all sorts of love to give. This is why I'm in the foster parent business. I'll leave the practicalities of communication, visit arrangement and phone calls to Mr. Hall but for me, I need to start with love, mercy and forgiveness.

And in this way, I can feel much better. I can start to grow love for the foster baby mama drama too.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

finding the limits

So we received an email asking us if we can take 3 bonus kids for another day. The same bonus kids we had had for a week. Another respite stay, which again, if you remember from my last post, is a fancy foster care word for 'babysitting.' Mr. Hall wrote back, 'my wife is emotionally drained and I'm behind on work'. We officially found our limit of giving.

Which was ok. Because it was the truth. Doubling my kid population for an extended period of time is not healthy for me. This is what I'm discovering. The whole thing is really sad because there is a reason they are here but wow. I just can't. With those kids.

It was our second time saying no. We are saying that a lot more lately. I dreamed of being a foster mom for 20 years, a lifer. Seems my life span is about 5. Maybe.

I tend to dive down so deep with my thoughts. Getting to the silt level of even basic things. Making Himalayas out of molehills. I'm working on it though. For the three kids I am doing enough and I am enough. And we are done.

My thoughts about the foster care  system are more difficult to manage.  I'm trying not to be bitter. The goal is the help out, take the kids until birth mom heals up and then they go back. These birth moms (she says as she's stereotyping a whole group of women) are catered to. I think it's the highly educated, white thinking that says, "If we just get mom to counseling, it'll stop intergenerational patterns of ugly behavioral patterns towards one another. And then they get jobs and be real providing type parents. "

I'm not finding that to be true. I'm finding the birth moms are minimally functional and even then it requires a lot of taxpayer support with housing, food and childcare which includes the foster parent side of things. They will never be independent and at that same time, never stop producing more kids in the process. Those three kids we helped out with? They are from a group of seven.

Which brings us to Melody. The foster daughter we had for three years, then she went to live with an auntie and now she's coming back to us. Mom is still in the picture and screwing up predictably. The system is still dumb. And at the center of it is her, Melody. One of twenty five by the way. Lots of baby mamas from the same dad. Her mom only had her. Which is a nice change.

It seems when she comes back she'll bring a system I don't entirely agree with. Court hearings, giving mom more time to get her act together despite it being almost five years she's been in foster care. So my job will be to love her. Hug her and just deal with the rest. And so it shall be.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Can you take the child back?

When I was dating Mr. Hall we decided to have 3 babies then start fostering. When I was pregnant with baby #3 I started filling out the paperwork. When River was 2 months old and nursing up a storm, a girl arrived. I called her Melody because I didn't get her real name. I was at Zumba when she came. She was 4.

She stayed for 3 years. Her mama never really got better. A combination of mental health problems, drug use, ghettotude and selfish choices do not make stability sustainable. Melody had like 500 family members but only a small percentage stepped up and offered to take care of her. Only a small percentage of that percentage could pass a drug test and a background check. Finally an auntie showed up that cleared all the hurdles. Two inches of the ground hurtles, but she passed them.

We were called the white village by the auntie. Our village  was a shameful secret in the family so when Melody left they didn't talk to us.  I sent that auntie like 500 photos of her time with us. Making sure it was mostly just Melody, not the white folks with her. Two years go by, we hear nothing.

Which brings us to two months ago when we learn the auntie has had enough. She's done. So, the social worker asks, can you take the child back? We pray. We hem. We haw. We decide no. Because the plan is to support a reunification with mom. Mom has not and cannot change.  I'm crying because hurting and ugly. But we said no. Melody is placed with another white village. We offer to be in the background, providing respite as needed. Which is a fancy foster care word for babysitting.

The new white folks ask us to baby sit for a week and we say yes. It was awkward when she came. It's all hey, sorry your plans of healing with your auntie didn't work out. Sorry your mom is still a huge mess. But hey, we missed you and remember our cat? She did remember our cat. Two years later she remembers the cat's name. I didn't really say the first part btw.

There were times where I had to leave the room because I would be so sad with her. She was my daughter for those three years. She was a mess and tore up drywall. She carved stuff into the side of my car. Destruction was her language. It was never more loud than during the 10 trips we took to visit her auntie as we moved her down there. Long ass 2 hour drives with her screaming and tantrumming. Then passing out cold. I drove her each time. Because I needed to be there for her because I loved her and wanted to help with her pain. Still do.

In the middle of the visit we learn the other white village is only temporary. And through the underground tunnels of commination we are asked, Can you take the child back? We don't answer this time.

Then we prepar her for a visit with mom. Still at the supervised visit level. Mom said she had a flat tire and the anger I felt was unbelievable. The plan is to reunite Melody with mom and mom can't even make a visit. What happens when she's in school and she get's a call that her daughter is sick. Who is going to pick her up? Then I get angrier. Why is she still in foster care,  five years later? Why is mom even being considered for reunification?

I leave all these questions up to Mr. Hall to ask. He is a sensei of foster care communication. He is logical, charming, good looking and very much a guy who can negotiate conversations between multiple females. Mad skills.

What I do is this. I say, sorry your mom couldn't make the visit. Let's go to Costco, it's a crazy store with lots of big huge items. I buy her a book and we get the dollar fifty hot dog on the way out. As she's grazing she starts to cry and I hold her. Because I can love her and comfort her. And I do as she cries and eats the hot dog. In Costco.

And that is why we are taking her back and whatever happens with this crazy process happens. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

out of body

We bought a pop up camper and have gone camping three times now. I was so happy last weekend I cried when we packed up and went home. There is just an ultimate freedom with camping.

No cell phone service. All your stuff in three tubs, the car and a pop up. Kids play together because there is nowhere to go and nobody to do it with. So much dirt to dig, so many frogs to catch. It's perfect.

I take great joy in watching the sun bounce of the tree leaves. I could just stare for hours.

On the foster front we said no for the first time to a placement. The little guy was 3 and had autism. It's not the autism that we said no to, it's the 3 years old. I'm tired. I'm 41. I'm a older kid momma now. Chasing babies and getting up in the middle of the night is no good. Plus anxiety. I didn't realize I had anxiety until I went to see a therapist. Because my middle son is still super complicated with ADHD and genius factor. Genius meaning super smart but emotionally behind.  And it's still hard but I went to therapy to make it less hard. Therapy is going well, I'm getting things cleaned up a bit.

Which is another weird factor. I'm literally recreating my operating systems. Which are no longer working on fear, divide & conquer. I'm slowing down and it's just weird. It's calling up fundamental questions of who I am outside the people that need me. I think I lost myself a long time ago. But now that the kids are all potty trained and I don't have to hover so much, I'm emerging a bit. Also weird.

It's a slow process. We still have paperwork in to the foster to adopt folks. Our references told me they got their paperwork to fill out. So something is happening. It's all so different than a belly pregnancy. Belly pregnancy is just stopping birth control and getting it on. This is so out of body. Pregnant on paper they say.

I wonder when the bone crushing morning sickness will start... oh wait! That's only with belly pregnancy :)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Like Jon Snow, we know nothing

I filled out no less than 56 pages for our adoption from foster care application. All manner of personal, medical, housing and financial questions were asked. The state wants to know all the things. So, I parked my butt in the minivan, drove to a wooded park on a sunny day and KNOCKED IT OUT IN 3 HOURS. BOOM!!

Mr.. Hall was less enthusiastic about the paperwork. Revealing your tax information to strangers on a wink and a prayer that there are kids out there, that we can adopt, was something he grumbled at. He's not convinced this will actually work. Most kids in foster care either go back home or are adopted by their foster families. Just adopting from foster care is a least likely scenario. So, all of this may be for nothing and I understand his groaning. I don't care though. I'm not doing anything else right now.

There's a lull in the House of Hall. Our middle son, the genius Mac, has come along nicely with his defiant tendencies, ADHD and giftedness. Very blessed times as of late. Medication and therapy are going super helpful. Him maturing to age 10 helped immensely. Still some struggles, but Rome wasn't molded in a day.

Our oldest, the wee 14 year old Pancake, she's coming along too. All righteous indignation and very much knowing she's correct. Not even a question. Here's a typical conversation.

Me: I don't even want to discuss things with you anymore, you don't listen, you just wait to jump in school  me ...
Pancake: That's because you're wrong.


The crazy part is I totally remember this at her age. The fighting energies. The good fight fighting energies. I still have them. They continue to serve me well.

I think Mr. Hall and I are really into our kids. We love them and know them. It's a bit weird now. They are shaping who they are, based on their likes and wants. Which again, weird. Little kids are easy, it's all about nap times and snacks. Older kids like to discuss communism and the concept of infinity. All the while rolling their eyes at your aged wisdom when they struggle. Because parents are wrong. Like Jon Snow, we know nothing.

These are good problems to have. Watching our older kids outpace our intellect. Watching them grow and being tall people. Give us lip because we're morons.

We love though. They love too. We all still love each other and share a common, snuggly bond. We genuinely enjoy each other's company. I could not be more blessed.

So yeah, it's time to add more kids. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

At that point, I was missing a spoon

Just a head's up. This is a long and somewhat sad post. But man up. It's a good read and gets better at the end. Plus it took me a long time to write and I spent a lot of time on it. It does no good just sitting here unread. 
(here's my littlest son, the one that came after my miscarriages) 

Went to a continuing education conference. There was an ob-gyn speaker who had much experience with high risk pregnancies and treating women with infertility. My goal was to go and learn how he handled the women, so I can better help with the helping that I do do. It was near lunch time. 

It went wrong.  He talked a lot about miscarriage and the trauma of losing babies for these women he helps. I was not expecting this,  but what did I expect? His session was part of a whole truama informed care conference. He deals with ob gyn trauma, which is often about baby loss of all kinds. He recited women's narratives throughout his teaching. Stories and stories of loss. 

Like eighty percent of women everywhere on this planet,  I've had miscarriages, two of them. This was four years ago. Imagine my  surprise as I began to lose my shit while listening to these stories. I thought I was healed. Healed enough anyway.  I chomped aggressively on the inside of my lower lip. This held the tide for a while. 

Then came the story of a woman who had lost a baby she held her arms. Family comforted her. They said, "You can have another baby, it'll be ok." And the woman said, "I don't want another baby, I want the one I lost".

I began heaving and sobbing uncontrollably. Biting the lip no longer held it in. All of this at my professional conference. With my nice suit and fancy new laptop. All grown up nurse practitioner. I shot up then rushed to a bathroom stall. After letting the flushes and sink water gushes die down, I was alone. Grabbing the toilet paper for stability, I let some of the sobs out. It echoed loudly. This could not be helped. 

I kept thinking I have to go back and get my laptop. Once I could walk again, I did just that. My new work colleagues were at the table of this plus hotel conference room. All linen table cloth and glass ice water pitchers. I had only started this job a month ago. They didn't know what had happen to me. They weren't part of it four years ago. I hoped they thought I was having a migraine or something. 

Moving my body forward, my eyes were stuck to the floor.  This felt good. I noticed most of my stuff  was on the chair, under the table. That was a blessing as I half hid under the table, reaching up to grab my things. I liked the hiding. It was helpful.

Now that my goods were gathered,  I hightailed it to my car. Managing all five floors of the concrete parking garage on choppy legs. I flung myself into the car and started animal howling. Rocking and going out of my mind. There was a slight awareness of social protocol, of how I appeared,  but I did  not care. I let it all come because there was no choice.

It was a bitey cold and gray rainy day. I've never been so thankful for car heaters and heated leather seats. And soft music from the radio. These were gluing me back together as I wailed along. 

Somewhere in my mind,  I became aware of time and the need to go back to the conference. I knew that to get reimbursement, I'd have to return and actually attend it. Part of me didn't care. Screw the 200 dollars. I'd just be honest why I couldn't go back. I've had two miscarriages and this lecture was too much too bear. My arms and hands fond the itinerary folder to check. There was a full hour and half to decide what next. 

I decided on lunch. It was good fortune that I was in the city where Mr. Hall and I had lived together while dating. We were so young and all about each other. It was just us and I was in nursing school. It was perfect. It still is. The boho coffee house where slipped out one day and bought the ring--that was right down the street. 

I ordered the chicken tortilla soup, turkey and bacon on rye and a cafe au lait. It came with a bag of chips. The food was divine. I nom nommed and read the small town paper. The journalism was quaint and comforting. More nom nomms and my shoulders went down. The bacon was perfectly cooked which is no small feat. Perfectly flat, dry but not crumbly and just enough bite with the salty goodness. At that point, I was missing a spoon. I was too heavy to move. I didn't want to talk to anyone. At all.  I opened the chips and scooped my soup accordingly. They held the chicken tortilla deliciousness quite well. Very tasty lunch indeed. Better now.

I called Mr. Hall while ensconced in my heated leather seats and heater full blast. I told him what had happened. I told him that I won't ever be done with missing my babies we lost. He won't either. I know I'll hold them in Heaven and will call out their names, Jon and Chloe. They are safe and in an amazing place that I can't even fathom. And we comforted and loved through the mobile lines. I started to breathe and felt very much better. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The dream exchange, treeman, bucking the system and breaking down

Last night I had a dream where a young lady had become pregnant. She was older teenager and had a mom and dad. Everyone said get an abortion and rallied to arrange this. The daughter, her mom and dad went along with the community's assessment and planning of things. The community had done this in love. The family piled into the car with inky black skies covering them. This drive was known to be the drive to the clinic. Folks gathered round for a send off; to support the family, waving and cheering. The daughter, mom and dad all smiled and knowingly nodded at each other. They simply drove away, skipping town. Leaving it all behind.

They pulled up to a new house. There stood a huge, barren black tree in the yard. The man spoke, he was a tree man. He saw them and shook like a dog fresh from the bath. Twigs and dead branches broke off. Sort of like a hair cut.

That was it for my dream. Loved how the family bucked the system and rallied to create their own path. Love how they didn't fight the well doers and just did their own thing.

I'm sure this is very much my life, in this dream. We are less than a month from our meeting with the state. It's an informational meeting where in we begin the process of adopting from foster care. I'm not telling a lot of folks because a lot of folks give me the stink eye, in one form or another. Often well meaning stink eye but sometimes downright hostile. There is a lot of fear and myths about adopting from foster care. A lot of questions about why more kids since we have three. A lot of stuff I'm done answering.

I have no frame of reference for this life I've been blessed with. I grew up with just a brother. My husband grew up with a slightly unhinged mom, two sisters and no dad. He says he was a late bloomer. Thick coke bottle glasses. Flooded with hormones, poor social skills and no direction.  This is the common theme of him growing up.  I believe this is a blessing. He has loads of help he can offer our kids as they struggle. Because he struggled mightily and won. He's very charming and good looking now.

For me, growing up, my common theme was plowing ahead. Going for it even if I had no idea how.  Just doing it because it called to me. At the center of it all, has been a quality heart. The driving force has been love.  I care and want to help people. It's what God built me for. In a way, He also built me to buck the system. To go against what is comfortable and safe. Because His love cannot be denied.

So maybe this is a strength. I'm done fighting or explaining to the naysayers, no matter how they are trying to help. I'm done because it's already happening. God moved my heart when I was 19 years old, working as a 3rd shift waitress at a greasy spoon. I was a complete idiot and could barely take care of myself. I was not saved. I didn't know God then. But miracles were happening. I knew that I could be a mom, that I could adopt one day. Over 20 years later it's happening. It's just a matter of time.

And the tree part is true too. Got may hair did yesterday. It had been four months and man the dead ends and disheveledness. I got highlights and everything. Looking fantastic today.

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