Grief of Adoption

I have been slowly mulling over a couple of blogs I read a month or so ago.  These days my thoughts are scattered and interrupted by the nearly constant needs of my small children.  It takes time to formulate my random thoughts into cohesive ideas.  It takes even more time to find the time to sit down uninterrupted and write them down.  So forgive me if they are not fully processed or if nap ends in the middle of my post.

I recently read an article by Dr. John DeGarmo called My Grief Is Real: The Tears of a Foster Parent.  As a foster mom I have cried many tears over my kids who moved on.  I usually cried those tears the first time we found out they wouldn’t be staying in our family.  And God faithfully comforted me each time as we began to work toward helping that child move on to the next phase of their life.  Dr. DeGarmo’s article is a very encouraging article if you are in the midst of this phase of your journey…one of moving kids to the next phase.

But I am no longer in that phase of my journey.  My family has moved on toward the next phase, where our kids will not be moving on from our family.  We adopted Daniel last November after two years as his foster parents.  And we are moving forward in the process with Girly K and Baby K and will, Lord willing, be adopting them this summer. Reading DeGarmo’s article made me think about the differences in the tears I cried for our kiddos who moved on and my three youngest kiddos.  There were tears of grief for the kiddos that I didn’t get to keep, that we said goodbye to.  But those tears didn’t last very long.  We met daddies and cousins and friends who loved our babies and we could easily see God’s hand in moving the kiddos on.

For my youngest three kids, especially Daniel, I have cried many more tears.  Tears for Daniel as we experienced the back and forth of if he would stay or if he would move.  Once we knew he was staying we cried tears for him that he will never live with his birth mom again.  He has a bond with her that I can not understand in my rational mind…to love someone who has done such harm to you.  I cry tears for him as I anticipate the hard conversations we will have with him about her.  My tears aren’t all for Daniel.  I cry a lot of tears for myself.  Parenting Daniel is hard.  I cry because I will be his mommy forever and I will have to be the one to have the hard conversations.  I will be the one he will hate for taking him away from his birth mom  I will be the one he yells at in anger, “You’re not my real mom, I wish you’d never adopted me!”  I have a different kind of grief and tears for Daniel.  I grieve the pain in his heart and I grieve the pain in my heart as I struggle to love him the best that I can, knowing that it will be forever, knowing that it may always be hard.  I cry tears for two oldest kids.  I cry that we have given them a difficult brother.  I cry for the sweet times I miss out on with them because I have to give them space away from him when he is being mean or aggressive with them.  I cry for the loss of the simple, impulsive life we used to live and will never be able to live again.  I grieve that they no longer get to have that.

I love my Daniel and I prayed so hard that God would let us keep him.  We see tremendous growth in him and he is a delight to call my own.  But I am not naive about the journey we face.  I know that it will have it’s ups and downs.  I have no doubt in my mind that God brought us to this specific time and place.  And though I cry a lot of tears I know that He is here with me in the midst of all of them.  He does not judge me when I cry tears of anger because Daniel is hitting and scratching and kicking me because I did not give him his black coat because I don’t know where it was.  God is with me when I cry tears of grief over the loss of time with Joanna and Sam or Kirk.  God is with me when I cry heart-broken tears when he says he hates me because I gave him a consequence for disobedience or he says he feels safest with his mama (his birth mom) because she gave him bottles (though I know the truth about how she treated him).  These are the tears that I cry now.  Yet God is my comforter.

I was thinking about these things, saying yes to loving Daniel as a son forever, despite the many tears, as I read a blog post by a friend from church, Kim Rankin.  She talks about Being Brave.  “Perhaps bravery is not the absence of fear, but the refusal to be paralyzed by it. Perhaps there is bravery in admitting we are scared. Perhaps recognizing we need help is the bravest thing of all.”  There is a special kind of bravery that God gives us that leads us to do things that the world would call foolish.  Bravery for me is saying YES with all of my heart to Daniel even though I know in my mind that it will not be an easy journey.

20151121_122931

Why Adopt Little D?

Someone recently asked me why we have chosen to adopt Little D.  Kirk had said something to me, a “tongue in cheek” prayer.  “May God continue to bless D with new levels of maturity and peace so that his presence in the house does not slowly kill my wife.”  Though it was said somewhat sarcastically, it is a real prayer of our hearts that we pray humbly and desperately before the Lord.  This person asked me why we would choose to adopt a kiddo that we felt was slowly killing me.

This past summer was nearly impossible.  Five kids is a lot!  Balancing the needs of older kids and little kids is hard.  Balancing the needs of kids who want to chill without structure at home and a kid who needs specific structure and constant activity away from home is hard.  Carrying a 30 pound infant everywhere while chasing a 30 pound toddler who hasn’t learned boundaries is hard.  These are surface, logistical needs I faced each day this summer.  Not to mention that my family wants to eat breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert EVERY SINGLE DAY!

There are emotional needs as well.  There are A LOT of emotional needs when you are parenting children from “hard places”.  Parenting children who are emotionally needy, children who are on the brink of “fight or flight” (mostly fight in Little D’s case) almost all day is exhausting.  Keeping on top of behavior to prevent all out rage is taxing.  Staying calm in the presence of a child who is fighting against you, literally in fear of their life, is nearly impossible.  With the help of the Holy Spirit I am able to love my little boy through these fears.  With the help of the Holy Spirit I am able to remain gentle and kind with my words and my body even when he is attacking me with his words and with his body.

But I do get enraged.  I do get so angry that I want to hurt him.  I get so used up that I want to disappear for a few days, or at least lay in bed by myself all day.  I found that by the end of the summer I was beginning to feel the physical effects of parenting Little D.  My body and my heart were all used up.  It’s in these moments that my prayer is that God would help me to survive another day.  It’s a real cry, from a really exhausted mommy; it’s a real cry, to a powerful God, a loving Father.  It’s a plea that He would give me the grace to love a child who calls me a “stupid cry baby” and threatens to “punch me in the face” (we’re hoping to deal with these issues before he becomes older and has worse names to call us).  A child who scratches, kicks, hits, and spits because he doesn’t want to eat the cereal I gave him for breakfast, the cereal he insisted he’d eat this time (his fear is telling him he’s going to starve, that I’m withholding food from him).  Or throws books at me as I leave him at bedtime.  It’s in these moments that my husband cries out in prayer on my behalf.  We cry out because we also see the charming, delightful little boy that he is.  He is precious in the sight of the Lord and we believe in a God of healing and we have hope and faith that God can heal Little D from the hurt he has experience.

So the questions come in these moments…why would you choose to adopt Little D.  I guess I’ve never really thought about it that way.  To be honest, it was never a question that I asked.  We chose to foster because we wanted to be a safe place for kids who needed a safe place.  I choose to adopt Little D because when that question came up he was already my son.

Me and D (one month as his mommy)

Me and D (one month as his mommy)

A (Sun)Day in the Life

Sundays are one of the hardest, least “sabbath” days of my week. Kirk and I have a unique situation in our family dynamic due to his job, as well as our choices in growing our family (i.e. adding three kids in the space of 1 year through foster care). Before I make some observations about our “sabbath” I need to make some disclaimers…
1. I LOVE my husband and I am so thankful that he has a job that supports our family, that he loves, and that he is gifted in.
2. I LOVE my children. I love my big girl and her helpful, big sister attitude. I love my big boy and his extreme patience with his little siblings. I love my middle child and his charming nature. I love my giggly little girl. And I love my chunky ball of baby joy.

Having said that, Sundays are the hardest day of the week for me as the wife of a music director and the mother of five children. Sundays are the hardest days of the week due to the physical and emotional stresses I have.  They are also one of the most refreshing to my heart and soul and my steadfastness in the Lord. In the midst of the chaos and exhaustion, God meets me and restores my soul so that I can make it through the next week.

Kirk leaves for church at 7:30 (hopefully the little kids are mostly fed, I’m mostly fed, and the big kids are out of bed). We attempt to leave at 8:00. This means making sure 5 kids are dressed, fed, teeth brushed, and have used the bathroom. Two can do all of this on their own, one can do some of it on his own, the other two need help for most. We do our best to get to church on time but sometimes I realize as we leave that I haven’t finished getting myself ready, or one of the little ones poops in their diaper, or we realize the car is out of gas.

Being the wife of the music director means that Kirk is engaged elsewhere for most of the “worship”/singing part of the service, the part when all of the kids are with their parents. I can’t do it by myself and have had to humbly ask for help. My plea for help has consistently been greeted by overwhelming acts of love. One family from our house church takes my very heavy, very squirmy baby from the moment we arrive at church until they’ve dropped him off in nursery. Most Sundays I can handle the other four kids. But any time there is a transition or change in our life the middle kiddo’s life feels out of whack and that generally leads to a decrease in his ability to control his emotions, behaviors, impulses, etc. Sometimes we can calm down in the middle of the service, sometimes it takes a minute in the foyer.  And now and then it takes several minutes sitting and calming down in the bathroom.  I need someone who can sit with my other three kids while I deal with these behaviors.  Once again I ask for help and have never failed to find someone extra to sit with us.

Our church has recently gone through some scheduling changes and I have really loved the new changes. Kids ages 4 and up sit with their parents through the sermon. Today was Little D’s first Sunday in the sermon. We know that this will be hard work for him to learn to sit quietly for this amount of time. But we also believe this is a skill that he needs to learn.  Kirk is with me for this part of the service so I am thankful that we can work together on this skill for Little D. It’s also proven to be a wonderful time to give Joanna and Sam some much needed “snuggle” time. 🙂

Between the first and second service there is about and hour and a half during which the kids have Sunday school and there are also Adult Ed. classes. I have enjoyed how much this has slowed down our Sunday mornings. Kirk and I are able to spend time together between services playing with the little kids and having conversations with other families. It’s been fun to get to catch up with other church members that in the past I didn’t have time to keep up with because church felt so rushed. Once the little kiddos are more settled into our family I look forward to attending and Adult Ed class. We rarely have done this in the past because they used to take place in the late afternoon and Kirk, and I, are generally wiped out from our morning responsibilities.

I get the kids home around 11:30, make lunch, and put the little three down for naps…wow, sounds easy when typed out. Kirk gets home around 1:45 and I’ve enjoyed taking the time while I wait to try to blog again.

Though it’s hard to focus on the singing of church, God continues to encourage my heart through the songs we sing. Though it’s hard to focus on the entire sermon, I can get the general gist of the message and I am weekly reminded of God’s love and grace and His call for us to serve Him in our daily lives. I need these reminders that the hard work of caring for my foster kids and their difficult issues is the good work of God’s kingdom that He’s called me into.  I’ve come to think of “sabbath rest” as less of me getting to have what I want (focused worship, contemplative Biblical instruction, sitting on the couch and watching TV all afternoon) and more of a day of serving (serving my husband as he serves the church, serving my kids and working to teach them how to worship the Lord, serving our neighbor’s daughter so she can come to church, working to find little bits of rest along with my family rather than in solitude).  God meets me and encourages me, even though sometimes it’s just through a small comment during the sermon or part of a song…

“Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.” (Power of the Cross, Keith Getty)

 

God’s Timing is Right (even if it’s hard)

*Author’s Note: D is up from his nap so this is an unedited and pre-proofread version of the post…unlikely to be edited later. 🙂

I made the comment to Kirk last night that sometimes I wish we had been able to have D since he was born.  We were thinking back over the various children God has brought in and out of our life and the journey that He has taken us on in order to get us to where we are today.  On the day that D was born, we weren’t ready yet to be his parents.  Four and a half years ago, when D was born, if he had entered foster care we wouldn’t have been there to be his placement.  We didn’t want to be foster parents, we wanted to be adoptive parents.

Sam and B Girl

Sam and B

Three month before D was born we took in a pre-adoptive placement.  One month into our journey we became foster parents as the court decided to try to get the kids back with their mom.  This proved to be 6 of the hardest months of my life.  We learned that some moms desperately want to be good moms but just haven’t been taught how.  They love their kids but seem to be unable to get stable enough to provide their kids with what they need.  After 6 months we had to ask for the kids to be moved, we struggled through the guild of that decision and closed our foster/adoptive license saying we would never foster again (at this point D was 3 months old).

Adoption Blanket for baby S

Adoption Blanket for baby S

By the time D was 1 year old we had decided to pursue private adoption and were working on our private home study through a local foster agency.  By the time D was 18 months old we had been matched with a mom and were taking home her baby from the hospital.  A week later we were driving to her house to give the baby back.  We spent the next six months trying to figure out what God was doing in our lives and asking Him lots of “why” questions.

"baby M"By the time D was 2 years old, we had decided to foster.  We’d re-taken the 9 weeks of classes to become licensed and switched our adoptive home study into a foster home study.  And taken in our first placement.  We still stay in contact with Baby Girl M’s father. I asked God for a clear sign that fostering was the right path for us and He gave us M.  She was delightful.  Her father was grateful.  We had spent months healing from the pain of feeling like God had used and abused us in our previous situations.  We began to see more and more the dire need for foster families.  In the two years that we’ve fostering we’ve had 8 placements (and done respite for several more).

Little D (a few months after he joined us)

Little D (a few months after he joined us)

After baby girl M who went home to her dad after a couple of months.  We had her in the spring.  That summer we had baby boy J who went to a friend of the family.  That summer we also decided not to pursue twin girls J and J.  We did respite care for them for several weeks and enjoyed them so much.  This was the biggest conflict of our marriage so far.  That fall, on my birthday, we took in Little D.  If D had come into care when he was born, we wouldn’t have been ready for him.  It’s been a long, hard journey, but I am so thankful for the work that God has patiently been doing on our hearts to bring us the the place where we’d be ready to step in and become his parents.

 

 

Sitting in the Dark

I’m sitting in my 3 year olds room. In the dark. On the edge of his bed. Hoping he falls asleep before my phone’s battery dies. I sit here to trap him in bed, vainly hoping my presence will help him feel safe enough to fall asleep.

We’ve hit a roadblock in parenting this little guy who joined our family 9 months ago. I love him to death and hope and pray daily that he’ll be mine forever. Sometimes I feel he’s sucking the life out of me.

Bedtime has become a nightmare. One parent cleans up the kitchen, helps the big kids get ready for bed, connects with the big kids over some Narnia, and tucks them in. The other parent gets D ready for bed, reads books quietly, sings songs, rubs back, prays, and says goodnight. Then puts D to bed. Then puts D to bed again. Then puts D to bed again. To be transparent, this happens until they have to ask for a sub because they have become enraged.

IMG_20140711_150357

We’re starting a training in a couple of weeks based on Karyn Purvis’ “The Connected Child”. It can’t come soon enough. My three year old’s brain is wired differently than my bio kids who haven’t experienced trauma our neglect. Did you know that by connecting with a child from a “hard place”, you can change the way their brain functions? Did you know that you can teach a child to trust again? Did you know that you can help their brains not go directly into fight or flight just because you asked them not to touch the hot oven?

I feel so honored and humbled that God has directed Kirk and I into the business of changing brain chemistry.  I’m so thankful that He gives His Holy Spirit to sustain and give us wisdom through this journey.

Joy and Sorrow

It’s my first day alone…in so long. I had four kids all summer. I love and delight in all of them but it was hard work negotiating the appointments of two new foster placements (back to back) and daily life with 4 kids. School started this week and I have so much work to catch up on. But I find myself scrolling through facebook and my mind wandering. My brain hasn’t had time to process for the past several months, it’s going crazy with all the silence in my house.

This week is a mix of emotions. Saturday night a teenage boy in St. Louis was shot by a cop. The details of what happened are contradictory. One side says the boy attacked the cop. The other side says the cop harassed the boy and shot him repeatedly as he tried to run away. I don’t know the truth, I wasn’t there to see it.

But what I see on the news is heartbreaking. The racial divide is so obvious. The boy was black, the cop was white. The cops saying the boy was in the wrong are white. The witness saying the cop was in the wrong is a young black man.

As these racial tensions are high in my city, my kids started school. We dropped of our two white kids and one brown kid at The Freedom School. I sat on the floor with my brown skinned 3 year old, D, helping him feel safe in this new environment. Beside me sat a young black man with his 4 year old brown-skinned son. As I left my crying little guy I looked back to see this other dad reaching out his hand to comfort D and invite him to come and play with him and his son.

I think about conversations we will have to have 10 years down the road with our sons. With Sam, my white son, we can talk about following traffic laws and the conversation can end there. Obey the law and you won’t get into trouble. What if D stays with us permanently, in 10 years we have to have a conversation with him about obeying traffic laws. But then we have to talk about making sure you don’t do anything than makes you look guilty. Keep your hands out of your pockets when approached by a cop. Make sure you are completely respectful to those in authority. Don’t run, keep your hands visible so it’s obvious that you aren’t armed.

According to some, the boy who was just shot was shot as he ran from the cop, hands in the air, stating that he was unarmed. How to I prepare by brown-skinned babies for this?

I have joy as I see my kids growing up in an environment where they are building friendships with people of other colors than themselves. I have hope that God’s kingdom is coming and that one day we will be able to live in peace with each other. I have joy in the little glimpses we get to have of that in our life here in St. Louis and at our school and church. I have sorrow that this world is so broken.

I Lost My Job

I suppose a better title would be “I’ve Completed My Job”.  It looks like baby M will be going home to her Daddy tomorrow.  

As we finished up our foster license Kirk always prayed that God would give us a placement that we’d be able to carry through to the end and reunification with the child’s family.  I secretly, and selfishly, wanted a placement that we’d get to keep.  Well God more than graciously answered Kirk’s selfless prayer over my selfish one.  But in the process He has changed my heart again.  I have spent a little over a month getting to know baby M’s mom and dad.  Mom’s got some things to work on and she’s throwing herself into it believing God has given her another chance to be a mommy.  We pray for her that God would bring healing to her body.  Baby M’s dad hasn’t had a newborn in a long time and is going to be learning a lot in the process.  But I love that I’ve had the privilege of watching him snuggle with her and answering his questions about napping and formula and car seats.  He’s going to make a great daddy.  We are hopeful that we will remain in some sort of contact with baby M and her family as they adjust and will get to be a support to them. 

God is a good God!  Baby M’s dad is constantly thanking us for what we are doing but I feel like it has been such a gift from God to get to do this.  

baby M's blanket

baby M’s blanket

On to the next adventure! …in the meantime we have a new hen laying eggs (5 eggs today) and I’ve started planting the garden.