The Day That Broke My Spirit – Part 1

Become a foster parent, they said. Change a child’s life, they said. It’ll be an amazing experience, they said. 

I guess I don’t really know where to begin. I’m having a tough time sorting things out in my mind. My crazy, argumentative, advocating, envelope pushing mind. The mind that is so confused. The mind that keeps asking, “why?” Our job as foster parents is to love the child, care for the child, protect the child, and give the child a voice. Until it isn’t your job anymore. It becomes not your job when being told the kids are going home. It becomes not your job when you’ve provided piece after piece of concerning documentation that seems to fall upon deaf ears. At that point, you’re harshly reminded that your “job” is to lay down on your back, look up at the sky, and watch it crash down on you – and be okay with that happening. I think it’s safe to say that we are failures at the latter part of our job.

I said to Mitch last night, “I’ve never been so exhausted, yet so determined to keep fighting in all my life.” The email came through this afternoon and I got it just before I drove home from work. The date of their return home has been given to us. Hence, the title of this blog post: The Day That Broke My Spirit – Part 1. As you can imagine, part 2 will come in about 6 weeks. I’m going to keep the date to myself because I don’t want to acknowledge it, but the gigantic, choking lump in my throat tells me that my heart is already a swirling fester of sadness. My eyes are welling up and I’m trying so hard to keep the tears from spilling over the edge. I am not successful.

For the first half of the girls being in our home, we were supportive and understanding of their return home. Don’t get me wrong – we weren’t going to throw a celebration, but we acknowledged how wonderful it will be for their little family to be back together. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen atrocious behaviors develop into bigger and bigger parental deficiencies, we can no longer support the transition home. As noted in the beginning of this blog, our opinion doesn’t matter. We feel used up and spit out. The depths that our sorrows are reaching go far deeper than we realized we had within us. The idea of losing the most precious gift we’ve ever had in our lives is unfathomable. Imagine, for just a moment, what it would be like to have to give your kids away and never hear or see them again. I know some of you know this feeling. For those of you without kids, think of the person you love more than anything in this world. All of the memories, love, ups and downs, everything – gone. Forever. 

I literally physically ache when the idea of them going home forever comes to mind. It hurts so deep and so bad. I have never experienced pain like this before. When the emotions hit my body I feel like a porcupine – swiftly exposing my quills in order to protect myself from thoughts or feelings of them leaving. I can physically feel this. God, I wish I could describe to you how strongly I feel what I’m writing. Being unable to eloquently express my grief is frustrating. I feel like crawling into a dark hole and never coming out. I feel like just being angry because the world is unfair. I feel like even if I lost my shit completely it still wouldn’t get it all out. The ache that is lurking deep down will remain in that spot forever.

How do you love something so hard and be okay with letting it walk away? Those tiny little steps we helped them learn to make teetering off in the direction opposite of us. Can you not feel one tiny shred of our pain? I’m sure you can because so many of you have been invested in us and our unorthodox family since the day we announced we were going to become foster parents, since the day we got our girls, since the day we made the first post of their faces, since every milestone, since the beginning you’ve been there. Right there along with us trying to understand our story, encouraging us, celebrating with us, and now, feeling sad for us. If you say something nice and we don’t respond in the way you are hoping us to, please do not take it personally. The truth is that nothing is going to make us feel better right now. We are inconsolable at this point and I’m honestly scared to death of the day they finally go home. Forever. What will that be like? What will we be like?

Thank you for sharing this with us. We know that you didn’t sign up for the emotional mess that we are, but you’ve stuck with us and many of you have been so understanding. We’ve noticed, even if we didn’t say so, and we should have. Please just keep our little family in your thoughts. We’ve made a life together. We love kids that aren’t ours to love.

xo,

a

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Six months in…

There was all this build up to the day we finally received our first “placement” as foster parents. The call finally came on June 13, 2016. We were told there was a set of 12 month old twin girls. For months, we were preparing for a 0-3 month old drug exposed baby, but we were anxious to put the love we were holding hostage in our hearts to work, so we said yes, and on June 15, 2016, our girls came to live with us.

Since then, we have learned so many things about ourselves, each other, the twins, and the world around us. The bond the four of us have is unbelievable. We became an instant family. This has been the most difficult thing in life we have ever done. It has been excruciatingly painful to realize these sweeties are going back home soon. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been in their mom’s corner this entire time. We’ve had minimal bumps in the road with her, and for the most part, we work together pretty well for the best interest of the girls.

One of the reasons it was on my heart to become a foster (to adopt) parent was because I had gone through three miscarriages already and I couldn’t fathom putting my body and mind through further turmoil. As you can imagine, losing babies, born or unborn, is unfathomable. What I didn’t realize is that no matter how hard I fight against the injustices that these kids have faced, no matter how much I love on them, no matter what right I do for them, they’re still going home. I’m still losing babies but in a different way.

I know that’s a shitty way to look at it, but don’t get too caught up in that. I realize this was what we signed up for but nobody can be adequately prepared for what it’s really like to be a foster parent. It’s an added layer of difficulty when you’re fostering because you’re constantly under a microscope, being questioned, being accused, being misinformed. And as another foster mom said, “You don’t know what it’s like until you do it.” Truer words were never spoken.

Now that I’ve shared what is wrong with foster parenting, let me share with you what is right with it. It’s a blessing to be able to have the support we have had to bring children into our home. Not everyone has the tribe that we have. You guys are irreplaceable. The tears that I’ve cried, the laughs that I’ve shared, the confusion I’ve gone through. You’ve all been there. You’re incredible people. Thank you!

It’s pretty amazing to bring a life into your home and love that life unconditionally as if it were your own flesh and blood. If you think you can’t love someone else’s child you’re wrong. You can and you would do it beautifully. You learn a lot about yourself and your partner when kids come into the picture. I never thought I’d fight so hard for anything in my life. The social worker probably thinks I’m some bitch from hell because I’m not afraid to speak up when we’re noticing things that aren’t healthy for the girls. I’m not trying to be a jerk. I’m trying to make sure they get the very best.

This process is stressful and it’ll be stressful on your household. No doubts about that at all. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Although it sucks that we don’t get to adopt the twins, it’s awesome that their mom gets to have her family back. We helped her with that in a small way. In one hand, we love knowing we could help dozens of families stay together, but in the other, we’re still aching to be adoptive parents. It will happen. Our day will come. If nothing else, the twins have taught us we CAN be good parents. There was never any doubt about Mitch. I knew well before we started this journey that he’d be a great dad and he is. In fact, he’s amazing. Any kid would be lucky to have him as a role model.

As for me, I had (and still do to some degree) some concerns about being a mom. I knew I wanted to be a mom but I was afraid of messing up some kids life. I don’t want that blood on my hands. I still have a long way to go before I could be considered a “good” or a “great” mom, but for now, I’m a mom to kids that need love, safety, shelter, and support.

Anything worth having is worth working hard for. I have never worked so hard. I have never loved so hard. I have never laughed so hard. I have never cried so hard. This process is beautiful, stressful, rewarding, challenging, confusing, gratifying, hilarious, and exhausting. There’s no way in hell I’d go back on the decision to do this. I love being a mom!

I feel like this is a pretty vague update but I wanted to give you something. If anyone read this, leave me a comment so I’ll know whether or not I should keep writing.

xo,

a

Baby showers, shitty things, and fun updates!

Baby shower #1 was yesterday. We were looking forward to seeing what was in store for us, who would show up, and all of the food that was going to appear. It’s hard to explain how it feels to be celebrated for something you don’t associate with being heroic but that is the word some have used. To us, it just seems like the natural thing to do. Foster parenting (and eventually foster to adopt) is a big deal to us but we are realizing that it’s a big deal to our friends and family. I can never express how much support we have experienced; it’s been such a great feeling. Our friends went to a lot of trouble to put together a beautiful shower yesterday and we could never adequately thank them for all that they did for us and for our upcoming bundle.

We had our licensor out to our house on Friday morning for appointment 2 of 3. Remember that 26-page autobiography that I told you about? From that, she writes a 30-page “story” about Mitch and me when she submits our final paperwork over for licensing. Most of the last two home visits we’ve had with her have been going over our autobiographies to make sure she has a clear understanding of all of our answers. She has commented more than once on what a great job we did when we answered all of the questions on that form. She said some people write one sentence answers, which makes it super difficult for her to write a 30-page “story” about them when she’s got one liners for all 26 pages of the autobiography. I felt a sigh of relief come over me when she commended our efforts. I had been irrationally concerned about the length of some of the answers I gave.

Tonight and tomorrow night, we will be at Good Sam Hospital in Puyallup to fulfill our CPR & HIV/Aids training. Just one more thing off of the mile-long list of to-do’s for this process. On our licensors next and final visit, she’ll check to make sure we have the last minute requirements, such as our immunizations updated, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, lock box for medications and vitamins, and all of that fun stuff. She will also ask us questions on a 1:1 basis. After that, she writes up our story and sends our file to the state for the license. We have to go to Fife this Saturday for our FBI fingerprinting. Another check mark! Our licensor told us we’re at the top of her list for getting things completed. In fact, we’re about 95% done with everything!

Overall, we are feeling extremely well supported. It’s overwhelming to see how quickly how things have changed. The baby room is such a transformation from just a few weeks ago and the fact that we can even say “baby room” is a big change. We’ve painted, set up the crib, a changing table, a book shelf, and a ton of baby gifts have poured into that room. I can’t wait to get a dresser in there so I can put all the clothes away. It’s just nuts how it’s all coming together. We can’t take credit for doing this all on our own. There have been many supporters of Baby Cushing thus far and we won’t forget that – trust me!

On the other, slightly more negative hand, sometimes big life events make people uncomfortable/weird/distanced. Weddings, babies, graduations, promotions, relocations, divorces, deaths, and so on are all big life events and some people just don’t know how to react to things like that. I think it makes them very reflective of themselves and sometimes, if that person feels like they are lacking something in life, it makes them project that disappointment/frustration/whatever onto the people that are going through the big life events. The important thing to remember is that life events will happen regardless of whether you want them to or not because, for the most part, many of life’s big changes we don’t control – unfortunately. I know when one of my best friends recently had her baby, it made me realize more and more how much I truly wanted to be a mom. Seeing the joy and positivity transform her inspired me to start thinking more about being brave enough to consider mommyhood again. I don’t think I have ever thanked her for that. Thanks, boo. You know who you are!

Still, even when you realize that most of these odd projections aren’t about YOU, it can still feel like it and it is very hurtful. I’ve heard of some people referring to foster parenting is “not real” parents and I guess that’s okay for them to think. Just like it is okay for me to think that this may be the closest I’ll ever be to being a “real” mom, but while you’re thinking or saying that to a foster parent, keep in mind that you’re reminding me that I’m unable to carry a child to term and you’re starting an emotional brush fire for me. So, thanks for that. This is as real as it gets for us. Legal or not, birthed or not, I’m going to be a parent in my mind. And one more thing, before you say something, stop and think, really think, “Would I say this to someone carrying a child? Would I have this assumption if she were really pregnant?”

I’ll wrap this up with talking about how much fun my mom, Mitch, and I had at the Just Between Friends consignment sale last Thursday morning. My mom kindly bought us a ton of items for the baby, like the changing table, diaper genie, clothes, books, car seat for her car since we already got ours, and the list goes on. Our registries are getting smaller and smaller by the day. When those were created, they were meant to act as a check list for us to remember what we needed to buy. By the time this baby comes, we will have damn near everything!

Again, “thank you” seems so incredibly inadequate to say in comparison to all that has been done for us, but THANK YOU for everything you have done to support us and our little nugget!

 

xo,

A