The Beginning of the End

I know that title sounds so dramatic but it is. By next weekend at this time, our girls will be happily giggling and playing in their new permanent home – their mom’s home. We’re having a hard time processing this idea. Seems like the last few days, today especially, has been difficult to understand. We have a lot of emotions going on right now and they’re all sort of spinning around at the same time; each one contradicting the other. It’s confusing because you’re not really sure which one you should latch onto and follow.

I guess I’m just feeling sad for us. For my mom. For our friends and family. I’m fine one minute, in tears the next. I’ll probably cry 5 different times just writing this post. When I think back on all of the wonderful, pivotal memories we’ve made together my heart swells with pride, happiness, and accomplishment. And then I retreat and deflate a little (or a lot) at the impact their departure is and will have on our hearts. All of our hearts. What makes me feel really good (in a weird way) is when people on Facebook tell us that they’ll miss our girls too. To me, this means we have done a good job being transparent in our struggles and generous with our joy. To know that others have learned from, grown from, and considered this journey because of what we have shared makes us feel like we did an OK job at something we knew nothing about.

The other struggle is this: how long do we wait? We’ve been asked this question umpteen million times. Hell, we’ve asked ourselves umpteen million times too. How long is long enough? Don’t wait too long or else you’ll lose spots at the great daycare you’ve found. Don’t take more kids in too soon so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to fill a void. (For the record, no child will ever fill another child’s void.) Don’t say no for too long, you don’t want to miss the child that would have been perfect for your home. All of those things run through our minds about 20 times an hour. It’s hard to know how long we wait…or if we wait at all. We can see the plusses and minuses of each side. And as soon as we come up with a definite game plan, here comes the next little that’s sleeping in a hotel room with a social worker until the right home comes along. Now if that isn’t tragedy, I don’t know what is.

Over the last week there’s been an influx of kids coming into care. When they start using the words, “Emergency Care” or something like that, you know it’s because nobody else is willing/able/whatever to take in the child for whatever reason. I’ve lost track now at the number of kids that are in dire need for a place this weekend alone. The clothes on their backs, empty bellies, and broken hearts is all they come with sometimes. “Here! Our door is wide open! Let them all come in!” our hearts exclaim. Logically, we try to stay reserved as our hearts break when we read how sweet these kids are and how their small but significant lives are being shaken up like a martini.

We’re scared. We don’t know what the right thing to do is. We thought for sure we were going to take a break but we just look at each other and say the same thing at the same time. “As broken hearted as we are, there’s no way in hell I can let a kid have nowhere to go. We’ll do it. We’ll welcome them in.” 

Keep in mind, this is still new to us. There have been a lot of “firsts” since we got our girls in June and now this is the first goodbye. (Typing that was painful!) This is also the first time we’re having to figure out how much time we should or shouldn’t take. We won’t know what the right answer is until we do or we don’t. We’ve got a line of people 20 miles long ready and willing to give us their advice. Ready to tell us what we should do. I’ll kindly thank you for your well intentioned support. We know you’re looking out for what’s best for us. The truth is, only we can make this decision.

Do realize that we know this hurts you. You’ve read along, liked our posts and pictures, come to our parties to celebrate, supported us when we shed tears (more to come!), and sent gifts, cards, yourselves over to comfort us. You’ve engaged, believed, prayed, laughed, smiled, cared, cried, disagreed, and encouraged. You’ve felt our emotions as closely as you possibly could have without being us. Because you support us, because you follow us, you have been through the wringer, as well. It must be hard to watch people you care about be in pain over something that has been so beautiful. So maybe you aren’t ready for us to have more kids. Maybe this has been too hard for you. Trust me, we get where you’re coming from.

No promises is all I can promise at this point. I feel like we look so dumb saying we’ve got a plan and then realizing that our plan wasn’t a plan at all. Maybe it makes sense in our minds to feel like we’ve had some say in this so we’ll say we have a plan, but we now realize that in the world of foster care the plan can and likely will always change. For now, I know this much. The girls won’t be home until Monday night, they’ll have a visit with their mom on Wednesday and Thursday night, and sometime on Friday, probably in the morning, they’ll be returned home to her. And then that’s it. 

Here come the tears again. It’s weird. This is so final. All of it is coming to a close. Their sweet faces and voices not to be heard on a daily basis anymore. We’ll have to use the 1,000 pictures and videos we have saved to watch them. The hard part will be not being able to hug them. The hard part will be remembering the funny things like when Doc McStuffins comes on and they look at you and smile big, hold their hand out toward you and motion their little hand to come over, and they say, “Monn!” and you realize they’re saying “Come on and dance with me to the opening credits of this show I love so much!” So you get up and you dance around like a toddler and they laugh wildly. That’ll be hard; to not hear, see, or engage in that with them. It’ll be hard to walk into the room that was first theirs and know it’s not theirs anymore. Their room is somewhere else. This room will be someone else’s. A childless parent. 

I could keep going on but it’ll just get more depressing so I’ll stop here. Maybe you can see how we’re straddling both sides of the fence here. The one side where our hearts are broken and devastated by the loss of the twins; the other side where our hearts and broken and devastated by the lack of homes for kids in dire need of love, stability, and comfort. What do we do? What’s the right thing? Is there a wrong thing? I feel like we’re really being tested here, yet there was no way to study, so you don’t know how to pass or how to fail. I guess we can only do our best and wait for the results.

xo,

a

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It’s Off

I got up when I felt like it today. Went to Legendary to grab a few donuts. Used up the last of my Starbucks gift card. Dropped a donut off to my mom and helped her with an app on her phone. Came home to Mitch and sat casually on the recliner while we chatted and started to watch Lockup on Netflix. He decided he was still tired, so he went back to bed. I scrolled through Facebook and texted with Stephanie, who has been home since Thursday but I just realized that TODAY. Felt like a shitty friend. Wondered what else I’ve been missing/not realizing/forgetting lately. Probably a lot. Sigh.

It’s off. This whole morning. I should have gotten up when I had to. Chased the kids around to get them ready for their visit with their dad. Tried six times to get their coats on. Told them to keep their shoes on at least 27 times. Put on Doc McStuffins or Goldie and Bear to let them have a little bit of TV time to distract them from the fact that we were putting their shoes on…yet again. Fed them *only* a banana because that’s all they want and their dad feeds them when they get to their visit. Saw them off to the visit transporter at 8:30 and then promptly began to rush around to spend hours cleaning the house so it could inevitably be a mess again before days end. I should be running around doing errands with urgency so I can be home by about 2:20 when they get home. Or taking a nap and setting my alarm to be awake when they get home.

Instead of doing all of that I had a casual morning. It’s off. For almost a year now we’ve had to establish a routine for the sake of everyone’s sanity. For almost a year now we’ve had to build our life around their six days a week visit schedules. It’s hard to believe we’re just three weeks out from all of that. Hard to believe it has been almost a year. Hard to believe we crammed so many memories in. I remember when they got here. We pulled them out of their car seats and they weren’t even a little bit reluctant to wrap their tiny arms around our necks and hug us. Strangers. A new face. Again. We were an instant family.

Nay Nay had just learned to walk, so she was still pretty wobbly. Sassie was still crawling. We taught one how to stabilize her new ability and taught one how to walk. Taught them how to use a fork and spoon. Taught them how to brush their teeth. Worked with them on their words so their speech could be on track for their age group. Nurtured their interest in the potty. Allowed them to wash themselves in the bath tub. We watched them go from needing us to do everything for them to watching them try to do everything for themselves. Watched them outgrow an outfit that fit them fine the week before. Put their own coats and socks on. Buckle themselves into their booster seats. Use the remote. Open doors. (YIKES!)

When I posted this profound article earlier this morning on my Facebook page, I said that, “Being a foster parent means you’re willing to put everything on the line knowing you could lose it all.” It’s true. And for those of you out there that do this repeatedly, I applaud you. It’s pretty brave of you to know you’re going to use up every ounce of energy and love you have to give only to have it questioned, accused, misunderstood, and to feel unappreciated. Of course, that’s not always the case. I’m sure there are situations where it’s not as volatile, not as much of a tug of war as it has been, and not so jagged at times.

Don’t get me wrong, we get to be thankful for the time we had with our littles. The things we taught them without even realizing we were contributing in some small way to their development and happiness, but they weren’t the only ones learning. They were our teachers, too. They taught us how to parent, how to budget, how to make the most of our time, how to stay up for too many hours (ha!), how to fight for something no matter how slim the chances of success are, how to be a child advocate, how to love others in ways we never understood, how to be adaptable, and it doesn’t stop there. The lessons they teach us every day will continue on after they are gone not here anymore back with their mom go home…well, you know. Having a hard time saying and hearing all of those.

I know you’re reading this and it’s probably hard to know what to say. Some of you have expressed love and comfort so willingly, others have stayed silent, some have sent a text or a Facebook message. Some of you have told me something along the lines of, “I have been following your story…I don’t know what to say…I’m sorry that…” Please don’t apologize. You checking in on us is perfect. Saying you love us and we have been great is perfect. Saying you don’t know what to say is perfect. Saying, “This is what you signed up for…” or something like that is not helpful. This roller coaster of emotions is super hard to navigate. It’s all new to us, just like being parents was new to us. It’s weird when they aren’t here. It’s weird I won’t see them until Monday night. I cried on my way to work Friday morning knowing I wouldn’t see their sweet faces for what seemed like forever. Maybe that sounds silly/stupid/dramatic and maybe it is.

If I have learned one thing in the last few times that they’ve gone on overnight visits with their mom, it’s that I believe having kids gives me a life that I love. It makes me feel like I have a purpose. Before them, we were so casual, and we liked it! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t enjoy a quick and rare chance to have a date, watch a movie together at home after the kids go to bed, or sleep in, but it’s different when they’re gone for a long time. And it’s different when you have a family. I want to be the snack mom at their sporting events. I want to join the PTA and put my fundraising skills to use again. I want to be the reason they look back on their childhood and smile. I want to let them be a child during their years of childhood, something in which is robbed of far too many kids. 

How soon after the girls leave can we continue to contribute to the well-being of a child and their family? That remains to be seen, but I know we want to do it. We are scared. I know how much this hurts us right now and I know it’ll hurt even more come “the day” that they…go. I’ll be honest, I really don’t know how our hearts and energy will be replenished after all of this, but I know it’ll happen. When it does, we’ll welcome him, her, them just as we welcomed the twins. We will love them, provide for them, encourage them, and fight for them because if not us, then who?

xo,

a

P.S. On April 2nd, we are participating in a bowling fundraiser for foster children in our area. We are $50 short of our required minimum and we need your help. Please donate any amount here. Thank you!

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

Oh, baby!

Let me first start out by saying that this entry will probably be a long one, but I promise that if you stick with me, you’ll be glad you read this. You’ll finish reading and have a better understanding of why we chose this and how this process works.

My body does not respond well to pregnancy. After three miscarriages, I can no longer put myself or my body through the failing feeling of pregnancy loss. IVF is something I just can’t wrap my brain around trying for me. I know plenty of people that have had success using this method and I applaud and celebrate that. For me, for my body, for my mental health, I know that trying to conceive is just not a thing for me. Have I accepted that? No. Does anyone ever really accept that? Maybe, but not me. It is what it is. I didn’t choose this, this decision was made FOR me. Carrying a baby is not what God wanted for me.

Recently, the news came out on Facebook that we are in process of becoming foster parents to babies born drug addicted. The response has been overwhelming and almost everyone we know has been supportive and overjoyed for us. I get asked if I’m pregnant fairly often. It’s a stinging question. I hate saying no. It physically makes me ache to say no. It reminds me every time that my body has failed me and then I internalize that as, “I have failed.” I know that you just read that and thought it was the silliest thing ever, and you’re right, but in the weak moment of heightened sensitivity a part of me is ripped to shreds. What I wouldn’t give for that baby bump. To feel the life growing inside me, depending on me to nurture it while it’s floating around in my protective belly. Nobody is trying to be hurtful by asking this question. It’s the natural question to ask! Logically, I remind myself of that and carry on. Emotionally, I carry that around for a little while. It pinches at my heart. I can’t help it.

So that brings us to the choice to become foster parents. There will (eventually) be the opportunity to adopt a baby that we are foster parents to, but until then, we will love, nurture, swaddle, kiss, hug, feed, bathe, rock, pat, teach, laugh with, cry over, and obsess about the babies we are going to take care of. At first, we don’t plan to accept more than one baby into care at a time. We know we need to get our bearings before we allow two babies at once or an infant/toddler sibling set.

The process is a long one to become a foster parent. We’re going through Catholic Community Services, so they’re a private agency. Everything has been free, so far, but there has been miles of paperwork and red tape. For starters, we had to write a 26 page autobiography on our lives. It asks you every detail of your life from infancy to present day. Some of those questions were extremely difficult to answer, especially those pertaining to childhood, domestic violence, sexual assault, mental abuse, mental health, addiction, and things of that nature. It’s hard to rehash those painful events, especially on paper, because then you’re staring at it. You’re looking at your heartache and you’re going through those emotions all over again. This is one reason I’ve refused to go to counseling; because I don’t want to feel all of that pain again by talking it out with someone who doesn’t know me, but I wrote it all out. Word for word. Feeling for feeling. Action for action. It was really hard, but for this baby, or these babies, I let it flow. We’re already so protective over a child(ren) that we don’t even have yet. To anyone thinking that foster parents aren’t real parents, I ask you to re-read this paragraph and tell me if this isn’t what a biological parent would do for their kid.

This isn’t just about The Cushing’s or the baby for that matter. This is about the bio parent(s), too. What’s imperative to realize in this situation is that, in order for our family to grow, their family has to fall apart. We are seeking to being a blessing to these babies, yes, but also to their parents. Addiction is an illness, don’t argue with me on this point – you won’t win. While we’re snuggling with babies and watching them grow, their parents aren’t. Instead, the bio parents are attempting to grow in their own ways. Getting clean and sober, finding housing, finding transportation, a job, and finding themselves again. It’s really sad when you think about it. Statistically, these biological parents were also “in the system” as kids. Breaking the cycle is imperative. This is about building a family for us and for them. And no matter what we do to love this child, they will always love their bio parents. My dad was/is a real asshole. He’s an addict and always has been. He has chosen himself over everyone and everything. But do I sometimes wish he would have got his shit together so we could have remained a family? Do I still love him despite the disappointment, dismissal, and the heartache he has caused me? YES. It’s no different for these kids. The kids, the parents, and the family unit as a whole deserves a second chance. We’re here to support that because Mitch and I believe in doing the right thing for others, and more importantly, we believe in family.

As I said before, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We can’t thank everyone enough for everything they’ve done for us. The common questions are wondering when we’ll get our first baby and what the gender will be. Well, we won’t know either of those things until we get “the call” that a baby needs a home. We expect to have a baby the beginning of May, when our foster parent license comes through. We’re told time and time again that there are more babies than there are homes, so we should expect to get a baby before the license even arrives in the mail. Once it’s approved by all the big wigs, it’s open season. That’s the reason we need all of the key baby items before the baby arrives. We can’t get licensed until we have everything we need. Hence, why there are TWO baby showers that have been thrown for us. There’s one this Sunday, April 3rd at 1:00 p.m. and the second one is Saturday, April 16th at 1:00 p.m. also. We registered at Target and Amazon at the request of some friends.

At first, we were afraid to really tell anyone about this. The reason? Four years ago, we made the very public announcement that we were going to become foster parents through the state. People were excited, of course, and my mom threw us a shower. After we finished the training classes through the state, we were very discouraged by things and ultimately decided that it wasn’t right for us. It was humiliating to tell people that we weren’t going through with the process at that time. Most people were nice about it and they allowed us to return gifts or send them to families that were in need. We had barely gotten through step one and just knew that going through the state wasn’t for us. We realize that four years has changed so many factors for us now. For one thing, we’re going through a private agency, but for another, we have a home of our own with lots of extra space, we have better jobs, two vehicles, and a lot more support now than we did then. Sometimes people say hurtful things, but they probably don’t mean it. They probably just don’t realize how it comes off.

I told you this entry was going to be long. I hope you have a bit of a better understanding about how this process works and what’s inside my crazy mind. I should also point out that I referenced myself for most of this entry and that shouldn’t overshadow Mitch’s position in this entire process. We are going through this together as a unified team, but it would be easier for him to write how he’s feeling than for me to explain it. So maybe Mitch will guest author an entry here so he can tell you what it feels like in his mind. I can’t wait to see who he becomes as a dad. I have negative 3,000 worries about him. He’s going to be such a great father. I can hardly stand to see him in action. Me, I’m a little more worried about. My biggest fear of being a mom stems from things that happened to me as a kid. I don’t want my kids to hurt into adulthood because of something I did or didn’t do right. No pressure!

As always, thanks for the love, support, and sharing of this blog. I sure hope I’m not the only mom to be with these thoughts, but it wouldn’t be the first time I marched the beat of my own drum and it surely won’t be the last. I hope this message brings clarity, understanding, compassion, and support. If it brings negativity, please refrain from responding.

xo,

A