One Year Ago Today My World Crumbled

September 8, viagra dosage 2014: I was home with Anthony getting the house ready for Baby Girl. She was born the Friday before, and at the request of Elle* (birth mom), I was there for her delivery. See Elle and I had history. I adopted her first child back in 2010 after fostering her for almost a year. During that time, unbreakable bonds were formed with Elle, her mom, and the rest of their family. So when she found out that she was pregnant again, she asked me if I would adopt this child too. I was uncertain if I wanted another child. Anthony and I already had three daughters. But we decided to get open as a foster home, and if this child ended up in foster care, we would foster the baby as “fictive kin.” Fictive kin is defined as people not related by birth or marriage who have an emotionally-significant relationship with an individual. And since we had the biological sibling, our DCFS resource worker said we would qualify.

On deliver day, Elle was scared and asked me to be with her in the delivery room. The nurse placed a chair for me near Elle’s head. She was draped with hospital blue cloth and prepped for a c-section. I reassured her that it would be okay. (I was reassuring myself at the same time.) I was so fidgety, about to explode with anticipation. I asked Elle if she minded if I moved from behind the blue draping to watch the actual delivery. She didn’t mind, so I got permission from the nurse. The nurse agreed after I told her that I’m also a nurse and that the sight of blood didn’t bother me. I had seen a c-section in nursing school, but this one was different. With each cut of the blade, with every move of the surgical team, I felt my child coming into this world. It was like I was on that table and having an out-of-body experience watching myself give birth. The doctor exclaimed “It’s a girl!” as I witnessed Baby Girl take her first breath outside the womb. IMG_1232She was big. She had a strong cry. Someone asked me if I wanted to cut the cord, and I did. It was all a big blur, like a surreal made-for-TV movie. I was taken back to another room where they cleaned up Baby Girl, inked her feet for precious footprints on her birth record, and then I got to hold her for the first time. She was very pink — not the dark brown that I was expecting. She had big, bow-shaped lips. I was overjoyed and so nervous.  IMG_1230Sometime later I joined Elle in the recovery room. She was given two armbands for access to the NICU. She gave me one of them, so I was able to stay in the room with Baby Girl. Elle came down to visit periodically and a few times a day she would request that I go up to visit her in the postpartum unit. Every time I would see her, she begged me to raise Baby Girl — to fight to keep her — to not let DCFS place her with anyone else. I said I would. Elle told me that she wanted her daughters to grow up together. I liked that thought too.  IMG_1250Then Sunday came. Around noon or so, Elle came down to the NICU to visit Baby Girl. A DCFS caseworker was with Elle. They asked that I wait outside the room so they could visit. Anthony arrived shortly after that and met me in near the nurse’s station. I just knew that Elle was in there telling the caseworker about our plan — about how Anthony and I became foster parents just so we could foster this baby as fictive kin, and if the case led to termination of parental rights, we would be open to adoption since we already had her sister. Then the nurse on duty came out and said that we were being asked to leave and for me to tell her what things in the room were mine. I couldn’t even enter the room to get my things — the nurse had to gather them for me — and then Anthony and I were escorted out of the hospital. No explanation was given. I was in shock.

The caseworker called me later and told me not to worry. That was reassuring. The plan would work out. I waited all day Monday for the call. Finally mid-afternoon we got the call that Baby Girl was being released into DCFS care and that we would hear from another caseworker about placing her with us. Whew — what a relief. Then about an hour later we got another call that the caseworker was buying a few things for the baby, but we’d get an ETA call soon. Then a third phone call:

She’s being placed with another family.

My heart dropped. What? Surely there’s been some mistake. I called my resource worker and was told that Elle said that I was trying to take her baby from her, and therefore it was assumed we would not be a good foster placement because we wouldn’t work toward reunification. I tried to explain that wasn’t the case. I wrote emails to the resource worker to reconsider. I wrote the area director. Over the next two days, I wrote and called everyone that I thought could help, finally talking to the director of DCFS for the entire state of Arkansas. She basically told me to back off and let the system work.

It was out of my hands. For the next week, I was a mess. I cried and laid on the couch in a crumbly, depressed pile of brokenness. Those were dark and uncertain times. My faith was tested, and I didn’t take it too well.

Finally a meeting was set for September 19. Anthony and I went before the area director and a bunch of other DCFS staff to be questioned. And fortunately, our pure motives came to light. A few hours after the meeting, a caseworker brought Baby Girl to our house. She was two weeks old at this point, and I wondered what I’d missed in those 11 days apart. And I knew she wasn’t mine forever yet — or if she ever would be. The following months were fairly easy as far as foster care cases go. Soon we knew that reunification wasn’t the goal, and we would probably get to adopt her. We were cautiously optimistic.  IMG_1252Almost a year passed until we adopted Baby Girl, now called Quinn, on July 29, 2015. Over that year, God taught me several important lessons. The first and most important one is that HE WILL DELIVERY ON HIS PROMISES IN HIS TIME. I have to remind myself of that daily. I have to relinquish control, open my clinched fists and release my right now to Him. That’s not easy for this control freak, this planner of all things. But I’m learning, one hard lesson at a time.

* name changed

 

Adoption Day!

After waiting for what seemed forever, nurse Anthony and I adopted Baby Girl last week! It was a glorious day surrounded by friends and family. Our older girls, Kennedy, Madison and Maya were all smiles too. adoption2Judge Warren is the same judge that did Maya’s adoption back in 2010, so it was really special that she was our judge this time too.

So without further ado, World, meet Quinn Aria Valley… IMG_1058Special thanks go to my mom and dad, Gran Gran, Kristen and Carol for coming to be a part of our big day. adoption1adoption4It’s hard to explain how I feel now that the adoption is final. Relief mainly — no chance that Quinn will be taken away from us. She has been a part of our family since her beginning. Even before she was born, we loved her. I was in the delivery room when she entered the world — I even got to cut the cord! helloShe has been smiling and laughing and bringing us joy since her days in the NICU. I mean really — look at those lips!

I can’t wait to watch her grow up and to see her personality blossom and her talents emerge. She is already trying to stand up unassisted, so I think walking is in the near future. She loves music and is very curious and busy. She’s a sensitive soul and can get her feelings hurt easily, but she easy going and happy most of the time. Honestly, she is just perfect, and I’m so proud to be her mom. Quinn8.2.15

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Termination

I’ve held on to this piece since February — just too raw and personal to post. But I’m ready now.

Termination. It’s such an ugly word. It usually doesn’t come with good news. Termination of a job. Termination of a pregnancy. Termination of parental rights.

My husband and I recently sat in on the termination of parental rights (TPR) hearing for our foster baby. Unlike most foster parents, clinic I know this birth mom, Elle*. I went through it all before with her first baby who I fostered and then later adopted. I love Elle. Without her, I wouldn’t have my sweet Maya. Elle has become like family to me — although we rarely have any contact. I keep up with her through her mom who we now lovingly refer to as Gran Gran.

Sitting down in the courtroom, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill the space, to reign over the proceeding. Elle walked in wearing shackles and a correctional unit jumpsuit. Still I’d never seen her look better. Her hair was combed and neatly styled. She was clean and well fed. She was not high. Jail is a good place to be when you’re dealt a bad hand like Elle.

She sat down not too far in front of me, so I said hi. She squinted (due to a blinding eye condition) and said, “Miss Stacey, is that you? Is the baby with you!?!?” I told her it was me and that indeed Baby Girl had been placed with me. She beamed with joy! She started asking me question after question about Baby Girl and how she ended up with me, and I answered as best I could. Then…

ALL RISE. The judge entered and the proceedings started. The attorney for child services began reading aloud a long list of every reason why Elle is an unfit mother. And even though they were all true, it broke my heart. Elle sat there with her head in her hands listening to every horrible decision she made over the past several months. She had to hear that she failed as a mother. I cried big sloppy tears. I hurt for Elle. But I also thought about how often I fail as a mother and how it must feel to have that become part of a court record.

After the attorneys were done, Elle asked to address the court. She sat on the witness stand and her anguish gushed out. She sobbed uncontrollably. My husband held me close. Once Elle gathered herself, she expressed in the most beautiful way what I’m sure every mother feels at times. She told the judge that she loved her baby very much, but that she knows that she can’t be a good mother to her. She owned up to her mistakes and shortcomings. Then in an unexpected twist, she pleaded for the judge to let me adopt the baby.

To top it off, the judge gave Elle a precious gift — she validated her. She told her that she is not a bad person; that she is a good person who just made mistakes. She said that we all have struggles, but that doesn’t make us bad people. It was truly beautiful.

And I thanked the Holy Spirit for answering my prayer.

*Name changed to protect her privacy.

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To You Who Weep on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can be a hard day for so many women. I remember one Mother’s Day Sunday about 15 years ago when they passed out roses to all the moms, mind I left in tears empty-handed. I was single and in my thirties, artificial and I wanted to me a mom so bad.

Moms come in all different forms.
Biological moms.
Adoptive moms.
Foster moms.
Step moms.
Those who haven’t been able to get pregnant.
Those who have lost a child.
Those who chose to have an abortion.
Those who gave their children up for adoption.
Those whose children were taken into state custody.
Teachers and other women who guide children daily.

So this Mother’s Day, be sensitive to the ladies that cross your path. You don’t know her story, her pain, her past, her secrets, her desires. And if you see her weeping, don’t try to say something encouraging. Be quiet and hug her. Because sometimes there are no words.

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