Saturday, May 25, 2013

Confession:it didn't really happen like I said

Everything I write here is true. Well. Almost everything.

I have a confession.

A few months ago I wrote a blog about road tripping on Maui, and I included a story about taking a drive up to the top of Haleakala for sunrise. I posted some pretty pictures, and a warm and fuzzy, fun-for-the-whole family story to go along with them. There was a slight problem, however. My life - as you well know from reading this blog - is not full of pretty pictures and wholesome activities. 

It won't surprise you to hear that I didn't actually make that trip.
At least, not the way I described it here.

For many people, watching sunrise at 10,000 feet overlooking the Pacific Ocean is a dream come true. I was really hoping my first time would be life-changing like that. But as with many of life's firsts (ahem) it was not nearly as fantastic as I expected. And I was on deadline. So I cobbled together a post about the trip, using an ideal scenario and a friend's photos. Because my photos - and my experience - were not what I wanted to share with you. When your life regularly does not go as planned, it can be very frustrating. And just once, I wanted to tell you about an experience that didn't go straight to hell.

 The trip up Haleakala *can* be amazing and beautiful, and I didn't want to discourage anyone from doing it.
The trip to the summit of Haleakala can also suck big, hairy goat balls.

Today I was clearing photos off my phone, and I found some pictures of the trip. Photos I did not use. Because they suck. But because everything else I want to write these days is emo and weepy and whyyyyy are they taking this baby away from meeee, I decided to just bring it all back home. This is my life. This is what happens when I try to do something amazing and beautiful..

First of all, traveling to 10,000 feet elevation, even in Hawaii, is a crap-shoot weather-wise. And trust me, the weather can (and will) shoot crap all over you if it feels like it. 

Case in point:

Can you see that? The outside temp? THIRTY FOUR DEGREES.

And I would be willing to accept the freezing temperatures for a gorgeous sunrise. I would have stood huddled between all of the families in their flip flops and shorts, with their lips turning blue and their teeth chattering, even though they were wrapped in the comforter they snagged off their hotel bed.

I would have stood there and sucked it up for the gorgeous view.

Visibility was limited.

So we headed back down the mountain, bitterly disappointed.
Some people were more bitter than others.

I felt terrible, seeing my exhausted family sitting in the backseat, bleary eyed, at 6:40 in the morning, for absolutely no fucking reason whatsoever. And then I slammed on the brakes and scared the crap out of everyone. 
Road hazard.

We went and got breakfast, because what else does one do at 7am? I felt like everyone needed some syrup and bacon to lighten the mood. Nectar of the gods and all that.

And then I went home and wrote about a road trip that I did not take. At least, not yet.

I say "not yet" because I tried it again a few weeks ago - for sunset this time, because I am never getting up at 4am ever, ever again.

At first, I thought we were in for a repeat performance - complete with almost running into a bunch of cows. But then we broke though the clouds, and came out into dazzling sunshine, and that limited visibility at 5,000 feet became a white fluffy blanket we were  looking down on, as the sun blazed it's way towards the horizon.


This whole experience was a reminder to me that while things do not ever seem to go as I planned, sometimes the results are even better. I am holding on to that thought these days - it's going to see me through some rough times ahead.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Surviving Mother's Day: I will find a way or make one. aka The Mother's Day drinking game

I am not much of a holiday girl, aside from Thanksgiving of course - known around these parts as "The Best Holiday Of Them All".

I am terrible at remembering birthdays, I never send cards, my gifts can be weird, and they are always late and unwrapped. We don't have a whole lot of traditions, I don't own any seasonal holiday decor, and I haven't handed out Halloween candy in years. So I am no stranger to sitting by and watching my world flood with greetings and well wishes for holidays I don't really give 2 shits about, or holidays that actually break my heart to celebrate. Thankfully their are very few of those.

Mother's Day used to be one of them.

I would try to find a way to survive the day - usually doing things like sitting in movie theaters or traveling to a foreign country or parking my ass on a bar stool drinking heavily and chain smoking.

I really wanted to be a mother, and for years it didn't happen. And then it did, but I still hated the day, because I didn't feel like I was a good mother, and I was reminded of that with every sappy card and handmade gift that came home from nursery school. And also because the term "Motherfucker" had a whole new meaning, and was lost to me forever.

Over the years, I have relaxed a little bit about Mother's Day. I have realized that there are things that everyone can celebrate - even if they don't have kids - on this most hallowed of Hallmark holidays. You can drink juice, or booze - just don't use a fucking sippy cup.

1. Trunk Space. This can also be called closet space, floor space, or simply "Thank God I don't need all that shit". I know that the siren song of Babies R Us is a powerful drug - but if you can avoid filling your life with all manner of accessories that someone decided to make you feel like you needed in order to have a complete life, well - that shit is worth celebrating. If you have never felt compelled to drop $500 on a car seat/crib/stroller/etc., you should drink to that. If you can open your trunk and see the carpet inside, you get to drink twice. Cheers.

2. For Mature Audiences only. If you can lie in your house and watch whatever the hell you want, whenever the hell you want, and not worry about little pitchers with big ears (whatever the hell THAT means) then BOTTOMS UP MY FRIEND. I am sick and tired of waiting until the kids are asleep before watching a movie where people may or may not have sex. I am tired of shouting "EARMUFFS" while trying to find the mute button. I am tired of diving for the power switch on the car radio when I hear something inappropriate. I am tired of censoring the world around me. I like sex and swearing, dammit.

3. Nutritional Information. I have spent the last 12 years eating junk food in hiding. If my kids caught wind that I had a stash of HoHos in the pantry, it would be over. I only drink soda with booze in it, so I don't have to share. I hide the potato chips behind the pretzels and veggie crisps. Ice cream is served in small dishes for portion control - gone are the days of sitting down with a pint of Ben and Jerry. FML. If you eat what you want when you want it, and don't have to share only to see it spit back out, then kudos.

4. Bedtime. I like to sleep. But more than that, I like to sleep on my own schedule, Of my own free will. Falling asleep while holding a newborn is traumatizing - even if you manage to wake up before you drop the baby, the guilt and fear will eat away at your very soul. The part of your soul that is left after years of sleep deprivation, that is. I am trying to "sleep when the baby sleeps" but it's not working out that well because I have 2 other kids that aren't sleeping at those times, and I also have a job. So sleep is a pretty hot commodity. Sam mentioned having sex the other day and I just laughed at him. If you can lie down right now and nap if you want to, why the hell are you reading this. Drink up, and then pass out. Just like high school.

5. Mom jeans and other travesties. Lately I have been walking around with two wet spots on my chest because someone is always trying to lick my nipples - and not in a good way. If you are wearing clothes that fit, are not covered with someone else's meal, and maybe even match, are way ahead of the game. If you are in heels, better yet. If you are wearing lingerie, bonus points. And if you are not wearing anything with elastic, you are my fucking hero. I'll buy you a bottle of whatever you want.

Okay, there is more, I'm sure. Go ride a motorcycle, take a long hot shower, wear dangly earrings, meditate, road trip, go someplace with lots of stairs and narrow doorways, and remember that Mother's Day can be for everyone. The cool aunts, the fun nanas, the loving children, and the men who think they are fan fucking tastic.

No time to edit this, so mea culpa if it is full of typos and doesn't make any sense. I'm going to try to sleep for a half hour before I go to work and wait on tables of mothers celebrating mother's day with margaritas like the good lord intended.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

And I am telling you, she's not going

Update from the front lines: Evie is still here. I still have no idea for how long. I am still totally, utterly in love.

I have absolutely abandoned all common sense and reason, and broke every single rule of mine - and of the system in general - when it comes to foster parenting. I made it personal. And I am afraid that I may have passed the point of no return.

I love all of the children we have cared for, each in their own way. I care for them and nurture them and love them, and then I give them back to their mothers and I get on with life. But so help me, I cannot imagine this little girl with anyone else as her mother.

This is very, very bad. For many reasons. The biggest reason is that she is not mine. She has a mother. And other relatives. And the state will try to reunify the biological family, because that is absolutely the guiding principle of foster care: to provide parents and relatives with resources and support and education, in the hope that they will be able to raise the child. The foster system is not set up as an adoption agency - adoptions of infants in particular are extremely rare, and everyone involved in foster care knows that reunification is the goal. Social workers spend long, hard hours trying to assist parents while keeping children safe.

I have always been very supportive of this goal. I have encouraged parents time and again as they have tried to get their lives together. I truly believe that a baby is the very best reason to get your life back on track.

But not this time. Every time they mention a visitation with relatives, my jaw tightens and my heart pounds. And finally, after 5 days of this torture I had to say it out loud: I don't support reunification in this case. As a foster parent, this is terrible. This is a huge conflict of interest. This is absolutely inappropriate. This is way, way out of line.

I know it, and I feel sick about it. I have heard that line "the heart wants what the heart wants" and I always thought it was a big bunch of bullshit - an excuse for doing whatever the hell you felt like doing without concern for other people, for consequences, for right and wrong. And yet, here I am.

I have been caring for other people's children, in one way or another, since I was 9 years old. I am very good at keeping it professional, at remembering who the mother is, at not getting attached. And now I find myself at odds with everything I have ever known, everything I have ever believed about myself.

I used to be good at this. Even as recently as last month I was good at this. Something has changed.

I went so far as to suggest that they take me off this case entirely, and transfer her out of my home. But of course I don't want them to do that.

I have put on a brave face and tried to sound cheerful and rational.

I have also cried.

I have cried on the phone, I have cried in the rocking chair late at night, I have cried in the car driving her to visitations. I have cried because I can't imagine keeping her any longer and because I don't want to see her go. I have cried because I can only imagine the life she might have - and there are two very different paths her life might take. I have cried for her mother, I have cried for the women who want to be mothers.

I have cried at poop on the couch and puke in the car seat.

I have cried because her bellybutton stump hasn't come off and she really needs a bath (see poop and puke, above).

Is it possible to have postpartum mood swings when I am not only postpartum, but post-menopausal?
(The answer to that is no.)
I feel like I am losing my mind.

I don't know what to do. I am at a loss at the prospect of losing her.
And yet she was never mine to begin with.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Babies are dropping out of the damn SKY.

Hi. I am still here, and in a very strange case of deja vu, on Saturday we brought home a baby.

No, not that one.

Another one. The girl kind. Words cannot begin to describe the heights of Lucy's joy. Break out the pink and frilly, we have a sister.

When Leo was returned to his mother last week, I felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me - which is bizarre considering that I knew he would only be with us for a short while. I could not figure out why I felt so bereft. There was this nagging, keening feeling. A nameless wordless thing tapping me on the shoulder. On Friday, Sam and I were making the bed and I stopped, and looked over at him.

"I'm not done."

"What?" he said absentmindedly, as he shook a pillow into the case.

"There's another baby. I'm telling you, that wasn't it. Leo was NOT it. There's something else going on."

Sam shook his head and rolled his eyes. I decided to leave the crib up in the living room.

And the next day, the very next day, my phone rang. There was an infant in the maternity ward needing placement, was I interested? No other information, just "could I take a newborn". Right away. In an hour or two. I said yes, and then walked inside to tell Sam I had manifested another baby.

He put his face in his hands, and rubbed his cheeks hard, and then grinned. "How the hell do you do that?"

"I don't know, I just know."

"It's incredible. I wish you could do that in Vegas."

I drove to the hospital and called upstairs. The social worker sounded almost giddy "Seven pounds, eight ounces, she is beautiful and I'm just filling out the paperwork."

When they arrived downstairs a while later, I peeked through the bundle of pink. "Beautiful" was a reach, but as I peered down at her she stretched a small, delicate hand with impossibly long fingers out of the sea of flannel, as if to say "How do you do?"

I fell very, very hard for that little hand with it's peeling skin and translucent nails.

Evie and I understand one another. We spend long hours lying on the bed facing each other, staring into each other's eyes. Sam and Max are equally enamored, and Lucy is strutting around in the role of big sister that she has long hoped for. And while of course, I know that this is foster care, that I am caring for someone else's baby, and that she is only here for a while, the timeline seemed........fuzzy. The situation was different than past cases, there was no plan for rehab, no father identified, no clear idea of where this little one would land.

And so I did the very worst thing I could do. I put all of that out of my mind and focused on this odd, pink, squalling creature with long legs and thick brown hair. I held her and crooned to her that she was going to be just fine. I told her that we loved her, that I loved her, that this diaper change was going to be fast and the baby wipe wouldn't be so cold. That last one was a total lie, and she called me on it. She suffers no fools, this little one.

We went through the first 24 hours of sleepy sweetness, and then the next 3 days of endless crying and projectile vomiting and diarrhea (hers, not mine, but thanks for your concern) purging herself of all that she had been exposed to in utero. And then last night, after one final Exorcist-worthy puke-fest, she fell asleep with her head tucked under my chin. She has been peaceful ever since.

Which is ironic, because just as soon as we made it out of the dark woods of withdrawal, her mother turned up.

They had a visit today, and I felt almost sick to my stomach when I dropped her off with the social worker. I called feeding instructions after them weakly as they walked away, and then I got back in the car and took a deep breath.

This is not your baby. This is not your baby. This baby is someone else's baby. This baby is going to see her mother. You are not her mother.

Silently, I repeated this to myself as I drove across town. I was close, dangerously close, to crying. I went to my happy place, searching for solace in the only way I knew how without a Target or TJ Maxx nearby: Goodwill.

I walked through Goodwill, and stopped at the bin of baby clothes. There, right on top, was a pair of jeggings.

It was a sign. It had to be a sign. How the hell could a brand new pair of newborn jeggings be sitting there in Goodwill for any other reason? WHAT OTHER REASON COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE FOR THIS?

Spoiler alert: I bought the fucking jeggings. And a dozen other things. And then the visit was over and I went back and stood outside and tried not to snatch her back from the worker who brought her out to me. I tried to be chipper and friendly, tried to walk slowly back to the car instead of sprinting like I wanted to. I kissed her sweet head, and her impossibly soft cheek, and looked at those beloved little fingers.

I know. I know this is not how I should be handling this. I know that I am supposed to maintain an air of professionalism, but oh. Oh.

It is impossible. This one? She is going to break my heart. This may be all I can bear. Giving her back may be the very last thing I can do, the very hardest thing. In the meantime, Lucy has requested a pair of matching jeggings and I assure you that I will find her a pair tomorrow. Because by tomorrow night, Evie could very well be gone.

I am trying to remain clear: for the record, this is not how foster care works. You cannot forget - not for a moment - that this is someone else's child. But at 3am when you are cleaning vomit off the wall while whispering sweet nothings to the creature snoring in the Baby Bjorn on your chest, sometimes you forget......

Carpe Diem. 'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

Other words of inspiration welcome as I attempt to reset my emotional state, and get my thighs into a pair of jeggings tomorrow.