Sunday, July 17, 2011
Fostering to Adopt. Not Easy but worth it.
And, after all these years of going, this year, in 2008, was going to be very different. Because we were getting ready for our first Dragoncon with kids. We were focused on getting the boys ready and figuring out how we were going to afford the trip at all, with two new sons. We couldn't even begin to imagine that just a few days after we'd come back, our lives would change again and I would get the other call that would "change our life." It was the call that turned our world upside-down, the call that introduced us to the frustrating, but well-intentioned side of the system. This was a side that we had been spared by adopting children who were already available for adoption. It was the call that would steal my sleep for a year, due to late-night feedings then later followed by nights of endless worrying. But, it was one of the best calls ever because it brought me my Lizzie.
A wise man once told me that things work out how they are supposed to. That was Brian. He is my Ricky to his Lucy Ricardo (yes, he calls me that). He is the eye of my storm. He is whatever other random analogy I can come up with. He is logical and I am ruled by emotion. So, when we were waiting to find and be found by the boys, he would tell me that he knew things would work out how they were meant to. I took great comfort in these words, even though it did not make me feel more patient. But, he was right, it did work out like it was supposed to and we became parents to William and Antwan.
As we went through the year of Lizzie drama, Brian continued to assure me that things would work out and he was right.
But, even Brian had no words on the day that we came the closest to losing her. It was a day that we listened in horror as the biological parents' lawyers told the judge that they had been staying off drugs, but in reality, they hadn't been tested. It was a day that he granted unsupervised visitation pending a successful home study. (They later failed the home study because they failed drug tests.) It was a day that Brian tried to cut the grass when we got home and could barely do it because he couldn't stop crying. And, on this day, in court, I couldn't say anything because I wasn't allowed to. It was a really bad day. It was the worst day.
I had never known what it would feel like to lose your child. And, for us, she was; regardless of what the law said, at the time. Thankfully, I only got to the point of feeling like I might lose her. And, wow, it was awful.
I write this from the adoptive parent's perspective. The system is not designed for us and, quite frankly, it shouldn't be. It's designed to try to reunite children with their biological parents, if at all possible, and to protect the children. Biology wins and, in many cases, it should. Anyone getting involved in the foster-to-adopt side of the system needs to be ready to endure visitations, court dates, constant changes and possible losses. This is exactly why we didn't want to get involved in it.
Yes, it is one of the surest ways to end up with a baby...eventually. But, we wanted to be parents to the children that were meant to be ours, regardless of their age. Sure I wanted a baby, I'm only human. But, I also wanted a child. And, as I pondered cribs and mobiles, I was also looking into the faces of older children on my computer screen. And, then I knew I didn't care. I just wanted to be a mom to the child that needed me to be his/her mom.
The first child that we fell in love with was an 11-year old. Her name was Elizabeth (the name we had chosen long ago for our daughter). There were many children after her, of all ages. Some we were officially passed over for and some we didn't hear anything about after inquiring. The waiting was hard and made me a little crazy. But, then there were William and Antwan. And, life was good.
So, off we went to our weekend of geek. We all dressed up as pirates and the boys were batmen. It was fun.
We came home from our weekend trip. We were happy, exhausted (wow, it's less relaxing with kids!) and broke (wow, it's more expensive with kids!). We had no idea that we were, in fact, about to end up with a baby. But, we were.
So, I got the call. The biological mother had another baby. She's 2.5 week olds. She had drugs in her system (and cigarettes, we later learned), but seems alert and was healthy. Any potential disabilities wouldn't show up until later. (But, they didn't.) The process would be expedited and she would be ours very quickly.
Two days later, Lizzie arrived and a year of blissful happiness combined with seemingly endless torture begun.
We didn't know that our experience would be pretty much the opposite of expedited. We didn't know that caseworkers would schedule last minute visits, then other caseworkers would schedule last minute visits to make up the other workers' last minute visits because they quit or got fired (both things happened). We didn't know that I would agree to transport Lizzie to a visit, then spend the rest of the afternoon vomiting because it upset me so much. We didn't know that Antwan would get upset and confused every week when the driver took Lizzie away for three hours. We didn't know that we would find ourselves in the exact situation that we had decided not to put ourselves in.
But, we did know we loved her and that there is no question that we would do it again.
I would take the tears, the fears, and something else that rhymes. As long it would mean that I would have this perfect, almost 3 year old girl who is currently standing by my chair, inexplicably letting me type, as she flings Antwan's leapster into the chair, way too hard. Because she is amazing; really, really amazing.