Monday, September 30, 2013

Four Years Ago, We Adopted Our Daughter.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Lizzie's finalization!  On September 29, 2009, she became officially ours and our family was complete!  Of course, that was until Patrick came along to re-complete it. :)


I could go on and on about how awesome it was to adopt Lizzie, but I've basically already done that in this blog post. ---->  :)  So, I'll just say, I love her and I am so grateful for her.  (I'm also pretty darn grateful for those boys of mine, too!)

And, if you are in the mood for seeing me cry, haha, here's the video of the finalization!

You'll have to forgive the initial shakiness of the camera, I'm pretty sure that Jennice, a.k.a. our historian, was already crying. :)


Friday, September 13, 2013

I Remember The Day Lizzie Came To Us.

Last Wednesday (September 11th) was the five year anniversary of the day that Lizzie came to us, forever and ever.  Of course, we didn’t know that, at the time, that wasn't necessarily true.  But, that’s what the case worker told us because she sincerely believed it to be true when she said it.  And, that’s what we told the boys.  Thankfully, we did get to keep Lizzie, forever and ever, but it was a long year before we knew for sure. 

But, this is not a post about how difficult it is to not know if you will get to raise the baby that you love dearly.  This is about her first days.
I feel like my memory gets worse and worse as the years go by, in general.  I'm lucky if I remember where I put my keys, where my debit card is, or where I put my keys... Oh, wait, I used that one already.  See what I'm talking about??

But this day, I remember. 

I remember being worried about whether we were doing the right thing.

I remember being stuck at work when the case worker brought Lizzie.  I remember the case worker staying as long as she could so she could meet me before she left.  But, I was with a client who was having a colonscopy and it seems that you can't rush that,  So, she had to leave before I got home.

I remember calling Brian to check in and hearing his voice, full of awe, as he said, “She’s beautiful.”

I remember finally getting off work and rushing home as fast as I could.  I was very upset that I had missed the homecoming, but mostly just focused on meeting my daughter.

I remember walking in and unceremoniously saying “Give her to me.”  It wasn’t sappy, but it was informative and I had waited a long time for a moment like this.  Brian understood and was happy to hand her over. 

And, then I held her. 

I looked at this little thing in my arms and couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that I was now in charge of her.  I had successfully kept the boys alive since February.  On some days, that was the best that I could hope for. ;)  But, a baby??  She was so tiny!  And, wow, she was swimming in her outfit that her foster mother sent her in because, you know, she was so tiny!  I was busy being convinced that I had no idea how to take care of a baby anymore when Brian said something about bottles and then I realized, hey, I know how to make those!

I remember all my friends and my sister and her kids coming over to "ooh" and "aah."

I remember people coming over with baby items over that friends of friends had sent.  Antwan had already been a year old when we got him and we had no inkling that Lizzie was coming, so we had very few baby supplies.  By very few, I mean nothing.  Lizzie's caseworker called on a Tuesday and brought her on a Thursday.  But, our payday was Friday.  So, we were freaking out a bit.  But, since people are amazing, we soon had clothes, bottles, diapers, blankets, a basinet, and a car seat.  The car seat was even pink. J  Like I said, people are amazing.

I remember that we had pizza and the pizza guy asked me questions about one of the neighbors’ houses.  I don't know why I remember that.  Maybe it was because I was holding her while I paid for the pizza and that was so surreal.  Or maybe it was because the pizza guy was cute.  Hard to say... ;)

I don’t remember eating much pizza, though.  I can’t imagine that I did.

I remember trying to give the boys extra hugs so they wouldn’t feel left out.

And, I remember when everyone left and it was just us and Jennice.  She showed us how to swaddle Lizzie, I had forgotten.  She laid a swaddled and sound asleep Lizzie down.  We all gazed at her lovingly and then finally took a breath. 

I remember sitting down and thinking that we had awhile to relax.  Of course, that was when I remembered how short infant naps are.  Right around the time that I was pondering going to sleep, she woke up, of course. :)

In the days ahead, I remember being tired, all of the time, and wondering how I was going to make it through.  I remember singing to her, kissing her belly, and wishing that she would just sleep. I remember waking in a panic the first time that she slept through the night.

I remember the year of angst, visitations, laughter, love, and revolving caseworkers.  I remember being terrified that we were going to lose her. 

And, I remember the day that we finally knew that we wouldn’t. 

Finalization Day!

But, most of all, I remember that she was amazing.  That's not hard to remember because I get daily reminders of it.

We didn’t know she was coming.  I ended up having to quit my job because I couldn’t juggle home and work.  I learned new levels of exhaustion and financial struggle.  I watched a driver drive off with her once a week for a visit with her biological parents while I was left feeling like part of me was missing until she came back.  And, I remember knowing then, like I know now, that she was worth every second of it.


Happy birthday, Lizzie!

Last night, I danced with my daughter.   When Tori sang on "Victorious" or the new "Honey Nut Cheerios" commercial came on, she said "Mommy, get up and dance!”   And, sometimes, I got up first and told her to "get up and dance!"   I spun her around and kissed her belly.   I looked at her smile and listened to her laugh.   Basically, I had my own little anniversary celebration.  The best part was that she was smiling at me and laughing because she was dancing with me.

I’m so glad that I get to dance with you, everyday, little girl.  You have some awesome moves. J


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Unwanted Facebook Connections Continue...

If you've been wondering what happened after the bio facebook request, your wait is over.... ;)

And, if you don't know what I'm talking about, here you go.

So, after I moved on past the crying and freaking out (well, the crying, anyway), we decided to be proactive.

The night that the biological mother made her request, I blocked her from my facebook account and Brian's. Mine was already private, but Brian's wasn't. But, I blocked her from both, anyway. It broke my heart a little, but I also unfriended our kids' oldest brother because I knew there was a chance that he was in contact with her and I have to protect my kids. I couldn't figure out how to block her from my blog facebook page, though. :( So, technically, she could be reading this.   But, I don't know that she's interested in going through all that effort....

The next day, I contacted Patrick's case worker in south Florida and explained the situation.   I asked what this woman was legally allowed to do.   Yes, she had officially lost all parental rights, but I doubted that they included "no facebook" in the TPR report. I asked what our rights were.   Since I was trying to be neutral, always afraid of rocking the boat; she ended up missed my point and said that if we wanted him to have visits with her, it would be up to us. I was screaming, in my head, "No, I don't want her anywhere near my children."   But, I did like the "it will be up to you" part.   But, a few emails later, it was clear that she didn't think visits would be a good idea, anyway.

Then, I asked my former caseworker friends on facebook.   They were unsure of exactly what could be done, but agreed that it was not a good situation.

Then, we had a monthly check in with our local case worker.   We walked outside, so we could privately ask what our rights were and what the biological parent was allowed to do (yes, this was our official question).   She seemed confused at our alarm and then, of course, I got nervous and tried to downplay my hysteria over the whole thing, but I don't know if it worked.   Of course, it's different for her.   She works with the biological parents just as much as the adoptive.   She's used to visitations and reunifications.   This is way beyond that, though.   She ended up saying that it was up to us and that we could tell her to stop if she contacted him again.   This was a far cry from my ideal "We're going to find her and take away her computer, phone, or library card.   We're then going to pack her up in a box and ship her to China!"   But, I guess, it wil have to do....

As the days passed, it faded. I never fully stopped worrying about it, but there were so many other things to worry about on a daily basis.   Until one day, we were pulling out of the driveway and he abruptly told me that she had sent him several more facebook requests.   He told me that he finally sent her a message and said "Please stop sending me requests.   I really don't want to talk to you."   She responded with "Ok, be blessed."

I drove on, pretending not to freak out, and marveling at the fact that she didn't realize the best way he could be "blessed" was for her to leave him alone.   I was painfully aware that I had been living under the misapprehension that she wasn't contacting him, but also aware that he was being honest with me and that he had told her to back off.   And, I was frantically texting Brian at every stop light. It took me several minutes to get the text to him, but he finally got the message. :)   His response was that maybe we needed a lawyer.   I agreed.   But, in the end, we wondered what a lawyer really going to do?   Tell us that it's up to us if we want visits and tell her that she should stop?

I thought about it all day.   I knew what I wanted to ask him, but wasn't sure if I should and wasn't sure how he'd respond.   I knew that we needed to get her out of our lives, as much as possible.   But, I wasn't sure how he was really feeling about the whole thing, deep down.   It was after bedtime for the younger three kids and Patrick was showing me how to play a random cell phone game.   I sat there with the question on the tip of my tongue and played it out in my head a few times before I finally said "I need you to do something for me."   I paused, a little too long, as if I was on a soap opera, then said "I need you to block her."

I think I said something about her not being a safe influence.   Yeah, I've used that line before, but it mostly sums it up.

After messing with me for a few minutes and pretending that he didn't know how to block someone, (he is a teenager, after all, ha), he told me that it was done.   I thanked him and he went back to showing me how to play the game.

So, that was it. It was done.   As it would appear, everything that we could do had been done.   Short of that shipping to China idea, there really wasn't much else for us to do, unless she showed up on our doorstep.

I'm still really upset, but there's apparently nothing not much to I can do.   Patrick has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with her and, as far as I know, she's currently out of the picture.   So, I can't ask for much more from the situation.

I know that this is partly a sneak preview of similar scenarios that might occur with the others.   I know that she still has that part of them that I never will.   But, I also know that to them, I am Mommy.   I have to hold onto that. Because that really is the most important thing.

All I can do now is focus on us and hope and pray that we never have to deal with her again.   But, never is a big word and forever is a long time for things that you hope will never happen.  So we'll see.

Man, time's like this, I wish there really was a Batman.   He would totally know what to do. ;)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Six Degrees of Facebook Separation

Life is funny.  Never did I think that I would grow up, become a mom, and carry a constant fear; albeit, in the back of my head (most of the time), that I would have to look into the face of the woman who gave birth to my children, ever again.  Never did I think I would adopt, although I never thought that I wouldn't.  I just assumed that I would biologically have children. 

I'm very glad that I adopted.  I know that I'm glad that I don't personally relate to the labor and delivery horror stories that I have heard.  I am a bit envious that I don't know what it feels like to feel a baby kick inside you.  But, hearing the judge say that a child is all yours, forever and ever, is pretty monumental, too.  

Yes, they're all mine.  Except for one little thing.  I wasn't the one that gave birth to them.  That experience belongs to someone else and she's out there, somewhere.  Not somewhere in the world, but somewhere in my city.  And, I'm not a fan.   

I know that there are others who have positive feelings towards the birth mothers of their children.  And, in many cases, that's a good thing.  But, not for women like this birth mother.  Not for women who put drugs before their children.  Women who neglect and endanger their children, and, here's the important part, have no remorse, don't really deserve my positive feelings.  I understand that addiction is complicated and that drugs change who you are.  But, I also understand that children are the priority.  And, in our case, on her last supervised visit with Lizzie, before it was all over; she slept on the floor while Lizzie crawled around her and  the biological father's 80 year-old blind mother tried to wake her up, from her wheelchair.  

So, yeah, when she was out of our life completely, I was thrilled.

And, even though, she lives in the same city, we don't exactly run in the same circles; so we've never run into her.  But, whenever I find us at an event downtown, I can't help but look at the faces around me and worry that she's among them.  I've pondered a million times what I would say if I encountered her.  It usually involves me yelling, dramatic movie-style, "Stay away from my children!?!"  But, it's never happened.

Enter Patrick.  Her parental rights have long since been terminated and he only has vague memories of her, but he has inadvertently brought her back into our lives.

One night, I had just come home from work.  I was a little grumpy, a little hungry, and I had to pee.  I was rushing to  the bathroom, when Patrick stopped me and showed me his phone and asked "Do you know who this is?"

And, there she was, his biological mother on facebook.   Well, it wasn't exactly her.   The picture didn't look anything like her.  If it was her, it was a very old picture.   But, I knew right away who it was because of the name and, who are we kidding, I also recognized it from when I had looked her up myself.   I already knew that she was facebook friends with the oldest daughter of the sibling group who was facebook friends with the oldest son of the sibling group who was friends with Patrick. (Did you follow that?) So, this really shouldn't have surprised me.

And, yet it did. 

Thinking that he knew exactly who she was, but wanted to know if I knew, I simply said "It's not the right picture."  Then he asked, "But, who is it? She sent me a friend request."

That's when I realized that he was going to make me say it.  I took a deep breath and told him that it was his biological mother and tried to fight back the nausea.

Then, he casually said "Oh, hi" and clicked accept.

"You accepted it?" I asked in a high-pitched voice which was supposed to sound calm.  But, I wasn't.  I felt like my world was crashing down around me.

He asked, "Would you feel better if I didn't talk to her?"

I said "yes" and he said "ok." 

In my head, I was screaming that wasn't good enough.  I wanted her gone, but I was trying to weigh my words carefully.  I don't really remember what was said after that.  It was such a blurry mess in my head.  I think I made some fake joke about how in 90-ish days, I could tell him that he couldn't talk to her.  I remember that because I remember thinking "Oh, yeah!  I'm the mom, I can tell him no!"  But, I didn't say it and I was also wondering if that would make everything worse if I did.  I was trying to think of reasons that a teenager would understand for why she shouldn't be in our lives.  I needed something better than "You are mine!  Mine! Mine! Mine!"  I think maybe I mentioned that she wasn't a safe influence and that I didn't really want her seeing William, Antwan, and Lizzie pictures. 

Then he said, "Would you feel better if I wasn't friends with her?"

"Yes, that really would make me feel better."

He said, "Ok" and clicked unfriend.

I thanked him, gave him a hug, and rushed to hide in the bathroom.  And, of course, by this time, I really, really needed to go...;)

What had just happened??  She had just invaded my world and been kicked out of it, just as abruptly.  I knew that she had a facebook and I guess it was naive to think she wouldn't go looking, but there I was shocked, freaked out, and hiding in my bathroom. 

Finally, I got myself together, came out of the bathroom, and "casually" motioned to Jennice to follow me into my room.  Jennice had been distracted by the other three kids, the whole time, and had no clue what was going on, but she got up and followed.

We closed the door and I had a really good cry.  Lucky for me, Jennice gives good hugs because I needed it. 

Then, I wiped my eyes, got myself together, again, because there's only so long that you can hide in the bedroom when you have four kids in the living room, and headed out into the trenches.

It was a nice, relaxing evening.  (As relaxing as it can be with four kids in the house, anyway!)  It was like it had never happened.  I knew that wasn't the case and I knew this wasn't the last of her.  But, for the night, apparently, it was. 

Brian came home.  I cried, again.   We wondered if we should contact his case worker and find out what our rights were.  We pondered whether we needed a lawyer.  We thought about having a big sit-down talk.  You may be aware, teenagers don't really love big sit-down talks, though.  It was officially uncharted waters and I was a little motion-sick (I love an analogy!).  We weren't sure what to do. 

But, we knew one thing.  When it came down to it, Patrick chose me.  My boy chose me.  He wants me to be his mom.  It doesn't cause her to disappear from existence, but it's still pretty cool. :)