Saturday, June 13, 2009


I've updated on the past 6 months in the entries preceding this one. (Start with January unless you like your reading with a side of confusion.) Hopefully, they'll explain the long gap in my posting recently. It's good to be back.

June... so far


We've been having a lot of fun this summer. St. George has a ton of family-friendly, free or inexpensive activities. We go to the splash pad (a huge courtyard down by the library with water jets and rocks for the kids to climb on and other water activities), the city pool (which is indoors and has a huge slide and kids play area with water squirting everywhere), geocaching (my family bought Fritz an awesome GPS for his birthday), or just play with the Slip 'n' Slide out back.

The boy, G, is now enrolled in summer school for three hours every morning and group therapy for three hours every afternoon, with just an hour between for lunch. I do a lot of driving around town. In addition, he still has weekly individual therapy, needs extensive dental surgery (two more appointments), and they both have visitation with their parents weekly.

My mom keeps telling me, "You do remember you're 7 months pregnant, right?" Truth be told, I do forget that a lot, then feel the effects of it later. There was one day last week where I got G off to school, then Fritz, S, and I went geocaching. We came home and got the kids lunch, dropped G off at group, went geocaching again, and then I took S to individual therapy. It got out early, so we went back home for an hour, then I had to head back out to pick G up from group and get him home and ready for scouts. Yeah, we totally had chicken nuggets for dinner that night. I even skipped some pages in the books at bedtime, shh!

But mostly, things are going great.

We're in escrow for our first house. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the whole process, and budgeting this and that. We close in two weeks. There's still so much packing and cleaning and painting and preparing to do.

The baby's doing great. (I'm going to refer to it as "him" for brevity's sake.) My weight, his weight, his heartbeat, my levels... everything's just perfect, the doctor says. The baby's a little wiggle-worm. It's hilarious to watch him stick hands and feet and bum out against my belly. This one's not a sleeper, that's for sure.

And that's about it. We're just sort of chugging along. So what's new with you?


Lots of firsts

I learned how to enroll someone in school, schedule someone for dental surgery, work with a therapist, make three meals a day at regular times so that little people's blood sugars wouldn't drop, and many other fine skills most 22-year olds don't get the pleasure of experiencing.

We fell into a routine. School, homework, outdoor play, dinner, baths, books, brush teeth, prayers, and bed.

We dealt with the issues that arose. Neither child had ever slept in a bed alone. The oldest had serious loyalty to his parents, and had problems with feeling guilty every time he began to enjoy himself when separated from them. Neither child had ever brushed their teeth. Both were a little reckless and showed poor judgment when it came to dangers.

We attended more meetings and appointments than I ever had in my life. Court hearings, testifying, parental visitation, therapy, doctors, dentists, case worker visits. We probably have three extra meetings a week, in addition to the daily ones they're required to attend.

The hurricane touches down

After having the children for a month, their case worker approached us about also taking their 12-year old sister who had been staying at the crisis center. We were understandably hesitant. She's only 10 years younger than me, I was already pretty maxed out with just the two kids and their commitments and my pregnancy, and we didn't even have enough bedrooms.

We had settled on telling the case worker no, when she asked us if we'd consider just casually meeting the girl first at the next family visitation. We agreed. The day of the visitation, the case worker called to tell us that she had told the girl, "You'll be sure to win them over. You're so cute, they're going to want to take you home as soon as they meet you." What this woman could possibly have been thinking, I don't know. Our decision whether to take her or not had nothing to do with "winning us over" or how cute she was. Of course, after being told that, there's no way she wouldn't take it as a personal slam on her character if we turned her down.

So we begrudgingly agreed to take the girl, though it was against our better judgment of what we could handle and what was best for her. We just couldn't let her feel that this was a popularity contest.

Needless to say, it was difficult. The girl was sweet. But she'd definitely lived. We began to see her little brother and sister, who had previously been happy and obedient and carefree, start to manifest a lot of stress and confusion. They bickered constantly, disobeyed long-established rules, became secretive and shifty, and were just generally unsettled when she was around.

The girl herself displayed hoarding (taking things from around the house and stashing them in bags in her room) and destructive tendencies (ripping apart her sister's dress-up clothes and toys and hiding the wreckage in her room). She discussed inappropriate topics with her siblings (their parents' drug habits, etc) and incited them to break rules. We had no control over her behavior. One day she just plain didn't come home from school, and it took us hours to track her down.

We simply weren't capable of taking care of her at this point in our lives. On top of that, it wasn't healthy for her younger siblings to be around her (something their therapist agreed with me on). So we made the difficult decision to have her moved.

The day she left, everyone (adult and child) let out a sigh. The kids have been happy and emotionally healthy ever since.

We're committed to not get ourselves into a situation again that we don't feel comfortable with.


Time to focus on baby... for a while

On April 6th, my birthday, we had our ultrasound. I was amazed when the tech pointed out our baby actually moving and thriving. Morbid though it may be, I was completely prepared for them to tell me that the baby wasn't alive, or that there hadn't actually been a baby at all. "Maybe you just ate some bad pork." But there was no denying that little creature inside me. Even better, it seemed to be in perfect shape. Good weight, perfect heartbeat, all the pieces in the right spots. We chose not to find out the gender. (Though we waffled just a bit the night before the ultrasound.)

I spent the next two weeks catching up on sleep, getting my stamina built back up, and having fun just Fritz and me again.

We just need to stop making plans, I think

On April 15th, we got a call early in the morning. Though they usually put a few months between foster placements, the agency had some more for us: an 8-year old boy and his 5-year old sister. We agreed to it almost immediately (because, as previously mentioned, we. are. insane). They asked how soon they could bring the kids over. We were still in our pajamas and the house was a wreck, so we told them we'd need at least an hour. They whined a bit, so we bumped it up to 45 minutes. A half hour later, there the kids were on our doorstep.

It was a conflicting day. Once they were there, I panicked and suddenly decided I didn't want to do this. Thanks anyway, take them back now. I begged Fritz to stay home from work, but he couldn't get off on such short notice. So it was just me and two little strangers in my house for the night. Suddenly everything I had ever known about children went flying right out the window.

Fortunately, they were wonderful kids. Incredibly obedient and eager to please, with fun happy personalities.

I wish I could summarize those last two weeks of April, but I honestly walked through them in a fog. It took a while for me to adjust to such an abrupt change. I know, I know, "You're the ones who signed up to be foster parents. Did you think it'd be easy from the get-go?" But you honestly just don't know how weird it's going to be until you're finally in that situation.

I did eventually get a grip on things, but that's a story for May.


Settling in

I was still incredibly weak from those first few months of sickness, but I didn't have time to dwell on that now. I suddenly had a tiny little buddy with a powerful set of lungs and 24/7 needs to occupy my time with.

It was hard, and wasn't made any easier by the fact that C and I both came down with colds just a week into his life, but I really was enjoying myself. Since Fritz worked most nights, I took all the night feedings. Fritz would come and get C when he got home from work and let me sleep for an hour. We'd spend the days just watching him and all getting to know each other.

Fritz would leave for work at 3, and C and I would head off to the bedroom to rest and watch daytime talk shows for the rest of the afternoon. Our bedtime started about 10 pm, and we'd spend the night feeding and snugging. He insisted on cuddling in bed next to me all night long.

Fritz and I often commented on how insane we were to even attempt this. Caring for a newborn while I was 3 months pregnant and recovering from a major illness, Fritz working such long hours, and all of us sick to boot. But it really was one of the coziest and most entertaining times of our life. And I honestly wonder if I'd have ever managed to come back home if not for this distraction.

More twists

2 Weeks after we got C, we received a call from the foster agency. They had just been informed that prior to C's birth, the birth mother was working with LDS Family Services to put him up for adoption. A family had already been chosen and informed. The hitch came into their plan when mom showed up to the hospital high and C was seized into care. Now the potential adoptive family was petitioning the courts to still have him. We were gobsmacked.

I got off the phone and lost it. All that time we had been bonding with C as our own child, as we'd been told that was in all likelihood where the case was heading. (Foster parents get "first dibs" on kids in their care when parental rights are terminated.) I remember asking Fritz why Heavenly Father kept allowing us to experience so much loss and saying that I just wasn't strong enough to handle much more.

I asked Fritz to give me a blessing, and we had a family prayer asking that Heavenly Father's will be done and that we could come to accept whatever that will was. Then I went with little C to the rocking chair and just sat for 2 hours, thinking.

After a while, I began to feel a little more clarity. We had been told nothing of the potential adoptive family, but I began to wonder if they didn't need baby C more than we did. That we were both Heavenly Father's children and He knew all of our needs, and He had to choose whose needs were greater in this particular instance, even though it would cause the other of us pain. And maybe He also knew that Fritz and I were just a bit stronger than we knew we were. That we could handle this pain and learn to move on from it.

I will say that I never felt that it was better for C that he be with one or the other of our families. I had (and still have) no doubt that we could be a wonderful family for him. But I genuinely believe that this was more about Heavenly Father's grown children this time.

By the end of those two hours, I had decided that I was going to support Heavenly Father's will regardless of my own. I was going to support these parents and raise their child for a little while until they could do so. And I was going to try to make the transition as easy for him and them as I could.

It ended up that LDS Family Services could not claim the child for the family, so they had to be licensed as foster parents and then foster-to-adopt C. We met with the new parents once when they were in town for a meeting (they live up north). It turns out that they had lost two of their own children shortly after their births. And they were wonderful people. They acknowledged our place in C's life, and even how hard this must be on us. Even as we sat there feeling for them, having to wait almost two months to get their child who they'd expected to receive at birth. It wasn't difficult to feel that these were the people C was supposed to be with.

His last month with us, we spent trying to preserve for his new parents. We took lots of pictures and videos. I recorded his milestones (and saved as many as were possible to save, for them to have with him). We had professional photos taken of him. We labeled his special outfits so they'd have them for keepsakes, and I made them a mini scrapbook.

The day we dropped him off at the office was difficult. His new parents gave me a pretty necklace and beautiful note. We went home and felt sort of numb and empty. I couldn't help thinking that I was the only mommy C had ever known, and worrying that he'd be laying there in a stranger's arms wondering why I didn't come when he cried. Then I realized that C was an innocent in this situation. There's no way Heavenly Father would send him on along completely alone and confused. He was the only one who could offer our little C comfort. And so I prayed fervently that the transition would be easy on him and his new parents.

We recently received an update from them. C is doing wonderfully. Completely settled into his permanent family. The adoption will be finalized later this year and he'll be sealed to them.

It was the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life, but I got so much out of it. I finally understand true sacrifice. I also understand how freeing faith can be when you put your life completely in Heavenly Father's hands. I know now how powerfully He loves me, and how that love really can get me through anything.

The experience also brought me and Fritz back together as a unit. I had become really isolated (my own fault entirely) when I was sick. It was nice to have him back at my side. It was such a comfort to know that even when I couldn't put into words my feelings regarding C, Fritz already knew.


A turn for the better

The beginning of February was rough. Not something I want to relive. The highlights:

  • After a month of being bedridden, I went to stay with my parents for a while and give Fritz a break.
  • I tried a few different medications to try to hold back the nausea and uncontrollable vomiting. We finally found one that worked.
  • Though the medication calmed my nausea and stopped the pukefest, I was still incredibly weakened from being without any real nourishment for nearly 2 months. It would take a while to get my stamina back up.
  • I tried going back home, only to have panic attacks about being back in the "sick place."
  • 3 days after finding my miracle medication, the foster office called us about an 8-year old boy and 5-year old girl and asked us to come to our final licensure meeting to petition for them.
  • Directly after being eviscerated at the adoption committee meeting, Fritz went off to work and I headed back to Vegas, certain the foster people hated us and would never place any children in our home.
  • The next day, we got a call saying that the two kids were placed elsewhere, but that they had a brand new infant they wanted to place with us. "Sure, when?" "Um, like in 20 minutes."
Baby C comes into our lives

As I was in Vegas (and still in my jammies) when I received the call, I told them I'd need a little bit longer than 20 minutes to get there. "Fine," they said, "Just get here as soon as you can."

I raced home to St. George, stopped by the house to pick up a carseat for the little one, and headed over to the hospital. I was escorted to the nursery by 3 caseworkers. There was little C, the only baby in the nursery that day, wrapped up tight with just his little red face and masses of dark hair peeking out.

We stood about for a long time trying to get everything finalized. The birth mother was being stubborn about giving him a name (he nearly left the hospital as "Baby lastname"). The hospital said he could only keep the socks and hat he was wearing, and nobody thought to tell me I'd need to bring some clothes for him. One of the social workers ran down to her car and luckily had some jammies just his size.

They handed the jammies to me to put on him, and it was at this moment that I realized it was noon and I hadn't eaten a single thing all day. I immediately broke out in a cold sweat and felt myself sway. I quietly went to one of the caseworkers and told her I was newly pregnant and hadn't eaten all day and needed to sit down. She handled it gracefully (though the foster office later had a fit when they found out, worrying that I wasn't healthy enough to care for C) and I dropped into one of the rocking chairs nearby. I wondered what the others in the room must think, as I sat there ignoring my new foster baby, camped out in a chair.

When I'd recovered enough, I strapped the little guy into his carseat and we all headed out. I tried to get some clarification on his case from the workers. All they knew was that his mom had shown up at the hospital on meth (he was, luckily, fairly unaffected by it) and would shortly be taken into police custody. There was not a chance she'd be getting him back. They joked about how busy I'd be come September, with a 6-month old and a newborn.

And that was it. "Here's your baby. Good luck." I went home and Fritz and I spent a few hours regrouping. We hadn't really anticipated ever having a baby placed with us, as we understand that's pretty rare. We were also wondering if it was completely crazy to be taking on such an incredible responsibility, when just 1 week prior I had been completely bedridden.

It was what it was, though. With the little bundle of baby still snoozing in his carrier, I headed out to get some baby supplies.

And so, February, which had started out so bleak, ended quite a bit shinier.


When we last left Shopgirl and family, Shopgirl was on yucky hormone therapy 3 weeks a month to try to prevent any more miscarriages.

January 1st was the day I got to test for pregnancy. I was almost excited for the inevitable negative because it meant I could stop the pills for my one week's reprieve before starting up again.

I woke up early, took the test, then sat down on the bathroom floor to read the literature that came with it (I had recently begun buying a new type of test in bulk online). After reading for about 5 minutes, I stood up to reach for my toothbrush and caught the test out of the corner of my eye. Its big fat positive line caught me completely off-guard to the point where I let out a "Whoa." Ever the skeptic, I went and took another test of a different brand, figuring there was some mistake afoot. Another dark positive almost immediately. I began to hate hormone therapy a little less.

I was initially elated, but (and I'm sure anyone who's experienced multiple losses can relate) that quickly turned to anxiety. "Here we go again," I thought. I wasn't sure if I was ready for all of this again. The waiting and worrying and wondering before the eventual let-down. So what if it was positive? I'd been pregnant before. Why should this be any different? Sure, I had hormone therapy backing me up this time. And true, I'd never gotten a nice dark positive before. It still seemed very unlikely to me that anything good would come of this in the end.

When it rains, it pours...

January 3rd, morning sickness kicked in. It was unpleasant, but not enough to keep me from scrubbing the house top to bottom in preparation for our foster care homestudy.

January 6th, we had the homestudy. It went great. We were totally prepared, to the point where the licenser kept making fun of us. Each question he'd ask in the beginning began with, "You probably haven't thought much about this yet, but..." and soon turned to, "I don't know why I'm even bothering to ask as I'm sure you've probably researched this more than I have, but..." He didn't seem too bothered about checking to see if we'd prepared our home up to regulation. In fact, I had to practically beg him to look at the fire extinguisher we'd spent so much money on and the posted emergency contact lists I'd agonized over. Perhaps it wasn't necessary to scrub out the freezer and rewash all the towels in the linen closet after all...

January 7th, mild morning sickness turned into an all-day, all-night vomitorium, which was eventually diagnosed as hyperemesis. (more)

Overnight, I became so sick I couldn't get out of bed. What little food and drink I could manage to force down never stayed down for long. Within two weeks, I'd lost 5 pounds.

It wasn't just food that sent me off. I couldn't handle any motion whatsoever. I couldn't look at the TV, read, or allow anyone to move quickly or erratically around me. I laid in bed for hours at a time, staring at the ceiling. Even shifting positions was a nightmare. At one point, the pitch of Fritz's voice set my stomach off for some reason, so he whispered all of his conversations.

I didn't have the strength so much as to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time and would have to crawl to the bathroom. Since Fritz worked such long hours, he and my mom set me up with an ice chest of convenience foods and a microwave next to my bed.

It was a terrifying and lonely time. My mom made efforts to come up to visit a couple of times a week, always bringing new foods to try to tempt me with. She'd gone through hyperemesis with both of her pregnancies, so she understood the position I was in. Fritz spent all of his non-working hours sitting stock-still on the floor next to my bed, trying to come up with something to talk about to keep my mind off of being sick.

I began to feel like I just wasn't meant to have babies. It was obvious my body didn't want to cooperate with my plans. I was terrified that I would be feeling this way for the next 8 months. I felt isolated and depressed with nothing to occupy my mind but how horrible I felt. I didn't care a whit when people said I needed to eat/drink/what for the baby. The baby I was certain still wasn't coming.

And on that happy note, January came to a close.