Don’t call us, we’ll call you

January 22, 2017

Foster parenting, Day 18

22 September

If there’s one thing baby B hated when he came to us, it was diaper changes. But a close second: having his hands touched. He was already 10 months old so his grasp reflex was gone (except as applied to the death grip on his bottle), but he seemed unusually bothered by even the slightest touch of his hands.

For the first week or so that he was with us, we had Neal give him all his bottles. We wanted to quickly break down his obvious alarm at being near a man, and associating Neal with his beloved bottles seemed to be the quickest way. Once that was well in hand, however, I quickly claimed the rocking, bottle-feeding routine. I’d been waiting 6 years to rock another baby so there was no way Neal was going to get all that action!

The first couple of times I held him while he sucked down his formula at breakneck speed (seriously, you cannot believe how fast he could down 8 ounces!), I was struck by how insistent he was that he hold the bottle (even brushing his hand or the bottle could incite his wrath) and how tightly he held it, so much so that the blood would drain from his fingers and they would seem almost glowing white in the darkness. As I rocked, I would think back on how casually Addison had held her bottle. It was the casualness of knowing that someone would bring her another; there would always be another bottle, another time. Every last drop was not required to be sucked out with such force. Still knowing so little about the baby’s background, it seemed obvious that his grip was the grip of survival, of not knowing what the future would bring.

But I had a plan. I thought that if I could slowly supplant his hands on the bottle, taking care to not disrupt his flow of milk, his free hands would eventually land on mine. I would intentionally fan three of my fingers out so that as he moved his hands around they would begin to glance off mine. Once he brushed past my fingernail and his curiosity won out as he spent 15 or 20 seconds feeling around my nail with his tiny pointer. It felt pretty much like winning the lottery, if you’re wondering.

I still remember the moment, probably around Day 10, that he wrapped his little hand around my ring finger for the first time, and just held on. (As long as there was milk in his bottle, of course, after which all hell would break loose.) I wanted to whisper to him that he could hold on to me for survival, he didn’t have to “fend for himself.” But I didn’t, because on Day 11 or 12 or 13, they could come calling for him and he might have to go back to survival mode.

In those early days, my mind was a bit frenzied during these rocking sessions. I loved him so much in just a few short days, I would think about how wrecked I was going to be when he had to leave. During the morning nap routine, I was convinced that when he left I could never foster another child. And then by afternoon, I was sure that I couldn’t live without fostering 10 more babies. Because BABIES.

But most often my mind would rest on two thoughts. Or more accurately, it would rest on the first thought and spin on the second.

First, I would hear this poem in my head, introduced to me by my friend Steph. My mind might wander to the papers I needed to be grading or the discussion boards I had to post while the baby got a precious little sleep, but I’d hear, “I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.” I guess that’s true for everyone, but it was so poignantly true for us. He might only “keep” for one more day, so I could just forget about my work for awhile and press my cheek against his one more time.

Second, less pleasantly, I was plagued by this question: what if what I’m doing for him — which in some moments is pure euphoria and in others is the most painful thing I have ever voluntarily put myself through — is actually maladaptive for the life he has in store for him? He’s still an infant, yes, but maybe the survival instincts he’s developed are what he needs for the life he has ahead. What if teaching him to depend on me will actually make his life worse if he goes back to an environment in which his needs are not warmly met?

Of course, my mind spins through any relevant studies I’ve read. There’s the ACEs work, but did it address my fundamental fear that not only will the suffering we’re putting ourselves through not help him, it could actually make his life harder? I’d have to revisit it. In those moments, it feels absolutely urgent that I find more data. Of course, there couldn’t be any sort of random assignment experiments comparing human babies from his background who got temporary, nurturing care with those who did not. But maybe there was something with mice or monkeys? But then I remember, I’ve got a baby. Ain’t nobody got time for scouring the research when you’re physically running on empty.

Despite these misgivings, however, my plan worked like a charm. Slowly, he began to take hold of my hand more often and cling to it — but gently, not a death grip. And about a week later, on Day 18, this happened for the first time. 18 days to go from deep fear and distrust of Neal to a little thumb hold on a leisurely walk. Be still, my heart. (Time stand still too, if possible.)

baby-boy-holding-hands

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

August 24, 2016

Many phone calls, no kids

I haven’t felt much like recording every little twist and turn as we wait for foster placements. But I got the urge today, so here I am. Since we were officially certified in February, we’ve had a number of phone calls:

  • March: 1 and 3-year-old sisters — turned down because it was just about a week before Neal’s brother’s wedding out of state and we didn’t want to miss it.
  • May: 2 and 4-year-old brothers — turned down because with our small house and only 1 kids’ bedroom, we cannot take a boy older than 2
  • June: 2-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister — turned down because once again, for us to take a boy, he has to be under 2 so he can sleep in our bedroom
  • 15 August: 2-month-old girl — we said yes, but she ultimately went to someone else (infants were always a long-shot because they are more sought after)
  • 18 August: 8-month-old and 1-year-old sisters — we haven’t officially gotten “the call” for these girls, but we’ve been told to consider it in case the judge rules to seek a pre-adoptive home next month

For the most part, I think I’ve managed to stay pretty patient and even-keeled about the ones that got away. I don’t regret attending the wedding at all, but how I wish that call would have come just two weeks later! I wish that we had about 200 more square feet and a third bedroom! I wish that none of these kids ever had to experience what they’re experiencing! I’ve teared up a bit with every single call; the wanting is always there, but I’m usually too busy to think about it until presented with the possibility of actual little humans coming to our house that day — and then it’s hard to think about anything else.

The patterns of my responses vs. Neal’s have been incredibly predictable, of course:

*ring. ring*

Social worker: We have two…

Me: Yes! We’ll take them! Can we pick them up yesterday?!

Neal: Don’t listen to her. She’s crazy. I have this list of 67 questions and once they’re answered to my satisfaction, then we’ll discuss it.

I think after several calls, we’ve started to meet in the middle. On the two-month-old, we whittled it down to only 4 questions and about 10 minutes of deliberation. That’s basically living on the edge for a Neal. Addison’s response has been a bit more perplexing; we thought she’d LOVE the idea of some little baby girls, but instead we got:

OH NO! I don’t think so! I do NOT want a baby. That sounds like WAY too much work. I will be changing diapers ALL THE TIME. I won’t be able to do anything else. No way!

I’m not sure where she got the idea that she would be doing all the childcare. Maybe it’s a sign that I still lay in bed too much? Or just a manifestation of her general feeling that she is already an adult equivalent to her parents? Let’s go with the second one.

Despite Addison’s anti-diaper-changing outbursts, it’s definitely the most emotional journey for me. I continue to go back to this post periodically to remind myself of the lessons I need to keep in mind. Right now it’s this one: Focus on what I can control. (Which should include my house, currently looking nothing like the neat space that passed inspection, but for today, I’m pretending like that’s completely out of my control!)

I brought back several file boxes from my teen years when I got back from my parents’ house this summer. I’ve been haphazardly glancing through them in an effort to look engaged in the cleaning process.

Quote page

On this busy page, my eye was drawn to the one quote scrawled sideways:

“We never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so. You must undertake something so great that you cannot accomplish it unaided.”

– Phillips Brooks

This whole foster/adopt journey would seem to fall in that category, but especially an infant/toddler combo and the accompanying sleep deprivation. We’ll keep waiting to see . . .

April 21, 2016

Project Kiva

Filed under: Uncategorized — llcall @ 2:58 am

Back in September, I mentioned that I was reading a fascinating book, The International Bank of Bob, about one man’s experience with micro-lending across the globe via Kiva. While I don’t have the kind of money Bob had, it just so happened that my thoughtful sister-in-law, Robin-Elise, had gifted me a $25 Kiva card — just enough to start my own international bank. It didn’t take long for Addison to take an interest in what I was doing and the teaching moments ensued.

A few months back a work colleague and co-founder of a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children how to serve asked if I would write a guest post about our experience. In February, I finally obliged with this guest post.

baghagha

Addison just won $50 in a photography contest, so another Kiva loan may be in our immediate future. May the prettiest dresses win! (And they will if Addison has anything to say about it.)

August 31, 2012

DONE!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — llcall @ 11:20 pm

I was so naive about how long these revisions would take me. At 9:30 this morning I said, “I’m not doing anything else until I finish this paper!” I thought two, three, four hours max. Instead, I looked at the clock at 8:00 pm and realized I hadn’t eaten all day! (I can be kind of a workaholic.)

But I finished the revisions! And I’m very happy with how they turned out. Now I just have to write a letter to the reviewers describing my changes . . . after dinner.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.