Foster Parenting, Part 1

You know how sometimes you have an idea, and once you think it you can’t unthink it?  And it just sort of percolates in the back of your brain, just hanging out?

We’ve had an idea for years that has come and gone in intensity, leading up until now, when we have been actively pursuing it in the hopes of making it reality.

Here’s how it started…

Back in 2003, Kullervo went to Basic Training with the Army.  It was the first time in our long (ha!) two years of marriage that we’d been apart.  At all.  Ten weeks apart, then a weekend together, then another five weeks.  It was tough.

When it was over, we wanted a baby (nothing says, ‘Let’s make a baby!’ like three months apart, right?  Right?).  But I was only 21, we were still in school, and babies seemed like things grown ups did.  So we got a cat.

Fast forward a couple of months, and it turned out that a cat is no substitute for a baby (they’re way easier, but what did I know back then?  I was a baby myself!).  So we decided to heck with good reasoning and judgment.  We were going to have a baby!  So we removed the goalie and waited.

And waited.

I tracked my temperature and did all the good old wives’ tales to assist.

And we waited.

And we gave up.  We were young, we shouldn’t have problems with baby-making.  But we did.  And after months of waiting, I figured I just couldn’t get pregnant.  So we figured we’d wait a few years (like, until graduation, maybe?) and then adopt.  No big deal.  Kullervo’s sister is adopted.  My favorite cousin is adopted.

Really.  I know so many women who struggle with infertility and go through invasive treatments and put so much heart and soul into all of the agony and really and truly suffer as a result.  But that wasn’t me.  I had the occasional pang when I’d see a pregnant woman, and I got sad every month when I wasn’t pregnant, but that was the extent of it.

*Aside: my heart breaks for those women for whom the infertility struggle impacts so deeply.  I in no way want to minimize the very real pain that goes along with it; just for me, it was not something I struggled with at that time.

And 18 months later, at the least convenient time, I got pregnant with Oliver.  And then Hazel.  And then we decided we would adopt.  The bee was in our bonnets; we were sure adoption was in our future.  But then we were pregnant again, twice more!

But the adoption story has always been in the back of my mind.  So, after Fitz was born, in the middle-of-the-night feedings, I was reading books about adoption and trying to plan for it.

When we decided to get serious about looking into adoption, Kullervo and I both used the Google, and while our opposite-personality search terms were different, we both came across similar things that made us rethink adoption for us, and moved us in another direction.

Then those Planned Parenthood videos came out.  Remember those?  While Kullervo and I felt like we had very different beliefs about women’s rights in our country (as in, stay up all night debating and falling asleep in tears), we both felt like what was happening with abortions in Planned Parenthood was a call to action.  Or, rather, I said that if a person does not believe abortions should be legal, that person has a responsibility to help care for the children that are born.

And we started praying about it and looking for adoption in the Bible.  And we began looking into adoption agencies.

Then we had another brain bug… what if we became foster parents instead?  Kullervo was initially very against it, and so was I.  Giving a child back to the parents who had had their parental rights taken away in the first place, if all goes well?  That’s tantamount to accepting a future heartbreak in your life at the get-go.  Best and worst case there is pain and suffering involved.  Could we do that?  We were pretty sure it would just be hard for us, hard for the kids, hard for everyone.  What a terrible idea.

But we couldn’t stop thinking about it.  The Bible says to take care of the least of these.  The Bible says to take care of the widows and the orphans, and this wasn’t exactly that, but it was close.  These children are hurting—physically, emotionally.  They have been through trauma, and then further affected by being removed from the home they knew.

Could we, who try really hard to make hospitality a priority, really say that loving these children would be too hard?

We couldn’t unthink it.  So we looked further.  Our county has informational meetings about foster parenting every couple of months, so we registered for the next one and hired a babysitter for the kids.

Could this be our future?  (Spoiler alert… it was!)

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Holding It In

Have you ever had that feeling?  That feeling right after you read something poignant, something true, something you’ve been avoiding thinking about because thinking about it would hurt, and you don’t have time for that sort of emotional volatility because your kids are home and Octonauts only lasts 22 minutes and you’ve already spent two of them refilling your coffee and four of them reading whatever it was that set you off?  So instead of thinking too hard about it, you look away from whatever you were reading, stand up, and then have to double over because the ceiling just shrank on you, and you have to hold your insides in because they are in danger of somehow falling out?  But you definitely cannot cry, or weep, because every time you do your face gets all blotchy and lights up like a tattle tale, and the last thing you want to do is explain to your kids why you might be sad, because sad doesn’t begin to describe it and plus words are so hard.  So you angrily swipe away the renegade tear and curse at it for betraying all the things you are desperately working to keep inside, and didn’t that stupid, careless tear notice you were HOLDING YOUR INSIDES IN AND THAT TEARS ARE SUPPOSED TO LIVE INSIDE?!

Yeah, me neither.

A little more than year ago I sat down and wrote in my journal about sexual assault.  The about-to-be President of the United States had been exposed for admitting and being proud of the way that he treated women, and the nation’s response to it had left me awake at night reliving my own experiences with sexual assault.  There have been so many,  and I don’t remember how some of them ended.  And looking back on them now, re-reading what I wrote, I see how much I qualify my experiences.  I downplay them.  I take responsibility for other people’s actions.  Maybe that time didn’t count, because…  Technically, it wasn’t… I should have… It wasn’t as bad as…

Now, I never do this to other people.  When people have talked to me about what’s going on in their lives, I have never thought to say, ‘Well, that doesn’t really count,’ or, ‘That isn’t as bad as what this other person experienced.’  In fact, for other people, I am generally the champion of reminding people that just because someone else may have experienced something worse, more traumatic, more difficult does not mean that what they are going through is not worth talking about or having feelings about.

I am all in when it comes to giving others permission to have their feelings, talk about their bad days, and know that they are seen and believed and heard in their challenges.

And I do not allow myself the same grace.

So, recently, the social media #metoo posts about people’s experiences with sexual harassment, assault, or rape have brought me right back.  Added to that is a conscious decision of late to be more gentle with how I treat myself, and a paragraph in a book about forgiveness.  I’m a mess.  But I don’t have time to be a mess—Wednesdays are busy, y’all—so instead of pouring more coffee I find myself holding my insides in.  And I’m going to be okay with that.