Dear Parent of a Sick Child {letter #5}

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I sat on my bed soaking up the silence of an empty house with the knowledge that soon the kids would be home and I would hear, “Mom! I want this!” and “Mom, he’s bugging me!”  “Mom!”  “Mom!”  “MOMMMMM!!”

Silence sure is golden when it seems so evasive these days.

But then, Dear Parent of a Sick Child, I thought of you.

The beeps of machines are the only sounds you hear.  The pacing of your own anxious feet, the hustle of nurses in and out the door, and the frenzied whispered prayers that roll off your tongue are the sounds that surround your life right now.

The sound of silence is deafening, isn’t it?

You are beginning to despise silence.  Day in and day out, you wait for a noise…any noise…that would alert your anxious heart to the awakening of your child.  Sure, you hear the occasional whimper and you engage in conversations with others, but you know these things do not equate for the joyful, full-on, beautiful noise of your child.

During the times when I’m frustrated by my four-year-old asking for “More kisses, Mommy” as I’m trying to get him to go to sleep, you are praying for your little one to wake up from the drug-induced haze of sleep.  The moments when I’ve told my eight-year-old daughter that I need some space, you have craved more time and more space with yours.  When I’ve had to get on to my ten-year-old because he decided to put off a homework assignment, the furthest thing from your mind is worrying about late schoolwork.

These things and these noises are ones that parents of well children take for granted.

You’ve heard people say, “Everything happens for a reason.”  That just seems like a load of nonsense, doesn’t it?  There doesn’t seem to be any good reason that your child is struggling to survive.  It doesn’t make sense that your child has to endure the pain and hardship of a severe, life-threatening illness.  If ever you wished for silence, it would be the times when those five words were spoken to you as if you needed enlightenment or some form of justification for the unjust attack on your child’s body.

You never imagined how painfully loud silence could be until you were forced to sit in the same non-comforting hospital chair for days, months even, and you became engulfed by it.  You long to hear the heavy pitter-patter of your little one’s thick feet bouncing down the floor.  You yearn to hear the slightly off-key voice of your daughter belting out her favorite song.  You wish you could hear just one more of your son’s goofy excuses for not getting his homework done.

This.  

This sits so heavy on my heart.

The loud and painful sound of silence.

The ugly truth is that none of us are prepared for what you have been living the past few months or years.  It is hard to prepare for hell when you are living a seemingly, heavenly life, but this is what you are going through, isn’t it?  When you hear other parents complain about how loud their kids are, you just want to escape inside your own skin in order to maintain a sense of control and not lose your cool.

When the laughter of a child barrels its way in your direction, you notice it and you enjoy it, but those feelings are fleeting.  Your joy dissolves into despair as you turn to the sound of silence surrounding you while holding your child’s hand, and you go right back to whispering words like these that have become your mantra:

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silencefor my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”  -Psalms 62:5-7

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Hang in there.  Don’t be too proud to ask for help or too timid to ask for prayer. Celebrate the slightest of improvements.  Never give up on the healing power of hope.  May God filter the silence with grace.

For Parents of Well Children – May we never, ever take for granted the noises of our children.

Author’s Note:  I am not a parent of a sick child, thankfully, but I was a sick child.  As an adult, I now understand what my parents went through and the trauma that still touches their lives from watching me dance within the shadow of death. I have such compassion for parents of sick children.  This is the fifth letter in my, “Dear Parent of a Sick Child Series.”  I truly hope this letter series brings a small measure of comfort for the families waiting for their children to be well.

 

To the Momma-in-Waiting on Mother’s Day

 

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To the Momma-in-Waiting for Mother’s Day,

This is a tough time, isn’t it?  Your Facebook feed is filled with pictures of smiling moms with their little ones adorning them with cards, pictures, and gifts. You “like” the pictures but in your heart, you have grown to despise them a little bit.  Not the people, of course, but the pictures.

Here’s a little glimpse of what your Mother’s Day (which always falls on a Sunday) may look like:

You grab some coffee and choke down your breakfast but you are not hungry. There’s a lump in your throat and you know why.  After trying on what seems like a bazillion different outfits, you settle on one but it still isn’t good enough.  It’s not that you look bad.  You’re just uncomfortable and the clothes have nothing to do with it.

Your husband walks in, compliments you and you sort of shrug it off.  He knows something is wrong and suggests that maybe skipping church would be okay for today.  You say, “No, it’s fine”.  In your heart, you know it’s not fine, yet you don’t want to be THAT person who skips church just because it’s Mother’s Day.

Off you go, heading towards what you know will be a less than desirable time. On the way there, you beat yourself up over the self-pity that has taken over.  At the front door, greeters welcome you with, “Happy Mother’s Day!” You nod…thinking, “Don’t they know I’m not a mother.”

The sermon, yeah, this is where it gets sticky.  Pastor goes on and on about children and motherhood.  He delivers an enthusiastic message about how God created women to be unique and that childbirth is a miracle.  You listen, sort of.

You fake a good smile when the congregation gives an ovation to the Moms in the room.  You even muster up the strength to slap your hands together but not too enthusiastically and certainly without passion.  You feel ridiculous for being bitter, especially in a church of all places.  All the time, you sink further and further into your skin.

Sweet friend, you are a Momma-in-Waiting and this day is really hard, isn’t it?

It just doesn’t make sense anymore, does it?  You are strong.  You are faithful. You’ve done everything right to prepare for having a family to call your own, but now, you’re just adrift in a lifeless sea.  People tell you, “Just trust God.”  The problem with this is you have always trusted God.  This is not a matter of trusting Him any more or any less.  It’s a matter of heartbreak, loss, and confusion.

It’s not that Mother’s Day is the only one out of the year that reminds you of a life without children.  You are reminded daily through social media, walking by the maternity sections of stores, negative pregnancy tests, grim news from the doctors, financial bills from IVF treatments, getting invitations in the mail to baby showers, and hearing that another person (among many) is expecting.  This is what is hard about infertility and what is most misunderstood about it.

You have become a captive to the bones that carry you around.  Your body is a stranger to you; betrayal of the greatest kind.  Your heart beats and blood flows but it feels like an empty vessel; a shell of what it once was.  Your thoughts won’t let you escape the narrow road that you are walking, even though you try. All this nonsense has awakened a level of sorrow that you never knew existed. Truth be told, you wouldn’t wish this upon anyone.  You never wished it upon yourself.

There’s a special place in your imagination that you frequently visit.  It has visions of pregnancy, childbirth, picking names and holding on to the living witness of love that has come into your life.  It is filled with birthdays, family pictures, giggles, and grins.  You visit if often and even though it brings you pain, it also brings you hope.  Hang on to it.

Survive for the sake of that special place.

No one else should or could tell you how to get through Mother’s Day.  Just do what you need to do.  I’m not even going to tell you what will make this day easier because I know the only thing that would make it better is for a child to look at you, wrap his little arms around you, and call you, “Mommy”.  This is a truth that churns up both devastation and fortitude.  This is something that you know all too well.

Above anything else I’ve said,

Momma-in-Waiting, on this Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of you. 

3,285 days

Today marks the anniversary of the adoption of our oldest son.  It has been 3,285 days since the gavel of the Judge slammed down and our oldest son was declared as our legal and forever son; 3,285 days since I turned around and saw the tear-filled eyes of so many friends and family members watching our family become official, since I was able to fully exhale for the first time, and since all of us could truly visualize a future that included the little guy we had all fallen in love with.

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Little cutie in his adoption outfit

We were just four months shy of the two-year mark of him being in our home when our adoption was granted.  Some people have said, “Two years!  I can’t imagine not knowing what will happen for that long.”  Honestly, we feel pretty fortunate that it was only twenty months.  We know cases that have lasted a lot longer with so much more risk involved.  We don’t regret those twenty months.  Instead, we are thankful for them.

20170507_151237During the twenty months of fostering him, we grew closer, more faithful and walked in the witness of the hardship of others.  Words barely give justice for what it is like to completely put your heart out there for another little soul to whom you may or may not spend the rest of your life with.

We were not braver than others.  We just knew that we had to finish the race we had started without knowing what the finish line would look like.

It has been 3,285 days since the last time I looked in his soft, brown eyes and wondered how long I would call myself his mommy; 3,285 days since I was declared his forever mom.

Three thousand, two hundred and eighty-five days since he became our son.

Love you bigger than outer space.  Love you, forever.

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Best big brother

 

 

 

Sweet Mom, Judgy Mom, & a little bit of caffeine

20170505_150607Standing in line at Starbucks, I sparked up a conversation about coffee and children with a mom (I’ll call her Sweet Mom) of two little ones as my soon-to-be 11-yr-old son eagerly waited for his special treat of an Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte.  Caffeine does not negatively affect my son.  It actually helps him concentrate.  This is a part of ADHD that most people do not understand, but that is not what this post is about.

Sweet Mom looked at her little guy and said, “Grandma gives him sips of her coffee, sometimes.  He LOVES straight, black coffee!”  We both laughed a bit but as we did, I noticed a lady (I’ll call her Judgy Mom) standing at the counter and listening to our conversation.  Sweet Mom had her back to the lady and had no idea Judgy Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head in disgust at our conversation about allowing our kids to have caffeine/coffee every now and then.

The longer I stood there and watched Judgy Mom’s utter dismay at us, the more I found myself wanting to come to the defense of Sweet Mom and all of the other moms out there who are just trying to do the darn best that we can.  By the time Judgy Mom got her own caffeinated beverage, Sweet Mom swiped up her drinks, told me it was nice visiting and went about her merry way.  When the barista called my son’s name, I proudly grabbed the drink, handed it to him, and said, “Here you go, bud.  Enjoy.”

As I walked to the car, drinking my own strong little number, my imagination decided to embark on a conversation that I chose not to have with Judgy Mom (because I’m not a confront and destroy kinda girl).

Here is what I really wanted to say,

“I’m assuming by the look of disgust on your face, the rolling back of your eyes, and the shaking of your head, that you just can’t believe the nerve of some “young moms” these days allowing their kids to have a little caffeine from time-to-time.  You might think it is abusive or neglectful or just bad parenting, right?  You might wonder what on Earth we also allow our kids to have.  

Well, here’s the deal, Judgy Mom. (Okay, I wouldn’t call her that to her face.)  If you really want to see “bad moms or dads” in action, why don’t you join a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator on a home visit to investigate allegations?  I’m sure arriving at a home and finding a neglected baby in a crib whose diaper hasn’t been changed for four days would probably alarm you.

Or, how about you take a look at pictures of a blue-eyed, 4-yr-old child who was beaten so severely for not eating her dinner fast enough that the imprint of the perpetrator’s boots was left on her skin?  (Yes, this is a real situation.  I’ve seen the pictures.  I still have the images engraved in my mind and it’s been 10+ years since viewing them.)

Perhaps, you can become a CASA or other type of advocate for children so that you can learn how a lot of kids don’t eat over the weekend because there is no food in the house and their only meals come from school.  Once you do any of these things, you won’t be as tempted to roll your eyes and shake your head in disgust at two moms having a chat about the antics of slightly coffee-fueled children.

How about that?”

I know some of you might think this is a little extreme, but one thing that gets my goat more than anything is the amount of parent-shaming that exists nowadays. Perhaps, I’ve seen too much.  Maybe, working in child welfare has skewed my perception of what is a “good mom” versus a “bad mom”.  All I know is that once you truly learn what is happening to children and what some parents either do to their kids or allow their kids to go through, it is really hard to get all worked up about things like caffeine, sugar, screen time, red dye #40, or whatever other items that have become a trendy thing to frown upon.

I believe that most parents are just like my husband and me – trying to balance work, parenting, social activities, sports, spiritual development and medical needs all while raising kids to be half-way decent human beings.  There are some days where we literally eat on the go and high-five each other in passing.  There are others where we eat home cooked meals all day, stay inside and just be together.  Either way, I do believe my kids are going to be just fine and that we are doing our very best at this glorious, God-given task of raising future adults.

To Sweet Mom, whom I met at Starbucks today, your kids are precious.  Don’t worry about Grandma sneaking a sip of coffee to your little guy.  You’re doing just fine.

To Judgy Mom, I’d love to meet with you and talk about parenting over a nice, large cup of coffee.  I bet I can figure out a way to give you an outlet for your obvious concern about children.

To all the other parents out there, if you are meeting your kids’ physical, emotional, and social needs, plus working each day to raise them to be half-way decent human beings, then you are also doing just fine.

Let’s stop parent-shaming.  There are far too many issues going on with children and families to worry about a kiddo getting a little bit of caffeine.

How about that?

Don’t Let the “Bad Stories” Keep You From Adopting or Fostering {Adoption.com article}

Hello, Friends!

Did you know that May is National Foster Care Awareness Month?  I’ve said it before but I think that bringing awareness to the issues surrounding the foster care system should be a continual quest.

Recently, I wrote an article for Adoption.com regarding not letting the “bad stories” you hear keep you from foster parenting or adopting.  Let’s face it.  There are some not-so-savory stories out there about the difficulties of working within the system and caring for foster children, but there are also some wonderful stories, happy endings, and just brilliant examples of love, redemption, and determination.

You can read the article by clicking on this link:  Don’t Let the “Bad Stories” Keep You From Adopting or Fostering  I hope it helps you discern if foster parenting or adoption is the right path for you and your family.

As always, I wish you much love and many blessings,

Caroline

The Fall-Out After a Hysterectomy {what I want others to know}

I’ve had multiple conversations with women who have undergone a hysterectomy.  While some women were like “Good Riddance!”, this is not the case for the majority of ones that I’ve spoken to.

Even though my hysterectomy occurred before I could really conceptualize the impact of it, I still had overwhelming thoughts about what had happened.  Not only was I confused by them, I couldn’t even appreciate or understood why confusion existed.

Although having a hysterectomy may be required at times and has become a bit more simple of a surgery, the emotional experience can be very difficult to navigate.  I want to help others going through a hysterectomy by sharing a few of the thoughts that I have experienced in my life.  (Please note that not everyone may feel this way)

  • “I am not female anymore.”  Believe it or not, this is a thought that can occur once someone has a hysterectomy.  The question of “What am I?” may cross a woman’s mind.
  • “I am no longer attractive to my mate.”  Yep.  Women DO struggle with this after a hysterectomy.  I used to believe that other girls/women put off a sexier or more womanly vibe that I possessed and that guys could tell.  Seem crazy to me now, but it was a truth in my life that I had to overcome.  I compensated for it; sometimes, with bad decisions and other times with the “I don’t care about any of it” attitude.
  • “I must have done something wrong.”  Shame. Guilt.  Unworthy.  Although ridiculous in many ways, these words can describe the feelings that come about after undergoing a hysterectomy.
  • “I am broken.”  Despair upon despair.  It is hard to put a word that truly gives the meaning of what women go through after a hysterectomy.  Broken seems just about right.

Often, women do not want to talk about their feelings because they are embarrassed to feel the way they do or fear they might be misunderstood.  This seems to be especially true for younger women who are faced with the onslaught of friends complaining about periods and announcing pregnancies.  Infertility is one thing but when you throw in a hysterectomy, the game changes.

For most people, these doubts and feelings will not make sense.  For many others, though, there is great emotional fall-out after a hysterectomy, and, it is one that is surprising in nature.

If you have had a hysterectomy and are struggling, please know that what you are experiencing is normal.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Allow yourself time to grieve, and know that there are others who have had shared your emotions time and again.

 

 

 

Taking Care of Roots {a little lesson with my daughter}

My daughter came home from school this past week and said, “Mom, we played foster care at school today.”  She then said, “I was the foster child and I had two moms.”  I told her that sounded fun and interesting.  We went on with the rest of the day and she didn’t mention it again.

I thought about this conversation the remainder of the week.  My daughter is very smart, willful and can be extremely challenging.  She walks to the beat of her own drum and is fierce in so many ways.  However, it seems that the older she gets, the more she thinks, questions, and talks about being adopted (even in non-direct ways), and the more concerned I am about her sense of self-worth and identity.

During our foster parent training, one of the videos we watched showed a foster mom and her foster daughter planting flowers together.  Although a bit cheesy and scripted, the point was made that using things like gardening or other activities is a great way to connect with children.

20170415_130021Yesterday, as my daughter and I were planting flowers, I took a look at her little hands digging in the dirt, remembered the scene in the foster parent training video and thought, “If I get an opportunity, take it.”  As I lifted the flowers out of their containers to transplant them, I grabbed the root bed and held on firmly.  I said to my daughter, “You know, the roots are really the most important part of flowers.  Even if you transplant them from one place to the other, as long as the roots are taken care of, the flowers should grow just fine.  If you don’t take care of the roots or feed, water and help them to be stable, the flowers won’t do very well.”

My daughter said, “Kinda like if a baby tiger is taken away from its mother and no one takes care of it, it will die.”  I said, “Kinda unless another tiger family takes it in and takes care of it and gives it ‘roots’ to grow, then it should be just fine.”  As my daughter plunged her hands into the dirt, she said, “I didn’t know my birth mom, right?”  I said, “Well, you were a newborn, so no, I don’t think you would remember her.”  She then said, “Yeah, but you got me and take care of me now.”  I said, “Yes, it’s kinda like taking care of flowers.  Even though we are transplanting these flowers, as long as we give them what they need, they will be just fine.  The same goes for you.  You came to us and we are your family.  Families give us roots to grow.”

We spent the next few hours digging in the soil, planting flowers and just talking.  I watched as she carefully watered and tended to them.  I’m not quite sure if this conversation will actually make a difference in her life, but I do believe that intentional parenting, backed up with nurturing and honesty, will give her and my other children the best chance they have to navigate this world and their place in it.  Most importantly, I deeply hope that it will help them understand that being adopted is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

If you have a child from another mother’s womb, it is important to not be scared of answering questions as they come.  Think outside of the box.  Take moments such as the one I described to connect with your children.  You don’t need to come up with elaborate plans or ideas.  Just be authentic, in the moment, honest and insightful.

Just as we tended to the roots of our flowers, my hope that is that the roots of all children will be met with nourishment, stability, and love.