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?

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.

 

 

 

How To Support Reunification Even if You Don’t Want To

Foster parenting is certainly not for the faint-of-heart.  Foster families understand that reunification of children with their biological parents is the most important goal when children enter protective custody.  This process can be draining and emotional, but it is possible to support reunification even if you do not want to.

I recently wrote an article for Adoption.com about this topic.  You can read it by clicking here.

Foster parenting is hard but anything we do for children is always worth it!

Blessings,

Caroline

Baby Showers Are the Worst

The title of this post seems a bit dramatic, doesn’t it?  After all, why would anyone say that celebrating the soon-to-be delivery of a precious little love is the worst?

Who would say this?

WOMEN WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH INFERTILITY

…that’s who.

It is hard to creatively describe what it feels like to what into a baby shower knowing that you will not be able to share the same type of experience.  It may seem a bit silly, but infertility is far from a trivial issue.  It is very complex.

Before the adoption of my children, I dreaded going to baby showers.  Every time an invitation card came in the mail, I puffed out an “ugh”.  Even the act of shopping for gifts was just a big load of emotions and not pleasant.

This is how I survived baby showers:

  1. Slapped on the “so-happy-to-be-here-face” as I nervously entered the host home.
  2. If possible, I always found the pet cat or dog to pay attention to.
  3. Grazed around the snack table for as much time as possible (regardless if I was hungry).
  4. Pretended to understand the lingo of pregnancy terms (laughed on cue when others laughed even if I didn’t understand what they were talking about).
  5. Played along with the games.
  6. Oohed and awed over the gifts.
  7. Ate more food.
  8. Hugged the Mama-to-be and made a dash to my car…
  9. just in time before the tears gushed out.
  10. Gripped the steering wheel all the way home.
  11. Entered my house, went straight back to my bed, clung onto a pillow, sobbed and then felt guilty afterward for feeling that way.

Through the years, I’ve spoken to far too many women who are experiencing struggles with fertility.  Each one has affirmed that, indeed, baby showers are the worst for women who cannot get pregnant or keep a pregnancy to full term.  Each one described similar sad feelings when getting invitations in the mail, anxiety when arriving, and the struggle to play the role of a happy guest.

Here’s the hard part of all of this.  We want to be invited but we aren’t necessarily happy about going.  It’s not that we are unhappy for our friends and loved ones who are expecting.  It’s just that with each shower comes along a bitter reminder of what we cannot have.  I say “we” because even though adoption has made me a mom, I still consider myself a part of the sisterhood of broken hearts and empty wombs.

I want anyone going through the challenge of infertility to know that it is okay to dread baby showers.  It is normal to not want to go or to feel like an “outsider” while there.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  The road you are walking is hard enough the way it is.

If you are expecting and worried about inviting that friend of yours who has miscarried or is experiencing infertility, the most courageous thing you can do is speak with your friend about it.  Perhaps, your conversation can go something like this:

“I know you received my shower invitation and I also know that this is a really hard tine in your life right now.  I’ll understand if you do not want to come, but know that I would love for you to be there.  If you decide not to, also know that I love you and am supportive of you.  Perhaps, we can grab lunch one day and spend some time together.” 

If you friend decides not to come, please do not take it as anything other than it is – a super tough experience for someone who cannot have a baby.  Chances are that your friend will come.  Chances are also high that your friend will grieve afterward.

I hope this sheds some light on the subject for those who care for others going through it. Most of all, I hope this post confirms to persons experiencing infertility that their feelings regarding baby showers are a normal part of the journey.

Infertility is nothing short of a crapshoot.  It is just a big jumbled mess of all sorts of emotions, and even baby showers can’t escape its wrath.

Hang in there, friend.