Monthly Archives: December 2007

Those with Nothing to Hide, Hide Nothing…

But I’m a mom, and the internet is a sometimes-scary place with sometimes-scary people (I’ve seen some of the search terms).  So, my pictures are password protected. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to see them!

If we have previous interactions and I can feel certain that you are not a scary person, I’ll give you the password. Just email me and ask for it. Or post a comment with your email in it. Whatever, as long as I have an email to send it to you.

Please, though, if I give you the password, don’t share it. Even if it is someone that you trust. I may be a bit neurotic, but they are my kids and nothing in the world is more precious to me.

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What Makes a "Real" Family

Sometimes, a comment comes across as so discriminatory that it cannot be ignored. As I lay on the couch last night, half asleep and watching reruns of “Dr G., Medical Examiner,” I experienced one of those moments. An off-hand comment on the show hit me in such a way that I took advantage of my DVR to rewind and copy the statement, verbatim, to discuss.

In this particular episode, an adoptive couple was being accused of abusing their five-week-old son. The mother had taken the child to work with her, where he was being watched in another room by a babysitter. At some point the child, who was fine when they came in, let out a horrible scream. The babysitter said that nothing had happened, but as the mother held her son she could feel his head suddenly swelling. She rushed him to the hospital, where it was found that he had two skull fractures. Children’s Protective Services stepped in. The mother passed a lie detector test. The father (who wasn’t even present at the time of the incident) showed some deception in the first lie detector test, but passed a second with flying colors. A full investigation was done over the course of weeks (during which the father was not allowed around the baby). Their daughter, who had been adopted five years earlier, was subjected to a complete body scan. No indications of any prior abuse were found.

At the completion of the investigation, CPS called the mother and asked for her to come down with the baby so that she could fill out one last piece of paperwork. When she arrived, two police officers forced the baby from her, then escorted her from the room. She was told by the CPS worker that they were going to ensure that the adoption was not finalized. The child was placed into foster care.

The producers of the show obviously made an attempt to be fair in telling this story(although Dr G’s findings were that it had been a complete miscarriage of justice, done by people who chose to ignore significant portions of fact). They had a representative of this CPS agency who appeared several times throughout the show. It was during one of these appearances that he made the statement.

These were not biological parents, these were people who were looking to adopt this child. What we try to do is keep families intact, and in a situation where the family is not really a family at that point, it’s handled a little bit differently.

The emphasis, obviously, is mine. The idiocy, however, was completely his. And his co-workers’. And an entire system’s.

I have mentioned before that I completed the certification to be a foster parent while doing my adoptive homestudy. I have also mentioned that we considered pursuing foster-adoption but decided that the situation wasn’t right at the time. This statement pretty much encapsulates why we didn’t feel that the situation was right. And, I suspect, it is also why some people are so anxious to see a day when all adoptions are done through CPS.

From the very first meeting we went to when we were looking into foster-adoption, it was openly stated that the primary objective was to maintain biological ties. To keep a child with its “real” family (even if that included placing the child with family members that it had never previously met). Every attempt would be made to “fix” the problem adults in the situation. If that couldn’t be done (and the adults had a year and a half, which did not have to be consecutive time) the child should be placed with extended family, if at all possible (and even if this meant putting the child in the same situation that originally contributed to the issues that shaped the parent’s problems–I have seen this happen first-hand). Adoption outside of biological ties was the absolute last resource. Because, after all, those aren’t “real” families.

The fact that this particular CPS worker was openly stating that this particular situation would have been handled differently if it were a biological parent absolutely made my blood boil. But it didn’t surprise me (well, it surprised me that he would admit it so clearly for national consumption). Why does DNA allow for such a double standard? Does a child, taken from the only parents it knows, feel less pain if the biological tie is absent? Is abuse somehow not as bad if delivered by a “real” parent?

So many children languish in foster care. So many will age out without ever finding a permanent family to guide them through life. And the fact is, the older a child is, the more likely he or she will meet this fate. I’m not saying that some families don’t deserve a second chance–people can and do change. But there comes a point where adults are allowed too many chances, and the children are being hurt on too many levels. Physically, emotionally, and hurt in their chances of permanency. The longer it is allowed to go on, the more damage is inflicted and the less chance that it will ever be overcome (this applies to ANY abusive parent, biological or adoptive–there are screw-ups everywhere).

I once helped a family in a last-ditch effort to keep their little girl from being removed from the home (another child had already been taken out). Seven and a half years later, every time I hear any updates on that child (who, at twelve-years-old has already attempted suicide), I am overcome with the knowledge that, though well-meaning, we did something wrong. I truly believe that she has been permanently damaged by her circumstances–circumstances that I helped to keep her in. It is a devastating thought.

So, is biology what makes a “real” family? I don’t think so. Of course, maybe that isn’t even the most important question. Truthfully, this is an issue that goes far beyond the realms of adoption. Over half of my nieces and nephews are being raised in divorce situations. They all have “biology.” And, in some cases, things are mostly ok. But, even with biology, some of them have a serious lack of stability from one parent or the other. And, much like the kids under the care of CPS, I just don’t think that the most important thing for them is “biology.” Stability rates way higher.

I guess what it comes down to, for me, isn’t how “real” the parents are, just how real their parenting ends up being.

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Filed under adoption, I think my head might explode, Soap Box

Post-Holiday Let-Down and Pregnancy Fears

I feel like I missed some opportunities. The last post I attempted to write was about the best interests of adoptees (as per my discussion with Joy). I do still want to write it. Actually, I did write it, but didn’t post it. So much of how I feel on this topic is related to the personal experiences of the people around me. I need to figure out a way to talk about it without sharing too much of other peoples’ stories.

I certainly wanted to talk some about Christmas. I ended up being awake until 2:00 am Christmas morning, trying to finish everything up, and still didn’t have everything ready when W~ came running out at 6:30, saying “Wow, mommy, look at all of the pretty presents.” The two oldest were a little disappointed that I hadn’t been able to finish the blankies that I promised them (am I going to burn for telling them that I was afraid Santa wouldn’t be able to stop at our house if I stayed up to work on them any longer?), but they were excited enough about everything else that they were ok with it. N~ got the pogo stick that he has been talking about for at least a month (for the life of me, I have NO clue where he even got the idea, but I like the energy expenditure that goes with it). The older two both got Leapsters, and they took to the idea of video games in a way that even surprised me (they’ve not spent much time with video games of any sort up to this point). My parents got the older two shirts that came with skateboards. They were thrilled. I keep having to remind them not to try and ride them down the steps.

It was a happy and busy day, full of time to play and time to be with family. By the end, I could tell that the adrenaline that has kept me going over the past few weeks was starting to wear off. And the germs were starting to wage war. By Christmas night I had no question about it–I was getting sick. It is just a cold, but it still sucks. Anything extra sucks when you are seven months pregnant, achy, and tired from weeks of Christmas preparation. Oh well.

Now that Christmas is no longer a concern (well, other than those blankies that I still need to finish), my brain can focus on new things (nature hates a void, right?). So what is on my brain? Labor, naturally. Well, not so much the labor itself–I’ve been through that, know I can handle it, whatever. It’s more of a circumstances surrounding the labor issue that is starting to get me. It started yesterday.

My siblings and I all spent the majority of the day at my parents’ house. We gathered to take the grandchildren photo that will be by parents’ (belated) Christmas present (scheduling a photo time for four different families when one lives on the other side of the country and another has to deal with holiday custody schedules is a bit tricky). After taking a picture and having lunch, I walked in on my sister and her husband looking at a calendar and discussing. I asked if they had an update on the progress of their adoption paperwork.  What little they had seemed to indicate that things wouldn’t get done before the lunar new year, which meant they couldn’t see travel happening before the end of February.

“Don’t worry,” they said, “it would probably be the last week of February at the earliest.” Apparently, they had forgotten the specifics of my due date. They thought I was due a little earlier in February, as opposed to the last week.

Have you ever really wanted two completely separate and opposing things? On one hand, I really want my mom to go to Vietnam. My brother-in-law has been having back issues, and he could definitely use the help while he is there. And I know that she would enjoy the experience. But…

It really scares me to think of having the baby while she is gone, because I don’t know who else could be certain to be around to watch my older kids. And the thing is, she didn’t even really watch them all that much last time around. I don’t think I ever told anyone, but I really felt kind of abandoned after C~ was born. Sean really felt like he needed to get back to take care of N~ and W~ and I didn’t have a lot of visitors. I was really lonely while I was in the hospital. I really wished that I had more hands to hold him so I could sleep a bit more before having to go home and be the mother to three. If I didn’t get as much of that as I wanted when she was around, what will it be like if she is out of the country? Sean really wouldn’t be able to spend time in the hospital with me. And this time, I’ll be going back to FOUR kids.

So, as much as I want her to go, I also want her to stay. And as much as I want my nephew to come home, I wanted our families to each have their own special “new baby” time. I want to be able to celebrate his arrival when I’m not recovering from delivery and sleep deprived from having a newborn. I want my sister to be able to visit me in the hospital without having to worry about affecting his adjustment period. So please, Vietnam powers that be, would you please just hurry up and get everything done BEFORE any more holidays get in the way. I’ve been praying for that for my sister’s sanity for months now. And now, well, my prayers have somewhat of a selfishness added to them. I’ll admit it.

Then, this morning, a new fear hit me. You see, late February in our area can be a time of, um, unpredictable weather. I’m talking potential snow and ice storms. It seems like, if we are going to get a really massive one, that is about the time of year that it happens. If it is bad enough, they broadcast snow emergency levels (kind of like the terror threat levels). Level one–nasty roads, don’t go out if you don’t need to. Level two–really bad, only travel if it is absolutely necessary. Level three–we’ll arrest you if we catch you driving. So my new fear is that we’ll get a “big one” and I’ll go into labor during a level three emergency. What happens, then? I suppose that we would have to call an ambulance to take me. It takes almost half and hour to get to the hospital on good roads–how long would it take on “impassible” ones? The only upside I could see is that my dad wouldn’t need to be at work, so he could watch the kids and Sean could ride in the ambulance, too. But then, how would he get back home?

Yep, I admit it, I’m officially becoming neurotic.

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Crying Over Spilled Milk

Yesterday morning, I was awoken to the pitter patter of little feet.

“Go back to bed, W~” I called down the hallway.

“But, Mommy, I pooped and it is on my foot and on the floor, and the toilet won’t flush.” Oh, crap–literally.

Thankfully, the toilet wasn’t really broken, and only a bit of the diarrhea was on the aforementioned floor and foot. Still, the last remnants of the stomach bug he fought over the weekend weren’t exactly how I had planned to start my day.

I cleaned him up, gave all of the kids dry cereal to eat on my bed while watching TV (aren’t I the model of motherhood?), and closed the bedroom door so I could shower in the master bathroom, able to hear what they were doing and know that they weren’t wondering through the house wreaking havoc.

I had an OB appointment in the morning. I gained six pounds (’tis the season), which puts me up to 161. Yuck. That means I can’t gain more than nine pounds over the next 10 weeks unless I want to go higher than my previous pregnancies, which I don’t.

Various issues and runnings-about throughout the day stopped me from ever cleaning–a common problem these past couple of weeks. I feel like I’m living in a hovel. Sean called to ask if I minded if he took a rare “guys night out” to play Risk at a business contact’s house that evening. Despite how overwhelmed I am, I agree since he almost never asks to do something like that.

I decided last night not to run to the store, with the kids, in the freezing muck, shortly before bedtime, by myself, because I just don’t have the energy–emotionally or physically, to deal with it. After all, everyone will be more agreeable in the morning.

Three o’clock this morning, C~ wakes up and starts vomiting. I get up to clean the mess while Sean takes C~ into the bathroom and tends to him. I get C~ a small amount of Dt. Mountain Dew (the only fizzy substance in the house) to sip. The commotion has woken N~ up, and he comes out asking for his own glass of soda, claiming that he is also sick. Despite suspecting that this is more of a “convenient” illness, I pour him a small glass–after all, there’s nothing wrong with caffeinating a hyper-active four-year-old in the middle of the night, right? I end up being glad for my decision, since it spares him the effort of pulling his head out of the toilet three minutes later to say, “See, Mom, I told you I was sick.” Yep, a double header. Lucky me.

I tell Sean that I will skip my 7:30 am networking meeting, but he is going to need to run to the store before work to buy me the things that I didn’t pick up last night. And everyone goes back to sleep.

Sean did go to the store for me this morning so that I wouldn’t have to go through the day without milk. He brought all of the groceries in, then hurriedly started giving everyone hugs and kisses so he could leave. I heard a thud. Then, a strange gurgling noise. By the time I reached the kitchen, the majority of my fresh gallon of milk was spreading all over the floor.

To Whom it May Interest:

You are cordially invited to a complete mental breakdown. But only as a participant. No idle spectators, please.

~Katie

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Filed under Daily Life, I think my head might explode, Kids, pregnancy

Wow

When I wrote my last post Saturday night, I had no idea that so many people would notice it. It certainly isn’t the first time that I have talked about my views, so I don’t know exactly what made this post so much more noticeable. All I know is that, in the three months that I have been writing about my life, the most hits my blog had gotten in one day was 55. Since posting Saturday night, I have had over 500. I’m sure that doesn’t seem like a lot to some of you who have been at this for awhile, but for me–wow. I am really  blown away, and kind of humbled, to think that so many people have thought it was worth their time–whether they agreed or not.

Thank you to those who have left comments. I have started looking at some of your blogs. I have found people that I want to get to know better. Of course, I would never expect people to agree with everything that I have to say. But I was encouraged to hear the voices of those that, at the very least, don’t think that I’m crazy.

The past few days have been great for me (despite intermittent episodes of projectile vomiting by W~). We had a family Christmas party with Sean’s family on a day that “looked a lot like Christmas.” We had a pretty significant snow storm in our area. I saw evidence of the brighter side of humanity as people actually went out of their way to be kind to one another as they stocked up on necessities at the grocery store. My younger brother and his family (who I haven’t seen since last Christmas) managed to fly in, despite the storm. And today, we went to the local children’s museum with a grandmother and cousins who live nearby, as well as with my husband’s aunt and uncle and their young children, who just returned from six months of missionary work in Haiti.

It is more than just the snow. It is beginning to FEEL a lot like Christmas. The big stressors from last week are (mostly) gone, and I can begin to enjoy the approaching holiday. This is the first time in several years that we are staying home for the entire holiday season, so I’m not stressed about packing for a two-week vacation. We have only spent Christmas day at home once since N~ was born (admittedly, he was complaining today that we wouldn’t be going to Florida this year, but what kid wouldn’t like the idea of Christmas-time at Disney World?). I’m just excited for a relaxing holiday at home, with the bulk of our family.

Tonight, life feels good.

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Privilege, Choice, Entitlement, and Minority Rule

I mentioned in my last post that there were discussions in the adoption-blog world that had my head spinning as of late. Tonight, I followed a link to a seven page forum topic where a few adoptive mothers were repeatedly attacked for their decision to adopt, while also being patronized about not having “perspective.” These women were told they were selfish for choosing to adopt infants (and, thus, participate in a “corrupt” system that preys on the misfortunes of others), instead of becoming parents through the foster system.

This said by women who admit that they got pregnant relatively quickly after placing a child to fill the hole of the biological child that they weren’t parenting.

How utterly selfish.

After all, they put their desires to fill that void with an infant above the social injustices suffered by waiting children. They couldn’t have the child that they wanted–the one that was lost to them–so they should “expand their horizons” and enter into a situation that they didn’t feel prepared for, instead of selfishly choosing to parent another infant.

Sounds crazy, right? So why is it crazy for me to say this about a woman who can choose to biologically have another infant, but perfectly acceptable for a birthmother to say it to a prospective adoptive parent, who does not have the option of biology due to a medical situation? (And, for the record, before submitting my profile to our adoption agency, I called a neighboring county about a ten-year-old girl that had been in the system for years–they weren’t currently considering placement for her due to severe emotional problems, and I still occasionally check my state’s listings to see her status, five years later. I also came thisclose to submitting my homestudy for a sibling group, as well as a toddler with some developmental delays. I DID look very seriously at that option, but the situations weren’t right. I am no different from many potential adoptive parents who explore “the system” before deciding that it isn’t the right place for them–at least right now.)

Near the end of the forum discussion, one of the women who had made a lot of the statements that bothered me posted to the adoptive mothers that she was NOT attacking them–that she respected them for their courage to broaden their horizons and try to gain “real perspective” as opposed to the subjective kind (this true perspective, naturally, was based on her views). She then went to her personal blog and lamented the entitlement displayed by these women who were never going to “get it.”

And so, I finally feel pushed to the point of sharing my perspective on these topics (although not nearly as completely as I would like, due to the realities of attention span).

No matter what you want to tell yourself, life has everything to do with choices. This doesn’t mean that wrongs don’t occur, or that social injustices don’t exist. But how we deal with the situations we face is still a result of our choices.

I take issue with those who claim that adoption is a broken system because it only exists because of poverty, lack of education, lack of social support, or anything else of that nature. Yes, those factors can come into play as part of a woman’s choice. It is interesting, though, that those who attempt to evaluate the “strength” of a potential adoptive match site the fact that an expecting mother is much more likely to choose adoption if she has MORE education, is older, is currently parenting another child, or has well-defined goals and aspirations for her life (at least in the arena of domestic adoption). In other words, it is the ones with more “privilege” and “choices” that are considered more likely to choose adoption.

I do not disagree that there are horrible social injustices that drive women in other countries to choose adoption (deathly poverty, limitations on family size, the fact that an illegitimate child and its mother become complete social outcasts in some countries…).Here’s my complaint, though. If you are bothered by those injustices, focus your energy on FIXING them, not on destroying a system that is, at least, alleviating some of their effects on the next generation.

I am bothered when I see people repeatedly referring to those of us who adopt as using our “privilege” to strong-arm babies from those who don’t have as much “control.” Believe me, the four years of hell that I endured with infertility was no privilege. Neither were the effects it had on my marriage, my mental health, or my pocket book. As much as I (and many other couples) would like to eventually open our hearts and homes to those children who wait, the emotional fallout of infertility often leaves us unable to deal with the additional (severe) emotional ups and downs of dealing with the foster care system. And while many of the same women who rail against our privilege will complain bitterly any time they perceive a comment as somehow telling them they should get over the emotional turmoil caused by their  experiences, well, those suffering the emotional fallout of infertility just need to “broaden their horizons” and “get perspective.” Ugh.

This post is long. The time is late. And I don’t know if I am effectively communicating my feelings. At this point, I hear my mother asking me (as she has in the past) “Why are you wasting your time–you won’t change these people’s minds.” And you know what? She is right about that. I know I won’t change the minds of the people who make these statements. It is the people who READ them that I’m concerned about.

So, why do I bother? I can sum it up in three words: Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

One of the quickest ways to get decent people to abandon their beliefs is to tell them that they have more power, and it’s not fair. Despite what an enormous section of our population believes, we are not a society of majority rule. It is the very vocal minorities (the squeaky wheels, if you will) that tend to shape policy. When I first started contemplating this, a month or so ago, I did a little research and read some things by Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She brought new meaning to the word “radical.” The vast majority of our country didn’t even come close to agreeing with her views. But she and her views forever changed the face of public education. And those changes didn’t just protect those who did not have Christian beliefs–it essentially muzzled those that did. It swung the pendulum too far in the other direction (effectively removing rights from the majority).

That is my fear–that is why I respond. I see too many women being told that they lack perspective–that they can never even HAVE perspective, because they haven’t experienced childbirth. Their greatest insecurities are played on to convince them that they have done something wrong, something unfair. And I see too many of them who believe it. So I respond, and I hope that since I HAVE been in both situations–going through infertility and adoption, then experiencing pregnancies–that I might offset some of that guilt that is being thrust upon them.

And I hope that by doing what doesn’t seem to be politically correct, by disagreeing with these adoption “reformists,” that some of their frightening suggestions don’t eventually become policy. I do think that there is room for reform.  But I think that reform should focus on the children being effected, and on protecting everyone involved–not just on making a certain segment feel good.

What more can I say? Squeak…squeak…squeak…

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Filed under adoption, I think my head might explode, infertility