Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Long Road

I have been holding out on you…we’ve been having some major adoption drama the past few months.  I haven’t wanted to share because it’s literally been weighing me down and stressing me out.  However, patience is a virtue and I’m hear to share some happy news.

When Ben was placed with us, our social worker told us that he would (more than likely) qualify for subsidy.  The State of Missouri classifies African American children as “special needs” even when there is nothing wrong with them (don’t even get me started on this).  So, given the fact that Ben was black, coupled with the circumstances surrounding his birth, he should qualify for subsidy.  We did not learn of the subsidy until after placement.  A good friend of mine works for the State and told us about it.  Our worker never broached the topic with us until we asked her about it. 

The subsidy, among other things, will supplement our health insurance in the event that Ben needs counseling/therapy etc. down the road.  Unfortunately, children born with exposure to alcohol, even when Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is not present, can face a spectrum of issues…some being mild to others being downright scary.  There is no way to tell how Ben will be affected in the coming years and we found this a blessing because it basically means that we will pay for very little if he needs medical treatments.  So, we filled out our subsidy paperwork and waited.  We waited some more because the State is SLOW.  I think we waited for 8 weeks before finding out we were DENIED. 

The denial letter was extremely hard for me to stomach.  They were not denying Ben based on his medical history or the fact that he was truly “special needs” but they denied us based on how we were recruited for Ben’s adoption.  Now, without getting too lengthy, we were supposed to tell our social worker (before placement) that we would only accept Ben’s placement if we would get subsidy.  Given the fact that we didn’t even know about the subsidy until after placement this was something that was out of our control.  The State literally wanted us to say that we would not move forward with the adoption without subsidy.  Hello….he’s my SON.  I wasn’t about to say that and yet my heart was broken because the only person losing out was my child.  I have never felt like a greater failure as a parent.  Something I didn't do was negatively effecting my child.

 I spoke with our subsidy worker, several times, at length about his denial.  She expressed how badly she felt and explained that the criteria for subsidy had changed within the past six months.  Had we adopted earlier, this would not have been an issue.  We contacted our attorney and decided we would have a hearing to try and appeal the decision.  In doing this, it also meant that we had to put off our final adoption hearing because you cannot finalize an adoption if subsidy is still an issue. 

Heartbroken.  I so badly wanted the final hearing to happen.  And now, it would be months (or possibly even next year) before that would happen.  We had a subsidy hearing date set for early May when my attorney asked for a continuance.  She had trial the same day as our hearing.  Again, I felt so defeated.  I felt like everyone was looking at me thinking that I had a “normal” child and that I was being silly or greedy in pushing the subsidy issue.  I felt like our finalization would never happen.  I also felt like this was all for nothing.  In all honesty, the hearing was probably going to result in the same answer but I felt strongly that I had to advocate for my child.  If I wasn’t his advocate, who would be?  The thing about subsidy is that you get one shot.  We can’t come back in 5 years and say we need it.  This was it.

When I received the call from our subsidy worker saying the hearing had to be continued I literally broke down.  I felt like I couldn't stay on this merry-go-round of emotions any more.  I didn’t know if we were wasting our time, racking up attorneys fees for no reason, or if I was doing the right thing.  Truth be told, I didn’t feel like anyone was really in our corner.  People look at Ben and see a healthy, happy, well adjusted child.  I see it when I look at him and yet everything was telling me that people didn’t get why I was making such a big deal about it.

Truth be told, our social worker was of little to no support at this time.  She wrote her recruiting letter, received the denial and was going to leave it at that.  I think she was annoyed that we choose to pursue the subsidy. It didn’t make me feel good.  I felt judged and let down.  We love our social worker and she was awesome through the placement but I couldn’t help but feel like she was ready to close our file.  It definitely made me question what I was doing.  But, I chose to pick up the phone and contact our subsidy worker directly, which proved to be invaluable.  I’m not one to let someone else do my work, so I wasn’t comfortable with our social worker taking the lead on the subsidy because we were not on the same page.

  ANSWERED PRAYERS!  Because our subsidy worker took an interest in our case…because I reached out to her and built a rapport…she went above and beyond.  She did not tell me that she was doing this prior to presenting our case.  She took the initiative to advocate for our son and it has made a lasting impact on me.  She said that many deserving families were being denied and that they felt horrible about our situation.  Before this good news, I had a bitter taste in my mouth with the adoption process.  I felt like the system failed me and my child by changing the rules and not telling anyone. 

I owe our subsidy worker a huge thank you.  She made things happen when she didn’t have to.  Because of her Ben’s quality of life (should he need therapy etc.) will be changed.  I’m so thankful!  I literally feel like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.  For some strange reason, her interest in our case gave me validation that I wasn’t greedy or crazy and that my son, whom I would do anything for, was worth every minute of stress.

What I’ve learned through this process is that no one will advocate for your child the way you will.  I’ve learned that it’s okay to get the crazy looks and judgment when your heart is telling you you’re on the right track.  I’ve learned that the kindness of a stranger can change your life forever.  I’ve learned to listen to the little voice that told me “everything was going to be alright”.  The subsidy will make a world of difference should Ben need treatment down the road.  I’ve also learned that our social worker, while we love her, is not a miracle worker.  It’s okay to take charge of your own case.  I felt like I was disrespecting her work or the services she provided but I knew that she wasn’t advocating the way I wanted her to.  You might step on some toes but if you see results it’s all worth it.

My advice to all those waiting mammas…be informed about the entire process before you jump in.  We were at a disadvantage because we didn’t do things the way the state wanted.  It was not a malicious error on our social worker’s part…I think things are changing and the people that need to know first are often the last to know.

Praise God for the kindness of our subsidy worker.  Her kindness has left a lasting impact.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Own Naivety

I’m sitting here in front of the computer at a loss for words.  It seems that reality has really hit me.  As a new momma, I don’t make time for a lot of things…tv being one of them.  My DVR has become hopelessly backed up, with many of my favorite shows still in the queue from months ago.  It’s just the way of life.  My son comes first.  I would rather be spending time with him than watching tv.  What this also means is that I’m largely cutoff from the news and current events. 

I’m sitting here reading some of my favorite blogs and I’m reading the story of Trayvon and finally connecting the dots.  Just because Ben is with a white family does not give him the protection of being white.  Everywhere we go people tell me how cute my son is and what an angel he is.  At what point will we stop getting the smiles and start getting the stares of suspicion?  I feel like I’ve had blinders on, mostly due to my naivety.  My skin color has afforded me the luxury of a life void of discrimination.  What if, 15 years from now, my son’s face is on the news…just like Trayvon?  My hands are shaking as I write this because it’s honestly, something I’ve never considered and I feel so foolish.  My heart is breaking at the thought that my son, at some point in his life, will be judged first and foremost by the color of his skin. 

I’m linking to a blog post that is disturbing to me on many levels.  Part of me doesn’t want to perpetuate the cycle of discrimination by trying to make my sweet little black boy “as white as he can be” and yet part of me knows there is truth in what she’s saying.  For now, I get to enjoy the promise of our future as a family without the burden of discrimination.  And yet, I sit here wondering when it will be our turn to defend our son.

We were getting ice cream the other night and there was a white family a few cars down from us who couldn’t keep their eyes off us.  Yes folks, I know we’re an interracial family…thanks for noticing.  I’m able to not give it much thought because (1) those people and their ignorance are not worthy of my time and (2) Ben is oblivious to what is going on.  There will be a point in time where the stares are no longer acceptable and my momma bear instinct will want to come out and protect Ben.  I guess it just never occurred to me that he will have to grow up without his white momma by his side and he will solely be judge on the fact that he’s a black man. 

Maybe in the years to come progress will be made.  But, after reading about Trayvon my heart is heavy.  I want to protect my angel from all of life’s hardships but knowing that he will face a discrimination so fierce, so life changing is something I can only hope to guide him through, as it’s something I’ve never faced myself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Picket Fence

“Once, a long time ago, I had a white picket fence, but it fell down. And while I didn’t choose the crazy-colored one that was erected in its place, I had grown to love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can never ever go wrong with vibrant color.”

This fantastic quote is from one of my favorite bloggers…Kelle Hampton.  Her blog is beautiful, funny and poignant and I’m terribly excited for her book to come out in April.  I feel connected to this quote.  I read it weeks ago and it’s been sitting in the back of my mind, reminding me that the white picket fence might fall down, but what is replaced is much more beautiful.  Our adoption journey started out as devastating and has turned into the most beautiful blessing of my life. I still struggle, at times, with not conceiving a child but when I look at my son, it fades into the back of my mind.  He’s mine…just as if he came from my body!  The love I have for him is so overwhelming it makes me wonder if I could ever love another child the way that I love him. 

Although I desperately wanted the white picket fence outside my door, the Lord knew better.  My faith is strong because I have witnessed firsthand what following His lead will bring.  It has brought abounding joy to our family, greater than anything I could have imagined.

Embrace the colored-fence!  It’s a beautiful thing.    

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spreading a Little Valentine's Day Love

Today I celebrate my valentine, the person who STILL gives me butterflies after all these years.  It’s crazy to think we’ve been together 7.5 years and I’m as crazy about him today as I was the day we met.  My husband is my rock, the force that keeps me moving forward and the person who has expanded my heart.  Wesley, I often say, has so many qualities that I admire.  His patience, his understanding, the way that he loves people just as they are.  He has taught me so much about love, about releasing insecurities, and trusting completely.  He’s the man that I fall madly in love with every time I see him with our son. 

A little secret, I hate Valentine’s Day.  Like, let’s pretend it’s not happening…no card, no chocolates, no flowers, nothing.  I expressly told this to my sweet husband yesterday.  I didn’t get him a card, a gift, nothing.  I don’t feel guilty about it, I just don’t get into the whole “made up” holiday of sorts.   True to form, this morning, my lovely husband had a small gift and card waiting for me.  Love him…so much…Valentine’s Day not so much.  But, no matter how much I don’t give into the gift giving, I do take the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful husband and father that he is.  My life is blessed and I’m acutely aware, now more than ever, that these blessings can be taken at a moment’s notice.  I fully intended to love on my boys today, at least from afar.  I’m at work and Wesley is working the night shift tonight.  Sigh.  The life of a police officer’s wife.

 Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Open Adoption

There is quite the misconception about birthmother’s out there.  While I understand that there are lots of women who are drug dependent/unstable/teenagers etc that might choose adoption for their child, that is not our story.  Brittany is the opposite of the stereotype.  She is young, but not a teenager.  She is enrolled in college and gets good grades.  She is a mom to her sweet little boy who is almost 2.  She has made some mistakes but she is a responsible adult trying to make the most of her circumstances.  Would Ben have been able to function with her caring for him, absolutely.  Did she want something more for him, absolutely. 

I was terrified that we were going to be matched with a mother who wanted no contact after birth.  That was my greatest fear.  There is a quiet hope for me in open adoption.  A hope that Brittany’s heart can feel fuller, knowing how to reach us and check in with Ben.  There is a hope that Ben won’t have as many issues being adopted because he knows where he came from. 

 Many people ask us what our adoption looks like and to be honest, it’s a work in progress.  We are just starting out on this journey and we’re trying to navigate the waters.  What I do know, as long as Brittany continues to be a positive person in Ben’s life, she has a place with us.  We send updates via email back and forth a couple times per month.  We have agreed to visits 3-4 times a year or as we feel comfortable.  Do I hope this relationship will grow outside of those parameters, yes, because I see the benefit for Ben.  I think a misconception is that Brittany will try to “mother” my child and it isn’t the case.  She is elated to see his progress and see how he’s doing but she in no way intrudes on our parenting experience.  And I love her for that. 

There is also the tight rope that we’re walking….after all…adoption isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.  I’m acutely aware that whether Brittany shows the after-effects of the adoption to us, that they are there.  It’s a fine line between wanting to share our happiness and recognizing the amazing sacrifice she made.  Since Brittany didn’t know she was pregnant, I’m not sure how much she “bonded” with Ben but I cannot discount that her adoption plan didn’t cause pain, on some level.  I also have issues that I’m trying to work through…issues surrounding Ben’s birth as well as the pressure I feel from being an adoptive mother.  It’s always a work-in-progress.

I love open adoption and I think it’s healthy for everyone involved, including Wesley and I.  The more we get to know Brittany, the better we understand her circumstances and the better we can educate Ben when questions arise.  I’m hoping for a deep, meaningful relationship with her and only time will tell what that will look like but for now, we continue to navigate through the waters in hope of creating something very special.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How Easy It Is To Forget

I read LOTS of blogs (home improvement/decorating/adoption/family etc) and lately I’ve noticed an uprising of women expressing how painful the wait can be, whether it’s the wait to get pregnant or the wait for the “call”.  I think back to the time when I felt so broken and it doesn’t seem real.  At this moment in my life, I feel complete and full.  The Lord has blessed me abundantly and I feel it every day.  Sometimes when I think back to those darker, sadder days I have a hard time picturing myself and my state of mind.  I can remember fervently praying for our little one…thinking about who he or she was.  I can remember the silent tears running down my face as the wait grew longer and longer.  I can remember all of these things but I can’t remember the aching pain.  It’s gone.  The Lord has filled my hearts desire and I am no longer stuck in that place.
To all these women who are waiting know that there are so many people out there praying for you.  I have no advice on how to make the pain go away except to draw near to the Lord.  He holds the answers and the timing.  And from someone on the other side, it’s well worth the wait.  The Lord makes no mistakes!  I truly believe that all the heartache we went through (finding out we couldn’t conceive and then waiting and waiting) has made me much more aware of my blessings and I do my best to not take any of it for granted.  Don’t let the enemy poison your hearts with negative thoughts and emotions…keep your eyes upon the Lord for he has SO many blessings in store for you.  My heart breaks when I think about your pain but I'm praying for your miracle to come along!

He has made everything beautiful in His time (Ecc 3:11)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Woomp Woomp

It was bound to happen.  We’ve been riding the positive adoption wave too long.  I got our first “snarky” comment about my sweet angel on facebook this week.  Apparently my facebook is not on lock down, as it should be and I’ve sense remedied the issue.  I had posted a photo of Ben with a friend MONTHS ago.  However, a girl who is a friend of my friend (this girl is someone I’ve never met) decided to comment about the color of my child’s skin, in that it was too dark.  Now, I don’t think the jab was directly related to Ben or us, I think it was to our friend tagged in the photo with Ben.  One of those backhanded type comments.  My blood was boiling and I very nicely responded that I didn’t appreciate the comments regarding my son. 

To give our friend credit, she immediately sent me a private message explaining that this girl was a wackadoo and that I shouldn’t pay attention to her.  I find it interesting that people would remain friends with the “crazies” on facebook if they are in fact crazy.  All it creates is unnecessary drama.  I decided the best thing to do was just delete the comment thread and change my privacy settings.  I was a bit heartbroken because this is what Ben is going to deal with his entire life and it’s not fair.  I mean, how many people typically comment that my skin is too white?  I don’t think I’ve ever had anything said to me about the color of my skin BECAUSE I’m white.  But, my poor innocent little lovie was caught up in the issues between our friend and this random girl.  Not cool and quite the eye opener to this mama.  I know that Ben is accepted in our family and circle of friends and we get nothing but love from them but it’s interesting to see how flippantly an outsider can comment about a baby’s appearance and think nothing of it.  Knife to the heart my friends. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When is Good Good Enough?

As an adoptive mama I’ve been wrestling with giving the best to my child.  What is the best for my child?  I feel, in a way, that Brittany chose us as parents so that we could provide Ben with the things that she cannot.  I feel the commitment and pressure to provide nothing but the best for him.  But, what is really best?  Is it best that I stay at home with him?  Is it best that I work so that I can help provide for our family?  I haven’t found an answer and I feel these thoughts weighing heavily on my heart.  I know that most mom’s probably struggle with this, but for me, as an adoptive mom, I feel it tenfold.  I feel like I have promised Brittany that I would do nothing but provide the very best that I can.  The question remains…what are the boundaries for providing the “best?”.

I grew up in a very loving household and we did not want for anything.  Wesley grew up the same way.  Looking back to my childhood, I wonder how my parents made it look so effortless.  They were young parents and it couldn’t have been easy for them to always provide the “best” for us.  Certainly they struggled at some point too.  Obviously I never knew about it if they did. 

I’m hoping this is just some new mom anxiety that will pass and I will become comfortable in the boundaries of what Wesley and I can provide – we may not live in the lap of luxury but I do think that we have a wonderful life that is filled with love, laughter, family and faith.  I’m just feeling some “mommy” guilt for not having all the answers.  However, I’m wondering how many adoptive mommy’s feel the pressure to provide nothing but the best?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thoughts of a New (Adoptive) Mom

The past 3.5 months have been a dream.  The kind of dream where you can’t believe how things have turned out.  I love my son more than I ever imagined.  When people talk about a mother’s love…I get it.  Before it was just a concept, more abstract than anything.  But now I get it.  I feel it in my core.  I am a mother to my child.  I am the person that he relies on.  And I love it.  Every. single. second. 
However, in the midst of all this love and mothering, I have come to realize that mothering is truly a job.  A hard job that doesn’t pay the bills.  Here are some of my thoughts after the first few months in this new role.

Motherhood is hard.  Really hard.  It’s hard to balance the love for your child, your spouse, your family obligations and running a home.  It’s hard to find a balance for “me” time (which basically doesn’t exist anymore), husband time, Benjamin time, time for family, work, friends, church etc.  I know I’m new to the game but every day is a learning process.  Every day I want to be the best wife, mother, friend I can be.  There are just days when I’m tired.  I have a short temper.  I forget to look at my life for what it is.  A huge blessing.  I am blessed.

Tired is the name of the game.  In these early months I have found that I’m tired by 8 p.m.  Since returning back to work, my day starts at 5:30 a.m. and I’m tired at the end of the day.  I even have a child who loves to sleep .  And I’m still tired.  Being tired all the time leaves little time for myself, my spouse etc. 

Having a child magnifies my worries by 100%.  If I had anxiety before, it has exponentially increased since Ben came home. I worry about our health as parents, Ben’s health, the challenges of being an adoptive family, the challenges of navigating a relationship with our birthmom, of preparing Ben to be a man of God.  I realize I don’t have the tools or power to make sure he is never hurt or sad by something I do or something that someone else does.  I want to protect him from everything!

I’m struggling with going back to work.  Granted, it’s only been a few weeks.  Ben is a rockstar at daycare…he’s so well behaved and seems to be adjusting well.  It’s just my “mommy guilt”.  I want to be the main provider for my child, not daycare.  I want to witness all the “firsts” not share them with daycare.  I want to be there every step of the way.  On the same hand, daycare has SO many benefits.  He will (hopefully) be an independent social child because of daycare.  I am happy to help provide for our family and I only want to provide the best for Ben and all of that means earning a paycheck.  However, my heart aches to be with him during the day.   

It took me several months before I found my “groove” with Ben.  I wouldn’t say I was going through the motions with him as a tiny baby but more like my body and spirit had received a huge shock and it took a couple months to recover.  After 8 weeks or so, I felt something inside change.  I fell deeper in love with mothering, with Ben and with our new lifestyle.  Because we had little time to prepare, I didn’t have the luxury to sit around a fantasize about what our ideal situation would be.  We dove in head first.  Looking back, especially with my personality, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  There was no time to obsess over whether or not this adoption would fall through.  My emotions were on autopilot as I tried to navigate my new role.  After the dust settled it’s like I had an awakening of sorts.  There was a turning point where I fully embraced and realized what had happened to our family. 

Mothering is the best gift.  I love watching my little man explore his surroundings.  I love watching him awestruck at the things that I don’t notice…a fan, the way the light hits the ceiling or wall, the response to facial expressions.  I love it all.  Even though this new role is challenging, I feel at home with myself.  I truly believe that I God knew I needed to be a mom.  I often wonder where I will be in 5, 10, 15 years down the road.  As long as I continue to rise to the challenge of motherhood I’m hoping to find my contentment.  Being a mom has made me more aware of myself, the energy I produce, the things that I hold dear to my heart that I want to pass along.  I believe it’s made me a better wife, although we’re still trying to find a balance for us amidst Ben and his needs.  Being a mother has made me hopeful.  I want to surround my son with the best I can offer, financially, emotionally and spiritually so he can flourish.  I love that the Lord has entrusted Ben to Wesley and me.  I can only hope we can be the parents he needs.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6