You may have noticed over the past nine months or so that this blog has really suffered. To say that posts have been fewer and farther between is an understatement of the greatest magnitude.
I wanted to take this time to explain this to you.
Eleven months ago, Donald and I received a letter from our foster-adoption agency. The letter told us that our file was being temporarily closed because of recent changes in our living circumstances. At the time, Evelyn was only a few weeks old. Things had definitely changed for us, but we did not want our file closed.
(Contrary to popular belief based on the e-mails I received at the time, we did not decide to pursue adoption BECAUSE of our miscarriage a couple years ago. Donald and I had established that adoption was in the cards very early in our dating relationship and the only thing we were waiting for was the right time. So our pregnancy and Evelyn’s birth did not at all change our resolve to open our home to a child in need. The long and short of it is that it turns out there is no such thing as a right time and our loss opened our eyes to this.)
So we called the agency the following morning and asked them to keep our file open. They agreed and promised to call us with more information about what we needed to do to complete our foster-adoptive certification.
Because the social worker with whom we had been working had left her position, it took awhile to find all of our paperwork and sort out scheduling conflicts – but eventually it all came together. We received an itemized list of what needed to be done, when classes we needed to take were available, what changes we needed to implement in our home, and so on.
THAT is the moment when this blog began to die. Juggling two children was a difficult but manageable transition for us, but juggling two children and finishing certification seemed to take herculean effort. I’m not sure why, exactly. We would have finished in about four months, had I not turned up pregnant with Evelyn, so I think we expected the whole affair to take us a month or two and be over.
Instead, it took MONTHS.
Months and months and months.
We broke it down little by little. Fingerprinting this week. Car evaluation next week. Attachment class two weeks later. Installing locks on our laundry detergent in the garage after that. And on and on and on until finally, FINALLY, this last autumn we were done.
By then, we’d outlasted another social worker and been in the certification process for just over two years. We were literally one of the slowest families to certify in the history of the organization.
On the day that we were finished, the social worker who certified us asked what we wanted our profile to be. The “profile” is basically which children we were open to having in our home and which we were not, and what our time frame looked like.
We said we wanted to wait until after Charlotte’s preschool let out in June to accept a placement. We were interested in either accepting a girl in between our daughters in age (preference) or accepting an infant boy at that time. We had a list of some special needs we were open to and other needs we were not. We were open to any ethnicity.
A little over a week later, the agency’s intake coordinator called us.
“There’s a baby,” she said. “And I know you don’t want to accept a placement yet. And I know that this child won’t fit your criteria exactly, but I really think that this could be a very good placement for you.”
It took us less than a minute to decide. We said yes.
Seven hours later, a county social worker stopped at our house on her way home for the evening. She brought with her a beautiful, wonderful baby girl.
And that is why this space has been suffering. At first it suffered because it was taking us forever to get our ducks in a row with two little girls in tow. Then it suffered because our ducks were mostly in a row, but our lives felt like they were hanging in limbo. Now it is suffering because we have three kids to take care of – and on top of meeting the individual needs of three children, we spend an additional 10-15 hours each week on paperwork and visitations with our foster daughter’s biological family and medical appointments and social worker home walk-throughs and the like.
When we started this journey, we feared that it would be invasive and inconvenient and that it would take away from our biological children.
It is invasive. And it is horribly inconvenient. And in the beginning as we transitioned to a new normal it definitely took away from our biological children.
It is the hardest thing I have ever done.
But despite the trials, despite the difficulties and frustrations, despite the hours of endless and fruitless wondering how this will all turn out, it is worth it. It is absolutely worth it.
People keep asking us: “but what if she ends up going back to her family?”
You can quote me on this: IT WILL HAVE BEEN WORTH IT.
I have decided to begin writing in this space more frequently again. I miss the outlet, the community opinions and guidance and thought-provoking conversations, the chronicle of my children’s childhoods. I miss the advice and the stories from other parents and feeling challenged by new ideas and perspectives. But for the foreseeable future, our foster daughter will not be mentioned here or appear in any photographs. Please understand moving forward that you may not see or hear even a whisper of her, but she is here.
She is here and she is perfect and she is so very, deeply loved.
I think you should forget every sanctimonious statement I ever made about celebrating a miniscule, totally sustainable, non-consumeristic holiday season. My kid asked for Christmas lights and if Santa could bring her toys and I crumbled.
What’s life without a little humbling hypocrisy every now and then?
Today my baby is one.
It is hard to believe that a year has passed since the day Evelyn, our Evelyn, made us a family of four. It has been an immensely joyous (albeit sleep-deprived) year.
Last spring, a reader (hi Leah! I owe you big-time!) suggested I look into the How to Train Your Dragon books for Charlotte.
We did, naturally, and because Charlotte was already rather taken with dragons, she took to Hiccup and his many wild Viking adventures like a fish to water. She was still so impressed by the book at her birthday a couple months later that her cousins gave her the rest of the series, which we have been reading ever since.
So nobody was really surprised when Charlotte asked if she could be a Viking for Halloween. And a Viking she was:
Every year we celebrate Halloween with some good friends of ours and as a result of that we always sort of loosely plan to see my parents a day or two before Halloween to show off costumes. But what really ends up happening is that every year I drop the ball, forget to make the plans, and then Halloween sneaks up on me and I go down the road to my parents’ house the day AFTER Halloween instead. This year was, of course, no different. Before I knew it, it was the morning after Halloween and my parents had not seen the neighborhood Viking yet.
This little snafu did not escape Charlotte either and she was not about to let an opportunity to dress as a Viking (“you can call me just Astrid today, Momma”) (AWESOME) pass her by, so the morning after Halloween as soon as everyone was awake and fed and had their teeth brushed, she put on her Viking costume and hopped on her scooter and we went to her grandparents’ house.
And Evelyn was a bumblebee. I swear the cuteness of Halloween gives me baby fever, it’s not right.
They weren’t there, so then she insisted on searching the neighborhood for them.
We happen to live in a hilly area. There is one hill in particular that I am forever warning Charlotte about, but there comes a time in every mother’s life when she realizes that the precious little womb fruit she popped out needs some space to explore things on their own terms.
Or there comes a time in every mother’s life when the incessant badgering irritates them enough for them to say FUCK IT, scooter down that hill and see what happens. Whatever. Same thing.
So today I buckled Charlotte’s helmet a little tighter than usual, reminded her how to brake on her scooter, and crossed my fingers that she’d come out on the other end okay.
About three-quarters of the way down the hill, Charlotte crashed. She was going too quickly, careened out of control, and hit some sort of crack that stopped her scooter in its tracks. She flew off the scooter about five or six feet forward, landed on her head on top of a small rock which dented and cracked her helmet, then flopped onto her back and rolled.
Charlotte is fine. She is a little scraped up, but didn’t seem to be otherwise injured and didn’t show any signs of a concussion, thank goodness.
Then this evening as I was tucking her into bed, Charlotte asked me why I let her scooter down the hill. I (foolishly) thought this would be a moment of great meaning and teaching, so I explained to her that I felt she needed to experience the hill to understand what her limitations are on the scooter and to value that when I tell her that something is dangerous I’m not just making shit up.
She sat there thinking on it for a moment, then said “Yeah. If you didn’t let me scooter down that hill, I never would have found out that I could fly in my Viking costume.”
In other words: the Lesson Learning component of my Four-Year-Old model is broken.
** Charlotte is four years and three months old. Evie’s first birthday is next week.
** Niki is home from the hospital now and still healing up like a champ.
At some point – and I am not sure exactly when – Evelyn learned how to walk. And I’m not talking about a few uncertain steps here and there like I was last week; I’m talking about confidently placing one foot in front of the other to cross an entire room, then turning around and going back to where she started from.
Unlike her sister, Evelyn learned to walk very gradually. She was focused for so long on standing up that by the time she had conquered that skill she had just sort of HAPPENED upon learning to walk. She would stand up and toddle about without ever realizing she was unsupported…and then when she caught herself in the middle of the room without a coffee table or a toy box or our arms nearby she would shriek in dismay, sit down, and wail.
Last week she went a few days without walking or standing up at all. I thought she’d given up and moved onto something else, but then one evening Donald set her down and walked away for a moment and she enthusiastically waddled after him, slowly, deliberately, balancing ever so carefully.
She has been walking ever since, slowly gaining strength and speed, clapping and giggling as she toddles along.
It’s true what they say: time really does fly when you’re having fun.